Lightning Strikes Twice: Warner Bros Simultaneously Releases Season 2 and 3 of Black Lightning on Blu-ray

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Black Lightning Season 2 and 3

I can't recall the last time two seasons of an ongoing television show have been released back-to-back, but that's what Warner Brothers is doing with their CW superhero show, BLACK LIGHTNING, a series that began outside of the Arrowverse of their other DC Comics-inspired series that later became incorporated, loosely, through the "Crisis on Infinite Earths" crossover event -- an event that, while it didn't have an official crossover episode with BLACK LIGHTNING in the proper sense, still made its presence felt.

For three seasons and going, one major problem has been dogging the BLACk LIGHTNING series: pacing. Since the beginning of the show, the story has consistenly been following the troubles of Freeland and how it has been used as the experimentation grounds for a street drug called "Greenlight" that can unlock metahuman potential -- if it doesn't kill you first, or kill you after. The metahumans it creates are unstable, and the use of their powers burns them out from the inside. The only truly stable meta has always been Black Lightning -- Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams), who became a metahuman decades before this current crop; and even he requires the use of his special suit to keep his powers in check. But such a safeguard hasn't been required for Jefferson's two daughters, Anissa (Nafessa Williams) who can manifest strength and invulnerability as long as she holds her breath, and Jennifer (China Anne McClain) who exhibits lightning energy powers that may even surpass her father's. As Thunder and Lightning, they rarely team up, usually finding themselves pitted against each other over philosophical matters.

The agency behind the drug experiments is an entity known as the ASA. It is seeking to create metahuman beings to be used as instruments of war, in a sort of arms race. In this arms race, the fictional country of Markovia fills the role of "the other," a country that seeks to obtain metahumans for their own. For what feels like forever (to the viewer), the city of Freeland has been under a quarantine, kept in check by a force field bubble around the city. To the outside world, the reason for the quarantine is a contained outbreak of SARS, but since no information gets out of the city from anyone inside, no one ever learns the real reason. Nearly every episode is a member of the family fighting either with or against the ASA, with or against the Markovians, with the motives of both sides kept murky and unclear as to who is really the greater of the two evils. Agent Percy O'Dell (Bill Duke) convinces Jennifer to fight against the Markovians, while Anissa takes on a different identity of Blackbird to run a resistance campaign that smuggles metahuman children away from the ASA. Putting a strain on things is the discovery that Jefferson's surrogate father and mentor, Peter Gambi (James Remar) was a former ASA agent, struggling now to undo what he did years ago, and the fact that Jefferson's wife Lynn (Christine Adams) is struggling with her own drug addiction to an offshoot of Greenlight that she takes to have metahuman mental acuity as she searches for a cure to the metahuman condition, discovering instead a way to extract the genes from metahumans so that their powers can be temporarily given to others. It's a process that can only be stabilized by certain biological enzymes, and the only production of these enzymes turns out to be the bone marrow of Black Lightning's greatest enemy: Tobias Whale (Marvin "Krondon" Jones III).

Further complicating things, as well as slowing them down, are the characters of Painkiller -- Jennifer's ex-boyfriend, Khalil (Jordan Calloway), who is now a programmed assassin with no memories of his past, and Brandon (Jahking Guillory), who exhibits metahuman abilities over the Earth. He's the show's adaptation of Geo-Force from the comics -- only instead of being a prince of Markovia, he's seeking out Dr. Jace (Jennifer Riker), the Markovian scientist, who killed his mother.

The Crisis episode, "Earth Crisis" is interesting as it occurs separate from the rest of the crossover. What happens is that Jennifer's body reacts to the red lightning taking over the world, and she finds herself in an interdimensional plane where she encounters three different versions of herself, including Gen from Earth 1, and Jinn from Earth 2. That certainly places our Jennifer on neither Earth, and thus outside of the regular stomping grounds of the Arrowverse -- but it also makes clear there was a Black Lightning on both of these Earths, creating some story conflicts for those of us already working to keep track of who's where.

It's not the only inconsistency with the story, however, and not even a big one. The one that sticks out to me the most is when Black Lightning himself returns from the Crisis (with the revelations that Superman is real and saved the universe). Jennifer, realizing she's fighting on the wrong side, decides to join her family in a stand against the ASA. But Black Lightning tells her she can't go out in that suit that was given to her by the ASA, because it's probably got tracking technlogy in it. And while that's a good way to get her back into the original suit designed by Gambi, it overlooks the fact that Black Lightning's own suit -- one that appears now by running current through his wristwatch -- was also given to him by the ASA while he was working for them against the Markovians. But I guess it's such a cool special effect and time-saving device for the writers that it was expedient to just keep it. Aside from that, the only immediate impact on the Black LIghtning series post-Crisis is the handful of acknowledgments that Gotham City is a part of this world, apparently where Agent O'Dell is from and possibly the setup for launching a crossover with BATWOMAN -- an even stronger possibility of a connection now that Ruby Rose has left the show after one season and will be replaced by Javicia Leslie. Let's see of the writers decide to tie their new Batwoman to Freeland in some manner.

The good news is that, with the conclusion of this third season, the whole "greenlight" thing seems to have been put to bed. And with Tobias Whale back on the streets, we're pretty much back to where things started: three years to advance nowhere.

The show still has so much untapped potential, and perhaps now that it has decided to become a part of the rest of the CW family of superhero shows, we may get some more engaging stories. A crossover or two certainly would go a long way toward getting the show some traction with viewers.

Grade: 
3.5 / 5.0