Red Stewart reviews the sixth episode of Black Lightning season 2…
Now this is what I’m talking about. At about the halfway mark of the second season, Black Lightning has finally given me an episode that I can praise as a worthwhile endeavor. Of course, it still has some of the same issues prevalent in previous entries, but here I can at least say I was entertained and never taken out of the loop for a second.
That’s because emotions are the core focus of “The Perdi,” and I don’t mean for the sake of melodrama. Lynn is genuinely remorseful over the loss of half the pod kids, a feeling not helped by the aggressive antics of a disturbed parent; Khalil’s nerves have finally had it with Tobias’s abusive orders, and Anissa’s motherly/superheroic instincts are at their peak when she believes a teenager named Anaya’s life is in danger after the death of her beloved Deacon at the end of “Requiem.”
Emotions are what guide storytelling; they evoke our own inner thoughts and fervor, eliciting a reaction that can ride an entire spectrum of pathos. It’s fascinating when fictional projects are able to do it, and that remains the case for Black Lightning. We empathize with Lynn because some of us have been in situations where we felt we could have done more. We get angry along with Khalil because some of us have been hurt by authoritarian figures to the point that we wanted to lash out at them. And we become invested in Anissa’s story because some of us have an inherent need to take action where it’s needed.
Past episodes would’ve thrown in a bunch of other subplots to cram 23 episodes worth of content into the seasonal 13, like maybe having something happen with Jennifer and her powers or Henderson and some shenanigans. Instead, writer Pat Charles focuses on introducing a major secondary antagonist for the series and their mythos: Looker and the Sange. Fans of the comics may recognize the name Looker from The Outsider team that Jefferson Pierce was a part of in the comics. Unfortunately, that version appears to be stuck as an in-universe comic character referenced in season 1, as this iteration of Looker is nothing like her. She’s not a superhero, not a vampire, and has no psionic abilities. She controls her gangbangers (the aforestated Sange) through a metallic liquid her body secretes as a result of the ASA’s vaccine from 30 years ago.
It’s a disappointment that the writers would butcher her this bad, but I’m willing to see where they go with this version for the time-being. She’s portrayed by Sofia Vassilieva, who doesn’t exactly give a strong debut performance here. The Sange, as we’re told in a long exposition, have had a historical conflict with the Perdi (the gang Anaya and her family are a part of), with things getting particularly worse after Looker enslaved them for some unknown purpose. As readers can probably imagine, the Sange are Caucasians while the Perdi are African Americans, and this dynamic is used in an interesting way to talk about race relations and anti-white discrimination. Anaya’s relationship with Deacon, who was revealed to be a Sange, is treated as a Romeo and Juliet archetype in the vein of West Side Story. It’s old and familiar, but still ultimately enjoyable, and it is one that is used to drive forward the narrative of Black Lightning through Anaya and Deacon’s children: twins of different skin colors who possess some metahuman ability.
Elsewhere, Gambi is (surprise, surprise) revealed to still be alive after faking his death during the car chase attack. Normally, I would be irritated over the writers not even giving him a few episodes to “stay” dead. However, it was nice to see Gambi do some covert work in the background, and we got a brief Dexter homage out of his scenes.
As for Tobias and Khalil, what can I honestly say that I haven’t said before? I’ve heaped endless praise on the chemistry, relationship, and development of the two, with their scenes being some of my favorites from the second season as a whole. Here, we get deeper insight into Khalil’s motivations for staying with Tobias, as well as a look at what happens when both sides reach their breaking point with each other.
Overall, there was enough raw emotion and popcorn value from “The Perdi” to keep my eyes glued to the screen. Black Lightning has had sloppy ideas and even sloppier execution in the past, but this episode proved that the latter can at least be fixed.
-Today’s episode also had some dark humor sprinkled throughout it, which actually worked very well for the show. I hope to see more of it in future scripts.
Rating – 7/10