The last season of Black Lightning hasn’t exactly been an uplifting one. Despite them ending the third season with a big win, there were losses along the way and those shadows are looming large over the characters. This isn’t helped by many of them spending most of this season making one bad decision after another. While the opening sequence is called “The Book of Reconstruction,” it might well be called “The Book of Bad Ideas.” Some of them finally manage to hit a turning point, as the title suggests: “A Light in the Darkness.”
The episode starts with Jefferson having a really bad dream. Given what we know of what’s been happening to, and around, him of late, the dream makes sense, but it was an ugly one. After he gets out of bed without disturbing the sleeping Lynn, we shift to whatever Gambi’s new headquarters is. It hasn’t been named yet, but seems both a lot brighter and a lot bigger than the Grotto was. TC is hard at work on the new Direct Energy Guns, the latest threat to Freeland. He and Gambi discuss ways to sabotage them and differing tastes in music. Their exchange ends when Jefferson stalks in and grabs a bottle, pouring himself a big drink. Why there’s alcohol in the lab, I’m not sure, and sounds like a bad plan to me. Gambi tries to be the voice of reason to Jefferson’s smoldering rage, but the former Black Lightning isn’t listening. Switching to one of his recurring, if understandable, obsessions, Jefferson asks about Tobias Whale. Gambi gives him more bad news, and Jefferson stalks out. I guess he came by for a drink and bad news?
Jefferson goes to confront Tobias in the same restaurant where the killer had dinner with Lynn last episode. The gangster is accompanied by his new aides, Val and Red. Red looks a lot like Anthony Carrigan, the actor who did such a great job with Victor Zsasz on Gotham. I have no doubt in my mind I’m making a connection where there isn’t one on this, but Val has at least a superficial resemblance to the Milestone character Blitzen. Jefferson arrives, Whale dismisses his staff, and proceeds to dominate the encounter. There’s never a doubt for a moment about who’s in charge here, and it’s not Jefferson. Whale gets in some great lines, and Jefferson ends up leaving absolutely not better off than he was before he came in here. I don’t know what he expected to happen, but I can’t imagine it was anything like this. Over at Anissa’s loft, she carries Grace inside. Their domestic bliss survives a comment or two about Shonda, Anissa’s AI that runs the place, but doesn’t make it past a clash about interior decorating. As with Jefferson in the last scene, I don’t know what Anissa expected, but she handled this very, very badly. I wonder if the Pierce family, in addition to the meta-gene, has a gene for bad decisions? That wouldn’t really explain Lynn, though…
In a meeting with the Mayor, Police Chief, and Deputy Chief, Tobias pitches some ideas for rebuilding the damage from the Markovian attacks. I’d like to say a year is more than enough time for this to have been dealt with, but parts of New Orleans are still showing the scars from Katrina, and that was back in 2005. Once again, Whale is in complete control, except this time it’s with faked charm, as opposed to his threats to Jefferson. He does manage to tick off Police Chief Lopez. Jennifer, looking weary, goes to school and has a chat and some product placement with TC. TC is worried about her, but, like the rest of her family, Jennifer is convinced she knows best. TC shows her some developments on Lightning’s Instagram page, and Jennifer is thrilled. She also shows a major contradiction in logic in practically the same breath, and ignores TC’s offer to do things in a safer way.
Devonte, Lala’s head thug, leads a weapon demonstration of some of the DEG’s they’ve managed to steal. They have no concept of range safety, and almost kill one of Lala’s informants. Lala gets some intel, and shows the unusual source of some of his information about the weapons. Lauren shows her boss around at Monovista, and Gambi brings up some concerns about a design flaw he just “noticed.” Lauren doesn’t want to get shown up in front of her boss, and glares at Gambi, pushing him to be quiet. The boss’ name is Bates, which doesn’t really fit any character that would make sense in this context but might be a nod to DC Comics writer Cary Bates.
Back at Lala’s Illegal Enterprises ™, the head thug himself goes to talk to Jefferson before another fight. Lala has some concerns about Jefferson’s ongoing bouts in the ring, and presents some cold, hard, pragmatic reasons why. Of course, we’ve also seen Lala have some grudging respect for the teacher in the past, so there might be some mixed motives here. Jefferson ignores the concern, whatever its source, and bulls ahead with whatever he wants to do, as usual. Chief Lopez calls Detective Shakour in for a meeting about an upcoming event. Shakour was given a big build up in the first episode, and hasn’t really done anything since. He and Lopez talk about security and what a bad idea it is to trust Tobias Whale. A point of interest is what Lopez was looking at on her phone just before Shakour came in.
Jefferson goes into action in the ring again. We know he’s been doing this at least a week or so, and his control is getting better. While his powers slipped ever so slightly in his confrontation with Whale, there’s no sign of that here. Jefferson is fighting savagely, clearly a man battling his demons. Back at the Grotto 2.0, Jennifer and TC have some more product placement and a conversation showing how little they have in common. While all the screens in Lala’s fight club are dark for the first time, the match is apparently still being broadcast, as TC is watching it. Oddly, this match is also in full daylight judging from the windows, which makes me wonder why Jefferson isn’t at work. Then again, no one puts in an appearance at their day jobs this episode except Gambi. The masking of the fighter’s features is really second rate, and Jennifer gets a bad feeling, which TC confirms by using his powers to remove the blur.
After a hard day of illegal fighting, Jefferson comes home for a different kind of fight with Lynn. Jennifer has come home and shared her news with Lynn, and Lynn rips into Jefferson as soon as he walks in the front door. Screaming matches with the elder Pierces aren’t exactly rare, but this one is especially ugly, as they each score points off each other. Never having gotten past the entryway, Jefferson turns around and leaves. Returning to the only really functioning adult on the show, we see Gambi enjoying a quiet night at home. A knock on the door prompts him to check his camera system (he’s a very careful man) before letting Lauren in. She comes with an apology, some bad news she thinks is good, and two propositions. It looks like Gambi, at least, is going to have a good night.
Rebecca Larsen, a thinly disguised Fox News commentator, is on the air again, continuing her attacks on Lightning with assorted lies. This is playing in a bar as two patrons sit, drink, and debate heroics in general and Black Lightning in particular. Next to them is Jefferson, who spews out some borderline hatred for his own alter ego. I guess this is the place everyone goes if 2-Bits’ joint is closed, because Detective Shakour is also here. Hearing Jefferson’s comments, Shakour gives a moving speech about Black Lightning, leading everyone to raise a glass to the missing hero and clearly stunning Jefferson. Grace gets back to the loft, and is surprised when Shonda doesn’t respond to commands to open the door. I admit, I had a bad feeling about this, but it wasn’t at all what I thought. Anissa brings her in for a nice surprise or two, restoring Anissa’s own title as functional adult. Their evening gets interrupted by an update from Shonda about the Mayor’s pubic appearance with “inadequate security.” I guess Shonda is complex enough to make judgements. In a minor continuity error, Grace left something in the hall as the scene started that’s never addressed. I hope Anissa’s building doesn’t have porch pirates.
At the safe zone that Blackbird established earlier in the season, the Mayor and Tobias Whale are doing a public appearance. Also present are Chief Lopez, Detective Shakour, Blackbird, Lightning, and Grace. Grace uses her powers to protect her identity in an interesting mashup, looking more like her comic book version but taking the name of a different character from the Outsiders. Reeling from what he heard at the bar, Jefferson goes home and has an actual talk, not a fight, with Lynn. Both of them level up to functional adult again, which is nice to see. It’s an actual good talk, and Jefferson suggests an interesting, if dangerous, way to maybe finally get ahead of Tobias.
Lala shows he is absolutely not a man of his word, violating the agreement he entered into not that long ago by mounting an attack on the Mayor and Tobias in the increasingly Un-safe zone. Bullet and energy blasts fly as the police and heroes work together, at least for a few moments. The night isn’t without tragedy, and Chief Lopez turns her wrath on the heroes, which really seems to come out of nowhere. I’m hoping they explain some kind of reason for what seems to be an anti-meta bias in her background, or a lot of what she’s doing really doesn’t make sense at all. Afterward, we get a bit more insight about the attack, and learn something interesting about a recurring character.
A few scenes flow into each other to wrap things up. Lauren shows Gambi a pet project of hers, which actually builds on an idea from a real-world scientist that never quite got off the ground. Gambi is impressed, and agrees to help Lauren with it, although he seems to have some concerns about the security system. Jefferson has one of those awkward “trying to parent through the closed bedroom door” scenes with Jennifer. He is clearly making an effort, but she’s too upset to listen. She sneaks out to go clear her head in her own unique way, but sets off some alarms that TC is monitoring. She once again ignores his concerns, but he proves to have been right as we get a shocking ending. Given some things that China McClain, who plays Lightning/Jennifer Pierce, has said recently, I think we’re going to have another character going missing for a while.
What I liked: It’s easy to dismiss him as a one-note thug, but Lala is actually an interesting character. Gambi doesn’t do anything flashy to impress, but he consistently does a great job at what he does, and has stated over and over that his primary drive is protecting the Pierce family. Jefferson, Lynn, and Anissa all finally acted like adults this time out, and I really appreciated it. I’m hoping this is the rebound point for Jefferson and he becomes, as he said, “The man I used to be.” I also like that TC is doing his best to look out for Jennifer, which would require an entire battalion of guardian angels. It was good to see Grace in action again, too.
What I didn’t: He gets great lines and is well written, but I really want to smash Tobias in his smug face. Man, I am coming to loathe him with a passion previously reserved for Negan on The Walking Dead. I’m hoping for some kind of explanation of Lopez’ animosity towards metas. They don’t seem to know what they want to do with Shakour, and I wish they’d figure that out if they’re going to keep using him so prominently in scenes.
Closing Thoughts: I really never liked Lynn’s riff that Jefferson was addicted to using his powers early in the series. It never made sense to me, and, as we learned more about her, I thought it was her projecting, honestly. I am starting to wonder if Jennifer might actually have that problem, though.
Missing: Sgt. Gardener Grayle, Brandon/Geo-Force, and Instant, that cool teleporting villain who got something of a big build up and then was never really used much. I’d kinda like to know what happened to all of these characters. And Gravedigger should still be out there somewhere.
This episode was, I hope, a turning point in the season, which would fit with the title. I’ll give this a 3 out of 5, and hope things finally start getting better.