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Review-Black Lightning,S2, EP1/The Book of Consequences (Chapter 1) – Rise of the Green Light Babies

The Pierce family is back in the season 2 opening of Black Lightning.

Photo: Quantrell D. Colbert/The CW -- © 2018 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved

Episode 1: The Book of Consequences (Chapter 1) – Rise of the Green Light Babies
Directed by: Salim Akil
Written by: Salim Akil

If there is one thing the premiere episode of Black Lightning season 2 hammers home it’s “consequences”, to the point where I wondered if anyone had access to a thesaurus. But that nitpick aside, “Rise of the Green Light Babies” has the auspicious privilege of being both written and directed by Salim Akil (who also did the pilot episode), which shows in its overall presentation. The general overarching backdrop for season two seems to be the fallout from this rampant outbreak of narcotic-induced superpowered “Green Light Babies”, and the warranted distrust and resentment of the government by the people of Freeland. The afflicted youths are targeted victims for the White authorities but are also pariahs of their own Black community. Those familiar with the “Bang Baby” epidemic in the all-Black Milestone comics (particularly “Static Shock” and its animated show) from the 90s or the bigoted mutant hysteria prevalent in early X-Men storytelling can see the similarities here. And the reasons these metaphors and allegories work – and repeat – is because the disadvantaged “minority” unjustly persecuted and prejudiced continue to suffer in real life, under new or preexisting names/labels.

But while the opening moments poignantly showcase the unresolved and still relevant issue of “Black Lives Matter”, it quickly jumps to the Pierce family. Jefferson Pierce (portrayed by Cress Williams) must deal with the ramifications of his Black Lightning escapades and protecting his family, which came at the cost of his responsibilities as Garfield High’s principal. These moments are used to exemplify the disparity between those who govern and control schools and its policies from afar, and those who live and run the schools on a first-hand level. Meanwhile, Lynn Stewart (portrayed by Christine Adams) must grapple with her perceived “uselessness” in a family of super-powered members as she finds it hard to help or relate to her children. This pushes her to pursue a dangerous position to help those she can. As such, Lynn’s turmoil is the most compelling and fleshed out in the episode.

In regards to the daughters, Anissa (played by Nafessa Williams) suffers the least “consequences”, having a more impulsive, live-in-the-moment view of circumstances. That’s not to say there isn’t something to learn in her parts, as the topic of “justice” (in liberal opposition to asinine unequal law) and “justice” (in conservative support of the flawed systems in play) comes up with her contemporary and woke perspective clashing with her father’s idealistic old-school view of vigilantism. Jessica “wet blanket” Pierce (played by China Anne McClain) is ever the downer. But her negativity is warranted as she seems to be the only Pierce processing what happened in the finale – that there were people out to kill them, and they themselves (might have) murdered them in their retaliation – leaving her with a level of genuine trauma and psychological shock. Her powers continue to be a source of great distress, especially with growing sentiments on metahumans, leaving her with a pronounced sense of self-loathing and shame for her uncontrollable “different-ness”.

One of the highlights of “Rise of the Green Light Babies” is an extended hallway fight scene, that never seems to get old in terms of how well all the elements seamlessly flow together for such a long time in a raw and brutal way. There was also the background lyrical music that accentuated key scenes eloquently, without overstaying their welcome. Lastly, there is the addition of Agent Odell (played by Bill “OG Predator kill” Duke) to replace ASA Agent Martin Proctor. It was such a delight to see him as a reoccurring character, even with what little he was given to do. Gladly, they played him ambiguously as to whether he’ll be an ally or enemy – willingly or out of necessity – down the line.

Altogether, Black Lightning season 2 opens up with the same pros and cons as the pilot; with strong promises, but still not quite finding that elusive equilibrium of social commentary and Pierce family drama. There is a strong message of rationally proposed Black communities having a semblance of self-governance/reliance, nigh-independent of the “White” governmental and social infrastructure, but I doubt that will get any traction later on. The “pod kids” will obviously be handled as generic episode fodder, which I hope will not detract or degrade the quality of the new season moving forward.

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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 video games. No longer content to be just an avid comic book reader and video gamer, he’s eager to exercise his literary acumen as an aspiring writer and reviewer.

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