Black Lightning: 2.11 The Book of Secrets: Chapter One: Prodigal Son

The last episode of Black Lightning ended with a bang; not only was the mundane teen-runaway story arc put to bed but, in an unexpected move, Khalil’s mechanical spine was literally ripped from his body by Tobias. Prodigal Son has taken what was previous established and not only capitalised on it, but furthered the mystery in an exciting, I can’t wait for the next episode, kind of way.

The deaths of two main characters in such a short space of time, while sad, actually showed a growth not yet seen in season two. It depicted an eagerness to elaborate a single story, finally giving our antagonists a reason to say, ‘enough is enough’, and take the necessary action, rather than trust in the apparent corrupt legal system. Equally, these actual deaths (or at least as ‘actual’ as things get in Black Lightning) were handled far more elegantly and respectfully than Gambi’s faked death in episode five.

The death of Khalil was possibly the most formulaic and annoying. While the emotional tensions were set beautifully, Jefferson’s guilt and Khalil asking for Black Lightning to make Tobias suffer was a little too clichéd. Additionally, it was difficult to not wonder why they simply couldn’t put his implant back in, at the very least it could’ve been addressed. Equally, Jennifer discovering her powers allow her to see electrical impulses inside of people, and use that to potentially save Kahlil, was also never fully addressed, outside of Lynn saying, “that’s not a good idea”. A little more explanation would’ve gone a long way.

There was a significant improvement in the writing, especially from an emotional standpoint. To quote Jefferson, “I’m sorry I wasn’t there when you needed me”, and Khalil’s response, “you were always there, I just couldn’t see you”, was incredibly powerful, and no doubt relatable to almost any adolescent teen that’s refused to take advice and guidance from their parents. Reverend Holt’s untimely death during his sermon was equally as powerful. Before being poisoned by Cutter, his last words were about taking back control and teaching our children to embrace their inner powers.

Logical movements are something Black Lightning has cared little about, but something that could greatly affect a viewer’s interaction (and has done mine). Jefferson bringing Detective Henderson further down the proverbial rabbit hole made perfect sense, interjecting some much needed comedy and releasing some tension between the two good friends. It’s nice to see them actively trying to take down Tobias rather than just talk about it. There is a heap of storytelling potential here, from both a superhero and person of the law standpoint, that’s hopefully capitalised on.

After taking a backseat to the Sange/Perdi story arc, Tobias is finally being re-established as the big bad of the season. Interweaving his character more into existing plot threads was a clever move, making him feel less segregated and part of the lore. Discovering his history with the psycho doctor, Jace, not just romantically, but scientifically (she engineered his super serum), perfectly brings back not just her character but the previously side-lined pod children arc. With both Team Tobias and Team Black Lightning growing, it promises for an epic showdown.

The pacing took a hit in the beginning of this episode. Seeing Jennifer’s emotions explode onto a racist woman’s car was unnecessary, unlawful (which clearly runs in the family) and had very poor effects. While her actions were different, the emotional turmoil felt very repetitive. Likewise was re-introducing Prenna, the psychiatrist, whose inclusion felt unwarranted and simply a waste of time. It’s difficult to grasp why this show struggles with Jennifer’s powers, both explaining it to the audience and her understanding of it

“This feels like a step in the right direction”, is what I said in my previous review and a statement that can be mirrored here. ‘Prodigal Son’ while again not perfect, is helping to reshape season two into what it always could’ve been from the start, an entertaining, informative superhero show. Going back to the previous stories like Tobias’ takeover of Freeland and the pod children has helped allow Black Lightning to finally focus and forget the added nonsense. I can honestly say that I am looking forward to seeing what happens next!

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