Black Lightning S1x13 – Shadow of Death: The Book of War

The first season finale of Black Lightning gives us a somewhat disappointing end to a very uneven first season.

Previously, on BLACK LIGHTNING

With just a 13 episode inaugural season, you hope for a little bit more consistency in the quality of storytelling. The first season of BLACK LIGHTNING, though, was dreadfully imbalanced. After a really great start, the quality of the episodes seemed to plummet for a few weeks before rebounding towards the end. I was hopeful after last week’s episode that we would end on a high note. No, it wasn’t going to be the classic finale like we got from LEGENDS OF TOMORROW last week, but there was room for something better.

While Tobias Whale was positioned as the Big Bad to start the season off, the show swerved a bit mid-season to introduce Martin Proctor, the head of the ASA, a special ops group collecting metahumans in Freeland. Proctor was a good addition to the show, giving more of a sense of impending and unavoidable doom for Black Lightning and telling a story of a government agency taking advantage of a majority African-American community. Given the times in which we live, that situation feels pretty relatable. And Proctor (played by the great Gregg Henry) was great in the role of overreaching authority figure. But in the finale, protecting his operation against both the CW Storm Team (Black Lightning, Thunder, Gambi and the rest of the Pierce family) and Whale’s group, Proctor went full Donald Trump, shouting that he wants to “Make America Great Again!” on a couple of occasions.

The lack of subtlety there makes it seem as though the showrunners didn’t feel people were getting what they were going for, so they needed to really hammer it home. It felt really unnecessary.

After decades of controlling the goings-on in Freeland, the two-pronged assault finally brings Proctor down. When he’s confronted by the Storm Team in his secret lair, Gambi does what needs to be done, shooting and killing Proctor after realizing that there was no government support for what the ASA was doing.

This sets up Whale as Black Lightning’s main antagonist, which is a little underwhelming. I thought the series improved greatly under Proctor’s evil grip. But with the powers of the Pierce family expanding, the show can continue to be a family adventure in a superhero setting. The interaction between Jefferson, his ex-wife and his daughters was some of the best family interactions I’ve seen in a show based on comic books. Both the drama and the resolutions felt real and not unnecessarily drawn out. The 13-episode season may have helped with that. With Thunder getting a lot of screen time lately, the youngest Pierce daughter, Jennifer, got her time to shine here, using her powers to reboot her dad’s metahuman system to give him his powers back. She already seems to have better control of her powers than other beginners. Here’s hoping they don’t regress that next season.

This wasn’t a bad finale, and maybe I’ll like it more on a rewatch. It just felt like a letdown after a strong string of episodes. I’m looking forward to the show’s return next season and seeing what comes next for these heroes.