Black Lighting wound up its second season this week on The CW. And while the show is notable for its remarkable cast, led by Cress Williams, and a top-notch villain in the form of Marvin “Krondon” Jones III’s Tobias Whale, its storytelling can get a little odd.
Tobias ended up his own best enemy, for example, setting himself up for his biggest fall yet. The absolutely wonderful Lala (William Catlett) returned from the dead, but ultimately posed no threat. And the briefcase from season 1 may have led Tobias to the Masters of Disaster, but it never quite coalesced into more than a (admittedly cool) fight in the season finale.
Nonetheless, we still enjoy the show and tuned in every week to see some plot lines advance and others fall by the wayside. The season finale was no different with its seeming resolution to Tobias’ story, while setting up its next phase. Which means there are plenty of questions lingering as Black Lighting enters its long hiatus until next fall. Here are five of the questions the finale left us asking.
Just ahead of Black Lightning’s first season debut, executive producer Salim Akil suggested the story would slowly expose the real corruption in Freeland. So far, we’ve gone from The 100 gang as pushers of a metahuman street drug, the ASA as a government agency responsible for developing the drug after a history of experimenting with a vaccine to keep the predominately black populace docile, and the suggestion that a metahuman conflict has been brewing between the US and the Eastern European nation of Markovia for decades.
The country, which debuted in a 1983 Brave and the Bold issue, has strong ties to Black Lightning via the early ’80s Batman and the Outsiders comic book. Both Black Lighting and the prince of Markovia, an earth-bending hero known as Geo-Force, served on the team. The country’s political climate, which often veered toward an authoritarian bent, often became the focus of Outsiders missions. Most recently, the country was seen in the DC Universe series Young Justice: Outsiders as a hotbed of metahuman trafficking and experimentation. It is an interpretation which tracks with the Markovia teased so far on Black Lightning.
But is it possible Markovia’s ties in Freeland are deeper than we know? While The 100 deal in Greenlight, the ASA is not their supplier – Agent Odell (Bill Duke) is more interested in the kids from the original 1980s operation in the stasis pods – which means they are either cooking the drug themselves or getting it from a well-financed source. Considering the Markovian interest in collecting metas as weapons for a future war, they would certainly want to make sure as many underprivileged Freeland kids as possible become powered assets they can later co-opt.
Of course, that assumes Tobias was working the Markovian agents from both sides — he planed to sell the Masters of Disaster and the other Pod Kids on the dark web arms market — and not just making Greenlight himself. But considering the amount of connective tissue Black Lightning skips in regards to The 100’s operations and Tobias’s direct involvement in them, The Markovian Connection is a strong possibility.
It also tracks with Akil’s overall metaphor. Outside of the Pierce family, superpowers have been analogous with drug use. In the first season, the show made pretty strong allusions to the introduction of crack cocaine by the CIA in the 1980s. During the first year, it seemed the ASA would be more directly linked to The 100 and continue that allusion, but perhaps Akil’s greater point was always about a foreign power.
Then again, the executive producer’s personal problems — he allegedly engaged in a 10-year abusive relationship with actor Amber Dixon Brenner and stole her script; re-purposing it into the OWN series Love Is — may eventually prevent his Black Lightning plan from coming to fruition.
During the final montage in the second season finale, the viewer can clearly see Khalil (Jordan Calloway) encased in one of the stasis pods back at the ASA bunker. In the scene, Odell looks at his prized Pod Kids with considerable interest. While it is clear he has a plan for Khalil, we wonder how long he waited before digging the poor kid out of the ground.
Since resurrection is a fairly easy thing on this show – just ask Lala – all that remains to be known is the timetable for Khalil’s return. As it happens, timelines area tricky thing on Black Lightning with large gaps in the story occurring constantly and new ideas paying off before they are really set-up (i.e. Lala’s quest for revenge). While the show locked itself into a pretty clear timeline for “The Book of Rebellion” across the winter break, everything following Khalil’s funeral happens across an imprecise span of weeks or months. Did Odell wait until he was sure Jennifer or Khalil’s mother wouldn’t be holding a vigil over the tombstone, or did he devise some late light grave robbing?
Another issue is the nature of resurrection itself. It took Lady Eve’s bizarre undertaker Lazarus (Michael Wright) almost a year to regenerate Lala from a clump of flesh. Presuming Odell is using a similar method – if not employing Lazarus outright – is Khalil fully healed and just in suspended animation or is there more work necessary to revive him? In fact, if Odell is using Lazaurs, will Khalil face the same sort of pain Lala endures every time he comes back?
Since right around the time the show debuted, it has teased comic book fans with Grace Choi (Chantal Thuy). She made a few early appearances before Anissa’s (Nafessa Williams) journey to become Thunder dominated her part of season 1. In the second season, Grace’s absence – or, more to the point, Anissa’s neglect of her – became a story point and the two were once again taking tentative steps to becoming a couple.
Then, over a handful of scenes dispersed across the last few episodes of season 2, we learned “Grace Choi” was not her real name and that she is some sort of meta shapeshifter who can take on the form of her adoptive brother and some sort of creature. Also, she may have an interesting diet to maintain her abilities. But as the final two episodes focused on Tobias, Jennifer (China Anne McClain) and Lala, Grace received little more than a name check in “The Book of the Apocalypse.” It leaves us to wonder who or what she might really be.
Back in the comics, Grace was introduced in 2003 as an Amazon who joins a new Outsiders team and, eventually, begins a relationship with Thunder. But since she’s an Amazon in the comics, her powers include super-strength, endurance and an improved healing rate and is a far cry from the Grace evolving on screen. As it happens, her apparent real name – Shay Li Wylde – suggests a connection to the 1990s Outsiders character named Wylde. He was, to a coin a term, a “werebear” and much like Grace (we’re going to use her chosen name for herself), had limited control of his powers as well. Hopefully, the third season will focus more time on her secret and offer her the opportunity to become more than an occasional guest character.
Watching Black Lightning and Lightning take down Tobias was a particularly satisfying moment of the program’s second season. But we’re already wondering how long it can last. Tobias is a slippery customer and subordinates are drawn to him – even if they should know better (R.I.P., Todd Green).
To us, it suggests Tobias will soon be running the ASA’s black site despite everything the watch commander told him in the closing moments of season 2. The Pit, more than anything else, looks like the sort of crucible Tobias Whale thrives in. It is just a question of time.
It is also a question of Tobias’s ill-defined abilities. While Dr. Jace (Jennifer Riker) created the serum which slowed his aging to a crawl, its side effects are not completely known. He seems to be bullet-proof and super strong, but it is unclear if these powers are derived from the serum – and therefore need a constant dosage to be maintained – or if they are inherent like Black Lightning’s abilities. If the latter, he will have no problem setting up a new empire from within the Pit. He may even find a new class of willing accomplices to throw at his arch enemy.
In the last moments of the finale, Odell deputizes Jeff, Jen, and Anissa into the ASA to fight the coming war against Markovia. Presumably, Freeland will be the battleground and the other surviving Pod Kids (and probably Khalil) will form a sort of ersatz Outsiders. Well, other Greg Berlanti–produced superhero shows on The CW would go that way, but Black Lighting eschews much of the Arrowverse’s rhyme and meter for its own storytelling style.
Nonetheless, it is clear the Pierces, now known to the ASA as metas, will have to deal with the agency in order to retain some modicum of their freedom. It is probably the very thing Odell believes will keep them in line. He used a similar tactic on Lynn (Christine Adams) throughout the second season. One imagines it will work for a time, even on Jennifer, but eventually Odell may find he needs more extreme measures; much in the same way he forced Wendy (Madison Bailey) into exerting much more of her abilities during a test.
Of course, the Lightning Family may still have one ace to play: Odell is seemingly unaware of Gambi (James Remar). He is still technically dead as he never found the culprits of the attempt on his life, which means the ASA may not have tabs on him. Assuming none of the Pierces addressed their man in the chair by name after Odell began spying on them, Gambi may prove vital to their escape from ASA control.
These are just a few of the things Black Lighting left us to ponder. There are other issues like the corruption Henderson (Damon Gupton) still faces within the Freeland PD. If working for the ASA takes up more of his time, Jeff may have to leave Garfield High behind again, imperiling its future. And then there’s Lala, whose living Hell may actually lead to some sort of redemption in the end. Black Lightning introduced a lot of interesting ideas – even if they are not always served well – and we can’t wait to see what becomes of them next year.