After a few weeks of failing to really hit the mark when it comes to the season’s larger stories, “The Book Of Revelations” sees Black Lightning get right back on track. The problem with the last few episodes has been the purposeful withholding of information in order to build up the season’s biggest mysteries, from Gambi’s loyalty and Jenn’s superpowers to the role of the so-called “Shadow Board” and where all these people with superpowers really come from. Those are interesting stories to tell, but the pacing’s felt off ever since Black Lightning learned that Tobias, his father’s killer, was back in Freeland. “The Book Of Revelations” sets things right though by establishing a more urgent pace, and that bodes well for the last few episodes of the season.
The pacing of a superhero show seems especially tricky, particularly in the first season. There’s so much to establish, from the feel and dynamic of Freeland to the history of the Pierce family and more, and Black Lightning only has 13 episodes to work with. That’s an ideal number of episodes for almost any show, especially in this age of bloated runtimes, but it’s also resulted in Black Lightning going through some growing pains. “The Book Of Revelations” might just signal the end of the jarring ebbs and flows though, as just about every relevant storyline is suddenly moving forward at a clip that feels much more engaging and promising.
The kickstart for all the plots starting to come together is Jefferson’s need to clear Black Lightning’s name after the murder of Lady Eve. The opening sequence of the episode tells us everything we need to know, crosscutting between Jefferson training Anissa and shots of the media interviewing people in Freeland who feel that Black Lightning is dangerous. There can be no path forward for Freeland, Jefferson, and Anissa without the rehabilitation of the Black Lightning name.
Trouble comes when Jefferson and Anissa go looking for redemption though. Jefferson sees this as not only as an opportunity to clear Black Lightning’s name and continue to put the squeeze on whoever’s in charge of distributing Green Light, but also as a way to introduce Anissa to the extent of her powers and the responsibility they bring. Black Lightning almost always executes its scenes with the members of the Pierce family, and this week is no different. The scenes with Jefferson training Anissa and working on the case to figure out how Lady Eve was killed aren’t imbued with doom and gloom, but rather excitement at the prospect of learning to be a force of good in the world. It’s a nice change of pace from so much gloomy superhero fare, and underscores yet again that the true star of this show is the Pierce family dynamic. Jefferson breathlessly going on about how Anissa saved his life by predicting danger and really examining her surroundings is all sorts of adorable, and in line with everything we know about the character. He’s a parent who’s been heard, and there’s nothing that makes him prouder.
It’ll be interesting to see how Jenn figures into that dynamic, as she’s just discovering her powers, and goes to Anissa at the end of the episode with that revelation. For now, getting the whole Pierce family on the same page is a boon for the show. Too many secrets being held by too many characters tends to bog down any real, meaningful narrative progression. The tension provided by keeping secrets can only last so long before it becomes a hindrance to the larger story. That’s what made the last few episode so frustrating; everybody was hiding something. Now, with the Pierce family being forced to come together, the show can pivot its secret-keeping to where it really matters, using the mysteries of Gambi, the A.S.A., and the resurrected Lala as the driving force that counters the goodness of Black Lightning and his new sidekicks.
It’s probably too obvious to point out that the reason “The Book Of Revelations” is so damn exciting is because it’s packed with, well, revelations, but that’s simply the case. Narratives are starting to take shape, and what was once a show that mainly used its superhero tropes to talk about issues of race and community is now going to that next level, all while keeping its social justice streak intact. In other words, things are getting weirder, and that’s a good thing for Black Lightning. Lala is talking to and making out with the ghost of LaWanda, the woman he killed? Sure! Gambi is holding secret nighttime parking lot meetings with the shady head of a shadowy government organization called the A.S.A.? More of that please! Alvin Pierce died because Gambi leaked him information about the first iteration of Green Light that the A.S.A. was using to pacify the people of Freeland? That’s some serious paranoid thriller goodness.
In essence, “The Book Of Revelations” feels like a necessary, welcome shift in identity for Black Lightning without losing what’s made the show so successful thus far. This isn’t a reboot halfway through the season, but rather an expansion. Black Lightning is starting to widen its scope, and just in time for the season’s final stretch.
- “If you breathe at the wrong time, you die.” “You can’t be reactive.” Jefferson is talking about Anissa’s power, but he also knows what it means to have black skin in this world.
- It’s really something to see Jefferson humanizing Lady Eve, as he does for all victims of violence. He wants Anissa to understand that while some violence may be necessary, there’s still a very human toll that you can’t lose sight of.
- Last week I set the over/under for the number of episodes until Jenn found out about her powers at three. In other words, I set it way too high.
- I wouldn’t exactly say that Gambi is responsible for Alvin’s death, but lying for that long certainly doesn’t look good.
- This week in the Black Lightning soundtrack: