14th Feb2019

‘Black Lightning 2×13: Pillar of Fire’ 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 Lighting is on hiatus for three weeks after this episode so this episode lays the groundwork of positioning all the pieces for the last quarter of the season.

Following Jennifer’s vow to seek revenge for Khalil by hunting down Whale, Jefferson and Gambi realize it might be time to not only start training Jennifer but assist her in controlling her powers, which is the job I thought Perenna was hired to complete. Needless to say it doesn’t go as well as they want and Jennifer’s powers cause all electronics around them to shut down and they learn she may be more powerful than they can handle.

Agent Odell after unsuccessfully attempting to bribe Lynn with money (take the money Lynn!) finally lets a few of the secrets out the ASA has been hiding from her. It seems the country of Markovia created their own version of Pod People years ago in order to advance their strength in the world. Unfortunately for the country, the Pod People were never stabilized and their super-soldiers program failed, resulting in their new plan of kidnapping Lynn and forcing her to create new super-soldiers for their army. After hearing about this, Lynn agrees to help Agent Odell in assisting in the moving of the Pod People to a new secure location under one condition, Dr. Jace is off the program. Whale and Cutter are playing with their new toys, the four pods they stole last week, which we find out contain the Markovian super soldiers from decades ago. Whale “wakes up” one of the soldiers, Marcus Bishop (aka Shakedown), and Bishop does not take too kindly to being back in the land of the living. Bishop attacks Cutter and is able to show off his powers, controlling vibrations (just go with it), but before he finishes off Cutter, Whale stops him by using his secret weapon…a watch that can control the soldiers. Basically the government didn’t trust the soldiers being meta-humans and included an implant in their brain that can be controlled by Whale’s new watch.

In the “normal” world, Jefferson is advised by his friend Napier, played by the great Robert Townsend who is doing double duty this week as he directed this episode, that Principal Lowry is on the verge of being terminated due to his poor handling of the student “sit-in” last week. Jefferson has an opportunity to reclaim his role as principal of the school but after a heated discussion with Lowry, Jefferson realizes he can’t devote the amount of time needed to the school that Lowry is able to devote. Jefferson stuns the school board by recommending Lowry continue as principal because “everyone needs a second chance”. As soon as Lowry questioned Jefferson’s devotion to the school earlier in the episode, the writing was on the wall for Jefferson to do the right thing and support Lowry to the school board. With Jefferson not spending his time as principal, it also allows him more time to be Black Lightning, something this series sometimes forgets about it.

Jennifer is still fighting her own issues and after being left alone, she seeks out the members of the 100 Gang, searching for any information on Whale’s location. After some impressive energy/heat powers are used on low level drug dealers at Club 100, Jennifer arrives at where the story started in season one…the hotel the 100 Gang claimed as their own. It was a nice throwback to the first season and Jennifer fighting the gang in the same location her father did in season one was a nice touch. Ultimately, Jennifer uses too much of her power and is weakened but before the 100 Gang can shoot her, big sister Thunder arrives to save the day. 

Jennifer going off on her own is not the smartest thing and forces Gambi and Anissa to bring in Perenna again. Perenna seems to finally get through to Jennifer as she is warned that if she doesn’t control her powers, Jennifer will die by exploding…talk about a rough way to go out.

Whale decides he wants all the Pod People, even the ones under Lynn’s control and sends Cutter and Bishop to attack the ASA laboratory. Let me say this is one of the least secured buildings as I counted a total of six guards that Cutter and Bishop took down to reach the Pod People. I’ve seen musicians with more security than this ASA laboratory. Black Lightning and Thunder arrive just a few minutes late as Team Whale has already left with the remaining Pod People, minus one, as Lynn was in lockdown in a secured room with one of the Greenlight children, Wendi. Team Lightning thinks the Markovians are responsible, not knowing Whale is the mastermind behind it all.

One Good Thing:

  • Whale has his army. After ¾ of the season of Whale rebuilding his team, he finally has all the right players, minus Todd. Poor tech guru Todd, who was blown up in his car as Whale and Cutter realize that Dr. Jace can do everything that Todd could do. The twist is that while Whale has a team, that wasn’t his main goal. Since he has all the Pod People, he’s now a meta-human arms dealer. I thought the whole purpose of Whale collecting the Pod People was so he can take control Freeland but in the end, he already went down that road and it didn’t work out. Now he just wants to make money and sell them to Markovia. Whale continues to be one of the most fleshed out and smart villains on television.

One Bad Thing:

  • Holding pattern. While I appreciate this episode set the stage for the final act of season three, it still feels like the series is in a holding pattern by not revealing too much of what the audience wants until the series returns in several weeks. I’m all for building anticipation but the last few weeks seem like a constant build with no payoff. Hopefully the final episodes pull all the storylines together and deliver a satisfying conclusion to the season.

What We Learned:

  • Detective Henderson is using Team Lightning to his advantage. Detective Henderson, now officially a part of Team Lightning, is using all the resources that comes with being friends with superheroes by calling in Gambi, doing the worst cosplay of CSI, to assist him in investigating cases. This week it’s the mystery of the blue substance (zoinks Shaggy!) and the team realizes that someone stole the former military special ops team.
  • Whale has a girlfriend. In a surprising twist, we discover Whale and Cutter are an item and it seems this is not the first time they have had a relationship. I like this pairing as this power couple makes Whale’s team more dangerous and will provide more screen time and backstory for a great character in Cutter.
  • Grace Choi is not really Grace Choi. Anissa arrives home to find Grace gone and all of her personal effects missing from their apartment. Anissa enlists Gambi in running facial recognition software on a family photo of Grace and run tests on a pill found at the apartment. Things turn dark when we learn Grace grew up in foster care and was kidnapped at the age of 16 and sold into prostitution. She escaped and changed her name from her real name of Shay Li Wilde to Grace Choi. The pill? It’s used to treat schizophrenia and if I had to guess, Grace was using it to control her new meta-human powers. These revelations only make Anissa fall in love more with Grace/Shay and makes a commitment to find her.

This Episode’s Grade: C+ (Above Average)

This episode sets up the final pieces for the impeding battle between Team Whale, Team Lightning and the Markovian villains, while also dropping a few bombshells including Grace’s backstory, Cutter’s relationship with Whale and the ASA helping create super soldiers. Overall the episode was a little above average but when the series returns in March, it should ramp up the action in the final episodes of the season.

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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