Red Stewart reviews the fifteenth episode of Black Lightning season 2…
This week, Black Lightning hit a series low in terms of views, which is saying something considering the second season tends to be the peak of a superhero television serials’ viewership, at least as far as The CW is concerned. Now granted, Nielsen ratings are an extremely flawed measurement tool. They made sense back in the day when you only had four major networks and were required to watch everything live. However, in our contemporary age of television, people have far more options, and are consequently more likely to simply record or wait for things to come to Netflix/DVD so they can binge watch it without having to sit through commercials.
But for all their problems, Nielsen ratings are still a decent indicator of audience interest, and for all the praise mainstream critics love to give Black Lightning, the fact is it is a show that has had a number of significant flaws, from a narrative, character, and certainly pacing standpoint. Seasons worth of content have been stuffed into a handful of episodes; arcs that were begun in the beginning are suddenly dropped in the middle, only to be picked back up sometime down the road inexplicably, and worst of all there has never been a sense of conclusion to anything. Yes, most series throw in cliffhangers to keep their fans hyped, but they still know better than to keep plot threads from the first season of all places going.
I don’t know if Black Lightning will be able to pick up any of those lost viewers- even if the forthcoming season finale is amazing, word of mouth won’t spread that quickly. And that’s a shame because there were a lot of things I was enjoying about this season: it felt more consistent, and didn’t veer into outright lunacy the way the first season did at times with its writing decisions. But it still holds many of the same issues from its precursor season. And while “The Alpha” was enjoyable enough, it lacked enough polish to make it a counterpoint to those aforestated problems.
Unlike last week’s “Original Sin,” Tobias is back in the game, and he’s continuing his plan to make money by releasing his metahuman experiments to the public in order to bolster illegal market interest. As is always the case, Krondon was a pleasure to watch, but admittedly I wasn’t a big fan of the new dynamic imposed by Cutter. The romance between the two was actually well-executed (better handled than Anissa and Grace Choi’s), however the chemistry between Krondon and Kearran Giovanni unfortunately wasn’t there, and that hurt what could have been the most interesting part of the episode.
This wasn’t helped by the fact that Tobias’s plan is inherently flawed. Having him gauge media interest didn’t seem necessary considering the world of Black Lightning is already well-aware of the existence of metahumans and their dangerous capability- why even risk having these “Masters of Disaster” die or get injured or captured in a confrontation with law enforcement or Black Lightning and Thunder? For someone who is trying to keep his criminal activities under the radar, this seemed like a big misstep.
Elsewhere, Jennifer is eager to officially jump into the field. I did like seeing this new side of the character, compared to season 1’s Jennifer who genuinely hated her powers and wanted nothing to do with superheroics. At the same time, though, it means we’re forced to go through the same over-emotional arc that we witnessed with Jefferson and Anissa before, which goes back to my earlier point about people losing interest: it’s easy to roll your eyes at something when you’ve basically seen it beforehand.
There’s not much else to say really. The Anissa/Choi B-plot from before is temporarily halted; Lala’s plan to murder Tobias obviously fails because the latter is the main antagonist; Lynn and Agent Odell go around in same circles we saw before, and there’s a “big” plot development at the very end that is presumably meant to make us eager to catch the season finale, but I honestly couldn’t care less at this point.
The writing team truly needs to better plan out their seasons. The finale should be the culmination of every major plot thread, not another conventional episode in a series run, which is what appears to be the case again.
Rating – 6/10