Tobias Whale came into Black Lightning hot with revenge on his mind when the titular hero came out of retirement. He made his bones as a criminal in Freeland by supposedly killing Black Lightning, so his return was a major problem, clearly, but it wasn’t necessarily the biggest threat facing the hero. While his singular goal of hunting Black Lightning made him a solid adversary, the emergence of the A.S.A. made the group seem like the season’s true Big Bad. That is, until Tuesday’s penultimate episode, when Tobias truly became the biggest villain on the show.

In “The Resurrection and the Light: The Book of Pain,” Tobias Whale returns to the streets of Freeland intent on taking down Black Lightning with the previously paralyzed Khalil, who is walking again. His return sets the stage for an epic showdown, which goes down in the halls of Garfield High School.

By turning up the heat on Whale’s personal vendetta and revealing his plans, the series finally brings him from personal adversary to a villain worthy of being a season, or series, Big Bad. After a battle with Black Lightning ended with a wounded Whale and the death of his sister, the career criminal has been laying low. Not anymore.

'Black Lightning'
'Black Lightning'

Black Lightning viewers have Tobias to think for bringing the show’s first metahuman battle. The heroes have battled soldiers and members of the 100, but never multiple villains with powers. Tobias, with his usual super-strength, goes to Garfield High with a super-powered Khalil and his right-hand Syonide to take on Thunder and Black Lightning. It was the biggest showdown on the series to date.

Not only does Tobias take the action to the next level, but he also reveals plans to take out current head of the A.S.A., Martin Proctor, and take over. This move takes him out from under the organization, which up until this point has pulled his strings. The shady organization behind a visible villain isn’t new, but the A.S.A. basically made the city Freeland a testing site and rules Whale. Their dynamic coupled with his absence in the last few episodes weakened his position as the primary villain. Breaking out on his own and taking over is just what the character needed to stand out.

The combination of personal motivations and grand plans usual make for an effective villain. From the beginning, the vendetta between Whale and Black Lightning was clear – after all, Whale did kill Jefferson’s father – but the villain of the equation was a pawn in the A.S.A.’s grand plan. Whale’s plan changes that and sets up Black Lightning for an epic season finale.

Going into the finale Black Lightning is recovering from the fight at the school while Team Whale seems to just be getting started.

Black Lightning airs on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. Eastern on The CW.