Red Stewart reviews the second episode of Black Lightning season 2…
“Black Jesus Blues” continued Black Lightning’s sad trend of focusing on multiple plot threads in a single episode than said episode could theoretically support. I’ve complained enough about this in past reviews, so I’ll avoid completely turning into a broken record, but it is very disappointing to not see anyone in the writer’s room actually realize the problems that come with this tactic.
To its credit, “Black Jesus Blues” did start off with a strong opening wherein a metahuman escapes from the ASA pod facility while Tobias beats up Khalil for not helping him capture Kara in last week’s “Rise of the Green Light Babies.” Of course, Khalil was never even mentioned by Tobias then, a sign of inconsistent writing, but Krondon and Jordan Calloway have been two of the strongest performers in the Black Lightning cast, so they make this abusive relationship work for the most part.
The escaped meta is identified as a young woman with wind powers who is apparently suffering from psychosis. I say apparently because the filmmakers strangely decided that giving her diplopia was enough to depict the harrowing nightmare that is psychosis. But none of that matters because, in spite of her good introduction, her plot is thrown to the side for the vast majority of the episode, only getting quickly resolved at the end. It honestly makes me wonder what the point of it was.
No, most of “Black Jesus Blues” is focused on other things: throwing Anissa into another love triangle, setting up a conflict between her and Jefferson, having Lynn deal with a Green Light kid named Issa who was brought back from the dead, and following Tobias’s undisclosed plan to control Freeland. Other subplots thrown into the mix include Lynn’s continued struggle with the ASA bureaucracy, Khalil and Jennifer’s relationship, and Jefferson dealing with his decision to step down as Principal of Garfield High.
It’s a mouthful and, as expected, not executed well in the slightest. The pieces feel forced together, while the pacing is strenuous: some plots move at a snail’s pace while others are sped through quickly. Take Anissa’s love life for example, which I thought wasted the most time- she randomly goes to some party, sees a random singer there is who is apparently loaded, and seduces her. There is no context: we have no idea who this woman is and we have no idea how Anissa even found out about her. It honestly felt like a good eight minutes and who knows how much money was misused on this pointless sexcapade that only served one purpose: to reunite Anissa with Grace Choi, who mysteriously vanished in the poor plotting of the first season. It’s one thing to resolve that plot hole with a cliche “I was busy” line from Anissa, but to have Choi coincidentally working as a waitress at this singer’s place when she clearly owned her own bar in season 1? It’s just insulting writing at this point.
Elsewhere, you have Issa playing a good supporting role in “Black Jesus Blues” narrative. There was an idea introduced in “Rise of the Green Light Babies” that his televised revival from the dead would spark an anti-supers hostility from the community, but that’s ignored this time around in favor of focusing on him as a character. Which would be hypothetically fine, were it not for the fact that he is extremely bland. His own mother and sister think he is a freak, and the pejorative “body bag boy” is thrown around, yet he takes it all fine. Why is it coming back from the dead leaves him okay, but having the wind girl come out of a pod makes her go crazy? It is discrepancies like this that genuinely make me wonder how any script leaves the writer’s room at this point.
Most of the other subplots are just annoying, and to delve into them would make this review more of a recap rather than a critique. But rest assured, there is going to be some dumb family drama in the future courtesy of Jefferson thinking that Anissa embracing the public’s love will put her invincible body in harm’s way.
Thankfully, there is a partial saving grace in the form of Tobias. As stated before, he spends his, unfortunately limited, screen time pushing forward his plan to rule Freeland. Details are still being kept under wraps, presumably for some big reveal down the line, but overall I couldn’t help but feel excited anytime one of his scenes played. They were thrilling, they were engaging, and most importantly they were interesting, which is more than I can say for the “main” plots.
Ironically, despite being limited, Tobias’s narrative proved something to me- that if the writers drop the soap opera angles and actually concentrate on telling an A plot and B plot, they can do wonders with this show.
Rating – 6/10