Black Lightning's oldest enemy is back, and now he's hitting close to home.
The last time we saw Tobias Whale, he was wounded and being carted away from the wreckage of his prospected jazz club as his beloved sister Tori died in Black Lightning’s arms. The intervening weeks have been quite busy for Black Lightning characters and viewers alike, as we’ve gotten a look at Jennifer Pierce’s powers and the behind-the-scenes manipulation of the ASA. LaLa’s slapdash leadership of the One Hundred and Martin Proctor’s cold, distant brand of evil have both served as reminders of what Tobias brings to the show in his villainous mastermind skills and guttural animosity to the main characters. This week he finally returned, and boy was it a night to remember.
The episode opens with Tobias examining his lightning-inflicted burn scars in the mirror before getting dressed and going to meet Proctor. The other week we saw one of Proctor’s kidnapped test subjects die in their pod, and apparently it’s only getting worse. Since Black Lightning appears to be one of the only vaccine test subjects to survive the development of their superpowers, Proctor is determined to catch the superhero alive. To that end, he pairs Tobias up with Khalil, who is now walking again due to some experimental spinal implant, and sends them after the hero. Of course, it’s highly unlikely that Tobias has any intention of bringing in Black Lightning “alive.” For his own safety, Proctor should probably look up what happened to the last boss who tried to control Tobias.
Meanwhile, at the Freeland residence, Lynn sends Jefferson a booty call. She explains that the last few months of uncountable stresses have not pushed her away, but rather made her feel closer to him together. They get into some lightning-enhanced foreplay (love this show’s creative use of superpowers) but decide to wait to tell their daughters about their reconciliation.
That turns out to be a good idea, considering how many unknowns are still in the air. On his way to school the next day, Jefferson runs into the newly-healed Khalil (who’s also sporting much longer hair these days). Jefferson is impressed by Khalil’s healing (though of course he suspects Proctor’s involvement) but tells him to return to school. Khalil’s not having it. According to him, he was abandoned by everyone in Freeland (especially the Pierce family) once he lost the use of his legs; now that he has them back, he doesn’t feel he owes them to anybody. We know that Khalil aided Jennifer’s abandonment by blaming her for his injury, but his pain is definitely real. That’s something I really like about this show, how it makes you understand where the bad guys are coming from. It makes the conflict that much more intense.
After his meeting with Khalil, Jefferson warns Jennifer to stay away from him, since they don’t yet know who he’s involved with or who healed his legs. A dad telling his teen daughter to stay away from a dangerous boy she likes is obviously a great strategy that works 100 percent of the time, so later that night Jennifer meets up with Khalil. Before doing so, she tells Jefferson that Lynn is working on a way to “cure” her powers. That’s a misrepresentation (Lynn is just working to further analyze Jennifer’s biology) but it really pisses Jefferson off, since it paints his and the girls’ powers as some kind of “sickness” to be “cured.” That reconciliation is an ongoing process.
Khalil seems genuinely happy to see Jennifer again, but he gets paranoid once she asks about his procedure, assuming she’s just speaking for her dad. He flees back to Tobias, who unveils his grand plan for drawing out Black Lightning: Attack Garfield High. Tobias still doesn’t know Jefferson Pierce is Black Lightning, but he’s remarkably acute at analyzing situations, and knows that Garfield High is the beating heart of Freeland. This one has the added benefit of crushing what remains of Khalil’s connections to his former classmates and community.
Since Garfield High has been a bastion of safety throughout the series so far, Khalil’s attack on it is remarkably upsetting. He’s using his new enhancements to rip doors off hinges and hit students with toxic darts, but the scene contains the additional echoes of a school shooting. No wonder Black Lightning and Thunder show up so quickly. They split up against Tobias’ team. Thunder takes on his henchwoman in a fun duel that ends decisively on Thunder’s side, while her dad gets into a hallway standoff with Tobias. Unfortunately for Black Lightning, Tobias is wearing lightning-resistant protection. Black Lightning allows himself to get drawn into a hand-to-hand brawl, where Tobias soon takes the advantage, repeatedly hammering the superhero against his students’ lockers. Khalil shows up, hits Jefferson with one of his darts (thus cutting off his powers), and delivers a finishing blow.
This is when Jennifer finds out the true use of her powers. As she and Anissa cry over their father’s body, Jennifer’s powers spring to live and resuscitate him. They make their retreat to a safehouse, as do Tobias and Khalil and LaLa, as all sides prepare for next week’s finale. I can’t blame them; I’m so excited to see how this feast of a first season wraps up.