Black Lightning continues the second season of teen runaways and ridiculously long titles with “The Book of Rebellion: Chapter Three: Angelitos Negros.” Honestly, I’m finding Jennifer and Khalil on the run dragging on longer than it needs to, and I’m rewriting the Paul McCartney classic to “Kids On The Run” in my head. I also think Tobias Whale is in serious contention for “Most Hated Villain” of all the hero shows currently airing, or at least he is in my book.
The episode starts with Thunder, Black Lightning, and Gambi hunting for the missing teens, having no luck at all. Cutter, too, is searching, and frees herself from the ties on her wrists in a fairly impressive manner. Stabby Woman is determined. The objects of everyone’s search find themselves in Khalil’s secret apartment, which turns out to be a converted train car. How he pulled that off, and has power for it, I’m not sure. He’s never shown any skill at engineering before, and if the place is supposed to be so secret, it’s not like he called a contractor.
Lynn, spending her time where we’ve seen her a lot lately, on the floor of Jennifer’s room, gets a call from Black Lightning. After he reports his lack of progress, she tells him about her visit with Khalil’s felon father. Black Lightning isn’t pleased with her taking risks, but follows up on the lead she gives him with the usual detective work from Gambi. Jennifer and Khalil have dinner and then a very emotional scene with teens actually being smart about sex, which is a rarity these days and something that was nice to see. In the aftermath, they talk about where they might go. I’m wondering that, too, since they’ve spent several episodes now going in a big circle as far as I can tell. They’re not making much progress in their “flight.”
Black Lightning, Thunder, Gambi, and Lynn meet up now that Gambi’s narrowed down the search area. Lynn emphasizes her views on how the search should proceed by racking her shotgun and they split up. Tobias and Todd have dinner, during which Tobias lectures about jazz, tosses off his usual racist comments, and exercises petty power over Todd making him play messenger relay when Cutter calls in. Tobias is clearly not pleased with Stabby Woman’s failures and excuses. The others search for the kids, with Lynn giving an emotional appeal when she’s in just the right place for Jennifer to happen to hear her. Either that was very lucky or she’s doing it every time she stops, which would be time consuming. Jennifer and Khalil talk things over, eventually leading to a very emotional reunion at the Pierce home. Why Lynn and the others finally stopped searching just when Jennifer came back I have no idea.
Tobias displays his casually sociopathic side as he gets the ASA case open and tells Todd what he expects of him. Todd mocks Cutter when she returns empty handed again, and Tobias advises the young man to use some caution. With his attitude, I could see Todd not being around that long. Cutter gets some more information and ends up at Khalil’s train car.
Things are strained and awkward at the Pierce home. Jefferson is clearly ticked off, but making a mature effort to keep himself under control. After a lot of arguing, tears, and some posturing and apologies, Jefferson and Khalil end up agreeing on the best approach to keeping Jennifer safe and Khalil alive. If nothing else a man of his word, Jefferson puts their plan into play immediately, asking a big favor of Deputy Chief Henderson. The bemused cop reluctantly agrees, surprised that Jefferson is making so much effort for Khalil, given their history. Jennifer comments on her mother’s redecorating and she and Anissa have a sister to sister talk.
Black Lightning and Thunder oversee Khalil’s surrender and brief reunion with his mother. Then things take a turn for the stupid. Within the show, Black Lightning and Thunder make a rookie mistake. In the larger view, this is just poor writing. Everyone is worried about Tobias’ reach and influence, there’s a huge deal about Khalil turning himself in… and then the heroes go out for pizza or something. Even Henderson, the most skilled (and only named character) among the cops just watches the convoy with Khalil roll off. To no surprise at all, Cutter intercepts the convoy, kills a truly unlikely number of cops, and gets away with Khalil. There were a lot of dumb decisions in this sequence, and I really question what the writers were doing. I’ve heard over and over again that if your plot relies on your characters doing something stupid, you need to rewrite that scene. Well, they needed a rewrite for this whole section.
Henderson gets there to find the heap of dead cops (they are going to have to go on a serious hiring push; losing that many would damage any city police force), and calls Jefferson to tell him the bad news. Lynn gets the bad news via phone call and breaks it to Jennifer, who collapses sobbing with a tearful “I told you so!” It’s not really a good night for anyone on the good side of things.
Cutter brings Khalil to Tobias, and you can just tell this is going to be ugly. Khalil is doing his best to be brave, and Tobias is at his smug worst. Todd watches as Tobias puts on a show, strutting and hurling his usual casual racist abuse. Tobias does offer one tiny bit of reassuring news before he shifts from words to actions. His punishment is brutal and horrific, sickening not only newbie Todd, but even seasoned killer Cutter. Tobias makes a public spectacle of Khalil’s punishment, not only reinforcing his own terrifying image but trying to spook another current obstacle. Later, Todd finally gets the ASA case hacked. Within are mentions of other metas, as well as a minor villain group that used to clash with Black Lightning’s team, the Outsiders, in the comics.
What I liked: I’m glad the runaway story is over. Todd is clearly out of his depth here and I hope he figures out he’s on the wrong side of things. So far, I don’t think he’s a bad guy, just greedy. I admire Gambi’s steadfast devotion to the Pierce family. Henderson is determined to do the right thing, even if he’s so woefully out-gunned so much of the time. The reference to the old Outsiders’ foes was interesting.
What I didn’t: Lynn is going to various emotional extremes pretty damn quickly. She should be getting whiplash from some of these hard changes. If Gambi is going to keep appearing in public with masked heroes, he’s really going to need to take steps to preserve his own identity, for all their sakes. I’m wondering how Gambi is keeping his shop open (unless he’s still playing dead, in which case where is all his money coming from?) as much as he’s not there, and for that matter, how/if Jefferson still has a job. I’m not sure I buy Cutter plowing through that many heavily armed cops. Black Lightning and Thunder leaving the transport convoy unguarded was just foolish. I’m getting really sick of Tobias Whale being one step ahead of everybody, all the time.
I’ll give this a 3.5 out of 5. I’m really hoping sometime this season our heroes manage to capture or kill Tobias. I’d be ok with either.