Black Lightning: Things Fall Apart

The happy couple finally share the news

After a side trip for a backdoor pilot for a potential spin-off series, Black Lightning continues with what is unfortunately the final season. Tobias Whale is pulling out all the stops in his bid for power in Freeland and his war against Jefferson Pierce. While Whale maneuvers and pulls strings, Jefferson, his family, and his allies try to struggle along. Things aren’t looking good for the heroes, but hopefully they’ll come out on top by the end of both season and series. The story continues with “The Book of Ruin: Chapter Three: Things Fall Apart.”

The episode opens with Grace and Anissa going to the Pierce house to finally share the fact that they got married. As it turns out, they were nervous over nothing, and in fact, get welcomed with a surprise party. One very nice note; this is one of the first times we’ve seen Gambi at a Pierce family function, for all that they keep calling him “Uncle Gambi.” Which has always been kinda weird, since that’s not his first name. At any rate, the good times don’t last, as the FBI comes calling with a search warrant and pull the house apart, courtesy of some trumped-up charges through back channels from Tobias. Whale chose well, and these are especially painful things for Jefferson to be accused of. Gambi and TC go to work trying to prove Jefferson’s innocence, but they have a serious uphill battle. As they work, Jefferson apologizes to Lynn about something he handled very badly last episode, and they talk about one final test result to clear up the JJ/Jennifer issue.

Speaking of, in the wake of the FBI visit, “JJ” is fuming in her room, talking about how much she wanted to fight the Agents when they came to their house. Anissa counsels patience and control, no matter how hard it is. Anissa makes a great analogy, and they talk about JJ’s upcoming first day back at school. In his own meeting, Tobias clearly enjoys the chaos visited on the Pierce home, and his associates Val and Red are just as happy. All three are vile people, and really hoping they get what’s coming to them by the time things wrap up. They also talk about a project that’s behind schedule and someone they need not getting back to them. Tobias is sure he has it all in hand, and while I loathe his ego, he might be right. I’d really love to see him and Lex Luthor go at it. They remind me of each other.

In the kitchen, JJ and Jefferson go over her cover story, which is a good and simple one that actually makes sense. TC shows up to take her to school, being a good friend. Even in a new body, Jennifer/JJ is just as cocky as ever. Gambi is hard at work in the Sanctum, digging into various records from the mysterious and ominous Monovista. Lynn comes in, following up on some work she’s been doing trying to determine what Val’s powers are. She has a great idea, and Gambi, as always, is willing to help. But, while she does everything right, it doesn’t seem to work. Jefferson meets up with Marcel, the teacher from his school, and gets a real good news/bad news scenario.

At Garfield High, TC talks with JJ about her “first day,” and she’s definitely not lacking in confidence. They see some of the kids leaping to conclusions about the charges against Jefferson, and then get impressed when one kid stands up for the embattled principal. The kid is called Montel, and he and JJ embark in some heavy duty flirting as TC looks on amused. It’s an entertaining scene. Much less entertaining is Jefferson at home, trying to deal with what Marcel told him about. He’s vey upset, and understandably so. JJ manages to sound callous and shallow when he shares his upset, and then says something that strikes him as a bit off. JJ lies about her day at school, trying to spare Jefferson even more suffering, so she’s at least nice in that regard. Anissa goes to work, checks in on a friend, and gets some surprises from her coworker Darius. One of the things we learn is a bit unlikely as one company is apparently doing work in utterly unrelated fields.

I’m really unclear about some of Gambi’s motives at this point, and am wondering if he might be, too. He’s either setting himself up for a major problem with Lauren down the line, or he’s a manipulator bordering on being a sociopath. She works on her side project, with his help, and he stages a problem to let him do some more shady things, even if they are in a good cause. Ishmael, the assassin we met last time, is hunting for his targets, using a few different resources and utter ruthlessness. He seems every bit as sadistic as Tobias is. JJ drops in at the loft and shares some food with Grace. They talk about surprise parties, vanity, and boys. The more we get to know them, the more I like Grace and the less I like JJ/Jennifer. JJ tells Grace about what actually happened at school, and then gets an alert as Tobias holds a campaign rally.

Tobias is the center of attention, which he loves, and gets to not so subtly attack his enemies, which he also loves. He gives a somewhat typical campaign speech, although we don’t know if anyone’s running against him at this point, and uses one of the characters we know as a prop. Jefferson scowls about the event, and pushes TC to work faster. In an interesting series of events and observation, they figure out what Val’s power is, we see once again the problem with relying in powers over skills, and my theory/hope about who Val is gets blown out of the water. They realize just how dangerous Tobias’ new meta is. JJ and Marcel get bad news at school, and she hints at a plan to try and fix things. I think I know what she has in mind, and it’s not a good idea at all. In her lab, Lynn makes a discovery that shakes her, and decides the best way to handle it is to lie to Jefferson. Because that’s always gone so well in this family.

Blackbird and Grace break in someplace, I believe it’s supposed to be Monovista, to get some information about what Anissa learned earlier. Ishmael has laid an odd ambush for them, and after he announces his presence and throws away the advantage of surprise (strange choice for someone dressed like a camo-ninja) there’s a big fight. Ishmael is clearly very, very dangerous, and our heroes barely manage to get away, and then only because they managed to surprise him, which they won’t pull off a second time. He then takes off in a ridiculously showy exit which should have had the police on him. Red pays a call to Mr. Bates to drive home some of Tobias’ concerns, and demonstrates his powers. He’s not just showing off for Bates, since Gambi has hidden devices all over the place. For a high-tech company, Monovista has serious security issues.

TC gets a computer alert (I’m really not clear on where he’s living and with who) and we get an interesting tie-in to last week’s episode. It was a nice bit of crossover work, and the Pierce family might be getting some more help with their current struggle. Grace and Blackbird barely make it home, getting a call in with Gambi. Anissa says something foolish that I hope isn’t going to become an issue as things develop, but at least she’s starting to realize how much trouble she and the others might be in, which is an ominous note to end the show on.

What I liked: Grace and Blackbird make a great team. TC is a good guy who is doing his best to help everyone. Gambi is utterly devoted to the Pierce family, and is also a very good man, although my opinion on that might change a bit as we learn more about his current activities. While I can’t stand Tobias, he does have a hell of a plan in motion. Once again, we see why secret identities are so important. The nod to the pilot they did was a nice touch.

What I didn’t: Some of what happened with Marcel makes no sense. JJ is a bit difficult to like at times. Ismael makes some really odd choices.

I will definitely miss this show when the season wraps. I’ll give this a high 3.5 out of 5.