Red Stewart reviews the third episode of Black Lightning season 2…
To my surprise, the third episode of this season of Black Lightning was much more focused than previous entries. Perhaps this is attributable to its writer, Jan Nash, who scribed two episodes in the first season that I gave positive reviews to. Or perhaps it is just a fluke and we will see the writing team return to their previous ways.
Regardless, being more compact didn’t stop ‘Master Lowry’ from trying to squeeze more plot lines into its 42 minute run time than the format could contain, but it did spend time actually fleshing out a lot of them, which is more than I can say for the prior two episodes.
Contrary to what the title implies, the new principal of Garfield High, Mike Lowry, only appears briefly, though this small appearance tells us all we need to know about what the writers intend to do with him. Rather than make him a foil with good intentions, it appears that Lowry will be portrayed as a narcissistic jerk who views the school (and Jefferson) as below him. I hope I’m proven wrong in this regard, but don’t expect to be.
No, instead the episode is divided into five main threads: Jefferson tracking down Tobias, Tobias and Khalil expanding their operations, Jennifer receiving an aide to control her powers, Lynn getting help from a psychotic doctor for the pod children, and Anissa continuing to steal money for the church’s legal battles. As one can expect, this is a mouthful, but unlike other episodes that wasted film on pointless slow-paced takes that somehow made it into the final edit, the majority of the scenes here serve a purpose in terms of advancing the narrative.
Like with last week’s “Black Jesus Blues,” the most interesting part here is the one with Tobias, and by extension Khalil and Jefferson. As I said before, Krondon and Jordan Calloway add a subtle layer of depth to the abusive relationship between their characters, which truly makes it convincing when we see Khalil engage in dark acts that the athlete from season 1 wouldn’t have dared to do. I expect some type of a redemption arc to be in the works down the line, but for now I am content with what is at play.
Jefferson, on the other hand, spends his screen time doing actual investigative work, which was a nice departure from previous instances where he relies on Gambi for guidance (indeed, that seems to be a problem with most CW superhero TV shows). Tracking down Khalil by convincing his mother to help was a smart move, and helps to make Black Lightning come off as more heroic beyond typical scenes of random crowds cheering him on.
Lynn’s plot, though kind of pushed to the back, was also very intriguing, if only for the fact that I found her sociopathic co-worker to be an interesting figure (though this could also be because I’m going through Syonide-withdrawal). Her name is Dr. Helga Jace, and she was reportedly imprisoned for conducting illegal human experiments that killed one subject and left the other 10 without feet. Her actress, Jennifer Riker, does a good job at conveying these morbid revelations without coming off as over-the-top, and I look forward to seeing how she interacts with Lynn, who is (rightfully) aggressively cautious towards her.
Anissa’s role was pretty conventional. There was potential here to explore a corporate espionage thriller as we find out a Russian-funded group is attempting to buyout a free clinic in Freeland for obscure reasons, but it’s thrown to the side in favor of another action set-piece involving Anissa fighting regular mobsters. At least the choreography here was a lot better than last week’s episode, with Anissa using her super strength to create tactical shockwaves.
Jennifer, unfortunately, drew the short straw this time around, primarily because her plot involves a deus ex machina. It turns out Jefferson and Gambi conveniently know a meta named Perenna who can transfer people into a mental area where they can gain insight into themselves Inception-style. The acting from Perenna’s actress, Erika Alexander, was solid, but it just felt strange that Jefferson and Gambi couldn’t help Jennifer control her own powers. I mean, didn’t they go through a similar thing themselves? And Jefferson and Jennifer’s powers are relatively similar.
Even with these fleshed out threads, the congestion did exist, and it didn’t help that other subplots were thrown into the mix as usual, like Anissa repairing her relationship with Grace Choi and Henderson looking into the missing cop that Tobias murdered in the previous episode.
Black Lightning has a long ways to go before it returns to the highlights of season 1, but ‘Master Lowry’ was a step in the right direction, especially with a good ending full of surprises.
-I’ve been meaning to say this before, but the title graphics for each new episode this season are a nice touch.
-Jefferson is seen in an old photo wearing a Superman T-shirt. While a cool Easter Egg, it does continue to add to the confusion of which universe Black Lightning resides in.
Rating – 6/10