Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Collateral damage leads to a moral reckoning on Black Lightning

Illustration for article titled Collateral damage leads to a moral reckoning on iBlack Lightning/i
Photo: Mark Hill/The CW (The CW)
TV ReviewsAll of our TV reviews in one convenient place.

The characters that populate Black Lightning love to talk. More than any other superhero TV show, this one spends a lot of time discussing the various ethical conundrums that come with being a vigilante. Arrow, The Flash, and plenty of others have explored similar territory, but Black Lightning’s string of episodes to start the season is something different. There’s been an intense focus on the Pierce family and how they deal with the struggles that come with being a superhero. Lynn and Jefferson’s downfall is a result of those struggles; their family history, stretching back to at least Jefferson’s father, is littered with the cost of being different. In the early going, all the talk about the cost of being a vigilante worked because it also acted as a statement on being black in America. Generational violence is a part of America, Freeland, and the Pierce family tree. In recent episodes though, all the talk has been wearing thin for one simple reason: nobody has actually had to reckon with the collateral damage Jefferson and Lynn are so keen on mentioning.

In other words, the innocent or not-so-innocent victims of Black Lightning’s crusades are all in the past, and while it’s certainly fruitful to trot out those ghosts to make these characters feel alive, like they have a history, it’s also resulted in the show spinning its wheels. “Equinox: The Book Of Fate” is different though. It’s not the best episode of the season, but it’s a marked improvement on last week’s offering. As Lynn begs Jefferson to train Anissa so that she’s safe on the streets as a vigilante, and Black Lightning fails to get Tobias but delivers another dead body in the process, it’s clear that the Pierce family, and Black Lightning, are done talking. Now, the show can get down to business.


What that business is still remains frustratingly unclear, especially in light of this week’s final scene. In that scene, Lala comes back from the dead, sitting up straight in a hotel room. He stares at the TV, news of Lady Eve’s death—here, she’s portrayed as one of Freeland’s most successful businesswomen—running across the news networks, before a woman appears beside him. She asks him if he believes in resurrection now, all before dissipating into a magical light and imprinting herself on Lala in the form of a tattoo. That woman is LaWanda—I’m 99% sure, but without a screener I wasn’t able to double check, and that scene went by real quick—and now she’s on his skin, a mark of his sin (or maybe something else). It’s a lot to take in, and a sudden shift into more magical territory for the show, but it’s incredibly exciting.

That scene encapsulates the general tone of “Equinox: The Book Of Fate.” This feels like the show turning a corner. The early episodes set up the story of the Pierce family, and specifically Jefferson and his past as Black Lightning. Those episodes prepared us for Anissa discovering her powers, and Tobias being introduced as the man who killed Jefferson’s father. In hindsight, last week’s miscue of an episode is clearly a transition point. It’s the point that connects the two halves of the season, however imperfectly. Where Jefferson’s struggles with his ethics felt flimsy last week, they’re much more grounded here, as the show uses his relationship with Anissa as a necessary anchor.

Last week’s episode still feels like a misstep, but “Equinox: The Book Of Fate” is a good bit of course correction. Rather than just emptily musing on Jefferson’s conflicted nature, the show puts the man into situations that show his hypocrisy. When he tells Lynn that they need to convince Anissa not to use her powers because of how much she’ll lose in the long run, he sees his hypocrisy, perhaps not for the first time, but clarified in front of him. If he can preach to Lynn the importance of helping Freeland, and insist that Black Lightning is part of who he is, how can he possibly turn around and steer his daughter from the same path? It takes Lynn’s reasoning, saying that Anissa will be back out in the street fighting crime no matter what they say, to convince Jefferson to train her.

With this revelation from Jefferson, coupled with a few thrilling action sequences and a brilliantly executed frame job from Tobias’ sister Tori, suddenly Black Lightning is back on track. I’m surprised that Lady Eve was so swiftly killed off—though, of course, a Lala-esque resurrection is always on the table—but that kind of jarring twist is exactly what the show needs at this moment. At some point the stakes had to be raised. Now, the cops are after Black Lightning, Tobias has more of a reason to target his old foe, and Anissa has received her first taste of collateral damage. “Equinox: The Book Of Fate” doesn’t always strike the balance that made those first few episodes so refreshing, but it feels like a step in the right direction. With the Pierce family finally reckoning with everything they’ve been talking about, it’s time for them, and Black Lightning, to move forward.


  • Turns out that Gambi has some vigilante skills of his own.
  • Having the ageless Tobias appear in the flashbacks is integral to the feel of those scenes. It’s visceral, watching the same man with the same look, 30 years earlier, kill Jefferson’s father.
  • I’m setting the over/under on Jenn discovering her own powers at three episodes. Place your bets, readers!
  • A Brief History Of Seven Killings is a great book, by the way. Jefferson has good taste.
  • Speaking of books, Tobias has a copy of Moby Dick sitting on his desk. No further explanation needed.
  • This week in the Black Lightning soundtrack:

Kyle Fowle is a freelance writer based out of Canada. He writes about TV and wrestling for The A.V. Club, Real Sport, EW, and Paste Magazine.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter