After Shocks: Black Lightning Episode 113, "Shadow of Death: The Book of War"

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Book of War

The first season of BLACK LIGHTNING wraps things up after a 13-episode run -- and, honestly, it's none too soon.

There were so many different things going badly for this series after its debut, but the acting wasn't one of them. CRESS WILLIAMS turned in a fine portrayal of high school principal Jefferson Pierce, but he's simply not action hero material when it came to being Black Lightning. Or perhaps it was just that the hero suit was so bulky and inflexible that made the fight scenes look stilted and awkward. The suit itself was never really fully explained, as far as having a reason other than disguise and identification. The best I can guess is that Pierce could funnel his natural electrical charge into it to make it do other things, but he still could perform electrical stunts without the uniform.

NAFESSA WILLIAMS was much more nimble as Thunder, the identity taken on by Jefferson's older daughter, Anissa. The whole "I have to hold my breath to activate my powers" business seemed to limit how long they could be used, and we've seen that as soon as she exhales she's vulnerable again, so really the key to beating her was to just wait her out. Still, the outfit looked good, and Williams was obviously able to follow complicated fight choreography.

Younger daughter Anissa (CHINA ANNE McCLAIN) was perhaps the most annoying member of the family, going the rounds from acting out party girl to whining hermit. Her reaction to getting her powers was understandable initially, but the girl has a great inability to move forward. Fortunately, her powers being also electrical in nature gave her the perfect deus ex machina to be resurrection tool for whenever Black Lightning is out of juice.

Finally, Lynne Pierce (CHRISTINE ADAMS) is the only non-powered member of the family. Jefferson's ex-wife, she has been working out a reconciliation with Jefferson this season, after having left him because of his refusal to stop being Black Lightning when he was younger. Now accepting that Black Lightning is needed, she's moving foward. Being a brilliant medical doctor, geneticist, pharmacologist, and whatever other medical technical person one needs made her the sort of Overwatch of Team Lightning. Or perhaps she's more the Mister Terrific, because Overwatch's role really belonged to Peter Gambi (JAMES REMAR), Jefferson's surrogate father with a polluted history of government black ops perpetrated against US citizens, specifically African Americans.

MRAVIN 'KRONDON' JONES III made for a spectacular Tobias Whale, the arch-nemesis of the hero from the original comic book series. His callousness and ruthlessness made him an over-the-top villain who made for some great scenes.

The show never really should have gone off the rails as hard and as badly as it did. But bad writing -- especially bad writing with a mission -- will do that to a series. Every episode became a lesson in race relations, a textbook recitation of civil rights quotations, and -- evidenced by the titling of each episode, which seemed bound and determined to become some sort of new New Testament -- simply preachy. We learn that the A.S.A. (who knows what that stands for?) originally targeted the city of Freeland 30 years ago with a tainted vaccine that was intended to make the population docile. It instead caused a very few of the children innoculated to develop metahuman powers, so these children were kidnapped and put into suspended animation pods. Now, the ASA is back, this time distributing the chemical in a street drug called Greenlight, in an attempt to create even more metahumans as part of an arms race. That's been the core of the conflicts this first season, as well as Pierce learning that Tobias Whale -- the man who killed his father -- is still alive and just as young and healthy as ever.

As a plot, it's as good as any. But it was layered over with just too much inexplicable crap. The resurrection of Lala (WILLIAM CATLETT), a lackey to Tobias, was explained as a side project Tobias invested in for reanimation. It cost a "cool million" to fund resurrection science, according to The Whale. Insert your Doctor Evil meme of preference here. As for the ghosts that Lala has been seeing since returning from the dead, that's a side effect of the process -- he'll see the spirits of everyone he's ever killed, and they'll tattoo themselves on his skin until he's a fully tattooed man. (The Tattooed Man was a DC Comics villain who could touch a tattoo on himself and bring it to life to fight heroes.) Oh, but that won't happen to Lala because now he's being used as a human bomb (definitely not the DC Comics character of the same name) to strike at Martin Proctor (GREGG HENRY), the man heading up the rogue ASA project. So Whale killed him and brought him back for, well, nothing. But, hey, he knows how to do Frankenstein on a budget, so I guess that's something.

Martin Proctor is another matter altogether. He's trying to create a metahuman arms race in the name of jingoistic flag waving. He can't open his mouth without saying something racist, and just to let us know who he really is, the writers give him the opportunity twice in the final episode to say "Make America Great Again."

As I said before: preachy.

The finale ends on a cliffhanger note, with Tobias still alive and in possession of secrets taken from Proctor. But truly, after this first season performance, this reviewer is hoping the lightning storm has passed, and that the series can be put to rest.

Grade: 
2.5 / 5.0