Red Stewart reviews the eleventh episode of Black Lightning season 2…
A new chapter has begun in the Black Lightning saga- by brutally assaulting Khalil, Tobias has not only humiliated Freeland’s poor justice system, he’s also personally attacked Jefferson and his family. Khalil was someone dear to the Pierces’s, and his near-fatal injuries hang over “Prodigal Son” like a cloak of melancholy.
This isn’t the first time the series has embraced a morose attitude- viewers need only think back to episode 5’s “Requiem” where the Pierce family spent the entire plot brooding and mourning the apparent loss of their beloved Uncle Gambi. This time around, the writers decided to mix things up. Not only do you have that gloom, but you also have a bit of The Long Halloween thrown in as Jefferson, Henderson, and Gambi make a pact to take down Tobias no matter what.
Of course, this dynamic isn’t exactly equivalent to the Batman, Dent, and Gordon one in the iconic story (or it’s iconic adaptation The Dark Knight), but it is an example of the writers really pushing into gear the Tobias storyline, which had recently taken a backseat to both the Sange/Perdi and Jennifer/Khalil subplots, despite having some small developments in those. Combining the menacing complexity of Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin with the sardonic charisma of John Barrowman’s Merlyn, Krondon’s Tobias has managed to stand as one of the best comic book villains adapted to the screen. No matter how much Black Lightning has teetered in quality, I have always been able to count on Tobias to reel my interest back into the series.
Thus, it was a wise decision by the showrunners to not only reestablish him as an antagonist, but one with ties to previous plot threads. We learn that he was once the subject of sociopathic doctor Helga Jace’s experiments, which resulted in him having a de-aging serum. Jace, who was imprisoned after killing half the pod kids in the aforementioned “Requiem,” happens to have been involved with the creation of the original metas that Tobias is currently hunting down.
Elsewhere, the trifecta formed by Jefferson, Henderson, and Gambi kicks into gear as they begin an active plan to take down Whale. We will see whether or not the writing team capitalizes on this storytelling potential (especially with both Thunder and Lighting prepared to do things their own way), but I hope that there are more mystery elements to come.
If the writers had successfully juggled between the hospital visits to Khalil and these two storylines, “Prodigal Son” might have been a worthy entry in the Black Lightning canon. Alas, the pacing of the show takes a hit in the beginning as we see Jennifer react emotionally to Khalil’s pain by turning into that electro-nova we know her powers manifest into. Having just spent a three episode arc dealing with her inner feelings, it not only felt repetitive but was visually disappointing. I get that the VFX artists probably wanted to avoid copying The Flash’s yellow/orange lightning effects, but the choice they went with looks like more like fire, and not even convincing-looking fire. I’m usually not one to criticize VFX, however this show has set a standard in this department, and I would love to see things kept that way.
The writers admittedly blew their bereavement points on Gambi’s death, meaning it made sense to expand the focus of “Prodigal Son” past Khalil. It was unevenly handled, and there was room for improvement, but I can’t call “Prodigal Son” a bad episode.
Rating – 6/10