Black Lightning: 2.12 The Book of Secrets: Chapter Two - Just and Unjust
Since returning from the mid-season break, season two has been improving, but it has yet to be consistently brilliant. What’s presented here is adequate enough but the amount of different story elements is too overwhelming. While the countless subplots may be interesting, they can’t shine with such limited screen time. In this 45 minutes of television you have subject matters such as 'Black Lives Matter', domestic abuse, revenge vs justice, racism, the ASA takeover, financial problems and Tobias being, well, Tobias. It’s simply too much.
Just and Unjust began with Lynn and Anissa being attacked. Caught by surprise, Anissa barely has time to protect herself and gets shot in the process. From a character stand point this was excellent as it elevated Anissa’s journey. Up until this point she has seen herself as indestructible, but this, and her almost unsuccessful run in with the 100, made her see things from a different perspective and that she needs to reign in her recklessness. The scenario brought her character back down to earth, humanising her, better showing her vulnerabilities and most importantly making her more relatable because of it.
Speaking of that run in with the 100, while the main objective was to take down Tobias, it was also refreshing to see Anissa continue to take the fight to those in need. Starting a fight with a member of the 100 gang, after discovering he beats his partner, was careless but a good place to start. However, while the scenario may be fist pumping, the action was terrible, the hits never felt as though they landed and the choreography was very poor.
Jefferson and Lynn’s decision to send Jennifer back to school was bizarre. It completely contradicts their reasoning for taking her out in the first place, it’s not like she has any better understanding or control over her powers. Regardless, this is where the drama comes from as the school principle attempts to remove a memorial made for Khalil, which is met with disapproval and anger by pupils. While the argument was fair, it felt unnecessary to turn it into a debate about racism, which, by only allowing a small amount of screen time, lessens the impactful nature and sensitive subject matter.
To give credit to the writing team, it was clearly their intention to give the principle depth by having him explain his tortured childhood, but it ultimately came across as whiny and pathetic. The thought provoking discussion of how somebody should be remembered was inventive, as was Jefferson’s conversation with Jennifer that was pretty much a great power/responsibility speech that provided a nice chuckle.
The episode was packed with other developments, though not all good. Khalil’s mother being unable to afford the funeral, caused Anissa to steal more money *groan*, Grace’s powers becane too much resulting in her leaving Anissa, which, like Tobias’ pod children arc, had very little impact. These are all important and interesting sub-plots that are failing to blossom properly due to poor attention; the snippets show promise but the execution lacks emphasis and passion.
The last episode presented some exciting developments, including Khalil asking Jefferson to murder Tobias, and the crime-fighting trio founded by Jefferson, Henderson and Gambi set to take Tobias down. This had the making of an epic, action packed thrill ride but alas, nothing was even mentioned (nor for that matter was Reverend Holt’s passing). Perhaps the creators are waiting until the season finale to shake things up, given that Black Lighting’s last encounter with Tobias was somewhat lacklustre.
It’s difficult to stay positive about a show that clearly has excellent ideas but, either a lack of budget, or disorganisation in the writing/direction teams, is causing the execution to fail. As with most Black Lightning episodes, Just and Unjust had the formula for excellence but got the measurements all wrong.