Black Lightning season premiere recap: Freeland is changing
Here we go again! My favorite new show of 2018 is already back for more. But it’s actually helpful that there was so little time between the season 1 finale of Black Lightning and this season 2 premiere because we open by exploring the immediate fallout of last season’s climax. Martin Proctor is dead, and his rogue faction of the ASA has been quashed, but the authorities in Freeland have nothing but questions for the Pierce family.
Following the assault on Garfield High, Jefferson’s school has been temporarily closed while the school board decides what to do. Of course, the principal was present during Khalil’s attack, but he was there as Black Lightning, so now he has to explain why Jefferson Pierce was officially absent that day. His excuse — we just happened to be on a family vacation that day! Weird timing! — isn’t exactly cutting it, and the board is angry with him. Jefferson isn’t too worried, he thinks this will be another situation where the board makes a big stink before coming to a compromise with him, but his lone ally isn’t so sure. Jefferson did not increase security protocols at the school after his daughters were kidnapped, and while we know that’s because Jefferson Pierce himself is already the best security Garfield High could hope for, the board perceives it as arrogance. And since most of the board is white except for Jefferson’s single friend, their perception of his arrogance has quite a racist tinge to it.
Meanwhile, Lynn is being questioned by the ASA. In place of Proctor, we now have a different man representing the face of this shadowy government agency. While the new guy isn’t as outrageously Trumpian as his predecessor, his words to Lynn make clear that he won’t accept anyone getting in his way. He knows that Lynn is lying to him about not knowing what happened to Proctor or the other scientists, and he doesn’t care that she’s the expert in what Green Light does to people. All he cares about is that Lynn is making his life as a nefarious government bureaucrat considerably more difficult.
Jefferson’s own encounter with law enforcement doesn’t go much smoother. Henderson (now the deputy chief of Freeland PD) summons Black Lightning for one of their clandestine meetings, only to reveal that he’s figured out Freeland’s favorite superhero and Jefferson Pierce are one and the same. I like this twist because it gives Henderson credit; if it took him any longer to figure this out when it’s staring him in the face, he would’ve seemed really stupid. But since Henderson and Jefferson have been friends for so many years, it’s definitely going to take him a while to process the magnitude of this secret.
One little moment I love from this episode comes after the Henderson meeting when Jefferson is watching a news report about what the ASA’s Green Light experimentation has done to Freeland. As one woman on the TV points out, this is really nothing new; J. Marion Simms, regarded as the father of gynecology, reached his medical breakthroughs by experimenting on female slaves without anesthesia. Black Lightning’s parallels to real-life American suffering is one of the things I enjoyed most about season 1, and I’m glad it’s set to continue this season, just as showrunner Salim Akil told my colleague, Chancellor Agard, it would.
While the Pierce parents are figuring out those newfound troubles, their daughter Anissa re-establishes herself as my favorite character on the show by wondering what she can do to help the parents of Green Light babies who are now being denied access to their family members. When it becomes clear that Freeland families will have to sue the government if they want to see their loved ones again, Anissa decides it’s her responsibility to help them. This ignites another age-old debate between her and her father, with Jefferson singing his old tune about how real change is only possible from within the system, while Anissa argues that these people need extracurricular help if they’re ever going to affect the system. Forgoing her Thunder costume, for now, she puts on an Antifa-type black outfit to rob some drug dealers, Omar Little style. This sequence is definitely the episode’s action highlight, as the hoodie-clad Anissa’s extended hallway fight with these criminals almost resembles The Raid movies in its kinetic action.
Jennifer, unfortunately, is still not adjusting as well to the superpowered life as her older sister. Part of the reason for that is her powers are much stranger. At the end of last season, we saw the enormous potential of Jennifer’s battery-like abilities when she brought her father back to life, but now it’s taking all kinds of new forms. She floats in the air while sleeping now, and after watching a news report about a new metahuman rising from within his own body bag, Jennifer locks herself in the family bathroom while an uncontrollable aura of orange light surrounds her. Only Jefferson helps bring it under control by entering the bathroom and absorbing some of the excess energy into his own body. The Pierce family’s lives keep getting weirder and weirder, and Lynn doesn’t sound quite so insane for suggesting that Jefferson and Jennifer see a therapist.
One hanging plot thread from last season is Kara, who started as Jefferson’s secretary but was eventually revealed as Proctor’s ASA spotter. Tobias sends Cyanide to hunt her down, but it turns out we won’t be seeing his favorite female minion around anymore — Kara stabs her in the neck with a super-sharp high heel. This enrages Tobias, as you might expect, and he later welcomes Kara to his office by shooting her in the stomach with his beloved harpoon gun. This doesn’t stop her, though — she just jumps out the window! I expect we’ll be seeing more of Kara (especially since she’s come to Gambi looking for help getting the ASA off her trail), and maybe we’ll even find out how she learned to fight so good.
The real climax of this episode, though, is learning that Jefferson has decided to resign as Garfield principal. It’s either that or let the board close the school down, but it seems like now more than ever, those kids could really use a superhero watching over them.