“All that talk about non-violence and Dr. King and Dad is Black Lightning!”
Anissa Pierce (Nafessa Williams) said this to her mother, Lynn Pierce (Christine Adams), as Lynn patched her up from the super-powered smackdown Anissa had with her father Black Lightning/Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams). This costumed battle took place last episode so neither Jefferson nor Anissa knew they were fighting each other. Lynn’s worst fears have come to pass. Lynn has spent a lot of time stitching up her ex-husband Jefferson. She has also been very vocal about her concerns with Jefferson becoming Black Lightning again and putting his life at risk. Jefferson’s Black Lightning persona is what destroyed their marriage. And now history repeats itself with their daughter, Anissa… yikes.
Lynn demands that Anissa be an activist, not a super-hero. Anissa explains that together, she and her father can end the 100-gang and clean up the city. Momma Lion does not back down. She goes on to explain to Anissa the effects this hero lifestyle had on their family. That her everyday fear was that Jefferson would get killed trying to save Freeland. Lynn’s reasoning that she knows how Anissa feels was derailed when her headstrong daughter counters with “Can you stop a bullet or shoot lightning from your hands? Then how can you know what I feel?” Ouch! Super-powered or not, if I said that to my Mom, I would’ve gotten knocked into the middle of next week – but Lynn took it with aplomb and gave her daughter some space. Great scene. We can clearly see both sides of that argument.
Later, Lynn tells Jefferson they also need to test their youngest daughter, Jennifer. The expression on their faces said it all. Jefferson’s reply “Jennifer is almost too much to handle without powers” gives us a lovely preview of what is to come when Jennifer’s powers manifest.
I like that Lynn, while still hiding out at Gambi’s Tailor Shop, tells Jefferson that he needs to train Anissa. As real as super-hero co-parenting can be, their scenes are always real and believable. They both know Anissa will go out and use her powers whether they want her too or not. I have to say, every scene that Jefferson and Lynn have, whether they are in agreement or not, is layered with complexity, passion, and love. I root for these two and for their reconciliation no matter how long it takes.
Speaking of the Tailor Shop, it appears that Gambi’s (James Remar); secrets are starting to rise to the surface. During another heated debate, Jefferson questions how Gambi can get Intel from the dark web in 2 hours but does not know about a six-foot-tall, albino (Tobias Whale) walking around Freeland. Jefferson has finally bought a clue. Gambi says that he said nothing to protect Jefferson from doing something he’d regret for the rest of his life. There may be an air of truth in that statement BUT Gambi’s reasoning goes to a deeper, darker place. Because Gambi has skeleton’s popping out every closet, desk drawer and corner of that shop. Jefferson is wise not to trust him right now.
Gambi gets a text from our favorite mortician/queen-pin, Lady Eve (Jill Scott) that says, “The cleaners are on the way.” The cleaners are her twin henchmen whom she is sending to kill the two dudes that attacked Lynn last episode. They failed to get the Intel that Lady Eve wanted, so they became a loose end to tie up. I wonder why did she tell Gambi? His halo is now tarnished.
Later, I found it interesting that Gambi goes to warn Lady Eve, or “Evelyn” as he calls her, that Tobias is a threat that needs to be dealt with. The casualness of their conversation while she embalms this episodes dead body, sounded like they were once close friends. Gambi tells Lady Eve, that Tobias will dismantle the whole eco-system THEY have created over the years and needs to be silenced. What the WHAT? How deep do your secrets go Peter Gambi? Lady Eve tells Gambi to take out Joey Toledo (Eric Mendenhall) to get Tobias to fall in line. WRONG! Tobias doesn’t care about Toledo, he almost strangled him last episode. The way to hurt Tobias is through his sister, Tori, whom neither seems to know is in town because they haven’t mentioned her. Lady Eve gives Gambi a box of ground albino bones in a decorative box to give to Toledo. His halo is now tarnished and dented.
Next, Gambi, in a black hat and mask, goes full-on “Billy the Kid” and shoots his way through Toledo’s club and eventually kills Toledo, leaving Lady Eve’s box on his chest. Hot diggity-dawg. Gambi is no joke. I knew Gambi wasn’t an angel, but I think Sir Gambi has traded in that tarnished, dented halo for horns and a pitchfork.
I like that Detective Henderson (Damon Gupta) is getting more to do. He questions Lynn about the attack at her lab last episode. He also asked some personal questions which shows that although he and Jefferson are BFFs he’s been paying attention to all the strange activity around the Pierce clan. It’s only a matter of time before he figures out Jefferson and Black Lightning are one and the same.
Now that Detective Henderson has a hotline to Black Lightning via a burner phone, no doubt he and the “Electrician” as he calls him, will have some adventures together. On this particular call, they shared revelations with each other. Detective Henderson tells Black Lightning that a costumed woman destroyed a Confederate statue with a stomp of her foot. Jefferson is shocked at the realization that it was Anissa. Black Lightning shocks Henderson with the news that Tobias Whale is alive. Later these two meet on a rooftop at night, giving us a “Batman,” “Commissioner Gordon” vibe. I like their clandestine Intel swaps, but if they start using some type of Bat Signal floodlight, then I will throw a shoe at the television.
The family dynamic is outstanding as always. Anissa tells Jefferson that she’s ready for some super-hero action. But Jefferson gets her to slow her roll because she’s hotheaded just like him. Jefferson questions her about the box of research papers she gave her mother to look into. Anissa tells him that the box was actually Jefferson’s father’s investigative research from thirty-years ago, about young people with super-powers. She tells him she got it from her grandfathers’ former editor, David Poe (Antonio “Huggy Bear” Fargas). Jefferson warns her that this same research got his father killed, may have led to Lynn’s assault and could put Poe’s life in danger. Anissa goes to warn Poe but is devastated when she finds out that Poe recently died in an accident. I was devastated too. Does that mean no more Huggy Bear? Say it isn’t so. Say it isn’t so.
Continuing the strong family dynamics is a fun breakfast scene between Jennifer (China Anne McClain), Anissa and Jefferson. Jennifer is the comic-relief of the show. Her dialogue and one-liners bring a smile to my face. Whether messing with big sis or trying to talk her way out of being grounded (by now her grounded sentence must be around 2 years), her comedic timing is spot on. She busted Jefferson and Anissa by asking them what’s going on. They tried to feign but Jennifer wasn’t buying it because 1) No one was talking which they always do at a meal, 2) Jennifer was wearing Anissa’s favorite sweater without permission and, 3) Jefferson wasn’t all in Jennifer’s business. Jefferson and Anissa knew they couldn’t tell her about their powers, or that Lynn was attacked and hiding out at Gambi’s, so what did they do? They lied. They came up with a lame story that their argument was over Jefferson getting a brain scan. Jennifer reluctantly bought it for now. But we all know our resident, teenage, Mrs. Kravitz, will eventually get to the bottom of this one.
Another outstanding thing is the social commentary. I like that Principal Jefferson Pierce isn’t the only positive influence at Garfield High School. Teacher, Mr. Nasir (Jigga) imparted wisdom to a student, Darius (Derick Anthony), while Jefferson watched. It takes a community to raise a child but it only takes one child to change a community. I’m thankful to have had those influences and role-models in my life. Without positive role-models or positive influences, how will the next generation succeed? Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it. Bravo to this show for illustrating that.
I don’t know how you like your villains, but I like mine kicking butt in a cage-fight. Tonight, Tobias Whale (Marvin “Krondon” Jones III) had a little sport with some dude jazzed up on the street drug “Green Light.” This drug removes rationality and turns its partaker into a violent, enhanced individual. This guy landed a punch on Tobias’ face which prompted Tobias to kill him. Later, Tobias tells his sister, Tori (Edwina Findley Dickerson) that Green Light is killing too many people and that dead customers don’t pay. He tells his no-longer-mute, henchwoman, Syonide (Charlbi Dean Kriek) to set up a face-to-face meeting with Lady Eve. Tori almost seemed fearful and against the idea. I guess she didn’t know that Tobias and Lady Eve have already had a couple of tête-à-têtes. Later, when Tori delivers the bad news that Joey Toledo was murdered by Lady Eve’s camp, she now convinces Tobias to take Lady Eve out when they meet at her funeral home.
Alright, now put your seat belts on. All roads lead to this phenomenal last act battle. Black Lightning shows up to confront and kill Tobias. Black Lightning knocks Tobias across the room with a super-sized electrical discharge. Then Syonide and a plethora of expendable henchmen take on B.L. with endless rounds of guns and bullets.
Simultaneously, men carrying weapons that omit high-level electric discharges, similar to Black Lightning, attack Lady Eve upstairs. I stood up at this moment because I finally got to see “The Lady Eve” that I’ve been waiting for. She was fearless, ferocious, fierce and fantastic. Lady Eve bested her assailants with hand-to-hand combat and blasted some of them to kingdom come. Unfortunately one big bad comes out of a casket and electrocutes her. RATS! Just when we got to see her do some damage, she dies. Maybe?
Another casualty is Tori, who dies by what appears to be a stray bullet. Tobias appears weakened as he clings to his sister as his men drag him away to safety leaving her behind. It made sense and was believable to see this dangerous man suddenly vulnerable. Black Lightning didn’t want Tori to die. I was disappointed in Tori’s fate and in her storyline arc. I thought she would have more to do than move a few scenes forward. I didn’t feel that she was written with enough depth and purpose. Who was she? What was she about? What was she fighting for? I felt like this character’s potential ended before it began.
I suspect the text message that Lady Eve sent out right before the attack “This must happen tonight” lends to what happened next… I did not see this coming.
At the motel the 100-gang operates out of, Lala (William Catlett) came back to life. He struggled to focus on his new surroundings. Then the late, Lawanda White (Tracey Bonner) comes out of the bathroom and asks him if he believes in the resurrection before her body dissipates into mist and forms a tattoo of herself on Lala’s chest. Immediately my mind went back to all the dead bodies Lady Eve has embalmed, including the one that opened his eyes in one episode, are they related to the resurrection Lawanda referred to? This was one helluva plot twist that sweetens the pot exponentially. Maybe Lady Eve will be back? Maybe Tori will return with a storyline? Whatever the case, I am on board for the ride.
So Tobias got away to the chagrin of Black Lightning. And to make matters worse, Detective Henderson arrives at the funeral home massacre and calls Black Lightning on the burner phone to tell him he’s gone too far this time. Black Lightning was framed for Lady Eve’s murder. The hero is about to become the fugitive. A common trope in most shows but, I welcome it on this show.
Cue the APPLAUSE. This is how you write an effective cliffhanger.
Black Lightning has become one of my favorites for this television season.
Let me know your thoughts.