11th Oct2018

‘Black Lightning 2×01: The Rise of the Green Light Babies’ 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

black-lightning-season-2

Black Lightning is back for season two (with new opening credits!) and after a season of world building, it’s time to expand on this universe!

The new season begins three months after the season one finale with Freeland struggling with an epidemic of young, super-powered people hooked on the drug Greenlight and law enforcement struggling to control the situation. Due to what the community feels are unnecessary deaths of these “Greenlight Babies”, Freeland is at a tipping point between their citizens and the police and if something isn’t changed soon, the peaceful protests may not be peaceful much longer. Jefferson finds himself under investigation by the school board as he was “mysteriously” absent when the school was being invaded by the 100 Gang in the season finale. The school board decides to temporarily close the school until their investigation is complete and can determine the proper judgement on Jefferson’s future.

To make issues even worse in the Pierce family, Lynn is being questioned by the shady government agency, ASA, and the new agent in charge of Freeland, Agent Odell (played by the great Bill Duke), regarding her involvement in saving the “pod people” last season. The ASA is not buying Lynn’s story of an anonymous caller tipping her to the location of the pod people and attempts to stop Lynn from being the primary research scientist to the victims of the Greenlight Project, an attempt that fails. The ASA lets Lynn know they have her on their radar and will be watching her.

ASA agent Kara Fowdy returns and is tasked with recovering the remaining evidence of the meta-human experiment but unfortunately she runs into everyone’s favorite villainous, Syonide. A brawl ensues in the parking garage and in a shocking twist, Syonide is killed by Agent Fowdy’s spiked heel as it impales Syonide’s neck! Syonide may not be a major character in the series but she was Whale’s sidekick and her death will have ramifications on Whale and his plans for Freeland. The Pierce family is stressed and cracking as a result of their actions from last season as Lynn tells Jefferson, “I told you there would be consequences,” and she’s right. Jefferson is obsessed with capturing Whale, Lynn is worried about Jennifer’s mental and physical health and Anissa feels her father is not doing enough to help the community that feels left behind by their elected officials.

After the community learns the ASA is declaring the pod people “property” of the government, the victims’ family must ban together to sue the government. Unfortunately suing the government will take approximately half a million dollars in legal costs, something the families do not have. Enter Anissa, minus her superhero suit, infiltrating local drug houses and robbing the dealers of their drug money, allowing Anissa to fund the victims’ lawsuit. It’s a fun fight scene and it’s good to see Anissa show off the strength of her powers against some mindless thugs.

In a first for a superhero television show, a detective actually uses his investigative skills to conclude the identity of the masked vigilante running around town. Detective Henderson meets face to face with Black Lightning and reveals he has figured out Lightning’s true identity. Jefferson is surprised by Detective Henderson’s deductive reasoning skills but ultimately removes his mask and reveals himself. Henderson is upset Jefferson kept the secret from him for years and their relationship is left even more strained. In a nice little callback to LaLa’s resurrection last season, it seems the Greenlight Babies do not actually stay dead in this world, shocking the still-mourning parents. With resurrected super-powered drug users running around Freeland, will Whale step in and mentor the Babies, thus building an even more powerful army? In a surprise twist, the school board votes to close Jefferson’s Garfield Heights school, a decision that may only be reversed by Jefferson deciding to resign and keep the school open and giving the school board a “win” in the media. Without his role as principal, Jefferson is truly losing his role as protector of Freeland.

The episode wraps up with Agent Fowdy, in disguise, attacking Whale in his office and the fight ends with Fowdy being impaled by a spear gun. Fowdy avoids death and Whale’s fists by jumping out the window, barely escaping with her life.

One Good Thing:

  • The City of Freeland is truly a vast and detailed character. Season one did a great job of laying the groundwork for the city and community of Freeland and in season two, this is only going to expand. News reports throughout the episode confirm the community is angry at the government experimenting with their citizens and the audience can feel and empathize with the community. Netflix does a wonderful job with building the environments in their superhero shows but it’s always been something the CW Network has struggled with in their own shows. Black Lightning is the first CW superhero show that makes the audience feel like it is part of the city and presents the community’s reaction in a realistic way.

One Bad Thing:

  • Agent Kara Fowdy is turning on the ASA. The cracks in Agent Fowdy’s loyalty began to show last season when she was tasked with bringing in Black Lightning. Now Agent Fowdy is requesting help from Gambi and Black Lightning in protecting the last of the evidence from the meta-human experiments. It’s not that it’s not believable she would have concerns with her agency but for Agent Fowdy to turn on the ASA and enlist the help of the ASA’s enemies seems liked a forced trope of television shows. Obviously it’s only one episode into the new season and her allegiance can change but it felt like a forced plot device that wasn’t needed.

What We Learned:

  • Jefferson Pierce has a tumultuous relationship with the school board. As noted in their conversations, Pierce does not play well with the school board and this ultimately led to his firing. Pierce may have the school board’s respect but that doesn’t mean his friend Dr. Napier Frank (Robert Townsend) had the power to stop firing of Jefferson. Townsend, in the few scenes he has this episode, holds his own against Cress Williams and is a welcomed addition to the cast.
  • Jennifer is still having difficulty “dealing” with her powers. The youngest Pierce daughter is having a mental breakdown due to seeing her father die twice, her mother shooting someone, and her sister becoming a superhero and that doesn’t even cover her trying to understand her own powers. The writers have done a wonderful job of giving depth to Jennifer and allowing her to react naturally as most people would when confronted with the realization of having powers. Jennifer doesn’t accept her powers like her father and older sister and it’s a plot I’m interested in watching unfold this season.

This Episode’s Grade: B (Good)

The season premiere, outside of Syonide’s death, doesn’t begin with any major surprises but groundwork is laid for several storylines this season. Anissa as the new savior of the community, a role which she feels her father has abandoned, has potential, as well as Jennifer attempting to accept what she is and the future tease of the community rallying against meta-humans are all interesting opportunities for this season. Black Lightning, after a season of world building, is now beginning to play and expand on what they built in season one, which should allow for a more complex and deeper season. The season premiere, while not the best episode of the series, does a fine job of re-introducing the audience to the Pierce family and the complicated city of Freeland.

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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