“Shadow of Death: The Book of War”
April 17, 2018
Black Lightning concluded its freshman season tonight and the questions on everyone’s minds: Will Black Lightning recover from his injury last week? If so, will he recover in time to be useful in a final fight? Will Henderson discover his bestie’s secret identity? Will Whale survive and thrive? Will Proctor and the ASA? Will Lynn and Jennifer embrace that which Anissa and Jefferson already have?
Every single one of these questions is resolved tonight so sit back, relax, and enjoy our deep dive recap & review of the Black Lightning season finale, “Shadow of Death: The Book of War” … after the jump (warning: spoilers!!)
30 Years Ago: We open in a black and white flashback of young Jefferson (Kaden Washington Lewis reprising his role as young J) going to work with his father (Keith Arthur Bolden, reprising his role as younger Alvin). Why? Because the violence in the city has gotten so bad, they’ve temporarily shuttered them. We get a glimpse of where Jefferson gets his whole quotation wisdom from when Pops drops some Malcolm X, “the future belongs to those who prepare for it today.” Alvin’s face falls when he sees a younger Gambi standing in the rain (its raining really hard), waiting to talk. Young J heads to his father’s car but watches the entirety of this scene play out though he must not have heard or remembered their conversation.
Gambi jumps right in by scolding Alvin for doing more than the planned “whistle blowing” of human experimentation in Freeland, no, Alvin exposed corruption and named names, including (still a politician at this time) Tobias Whale. Alvin is defiant that this was a necessary action but Peter warns him to think about what kind of can of worms he’s opening, think about your son, Alvin, Gambi implores. Alvin continues to defend his action; he gave his son the tainted ASA vaccine; how can he not pursue justice at this point?!? And, he’s fully willing to die for his cause …
Which is convenient because then we begin a black and white flashback montage which begins with Young J burying his father (while Gambi looks on from a distance. Next, we cut to Gambi Tailors where Peter is listening to a news report about continued riots in Freeland following the shooting death of an unarmed black man, Andre Carter. Gambi leaves his shop having heard enough and we cut to Young J being pursued by cops during the riots. They grab him but before they can begin beating him, which they clearly intend to do, he Black Lightnings the fuck out of them and then takes off running. I am not sure if it was a poor acting choice or intentional but Young J … he wasn’t too shocked at what just happened which makes me think he’s had some accidental discharges before. He runs through an alley but ends up electrocuting himself on a fence and passing out. Like the creepy stalker we’ve come to know and love, Peter shows up and checks the vitals on the passed out boy (shocking himself in the process). He looks on wistfully and you can see him making the decision to become this boy’s surrogate father.
Coming back to the present, at the Remote Safe House, Jefferson is still down for the count and his short circuited electrical system is fucking with his nervous system hard. Lynn remains hopeful but everyone is having a major sad.
Remote Safe House. We come back to Jennifer trying to process her current life situation when Gambi comes out to check on her. She asks about the metas with Khalil and Peter explains that while the Powered Pierces are naturally gifted (which, in Jefferson’s case is not really true; hello vaccine!), Tobias and his henchmen are artificially created.
Gambi explains that the serum Tobias took slows his aging and continues to make him stronger over time; by now, Gambi estimates, Tobias has the strength of 3 men. And yeah, he’s probably the one that turned Khalil (half right).
Syonide Backstory! She was found in a dumpster as an infant with her umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. As the story goes, Tobias pulls our favorite sociopathic killer out of an orphanage at 8, nurses her back to health, clothes her, feeds her, trains her, basically adopts her and then, when she’s an adult, implants carbon-fiber body armor under her skin. In total, she was destined to be loco in la cabeza.
And Khalil, Jennifer asks, what did they do to him? Here, Gambi is guessing but its as good a guess as any. The spinal implant they gave him is causing a side effect whereby his body produces a paralysis inducing neurotoxin (like snake venom) which they have weaponized by giving him those handy dandy darts. Jen wants to rationalize his behavior but Gambi is straight up with her, Khalil made a choice and chose evil so, whelp.
Whale’s Lair. Khalil, for the first time in a long time, sounds like himself as he apologizes to Tobias for you know, killing Black Lightning – the one thing he wasn’t supposed to do. Tobias appeals to Sy for her advice which, it won’t surprise you, is to shoot Khalil and be done with it. Whale calls her off and then tells Painkiller, yes that’s Khalil’s villain name (you get it – its a play on words cause Khalil’s last name is “Payne” so, it should probably be “Paynekiller” but I digress), that he should never apologize for being a violent beast. Indeed, Tobias is choosing to make lemonade from these lemons. He reckons that Proctor was always going to “have to go” because he was Team Eve and well, Tobias can have that … so, the “Proctor going” will just be sooner than he planned. Easy Peasy.
ASA Lair. Proctor walks in to his command to face a mountain of bad news. Black Lightning and Thunder are missing; Whale is missing; Lala is the only connection they can make to Tobias; AND, in 10 hours, all of the original test subjects will be dead because they are no longer stable. They’ll still have the 4 Stage 2 subjects but, as Proctor bellows, that’s not an army, its not even a “test a group.” Time to pump up the troops, Trump style! Yes, I’m a hard ass, Proctor begins, but its only because our enemies want to kills and goddammit, we’re going to weaponize humans so we can spill first blood and “Make America Great Again.” Groan at this heavy handedness but the spirit of the speech is consistent with Proctor. Mission stays the same, Grab a Meta’s blood and find Lala and shake him for information. Ready Team, Break!!
Remote Safe House. Uncle Gambi is out for a nature walk with the Pierce Sisters and explaining the he knew about J’s powers before he did. He recounts the story of zapping the cops and then zapping himself, and then talks about how it was 15 more years before all of Jefferson’s power really manifested itself. But it wasn’t until he saw he was Freeland’s only hope that he decided to become Black Lightning. Good, great, wonderful, Anissa says, but I need to be getting to the killing of Proctor, what’s that status?!?
Gambi tries to pacify her by explaining (again) that they are safe here as its in an electric surveillance bubble and outside that bubble? Everything type of thing is looking for them. And, you’re the strongest one here so you need to keep your fine ass in check (I paraphrased that last part).
Inside, Lynn’s is talking to an unconscious Jefferson about how she felt a coldness come over her at the same time he flat-lined and so, Jefferson needs to find that SAME connection and walk it back to her among the living. Please and thank you.
Whale’s Lair. Lala is (once again) unceremoniously dragged and dropped at Tobias’ feet. Tobias mock apologizes about always dragging him around but its more like sorry, not sorry. Lala takes a run at the big man but one hay maker from Whale sends Lala all the way across the room. For a man known for bad plans, this was one of Lala’s worst. Lala regains his feet and informs Tobias that he hits “like a bitch” and goes in for another run. This time Tobias stops him cold with the old “the Devil deals the cards” mumbo jumbo.
Lala exposition: We learn that Tobias spent a million dollars for a reanimation program (which seems like a bargain to me) specifically to bring back Lala. His visions of LaWanda and Will? Just side effects of the reanimation … additional fun fact? Everyone Lala has killed will eventually come back to haunt him tattooing his entire body … so that’s something to look forward!! “Tattoo man, its time to get back to work,” Tobias says. Commercials!
We come back to a flashback; Young J is being raked over the coals by his father for fighting in school. Inspirational quotes, yada yada yada but it is interesting to know that it was Alvin that instilled in J the call and respond lines of “Who’s Life Is This?” and “What are you going to do with it?” We end the scene with young J looking like he’s signing “Parents Just Don’t Understand” in his head …
Hard cut back to the present where Jefferson comes to and is lots of pain. well, not so much come to as “is in so much agonizing pain, hes actually screaming while still unconscious.” Lynn Doctorsplains that his nervous system is shutting down but she doesn’t have any immediate ideas on how to, you know, stop that.
ASA Lair. Proctor has Lala and is trying to get Whale’s location out of him. Lala says he’d like to tell him but he can’t, he really can’t. Also, these cuffs are tight, can we maybe loosen them up a bit?!? Proctor is all tunnel vision focused, “where is Tobias Whale” but does ask the good question of why Lala asked to speak to him specifically if he wasn’t going to give up Whale’s location. This, in a paranoid man’s mind, should be giving Proctor pause. Its at this moment that Lala begins having a coughing fit and Proctor notices det cord hanging out of Lala’s mouth. It looked like fishing cord to me but hey, I’m not the ASA psychopath. Proctor and his main minions flea while Lala blows himself and two ASA guards up. Whelp. RIP Lala; that was an anti-climatic end for you. In the hallway, proctor is pretty non-plussed and refocuses his men; get Gambi, get the metas.
Remote Safe House. While Jefferson continues in body freefall and Lynn is in doctor crisis mode, we cut to a flashback. Except, this time, Young J is now being played by grown Jefferson. Adult Jefferson is all apologies and I failed you but Alvin just wants to tell his son that he is proud of him and loves him. Which, isn’t that all we really ever want to hear from our dad? Its the classic trope of getting the permission to live your life from someone departed that you’ve always felt guilty about. Flashback Alvin has freed Jefferson from his long held guilt.
Which, allows Jefferson to wake for real this time, in the present. The family is all happy unicorns and rainbows but then Jefferson realizes his powers are gone. Whelp. Commercials!
ASA Lair. We return with Proctor’s minions having localized a power surge that coincides with the time right after Black Lightning’s body was carried out of the High school last week. When they can’t pull up an image of the house, Proctor realizes its being cloaked and therefore, must be the hideout. In the end, Gambi’s cloaking is what gave them away. Oh well, best laid plans and all that. Mount up, ASA is going in hot!
Whale’s Lair. We cut to Tobias injecting his magic serum into his neck and fun fact, it makes his veins glow all yellow for a few seconds. That CANNOT be FDA approved. Sy and Khalil come in to tell him that Lala never came out of ASA Headquarters nor can they confirm he blew up BUT they can say the ASA is rolling out of there and they are rolling heavy.
Remote Safe House. Lynn tells Jefferson that his vitals are back to normal but he’s really just concerned about if and when his powers will return?!? She yo no se. Gambi comes in to tell them that they’ve been found. Ay Dios Mio!
Out in the night, we see the ASA minions closing in on the house while Gambi is watching them on his cameras and giving his tactical assessment. Here’s the plan, Peter goes out the front to create a distraction; while Jefferson (bluffing) and Thunder (not bluffing) along with Jen and Lynn will make their to a secret escape tunnel hidden in the woods. Jen summons her powers and basically jump starts her dad’s suit and then gets all fainty from the exertion. Girlfriend needs to learn to use her powers. And like, stat! But really, the effect is amazing and you can tell Jennifer will be the dominant force of the trio when she gets her shit together. She basically looks like DC’s Firestorm or Marvel’s Johnny Storm in this scene. Awesome. Jefferson thanks his daughter for saving his life … again. “This is what we do,” she says and its really the best thing she could have said. Jefferson lights up that megawatt smile from his daughter getting on the same page as him.
Gambi shits all over the parade by advising Team Pierce that even they prevail here, the ASA isn’t going away. He advises they forget superheroing and move the fuck away. Anissa isn’t having it. And neither is Jen and even Lynn stands up to help. Team Pierce, a mostly solidly united front. Gambi looks pleased … almost like he knew this was the answer he’d get. Fucking Master Manipulator that Gambi. Commercials.
When we return, Proctor is giving his murder squads the greenlight to attack. Which is exactly when the funky 70’s classic “Shining Star” by Earth, Wind & Fire kicks in; so you KNOW shits about to get real. Thunder comes around front on the ground while Black Lightning starts zapping bitches from the roof and things are going well. The ASA Minion on the ground wants to bug out immediately because, as he says, they are not prepped to deal with Black Lightning. Denied. Take out Thunder and pull out from the house whomever they’re protecting.
Inside, Lynn convinces Peter that she knows her way around a shotgun and we’re all ready to kick some ass now.
At Whale’s Lair, Tobias, Cy and Khalil are heading out to add to the cacophony of chaos but, they are not headed to the woods. Nope, they are going to get Proctor at the ASA’s Lair.
Freeland PD. The last piece of the puzzle, Henderson and his people mount up to join the battle already in progress.
Back in the woods, an ASA flunky has used some inhibitor ray on Thunder and we see her quickly losing steam as we cut to Commercial. One more act to go in this season.
We come back to Black Lightning mopping up some bad guys outside as the real action moves indoors. Three tangos breach the house but Lynn and Gambi put them down like the dogs they are. As Jen comes out to hug her mother, we see a fourth baddie enter but Jen, without hesitation, lights him with some badass lightning force. That’s what I am talking about, powers on command! Jefferson finally makes his way over to Thunder’s position and takes out the last bad guy who is also the one that’s been holding Thunder at bay.
Back in the ASA Headquarters, Proctor is having a hissy fit. He orders his men to withdraw and relocate to the Pods Warehouse where they’ll assist with the Stage 2 Pods’ relocation, destination TBD. Which is when powers goes out and you know the Whale Trio has arrived on scene. Khalil clears the hallway with Whale and Sy pulling up the rear. They enter Proctor’s inner sanctum just has he makes his getaway through a secret exit (Lairs and their secret exits, amiright?) – I should mention he abandons his right hand Minion, who Khalil puts down with a dart immediately. Foiled again, Tobias.
Back to the Remote Safe House, Freeland PD rolls up just as Team Power (new name – its sticking, hope you like it) make their exit through the woods. Jefferson, you could have turned off the glowing neon of your suit – conspicuous much? Sheesh. Team Power piles into the Gambi Van.
Quick Cut to the Pods Warehouse where Proctor comes running to find, not his forces but Team Power instead. Whelp. Seeing himseld LITERALLY surrounded by Pierces, Proctor thinks fast and plays the “I’m a federal agent” card but nope. Gambi enters at this point and tells Proctor he’s clearly gone rogue because he’d already have a cavalry coming to save him if any of what he has done was sanctioned. Proctor spews some more of his ridiculously anachronistic hate speech which is a bit much for a newly empowered Jennifer to handle. She unleashes a lightning lasso around Proctor and body slams his hateful ass to the floor. The best is that Jefferson scolds her with a father-intoned, “Jennifer!” Girlfriend is all “don’t care.”
Proctor regains his feet and this outburst has only encouraged him more. He makes a straight appeal to let him get a sample of J’s blood; Jefferson can save his people, Proctor can “make America great again” and everyone wins. OR? Proctor can just tell everyone about Team Power and their secret identities. Gambi has had enough and after another verbal back and forth, he buries some bullets in Proctor killing him. Thank the sweet baby Jesus. That guy was fucking annoying! Gambi doesn’t dispute Proctor’s claim that he’s a monster but at least this way, no more kids will be hurt. He volunteers for body removal duty while Team Power gets to saving the Pod People.
The Jittery Doctor Scientist Nerd is still in the room working the Pod computers (he stayed very calm during the whole murder of his boss thing). He says he needs a briefcase to safely remove the Pod People but Lynn is like, nah, nah, I know someone that can help.
Into the Wrap, we cut to the ever present new reports – we see on the bottom 1/3 that the news of human experimentation in Freeland has broken and also, the people being interviewed are ALL singing the praises of Thunder and Black Lightning. We end the news portion of the season with Henderson giving a press conference where he lets us know the US Government is being questioned on why Freeland citizens were being experimented on but more importantly, he publicly thanks Black Lightning and Thunder for their assistance (while still condemning vigilantism).
We cut over to a redo of a scene we saw at the very beginning of the show, Jefferson running with his daughters back to the house. Two differences, 1 Lynn is waiting for them at the end of the run and she and Jefferson seem very okay together and two, Jennifer is giving a voice over. Her message is basically, we are all heroes because we keep trying to move forward despite all the challenges we face day to day. She ends her voice over with the message that they have been given a gift, a blessing from God and they intend to use it to protect the city and its people.
Whale Lair. Take us out Tobias. Sy drops a bag of Proctor thumbs on Whale’s desk. One of them triggers a hand print to the missing briefcase we heard about in the Pods Warehouse. When the first thumb doesn’t open the case, we see Tobias has brought Proctor’s Right Hand Minion back with him and Tobias tells him that he better hope the second thumb print works. It does. Sy thanks the Minion by putting a bullet in his head. When Whale opens the case, we see a green light reflect back at him and he is very pleased. He tells Sy that she’s looking at the “King of Freeland.” “Long live the King,” is her response together with a jaunty salute. God, I love her so much. Tobias declares that his first order of business to rip the light out of Black Lightning. Which, that’s always Whale’s first order of business, no? And, that’s how the season ends.
Thoughts. So, with the briefcase, Tobias has gained access to … what? The Pod People? I don’t think so, Lynn must have freed them by this point (or else, she really shouldn’t have been celebrating on the porch with the family)? Clearly, something is in the Briefcase? I’m guessing its some critical piece of informtion pertaining to the manufacture of Green Light. The green reflection supports this and what other kind of control, from what we have seen, is going to give Tobias instead King Power?
Season 1 of Black Lightning is at a close and while I’m a little disheartened that everything was really wrapped up with a bow at the end of the season and Team Power seems ready and able to enter S2 as a unified force, I wish there was some real compelling lingering tension remaining OR that they would have teased some new big bad in the final minutes of the show. I like Tobias as the villain and lord knows I want the Syonide/Tobias spin off rom com more than anyone, I want to deal with some new threat next season. We’ll see, I guess.
Elsewhere, I am glad that Jennifer comes around by the end of this season; they rolled out the girl’s so fast this year (I really didn’t think we were going to see either until Season 2), we almost had to have them learn to accept it. It would have been jarring for THAT to have been the season ending tension that remains. So, Yeah Team Power. I do hope but I am worried that we come back to S2 and Lynn is still the official Team Wet Blanket. Shit or get off the pot, Lynn. Literally every person you care for is in this lifestyle now so, really, how much more can you protest. Be a good team member, be to Jefferson what Felicity as “Overwatch” is to Team Arrow. Otherwise, you’re just hurting everyone.
Religion. This show hit on religion hard this whole season, every episode title invoked a Biblical-style reference featuring the whole arc of the human condition: Resurrection, Redemption, Lies, Faith and Hope, Death and Burial, and War. Together with the repeated concept of Jefferson (not Black Lightning) being Black Jesus and Jennifer’s express voice over at the season’s end; this show has clearly set itself as being a mission from God to save the people of Freeland. Its an interesting (and bold) choice to make in a modern day superhero show when agnosticism and outright atheism are the moral compass cores of most shows. But of course, it works because it sets this show a apart.
For Comparison sake, I often describe this show to new people as being most akin to Season 1 Arrow – a conflicted superhero reluctantly picks of the mantle to save his City and its people from rotting decay and corruption. Which is true. But, Oliver Queen received his mandate to rid Starling (it was Starling, not Star back in the day) City of those who had failed from his father. Jefferson, and, subsequently his daughters, are adamant that they have received their mandate to save Freeland from God. That’s a pretty powerful motivator to act. So, I am interested to see if that Season 2 continues to lean on that mandate or if it moves its tone to something more neutral? We’ll see.
That’s all my friends. Thank you for reading all season and I will get those few missing episodes posted at some point but in the meantime, keep watching, keep reading and I’ll see you in Season 2!