The Book of War is an apropos title as we see a number of wars or acts of war break out in this episode.
We open with a flashback of young Jefferson Pierce (Kaden Washington Lewis) walking with his father, Alvin (Keith Arthur Bolden). It’s beautifully shot in black & white with the feel of an old photograph. They run into Peter Gambi (James Remar) who actually tried to dissuade Alvin from pursuing the story that would ultimately cost him his life… exposing the political corruption of politician Tobias Whale (Marvin “Krondon” Jones III) and exposing the government-sanctioned human experimentation that was targeted on people of color in the poorest parts of Freeland. This choice framed the world of Jefferson Pierce.
As a youth Jefferson got into trouble with the police. During a pursuit, his powers manifested and he blasted the officer’s unconscious. He ran into an electric fence and instead of electrocution, he absorbed the electricity and passed out. Gambi found him and took the boy in.
Present Day Jefferson/Black Lightning (Cress Williams) lays unconscious at an undisclosed, off the grid safehouse. Jefferson is surrounded by his ex-wife, Lynn (Christine Adams), daughters, Anissa/Thunder (Nafessa Williams), Jennifer (China Anne McClain) and Peter Gambi. They are in hiding from the ASA, 100-gang and Lady Eve’s cartel. Lynn diagnoses that Jefferson’s powers are short-circuiting and affecting his neurological-system. Lynn is unable to revive him. She made a beautiful plea to Jefferson. She said they share a connection and for him to find that connection and find his way back to her.
While unresponsive, adult Jefferson dreamt that he had a conversation with his father. The uplifting song “Stairway to Heaven” by the O’Jays played in the background. The moment between adult Jefferson and his dad was good. Jefferson and his dad apologized to each other, which was a touching moment, BUT it might have been a bit more impactful if we could have spent more time with Jefferson in this dream world, or see him relive various moments of his life. His father’s death was THE inciting incident and the apology was the resolution. I wanted more time with Jefferson as he worked out his regrets.
While this is going on, Gambi explains Tobias Whale to Jennifer. We also finally learn the backstory of our favorite evil henchwoman, Syonide (Charlbi Dean Kriek). Tobias inserted carbon fiber body armor under her skin and trained her to be an assassin. She’s bio-engineered. I would love to have learned this earlier in the season and also to have seen it. We only see her with a variety of guns. We also learn that the darts Khalil/Pain-Killer (Jordan Calloway) shot the students of Garfield with were actually filled with a neuro-toxin that his enhanced body now produces. It paralyzes the victim like a snake’s venom. His wrist dart guns are the delivery method. Very cool, but I would have liked to have known that in the last episode. We also got to see Tobias Whale inject himself with the serum that gives him super-strength and prolonged youth. This is a reminder that he is just a man…. albeit an intimidating one.
Speaking of Tobias Whale, he went philosophical on Khalil as he quoted Napoleon, “I am unlike other men, and the laws of convention do not apply to me.” He set the record straight with his new protégé. Tobias tells Khalil to stop apologizing for killing Black Lightning (so they think) because his plan is to now kill Martin Proctor and take over the Freeland.
Martin Proctor (Gregg Henry), the resident racist hate-monger exclaimed “Let’s make America great again” a couple of times in this episode. I didn’t know America stopped being great but (sadly) Proctor does represent a certain sector of society that believes the same rhetoric. Proctor was enraged when he learned that his human experiments are dying in their pods and he needs fresh meta-human DNA to sustain them. Proctor tells his right-hand man, Klovic (Cory Scott Allen) to find Black Lightning, and Thunder immediately.
What made for an interesting moment was the way Tobias went after Proctor. Tobias had Syonide bring Lala (William Catlett) to him. What is ironic is that this former drug dealer was killed by Tobias and later resurrected by him. Tobias convinced Lala to pay a visit to Proctor by 1) punching him across the room, 2) speaking the trigger words “The devil deals the cards” which subdues/brainwashes/controls Lala. As hard as he struggles, Lala is unable to resist. So Tobias makes Lala his “bomb-mule.” Lala visits Proctor and shortly afterward triggered the bomb he swallowed. It was a wasted effort because Proctor got away.
I had an issue with the way Lala was used. His resurrection was so ominous (and cool) as were his creepy personal encounters with the people he killed. These apparitions would dissipate into a tattoo on his chest. I wanted more understanding of what the tattoo’s mean. Also, why did Tobias choose to reanimate Lala? One thing to note is that Tobias called Lala “Tattoo Man”. Tattoo Man is an actual Black Lightning villain in the comic books. Hopefully, that means Lala will be resurrected (again) and give us the payoff for being brought back to life. Not to mention exploring his newfound powers if he is indeed the same Tattoo Man.
Finally, Jefferson wakes up but without his powers. This was a nice twist considering the ASA found the safe house and are on their way to take the family out. Jefferson asks Gambi to power up his suit so that he can draw the ASA’s attention so Lynn, Anissa, Jennifer, and Gambi can slip away. Jefferson knows it’s suicide and kisses each of them goodbye. This caused Jennifer to become emotional and she explodes into energy and gives her father a power boost. It was convenient. It was expected but I give it a pass because it was so well acted. Truthfully, I would have preferred to forego the power loss moments if we could have spent more time with adult Jefferson and his dad in the dream.
“Shining Star” by Earth, Wind & Fire plays as Black Lightning and Thunder kick some ASA butt. The fight scenes are always great. The ASA figured out how to subdue Thunder by encasing her in a force field where her concussive powers were contained. Black Lightning mowed through the agents to save his baby girl. What was the showstopper was when Lynn took Gambi’s gun, cocked it and explains “I grew up hunting with my dad. Now let’s end this because I want my damn life back!” You go, Lynn! And boy did she go. She shot an ASA agent who got into the house. Her gun jams but Peter (Jason Bourne) Gambi blew away the rest. Even Jennifer got in on the action. She blasted an agent who was sneaking up on her mother. The ASA agents requested to abort their failed mission but Proctor said no and every one of them was taken down.
Someone contacted newly sworn in Deputy Chief Henderson (Damon Gupta) that something was happening in the area of the safehouse. Henderson leads the way, flanked by a cadre of police officers. With this additional news, Proctor decides to move the pods containing his human experiments to another undisclosed location. Before they can get away, Painkiller, along with super-model Syonide, and Tobias Whale pay him a visit. They massacre the ASA agents. Proctor is unable to take the mysterious briefcase from one of his dead agents. Proctor barely escapes through a secret door leaving Klovic at the mercy of Tobias Whale.
Proctor arrives at the pod location ready to have them moved but is faced by Black Lightning, Gambi, and the Pierce family. Proctor says he knew Jefferson was Black Lightning and he will happily deliver this information to the higher-ups. Proctor said a few racial slurs which enraged Jennifer. She used her powers to lift Proctor into the air and body-slam him to the floor. As cool as it was, when did she learn to do that? This level of control seemed a bit soon to me. Especially without training. Proctor continued to hurl threats at them all. Gambi knew there was only one way to silence Proctor… kill him… And Gambi did. They ask the only ASA person left, the Man in the lab coat (Josh Henry) how do they get the young people out of the pods? He said he needs the briefcase which we know is in Tobias’s possession. Lynn said nevermind, she knows someone who can help. I wonder who that is? And what about Vice-Principal, Kara Fowdy (Skye P. Marshall)? With Proctor gone, who is her new boss? Or is she the boss? Will she be found out now that Gambi and Black Lightning have taken over the pod location? Also didn’t Proctor out Black Lightning as Jefferson Pierce in front of the Man in the lab coat? Will he share Proctor’s fate?
I loved the “Family Affair” scene, with the Pierce family back in their home. Besides, you can never go wrong with any song by Sly & The Family Stone. As I’ve said in almost every review, I love the family dynamics and the chemistry between the actors is off the charts.
The last scene showed Syonide walking into Tobias’s office with a bag of Proctor’s fingers courtesy of a connection in the coroner’s office. A harpooned Klovic told Tobias that the briefcase can only be opened with Proctors fingerprints. I love that Tobias’s weapon of choice is a harpoon. Once Tobias opens the briefcase, Syonide shoots Klovic in the head. Surely even he saw that coming. Upon reviewing the contents Tobias proclaims himself the King of Freeland and decrees his first order of business is to rip the damn light out of Black Lightning.
I’m glad they didn’t leave us with a major cliffhanger but left it open to start a fresh story next season. Although I would like to have more questions answered, and bigger payoffs on certain things, I truly enjoyed this series. I look forward to seeing where they take it in season two.
I also look forward to hearing the next season’s music. The soundtrack for this show is AWESOME!! I love old school R&B and this show served it up on a golden platter. My playlist and I are very thankful.
Let me know your thoughts.