Red Stewart reviews the fourth episode of Black Lightning season 2…
“Translucent Freak” opened with something I never thought I would see on Black Lightning– a well-choreographed fight scene. In her attempts to control her powers, Jennifer realizes that Khalil is the source of her emotional turmoil (a theory that makes sense given that she formulated her abilities as a result of his actions in season 1), causing her to brawl with a manifestation of him in her mind. Whether the creators got a new fight choreographer or the old one suddenly learned how to do things right, I can’t say, but I was pleasantly surprised from a genre thrills standpoint.
Of course, the fight is technically not real, but it represented the first of many things I enjoyed about the fourth episode, the first time I can officially say that for an episode from this season. It’s evident at this point that the writers are intent on abandoning the A plot/B plot structure typical of most serials and going with a multi-linear story angle that focuses on multiple characters going about their lives, with obvious intersections happening as they need to. I’ve been against this, not because I think it can’t work, but because it’s hard to pull off. As the debut episode of this season proved, pacing, character development, and plot structuring can all be easily hurt by a poorly-conceived spider web.
There were some of those problems present here, but if there’s one thing “Translucent Freak” proved, it’s that it’s completely possible to craft an enjoyable story from individual intriguing pieces. Continuing from last week, Henderson has put Tobias into custody until he can gather some hard evidence to prosecute him for good. The question that comes up, of course, is why did he even arrest him when he knew the proof was destroyed, but I was willing to let that go because it lead to a couple of nice developments: one, Jefferson offering to testify against Tobias on the witness stand, and two, Tobias initiating his plans to take over Freeland. I liked the former because it was an example of a realistic proposal actually being entertained by the show, and the latter was great for pushing forward the overarching narrative.
Elsewhere, Gambi informs Jefferson about Anissa’s vigilantism, causing the two to have an argument which ends with Anissa moving out. When this conflict was forcibly initiated in “Black Jesus Blues,” I predicted at the time that there was “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.” Luckily, I was proven wrong on both fronts: not only was the drama brought about by a more understandable factor (her taking on mobsters by herself), but it was also handled much better. It tied into Jefferson’s inherent parental instincts and was also quickly resolved in a sufficient manner when the two unite to protect the Freeland clinic from a terrorist attack brought about by her actions.
Jefferson and Anissa making up were one of many nice character moments strewn throughout the episode, including: Anissa and Jennifer embracing their sisterhood, Jefferson and Lynn coming to terms with her being forced to kill in “The Book of War” finale (something that was alluded to in “Rise of the Green Light Babies” but never expanded upon), and Gambi helping Kara rest in peace after being mortally wounded by Tobias.
Despite these positive parts, there were a couple of plots that prevented “Translucent Freak” from being as good as it could have been. The most notable one was Jefferson’s first official conflict with the new principal of Garfield High, Matt Lowry. After seeing how the character’s introduction was handled in “Master Lowry,” I knew that he would be nothing more than caricature to justify the school board re-initiating Jefferson down-the-line, and that’s exactly what happens here when Lowry has a student expelled for starting a fight, under the justification of there being a “zero tolerance” policy in place: a student that Jefferson tries to vouch for in a heated private conversation with the principal.
Now, to be fair, there were hints that Lowry actually does care about his pupils at Garfield High, in spite of his strict positions, but something tells me that they will not be expanded upon in future episodes.
The second issue came from Lynn, who is given a small subplot with the crazy doctor from before, Helga Jace. Lynn (unsurprisingly) finds out that Jace believes the pod kids to be un-savable when she creates an algorithm that predicts when each of the kids will genetically breakdown. It honestly felt like the writers just wanted to give Lynn something substantial to do, and threw in this part last-minute: it was forced and didn’t reveal anything new to viewers.
Overall, though, “Translucent Freak” continued “Master Lowry’s” trend of pushing the series in the right direction. Who knows if the writers will stay on it, but there were some interesting progressions that happened that could bear fruit in succeeding episodes.
Rating – 7/10