Recap: Black Lightning Season 1 Episode 9 – “The Book of Little Black Lies”

“This is who you are. This is who we are!”

While Jefferson Pierce/Black Lightning (Cress Williams) takes out his frenzied frustrations by pulverizing a defenseless punching bag, his daughters are having some frustrations of their own. Anissa (Nafessa Williams) uses those words to comfort her little sister Jennifer (China Anne McClain) to no avail. The last episode Jennifer revealed her powers to Anissa. This episode Jennifer ponders if she needs to stop smoking weed and turn to Prozac.

Anissa told Jennifer the truth, they both have powers because their father is Black Lightning. Jennifer freaked out of course. But she freaked out, even more, when Anissa gave her infallible proof by lifting up a full-size bed with Jennifer still in it. Jennifer confronts Jefferson who corroborates the story. Now I might have been a little thrilled about those prospects but Jennifer was livid. She berated Jefferson for lying to her all these years and saying he trusts her when obviously he didn’t. Jennifer stormed off leaving a not-so-happy Jefferson to give Anissa that “Why did you open your big mouth” look.

Lynn Pierce (Christine Adams), is beside herself. While in Anissa tries to justify her actions by telling Lynn and Jefferson that she and Jennifer are not kids, Lynn appropriately put Anissa in her place by reminding her that it’s a parents job to protect their children and even when they are in a nursing home they will still be her parents. Lynn went on to say that it was disrespectful and reckless to tell Jennifer something so serious without consulting them first. Anissa apologized. You go, Lynn! Because I had the same discussion with my parents when I flexed my muscles just a little bit too far… I did that once and only once. But Momma Lynn threw down the right-hand gauntlet. Super-powered or not, Lynn was this close to grounding all of them, Jefferson included.

After the debate, Lynn wonders should they have done things differently. Jefferson assures her that the girls will be alright and they will be better at parenting then they were. As I continually say, the family dynamics are top-notch here. It’s not just the superlative dialogue that makes the family scenes work but it’s the chemistry of the actors that make it all come together. They believe what they are saying and so do we. This scene is a wonderful reflection that parenting is trial and error because most of life’s situations cannot be summed up in a parenting handbook. Jefferson and Lynn are figuring this whole thing out and we are along for the journey.

Lynn goes to Jennifer’s room to comfort her. Jennifer is brooding (as our teens often do). When Lynn tries to relate, Jennifer sarcastically asks are you “VIXEN.” For those that don’t know Vixen, she is an African-American, super-heroine, whose amulet gives her the abilities of animals (strength of an elephant, the speed of a cheetah, flight of an eagle, etc). Vixen can also be seen on the sister CW show, Legends of Tomorrow. Lynn then says “Busted.” But her attempt at levity doesn’t go over well with Jennifer. Lynn tells her, I’m not “Vixen” and I’m not “Supergirl”, I’m just “Mom.” This resonates so much with me. Mothers are the ones with the real super-powers. Superman can lift a mountain, but he’s no match for a Mother raising her children to be the best they can be.

Cue my rambunctious applause. I was over-the-moon because they mentioned two of the most powerful woman in the DC Universe this side of Wonder Woman. So it sounds like Black Lightning takes place on Earth Thirty-Eight. I smell a crossover between these two super-powered heroines and our resident lightning rod sooner than later.

Lynn tried to give Jennifer some space but her brooding turned to eye-rolls (which my Mom didn’t tolerate either). Lynn threw down the left-hand gauntlet by telling Jennifer kids who roll their eyes can pay their own phone bills. Jennifer changed her tune but opened up about her real concerns and it was a grounded moment. Jennifer broke down in Lynn’s arms because she wants to go to the prom, go to college, get married, have babies. Jennifer calls herself a freak and wonders who would want to date her. When she asks Lynn if she can have babies, it broke Lynn’s heart to tell Jennifer the truth… that she doesn’t know. The tenderness of this scene proves that Lynn is integral to everything. She’s the glue that holds everything and everyone together.

In a very entertaining scene, Jennifer tells Anissa that Thunder has more followers on social media than Black Lightning. And one man has posted a video on his appreciation of her derriere. That was hilarious and sadly relevant. So often we check to see how many likes we have on social media. I guess super-heroes do the same thing.

Jefferson consults with Lynn about what else she read in his father Alvin’s investigative reports. Lynn says a lot of research and references to a bribery case, and a politician (turned super-powered kingpin, Tobias Whale).

Jefferson and Anissa decide to take the power-enhancing drug, “Green Light” off the streets by finding the core that links the drug to the vaccine that the ASA has hawked on the Freeland youth for 3 decades. They will take down Green Light and whoever is behind it. So the super-duo go to the courthouse to get their hands on the bribery case court documents to find a lead. Not sure how they got the court records but Jefferson and Anissa scoured them and found a record of monthly payments between Bendscorp and Onshore, Inc. Bendscorp even tried to pay-off Alvin to kill the story. Alvin kept the check to corroborate his story. They decide to look into who incorporated Bendscorp because incorporation papers are public with the state.

So they go to the law firm that incorporated Bendscorp and threatens, Teddy Evans (Charles Green), a lawyer for information. The threat wasn’t taken seriously at first because they arrived wearing hoodies, a President Obama mask, and a First Lady Michelle Obama mask (I think that’s who that was). I found it hilarious that this was Anissa’s idea. Her choice of accouterment leaves much to be desired and is always a delight. Will we ever forget the blonde wig and bedazzled makeup? Teddy sarcastically calls Jefferson “Barack” and Anissa tells him it’s disrespectful to call President Obama by his first name. I couldn’t agree more. An impatient Jefferson whips up a ball of lightning and threatens to “well done” Teddy’s ass. Teddy immediately gives them the intended whereabouts of the ASA Director, Martin Proctor. And goes on to say, that he voted for President Obama both times.

Earlier, Anissa asked if “Uncle Gambi” is going to help and Jefferson adamantly says “No, he can’t be trusted.” The falling out between Peter Gambi (James Remar) and Jefferson happened in last weeks episode. We learned that Gambi was a scout for the ASA (American Security Agency), a secretive government agency that released a vaccine into the low-income areas of Freeland City. The young people developed super powers and Gambi would report them to the ASA who would bring them in, kill them, then study them. When Gambi learned about this he leaked the information to Jefferson’s father, Alvin and this costs him his life. Gambi kept this secret for 30 years. When Jefferson found out, it cost them their relationship.

Gambi injected one of his former associates, Thomas Hidalgo (Morgan Brown), with Black Mamba venom to coerce from him who created the weapon that was used to frame Black Lightning for Lady Eve’s death. Thomas gives Gambi the info who in turn gives Thomas the anecdote and send regards to his family. Wow, Gambi is no joke. In his mind, if he can clear Black Lightning’s name maybe he can get back into the Pierce families good graces. He does consider himself a part of the family.

Gambi’s backdoor methods to get info continues as he blackmails a hacker for the address of where the weapon was created. Then Gambi goes full-on “007” as he crawls through the air shaft of a lab and drops a micro-camera through a vent to see what else they are experimenting with. Gambi is shocked to see rows of glass cells with the dead bodies of the kids he turned in to the ASA 30 years prior. Gambi reaches out to Anissa and tells her that people with powers are in danger and wants to make things right. He wants Black Lightning to bring these people to justice. He tells her that regardless of what they think of him, he will do anything to protect the family. Then he hands her the costume he designed for her. Anissa will hopefully be the bridge to repair their relationship.

Speaking of relationships. Episodes ago, I was enjoying the budding connection between Black Lightning and Detective Henderson (Damon Gupta). That relationship was tarnished when Henderson believed that Black Lightning killed Lady Eve. Tonight, Black Lightning called Henderson at the police station to berate him for looking the other way as evidence that could have proved his innocence disappeared at the hands of crooked cops. Henderson agrees to help. My question is how did Black Lightning know the police got rid of the evidence that could clear his name? It would have served the story better if Henderson figured out the cover-up and reached out to Black Lightning himself. In previous episodes, he already questioned the integrity of Deputy Chief Cayman (Anthony Reynolds). Henderson takes photos of his fellow officers along with Deputy Chief Cayman as they load guns that Cayman says can kill Black Lightning into their cars and drive off. Of course, Henderson follows them.

Meanwhile Black Lightning and Thunder are doing surveillance of their own. Using the intel Teddy gave them, they find Martin Proctor (Gregg Henry). Proctor was on the phone when they spot him. It was cool watching father and daughter activate the features of their super-suits simultaneously. They try to listen to Proctor’s call but are out of range. What wasn’t cool was the sudden reveal that Anissa can read lips? She took a lip reading class to know what the police are saying when she protests. That was too easy. I would have bought the moment if the hearing/surveillance was a part of the uniform Gambi made for them. Proctor says something is wrong, he can’t reach Teddy and decides to distribute the last batch of Green Light and move the lab to a new location with the help of Deputy Chief Cayman and his crew.

 

All roads lead to the lab as Black Lightning and Thunder tear the place apart. Proctor puts a gun to the head of a Chemist (Jonathan Williams) but Black Lightning laughs telling him he’d be doing him a favor for all the people that his drugs have poisoned. While distracted a henchman was about to get the drop on Black Lightning but Detective Henderson shoots the henchman and exclaims to BL “You’re welcome!” Henderson then takes the Chemist into custody as Black Lightning and Thunder blow up not only the lab but the whole building. Then they confidently, stylishly and rhythmically walk away from the exploding building to the beat of “The Ghetto” by the late, great Donny Hathaway. This show has the best soundtrack ever!

The episode ends with a touching moment between Jefferson and Jennifer as he explains the only reason he kept the secret was for her protection. Jennifer says “I know but sometimes I forget to know.” How often have we forgotten to know something in our lives? That’s another quotable journal moment for me. Jefferson and Jennifer decide to chill and watch The Princess and the Frog. I’m glad Jennifer didn’t don a costume yet. We know she’ll get there, hopefully not too fast.

A tender ending to a spectacular episode.

Let me know your thoughts.

 

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Post Author: Aaron Coleman