Reviews TV

Arrowverse – Black Lightning 1×13 “Shadow of Death: The Book of War” review

Various plot lines reach a climax as the Pierce family faces off against their foes in the first season finale.

Black Lightning 1x13

Since it debuted in January, The CW’s Black Lightning has stood apart from its fellow superhero and genre television shows in so many ways. While many move through their season finales at what feels like a breakthrough speed to get to the confrontation of the heroes and whatever villain/threat there might be, Black Lightning stuck to its usual formula. As with previous episodes, the finale moves slowly to develop things that will lead up to the superhero action in the final portions of the show. Through flashbacks & dialogue we’re shown more of Jefferson’s time with his father, his father’s funeral, the first flare-up of his powers, more about the origins of Tobias Whale and Syonide along with the powers and tech that the A.S.A. gave Khalil to turn him into the weapon that Whale dubs “Painkiller.”

As much as the episode is about bringing a conclusion to many storylines, especially the main ones, there are also plenty of revelations still to lay out. Including final confirmation that it was Tobias that spent money to bring LaLa back to life and that the whole seeing LaWanda thing is part of that process that resurrected him. Tobias mentions that LaLa will see visions of every single person he kills and they will become tattoos across his body till there is no skin left. All season the series has been keen to drop various references to other DC Comics characters, teams and concepts and this week was no different. While LaLa definitely isn’t that character in the comics, Tobias joking calling him “Tattoo Man” was a cheeky reference to a DC Comics character by that name that is a villain that can manipulate living tattoos all across his body. It’s unlikely though that LaLa will become that character though unless he can be resurrected once more after exploding in A.S.A. custody once Tobias made him a living bomb.

As with most of the episodes, the action does not disappoint, especially with the sweet musical choices, as the full might of Martin Proctor’s forces descend upon the Pierce family. Jennifer using her powers to kickstart her father’s powers after his near-death experience was interesting as was the various weapons that were used that were created just to take down Thunder. Because this is a family show at its core, everyone takes part in the battle against the A.S.A. agents as Lynn picks up arms and stands alongside Gambi and Jennifer, with Thunder and Black Lightning taking down the masses of armed soldiers outside. This is our mostly main confrontation of the episode, there is one other later because Tobias Whale and company are not after Black Lightning again just yet. Instead, they use the fight as a way to break into the understaffed A.S.A. base to try and take Proctor down for good.

Black Lightning 1x13 villains

They don’t succeed, but Gambi does. Once the Pierce family is free from the fight they confront Proctor about the pods and discover he’s not A.S.A. sanctioned to be doing this, he went rogue because he’s on some Donald Trumpesque “Make America Great Again” racist quest (I love how the writers don’t even disguise the fact that Proctor is supposed to be a way for the characters & writers to take down a Trump like figure easily), and Gambi finshes the man off for what he’s done and to protect the family from him for good. After all the secrets and cracks to his relationship with Jefferson and family this season, everything comes full circle as they are all back on the same page and together have handled this threat and then expose what Proctor and others were doing to the world. No doubt it might come back for them later, but as of now the A.S.A./green light/experiments on kids issue is dead and gone.

Except, it might not be. Turns out that Tobias Whale managed to snag Proctor’s briefcase he was trying to protect in the episode and even manages to Proctor’s thumbs from the coroner to open the case. We don’t know what’s in it but he declares himself king of Freeland and claims this will help him take down Black Lightning for good, in season two of course which was recently confirmed. I’ll admit at the start of this show I wrote Tobias off as this one-note gangster type villain that was not going to be all the intimidating alongside someone like Lady Eve who oozed terrifying with every moment on screen. Turns out, I was wrong. Since that start, the show has steadily built up Tobias to be a big-time threat not only because of his abilities but his intelligence and strategy have allowed him to be steps ahead of others. His resources also appear to be vast since he had access to someplace that he paid to bring someone back from the dead. There doesn’t seem to be any limit currently to what he will or won’t do to own Freeland and finish off its hero for good.

Growth has been the key to this show since the start, as we’ve witnessed all of the characters grow and change in significant ways. No one that we met as any type of major or supporting character is truly the same by this final episode. Khalil is still with the bad guys, Jennifer has embraced her powers seemingly to stand beside her family, Gambi has expunged himself of his secrets and is working to redeem himself for those moments, Jefferson has a bigger support system and embraces his family being alongside him, Lynn is fully on board to protect her family and seemingly isn’t as against this powers thing anymore. Anissa is a hero that has come into her own all season and stands proudly as a hero that Freeland needs and embraces. It will be very interesting to see where all of them go once season two begins later this year or early next year. Shame we won’t be getting more anytime soon though.

Final Thoughts

We were given a lot of conclusions this week but also enough was left on the table to build upon for the second season. Watching the heroes win out and make a difference in their community was a good way to end, even as we see that Tobias and others are set to continue to make life hard in Freeland. Taking time to build things up alongside the breaking down of others was a smart move, and kept the finale from feeling like a breakneck speed race to a conclusion as many finales are. Bring on season two!

Score:  10 out of 10

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