Black Lightning: 2.13 The Book of Secrets: Chapter Three - Pillar of Fire
Between this season and the last, it’s clear that the writers have never had a concrete plan or vision on where this show is heading, nor contingencies for arcs that haven’t worked. The previous episode, Just and Unjust, was so overwhelmed with story and character elements that it became oversaturated. While Pillar of Fire certainly had less in terms of story (although still too much), what it did focus on was painfully uninteresting.
Delving further into Anissa and Grace’s relationship makes sense; however the development of an LGBT partnership on the show should be more punchy and exciting. Frankly, I found it hard to care. Not only are Anissa’s actions creepy and borderline stalker-like, but it’s difficult to invest in something that the writers themselves don’t seem to care for.
The entire arc was shelved in the first season and brought back, with the twist that Grace may be a Meta. While this is intriguing, so are the countless other potential Metas that have been teased but not developed. Attempting to incorporate a complex, mysterious and tortured back story to her character came across unnecessary, which in turn became a chore to ingest.
Speaking of Anissa’s actions; stealing Grace’s personal effects, having her medication tested and getting Gambi to dig deep into her personal life, was a step too far. It made the narrative feel forced and illogical. Perhaps if the two had appeared closer, or had secrets revealed in previous episodes, it would have been more palatable. It once again deviates from the main plan of taking down Tobias, not to mention having Anissa ignoring her sister, who could potentially explode and destroy a small country if not monitored.
One of the big, if somewhat arbitrary, arcs from the last episode was the school protest over Khalil’s memorial, and having Principle Lowry look like a racist. This was clearly a precursor for Jefferson to get his old job back, which is what this episode bizarrely focussed on. I find it baffling that after several episodes of the school arc being ignored, that now, when the season is coming to an end, they decide to bring it back. It would be understandable if it was significant to the overall plot, but it isn’t.
Jefferson losing his job made perfect sense; he can’t both be a school principle and Black Lightning. Equally when Lowry was brought into the picture it had the potential to build conflict and show his evil side, yet while Lowry has been depicted as a bit of an arse, his actions haven’t made me hate him as much as the writers would presumably like. Time spent gearing up to Jeff getting back his job, only for him to logically turn it down was eye rolling; it’s just another pointless, monotonous, time wasting, logical but dull segment.
The story surrounding Jennifer was more disappointing than anything tbis episode; it’s too slow and not detailed enough. Firstly, we’re made aware that she is as powerful as a nuclear bomb, but she is still let loose on society. Given her understandable emotional state, are her parents stupid or just bad at their job? Her action scenes are also very one-note. I understand that she is still in her infancy as a “superhero”, but it was basically like watching Black Lightning fight with a different colour of electricity.
The most entertaining sub-stories, believe it or not, come from Tobias and co, as he moves closer to his end goal of taking over Freeland and gathering together all Metahumans, whether they be in pods or not. This section had well done action, tension, suspense and provided continuation and promise all at once. I’ve said it before; I am convinced that different directors/writers tackle the hero and villain arcs with no link between the two.
Despite feeling dull and packed with countless annoyances, Pillar of Fire had far superior pacing to the previous episode and was all around more watchable. Visually it was pleasant to look at and the performances were fine, though nothing outstanding or noteworthy. With only three episodes remaining, the larger picture needs to be on focus; setting something up that isn’t just another lacklustre throw down like season one’s finale.