Black Lightning: 2.09 The Book of Rebellion: Chapter Two: Gift of the Magi
Much like last week’s episode, Gift of the Magi was relatively focused, didn’t go overboard on story and continues the drama. Unfortunately, it felt very rinse and repeat from the last installment; Jennifer and Khalil are still on the run, while our heroes Black Lightning and Thunder keep on the search. The logic remains non-existent and characters don’t appear to have progressed, physically or psychologically.
The main focus surrounds the drama of Jennifer and Khalil running away, and the emotional effects it’s having on the Pierce family. While very reminiscent of last week’s episode, the performance from Anne McClain as Jennifer was fantastic. After Khalil’s run in with Cutter, he finds himself on death’s door through poison from her knife. Jennifer then realises how much she loves him and does anything she can to save him.
However, while her performance may be excellent the story made absolutely no sense. For starters, what’s with the Pierce sisters becoming thieves, with Jen stealing medical supplies from a hospital? Surely at this point it would make way more sense to just go back home and get help; I just didn’t buy the progression.
Much of the story relied on convenience, which is frankly lazy. For example, Gambi goes to great lengths to find out who Cutter is, discovering her mysterious abilities saying, “nobody has been able to get near her”, only for the next scene to show Jennifer easily capturing and torturing her for the antidote. Speaking of, I wish the episode had better addressed the toll it takes emotionally to torture another human being, regardless of the reasoning. Jennifer especially was never comfortable using her powers, through fear of hurting someone, yet over the past two episodes she doesn’t appear bothered, for that matter she seems to know what she’s doing.
The subplot of Gambi, Black Lightning and Thunder chasing Jen was extremely bland, watching the same thing happening over and over again. First, they would find a lead/clue, get within arm’s reach of her only for another obstacle to get in their way. What makes this subplot all the more irritating is, between the three of them, especially Gambi who did this sort of thing for a living, they are terrible at locating two teenagers who haven’t a clue about hiding. The only aspect I enjoyed was seeing Jeff face up to his emotions, obvious, yes, but great to see him tackle the idea of his failure not only as a superhero but equally as a father.
Once again, Lynn is a character that’s becoming a struggle to enjoy, and clearly someone the show is having trouble with on a story level. At the beginning of the series she showed promise, being strong willed and determined, but since half the pod children died, which hasn’t been mentioned for ages, she’s been a depressive mess. So much time was wasted this episode with her tracking down Khalil’s father, only for the man to say he knows nothing of his son’s whereabouts. Talk about wasted time; why she couldn’t go around with Jeff, Anissa and Gambi is the real mystery.
Easily the strangest element of this episode was the introduction of Todd; a highly intelligent young man turned down for a grant or scholarship, and brought into Tobias’ inner circle for some unknown reason. Honestly, when the scene first showing Todd came on, I thought Netflix had switched the show I was watching without me knowing. Not only did it drastically change the tone, but it’s likely to leave you bemused and ponder on the episode so far. Once again, Tobias was faultless (not that he had a lot to do), but the entire sub-plot neither created mystery or future anticipation. Removing the entire section for some action or flare would’ve been better received.
The new Meta hitman presumably hired by Tobias, shown in the final sequence, was pretty cool. With powers like Marvel’s Nightcrawler, and depicted taking down an entire bar worth of people, he promises great things but, with how Black Lightning has treated characters in the past, I won’t hold out hope. Now at the midseason, break it’s hard to hope for anything positive. While Gift of the Magi wasn’t a horrible episode, it failed to show anything different or shocking, instead opting for a familiar formula and lacklustre execution. I genuinely hope that 2019 will bring more exciting stuff for this show but it’s not looking good.