Black Lightning: 2.08 The Book of Rebellion: Chapter One: Exodus
Out of everybody, the person(s) I feel most sorry for is the poor editor, who has to piece together the “previously” section, somehow making the series look more inviting than it actually is. Joking aside, this is easily the most focused episode so far this season, and while some of it didn’t work, the storyline was clear, concise and to the point. Focusing mainly on the Pierce family drama after Jennifer and Khalil ran away, was an interesting way to develop the climax from last week, although I could’ve done with less “you should’ve done this” and “you could’ve done that”, and more family unity.
Since the beginning of this season, Jennifer’s, development into an independent, clear thinking woman has been depicted, more notably in recent episodes with her feeling imprisoned by her parents after they decided to home school her. Nothing about her running away with Khalil made any sense and served to highlight their adolescence, while diminishing the idea of her being a strong forward thinking female. Not only did they have literally everyone looking for them but at every turn, they were, unintentionally putting their loved ones in danger, which they must’ve known would happen. In what world would it not be safe to take sanctuary with your family of superheroes?
In terms of character growth, it would’ve been far more captivating and reasonable to see Khalil face up and apologise for his past mistakes, possibly take a punch (or two), and team up with Black Lightning to defeat Tobias, or this new villain, Cutter. Instead we see him lash out verbally at Jennifer, break more laws and place the woman he supposedly cares for in heaps of danger. Are we, the audience, supposed to feel like Khalil deserves redemption simply because he disassociated himself with Tobias? It’s confusing, silly and the decisions made were illogical.
As far as emotional connections with characters are concerned, I am really struggling with Lynn. The season began by portraying her as strong willed and determined, but recently she has been depicted as an out of control alcoholic. This episode specifically, we see her worrying about her daughter, who she believes was taken against her will by Khalil, feeling as though she failed as a mother. It’s difficult to empathise with her given that we know Jennifer is safe, or at least not kidnapped, and the fact that she is doing nothing useful to help is only deteriorating her character’s integrity. Not only do I want to see more of her lab work, but she needs to get out of this funk.
Black Lightning struggles with its villains; there’s never been a clear antagonist in either season, and whenever there’s someone who could take that mantle such as Lady Eve, Lala or the Shadow Board, they simply disappear into obscurity. The introduction of Cutter this episode is a prime example. All in, she was a weak character, didn’t give the best performance and wasn’t memorable. Her conversation with Tobias, who sent her to capture Khalil, was dull. Ok, the two have a history but the likelihood of it being addressed again is slim, and frankly I’m uninterested. Her fight sequence with Khalil was excellent; the two appear evenly matched in terms of strength and ability so, another showdown between those two would be welcome.
Jennifer’s progression with her powers took a step in the right direction this episode. Not only was it sparingly used, for the better, her performance matched that of someone unsure of her capabilities and fear of control. It was natural and felt genuine. The scene where she disables the tracking device in Khalil’s head was superb; it had the right blend of obviousness and anticipation. This kind of slow build and acknowledgement is the path Black Lightning should continue on. Another area of significant improvement from last week was clearing up past arcs, such as any animosity around Gambi and Detective Henderson.
Exodus, in comparison to last week, is a masterpiece and once again outlines that the best episodes are the ones that focus on individual story-arcs, rather than throwing several, tonally different elements into one. Watching Tobias piece together who Black Lightning might be was both refreshing to finally witness some logic, and hilarious. The track record this season isn’t great and while this episode wasn’t the best, it’s a significant improvement. Remaining on this level will help Black Lightning end on a high but, as always, time will tell.