14th Dec2018

‘Black Lightning 2×09: Gift of the Magi’ Review

by Jason Brigger

Stars: Cress Williams, China Anne McClain, Nafessa Williams, Christine Adams, James Remar, Marvin Jones III, Damon Gupton | Developed by Salim Akil

It’s the mid-season finale of Black Lightning this week so you know this episode will end in a cliffhanger!

black-lightning-season-2

Jennifer and Khalil are on still on the run and hiding in a barn at an unknown property in the beginning of this week’s episode. Khalil is not doing well as the stabbings he received from Cutter is resulting in a fever and infection so Jennifer leaves to search for some medicine or else Khalil won’t have much longer on this Earth. As Team Black Lightning are off to search the woods near Freeland for Jennifer and Khalil, Lynn makes a visit to Khalil’s mother, Nichelle, to provide her an update on their missing children. Nichelle lets Lynn search Khalil’s room for any possible clues and we learn a lot about Khalil’s family. Khalil had a brother, Keenan, who was shot and killed when he was working for the 100 gang, a death that his mother feels more responsible for when Khalil resorts to a life of crime. Not only that but Lynn discovers a photographer of Khalil’s father (who we have never seen before), much to Nichelle’s chagrin, and Lynn secretly takes the photograph in hopes of it being a clue to find her daughter.

Whale is looking for new recruits for his army and invites a young scientist, Todd Green (RJ Cyler), who was just denied a research grant, to join his army. Green accepts the invitation to meet Whale at his club and Whale offers him a position in his research department, where Green can be accepted for his genius. I appreciate how Whale continues to scout potential henchmen and the way Marvin Jones III seamlessly switches Whale from a killer to a salesman to a businessman and continues to be a highlight of the series. Green eventually decides the power and money Whale is offering is too much to decline and agrees to join Team Whale. Jennifer breaks into the local hospital and using her powers, opens up the pharmacy, allowing her to steal the medicine to help Khalil. In a bit of coincidence, Jefferson and Anissa are at the same hospital checking in with the nursing staff to see if Khalil or Jennifer were there for any injuries. Jennifer sneaks out undetected but Jefferson and Anissa discover the pharmacy was broken into and an electrical surge destroyed the computer, prompting team Black Lightning to realize Jennifer is close.

Despite Jennifer providing the medicine to Khalil, he continues to get worse. Khalil and Jennifer reminisce about how they met and their true feelings for each other while Cutter watches from outside the barn. Jennifer needs a break from the stress of watching Khalil get sicker and steps into her safe space in her mind, the beauty salon, only to find her mentor, Perenna, and Anissa waiting for her. Obviously these are only figments of her imagination but it helps Jennifer focus her powers and realize she can see “energy” around her, resulting in Cutter’s hidden location being exposed. Jennifer stops Cutter from abducting Khalil but it may be too late as Khalil is on death’s doorstep.

Gambi’s physically stopping Jefferson from searching for Jennifer without his suit earlier in the episode must have woken Jefferson up as he is now searching for Jennifer in his Black Lightning suit (and Anissa is now Thunder) but to no avail. Frustration continues to mount for Jefferson as they have searched throughout the woods and still can’t find a clue on Jennifer’s whereabouts. Jennifer becomes more and more desperate to save Khalil, even going as far as cutting a tied-up Cutter with her own poisonous knives in the hope that Cutter will produce a hidden antidote to save Khalil. Jennifer’s turn to the darker side has been very well done this season and really adds depth to a character the audience didn’t fully get to see last season. Her intimidation tactics work as Cutter reveals the antidote, allowing Jennifer to administer it to Khalil. The more the episode continues, the more I feel one of these two won’t make it out alive.

The antidote saves Khalil’s life and Jennifer and him are on the move again, just as Team Black Lightning finds the barn. Jefferson is flustered and doesn’t know if Jennifer is helping Khalil or if she is a kidnap victim or even still alive, resulting in everyone in the Pierce family to freak out even more than usual. At this point, this family is going to need some serious family therapy sessions.

The mid-season finale of Black Lightning ends with some interesting plotlines for the second half of the year:

  • Jennifer, despite Khalil’s insistence, is “all in” with Khalil and going on the run.
  • There’s a new villain for hire that is heading to Freeland, courtesy of Whale, that can teleport and can kill with ease.
  • The Pierce family is in shambles and without Lynn being the glue to hold them together anymore, how will they recover?
  • I was wrong on Khalil or Jennifer dying this episode and the episode ending on a cliffhanger…my track record is not good this week.

One Good Thing:

  • Lynn and Gambi team up. Two of the most underutilized characters this season, Lynn and Gambi, team up to use their detective skills to locate Khalil’s father. The scene is nice to see as it finally gives Lynn something to do this season and even results in her arming herself with a gun before she leaves to find Khalil’s father. The characters may have only interacted through video conferencing but it was great to see these two actually work together instead of their constant squabbles the last few episodes. Plus we got to see Lynn use her detective skills, something we have never seen before.

One Bad Thing:

  • Nothing. It was a good mid-season finale and allowed every character to have a moment to shine.

What We Learned:

  • The stress is getting to Lynn. The strain of Jennifer missing, along with Gambi faking his own death and Anissa moving out is causing stress on Lynn and a strain on her relationship with Jefferson. Lynn has been the rock of the family for the last season and a half but even the strongest person has moments of being overwhelmed and this is happening to Lynn. How this affects the dynamic of the family moving forward should be interesting.
  • Khalil only works for Whale due to feeling guilt. Lynn ends up finding Khalil’s dad, Kito (Kendrick Cross), working at a local restaurant and we learn Khalil only worked for Whale as Khalil felt guilt over Whale paying for the procedure to give him the ability to walk again. This is a bit of surprise as I always thought Khalil admires Whale but Kito tells Lynn the Khalil/Whale relationship isn’t as close as they thought and Khalil doesn’t even stay at Whale’s hideout. The other surprise is Kito admitting Khalil does communicate with him and while their relationship is strained, they at least do have a relationship.

This Episode’s Grade: B- (Above Average)

The mid-season finale was short on action but did move the storylines forward in the first half of the season. The episode was solid but nothing “shocking” was reveled and much to my surprise, no cliffhanger ended the episode. I am interested in the new bounty hunter that Whale is bringing into town and with Cutter and Green by his side, I love the idea of Whale have a “Rogue’s Gallery” of villains. At this point, I’m more interested in Whale’s actions than Black Lightning, and that just shows how good Marvin Jones III is in this series. We’ll be back in January for the second half of the season and until then, have a great holiday!

You can catch Jason Brigger on the geek-centric podcast, The History of Bad Ideas, as new episodes are released every week at www.nerdly.co.uk or subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher and other podcasting apps. You can listen to their latest episode right here
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