Black Lightning: The Book of Ruin: Chapter One: Picking Up the Pieces

Living up to the theme song for the first time this season…

I’ve commented a few times that fourth season of Black Lightning has been on the dark side. During the last episode, I was hopeful they had reached a turning point. I’m not sure if they have or not, but most things got better this episode, as well as one major surprise. There’s a lot going on as we start the next subsection of the season in “The Book of Ruin: Chapter One: Picking Up the Pieces.”

Last episode ended with Jen unexpectedly exploding, which I admit sounds like something out of a Monty Python sketch when you say it that way. Now, the Pierce family (in blood and spirit) gather to try and figure out what to do next. Most of them are ready to write her off, but Jefferson isn’t, which is mostly desperation on his part, but seems to have some backing from his powers and then possible reinforcement from Gambi’s array of machines. As an aside, where in the world did Gambi and/or the Pierces get the money for that much high-tech equipment? The Grotto was somewhat believable, but this new place (which finally has a name, the Sanctum) seems like a major upgrade on almost every level. They finally work out a fairly desperate plan to try and save Jen, which involves a lot of risk to Jefferson. It does, at least, involve him finally getting back into costume and acknowledge the wider Arrowverse, although that bit is weird, too. They refer to the Flash, but oddly indirectly, never mentioning him by name. It almost seemed like one of those “We’re going to hint at something but we don’t have the rights” issues.

The mission is successful as far as they know, although Jefferson almost gets killed, only saved by Gambi’s gizmos and ingenuity. It doesn’t actually save Jen, but it sort of starts the process that might bring her back. Part of the rescue also attracts Tobias Whale’s attention, which leads to more of his weird views on race, and shows a bit more of what his bodyguard, Red, can do. The process of trying to get Jen back is going to take a long time, and Lynn, sensibly, goes home to get some rest. Anissa takes some time to go find TC and offer him support as well as pointing out that this wasn’t his fault (which it really, really wasn’t). While it’s clear Anissa loves Jennifer, she does seem to have a clear-eyed view of her and recognizes she can be intensely stubborn.

In a troubling scene, Chief Lopez calls Detective Shakur in for a meeting. She’s made a few decisions, and apparently isn’t going to let things like actual facts or other people’s input or preferences get in the way. Shakur isn’t happy about what she does, but is outranked. Jefferson and Lynn have a scene that starts off nice enough but devolves into yet another fight. I do believe they love each other, but they really need to split up, at least for a while. They’re just not good for each other, know where all the buttons are, and can’t seem to stop smashing said buttons with a sledgehammer. This latest bout of nastiness is followed by different nastiness, as Chief Lopez takes her new idea public. This leads to more unpleasantness as Gambi pressures Jefferson to make a confession, which goes over poorly. Jefferson also skipped over some important facts. It was almost like he was trying to make himself look worse.

After that outburst, everyone goes back to their neutral corners to wait for the next round. Anissa goes to check on her mother, who is indulging in one of her frequent pass-times, drinking alone while looking annoyed. She and Anissa have a talk, and Anissa expresses some concerns about Lynn’s habits. Lynn reacts to that about as well as she usually does. Jefferson indulges in his own vice of wallowing in sadness and self-doubt. Gambi comes in, and they reminisce about Jennifer’s childhood. Gambi continues his patient, low-key campaign about what he thinks Jefferson should do, and it finally sinks in. On the other side of life in Freeland, Lala, leader of the 100, takes a call from Destiny. The topics range from Sun Tzu quotes to a potential alliance, and then Lala expresses his actual thoughts to head henchman Devonte.

Anissa, who has been ignoring calls from Grace all episode, finally gets home. Grace is, understandably, both worried and upset. Showing how Anissa is, in some ways, better than either of her parents, they have an emotional disagreement but don’t go nuclear on each other, and Anissa even admits she’s wrong, and finally starts filling Grace in on what’s happening. Tobias, in his study, or office, or whatever it is, philosophizes about chess and strategy, baffling Red the thug. Val comes in, and there’s no love lost between her and Red, which clearly amuses Tobias. I really dislike the character a lot, but he does get some great lines.

Finally convinced, Black Lightning goes back into action, paying a visit to Lala’s fight club. He drops the thugs easily enough, but then has a strange conversation with Lala. There are a lot of complex characters on this show, and it’s easy to lose some in the shuffle, but this shows some of the depth behind Lala’s thuggish front. In the Sanctum, Gambi comforts a worried TC and talks about secrets, making some good points. The next morning, Jeff and Lynn have yet another make up scene before getting called to the Sanctum by Gambi.

As is often the case with these shows, we get a series of wrap up scenes to close out the episode. Lala goes to a meeting he has a bad feeling about, and he should have listened to himself. There’s a very odd scene with Devonte and someone else. Destiny makes a decision that will likely complicate Lala’s life in the future, and one of his secrets is probably out now. Anissa shows Grace some of the secrets that are part of Blackbird’s resistance network, which brings them back to the Sanctum. There, with the Pierce family, Gambi, and TC, we see the result of Gamib’s attempt to save Jennifer. What happens is a very unexpected development that’s going to make a lot of things more complicated.

What I liked: Lala is easy to underestimate, but he might be one of the more interesting characters on the show. I’m glad they at least kept TC, even if a lot of the rest of last season’s allies seem to have vanished. I’m hoping this week’s events start to pull the family together. Grace is impressing me more as we get to see more of her. Tobias does get some of the best dialogue on the show. It was nice to sort of get the nod to the Flash, but…

What I didn’t: …it’s weird they went to such lengths to avoid naming the Flash. I’m getting really tired of Jefferson vs. Lynn. They need both the marriage counselor they’ve been seeing and that powers counselor they had Jennifer training with a while back. What ever happened to her? Chief Lopez is getting more and more villain-like, and I’m disappointed Shakur went along with her.

A good, but not great, episode. I’ll give this a 3 out of 5.