Black Lightning Season 4 – Book of Reconstruction

Written by Fabian Wood

March 30, 2021

Set one year after the events of last season, the police state created by the corrupt ASA, the Markovia debacle, and the green light babies/meta-human subplot have all petered out and become just a memory. Aptly dubbed “Book of Reconstruction”, the first four episodes catch us up on current affairs, with our main cast at different states of disarray. Unfortunately, the lazy time jump trope has left everyone in stasis for an inordinate amount of time. In fact, the titular electrifying superhero has been MIA between seasons.

Perpetually melancholy Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams), still reeling from the death of his best friend Bill Henderson during the previous season’s finale skirmish, has been rocked to his core. Disenchanted and unable to come to terms with his loss, Jefferson is a broken man unable to resolve his dueling personas and responsibilities. This results in him having a toxic relationship with everyone in his life. So far, the show seems to go out of its way to hammer home how much of a “failure” Jefferson is as a father and husband. There is practically a morbid indulgence in Jefferson’s self-sabotage at every opportunity, with any sliver of progress swiftly undermined. While this may make our star unlikable most of the time, Cress’ performance still manages to interject some sympathy for a man riddled with guilt, frustration and self-loathing. Luckily his family still holds out hope he can be the man of inspiration they and Freeland need.

Jefferson and Dr Lynn Stewart (Christine Adams) are in couple’s therapy, as festering distrust and unforgiveness have pretty much tarnished a healthy relationship between the two. Dr Lynn still struggles with her addictive personality, which despite her small setbacks is making the most effort to change and become better. She now clandestinely moonlights as a mysterious unnamed vigilante using her power-granting serum from last season, harkening back to the Golden Age addict superhero “Hourman”. All things considered, amongst the dysfunctional dynamics of the flawed Pierces, Lynn is the most level-headed and is the voice of reason.

Anissa (Nafessa Williams) and Jennifer (China Anne McClain) have taken up the slack left by Black Lightning’s absence as the de facto protectors of Freeland as the stormy dynamic duo of Thunder & Lightning. Oddly enough Anissa’s 2nd alter ego “Blackbird” is still around, which still feels kind of redundant as the persona was created to give her a way of rebelling against her father; and her “Thunder” persona symbolizing their reunion. All isn’t roses and rainbows with our sisterly siblings, however, as Anissa still pines over Grace Choi (Chantal Thuy) who was left in a coma since last season. Jennifer on the other hand often retreats to the ionosphere at night to “get high” off the abundance of energy there. This seems to be a character trait inherited from her mother; in a way dealing with how muddled and stagnant her life has become.

The semi-retired Gambi (James Remar) is still around and is back to his old espionage tricks as he weasels his way into the new weapons manufacturing firm via his old flame and new boss. This side plot becomes more integral to the overall narrative later on. Technocrat (Christopher A’mmanuel) has a more prominent role on team Lightning as Gambi’s protégé and potential new love interest for Jennifer, as his pining affections go unrequited so far.

In terms of villains, I’m happy to see William Catlett return as “Lala”/Tattooed Man. Sadly, the nuance of his “haunting tattoos” has been downplayed, and he comes off more as a generic thug and overzealous crime boss warring with the rival cartel “Kobra”. William is reduced to a caricature rather than a compelling character that he was in previous seasons. Tobias Whale (Marvin “Krondon” Jones III) is more of a Lex Luthor duplicitous entrepreneur and philanthropist archetype. Marvin’s unique charm, indomitable swagger and charismatic style in the role elevates his character practically to “magnificent bastard” status. Ever the maniacal mastermind and manipulator, Whale is the untouchable invisible hand behind all the woes of Freeland and the Pierces.

In terms of new faces, we have Henderson’s replacement in maverick detective Hassan Sakur (Wallace Smith), who has misgivings about trusting Black Lightning, but at the same time admiring what the hero represents and inspires in others. Then there is the anti-meta-human and anti-vigilante Chief Ana Lopez (Melissa De Sousa) who spearheads a campaign to eradicate the gang war and vigilantes via arming officers with lethal DEGs (direct-energy-guns) – refer to the Gambi side-plot.

The strongest episode of “Book of Reconstruction” is episode 3 – “Despite All My Rage…” where Jefferson inadvertently joins an underground fight club run by Lala to vent his insatiable anger. Both “Despite All My Rage” and the preceding episode “Unacceptable Loses” have emotional gravitas that extends beyond the Pierces and into the systemic plight of Freeland when there is no community-conscious Black Lightning around.

Despite its pessimistic premise, “Book of Reconstruction” focuses on themes of grief and healing, and sets the groundwork for our stellar cast. Jefferson’s redemption and the reconciliation with his family seem to be the focal point of this season, even more so than previous ones. The first arc ends on an interesting cliffhanger, with the staged assassination of the city’s mayor, and Lightning’s apparent and inadvertent demise at her own hands due to the fallout.

Hailing from the eastern-most Caribbean island of Barbados, Fabian Wood has long since been fascinated by the power of storytelling to inspire and invoke emotions – whether in film, comics, or videogames. No longer content to be just an avid comic book reader and videogamer, he’s eager to exercise his literary acumen as an aspiring writer and reviewer.

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