Brief Thoughts On ‘Black Lightning’ Season 4, Episode 12
by Erik Amaya
It’s time to talk about Freeland Police Chief Anna Lopez (Melissa De Sousa).
We’ve left her out of the discussions of the season because, really, the show had little time for her. She was a paper-thin antagonist for Jennifer (China Anne McClain) and nearly disappeared entirely once J.J. (Laura Kariuki) emerged from the sphere. At the same time, she seemed to be part of a strange occurrence in the Arrowverse: underdeveloped antagonists who represent law enforcement. While Lopez was showing her hostility toward the Metas of Freeland, Kristen Kramer (Carmen Moore) was doing her best to bring Frost (Danielle Panabaker) down on The Flash and establish extreme sanctions against Metas. And like Lopez, Kramer’s motivations were obscured until the last possible second. The result: both were underbaked and thanks to the way Arrowverse shows are produced and scheduled, it felt like a double-beat. Although, by virtue of Black Lightning premiering first, Kramer received the brunt of that double-beat sensation.
Nevertheless, Lopez seems to be a victim of either the senioritis permeating Black Lightning or plans being scaled back because of COVID and the program’s cancellation. We get that she was meant to be the face and voice of a now hostile Freeland PD; a choice made for reasons essential to Black Lightning‘s overall metaphor. As a character, though, she suffered from the time considerations which often plagued Grace (Chantal Thuy) in seasons past. The consequence of this: we can’t recall if her husband going mad with power and killing their family was established before this week’s episode.
We think this is a new element to make her presumed fight with J.J. next week more complicated. We also think J.J.’s livestream should’ve been enough to take her down.
Elsewhere in the episode, aspects of Tobias’s (Marvin “Krondon” Jones III) schemes met their inevitable end. Anissa (Nafessa Williams) and Grace blew up the storehouse he was using for the metagenes harvested from unborn children and the harvesting equipment itself. Gambi (James Remar) also provided them with an old computer virus to erase the harvester schematics. Khalil (Jordan Calloway), meanwhile, delivered Looker (Sofia Vassilieva) to Detective Shakur (Wallace Smith) and the federal agent she formerly controlled. He also brought a swift end to Ishmael (Rico Ball) — although we hope that act will have consequences on Painkiller down the road. Maybe the League of Assassins will find an interest in Khalil.
But the ease with which all of these threads were closed just illustrates how toothless Tobias can be. The narrative still expects us to believe he’s a big bad, but the only thing delaying his defeat is the production’s need to keep him standing.
It was funny to hear him call Jefferson (Cress Williams) “toothless” during their fight at the end of the episode, claim to J.J. that he killed Jeff, and then see Jeff buried alive in the half-hearted series finale promo. Like his weird powerplay over the Board — which also felt like a double beat to us, didn’t he do something like this before? — it lacks for gravity or stakes. And that lack of tension is a strange place to end the penultimate episode of the entire series.
Black Lightning airs one more time next Monday on The CW.