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TV Review: Black Lightning (Season 1, Episode 13)

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This finale may have been somewhat disappointing, but at least it was cathartic.

The first half of ‘Shadow of Death: The Book of War’ was exposition-heavy and clumsy, which is unusual for a finale. By contrast, the latter half was way too fast, and struggled to land any meaningful conclusions.

Despite compelling character moments and some badass fight scenes, this season finale was just kind of a mess. Even the great character-driven moments throughout this hour feel somewhat off, most likely because so much had to be fitted into this last episode.

For instance, Jefferson’s season-long arc wrestling with his identity as a superhero, and balancing Black Lightning against the cost to his family and himself. When he wakes after being brought back to life, he has lost his powers, and in that moment, the decision he has been grappling with for so long is taken away from him.

It was a big moment that would have benefitted from being explored further, perhaps as its own arc in season two. Instead, Jennifer arrives and gives him a jumpstart, generator-to-battery, and he’s back on his way to fight the bad guys.

And that’s another issue with this episode, that they rushed Jennifer’s story. One moment she’s crying and scared of dying, which is perfectly in tune with what we’ve seen of the way Jen handles her new abilities and family situation. Yet the next, she is standing up to Gambi confidently stating that the Pierce’s will stand their ground and protect Freeland.

Likewise, the way her powers are handled feels wrong. She’s brought in to save her dad’s life, which had a powerful impact, but a few hours later her powers are used to re-start his abilities. So far, every time Jennifer uses her power it serves as a plot device, without any follow-up, rather than as a way of furthering her personal journey. She deserves better.  

The big ‘climax’ has the Pierce family and Gambi standing their ground against an army of ASA operatives. Everyone plays their part, helps each other, and ultimately make it out together and unscathed. The highlight of the whole episode has to be the unorthodox musical choices for the action scenes, featuring both Earth, Wind & Fire, and Desiigner, which played unexpectedly well.

‘Shadow of Death’ marks the end of recent TV’s worse villain, Martin Proctor. Likely the most one-dimensional villain to come out of any recent show, though to their credit Black Lightning seemed ready to play right into this exaggerated ‘big bad’ trope. The writers even threw in a few “Make America Great Again!’s” for good measure, really leaning into this very Trump-esque figure.

His ending was too clean, shot by Gambi after a throwaway conclusion which established he did not, in fact, represent the government, but rather was in Freeland on a rogue mission separate from the official ASA organisation.

Similarly, it looks like they’re finished with Lala, blowing him up in an attempt to kill Proctor earlier in the hour. I have to believe he’ll come back from that too, though it seems unlikely. It’ll just be too much wasted potential to forgive if that really does turn out to be the end of Lala. Everything is so cleanly tied up, and Tobias Whale even gets his hands on Proctor’s mysterious suitcase, standing strong and flanked by Syonide and Khalil.

For all the episode’s faults and disappointments, Black Lightning does close on a beautifully positive and hopeful note, with the Pierce family together and well, an unfortunately rare outcome for a superhero show. This finale may have been rushed, anti-climactic and frustratingly simplified, but it was cathartic, and knowing there will be a second season does soften the blow.

Black Lightning is available to stream on Netflix. 




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