TV Recap: Black Lightning – Gifts From God

Black Lighting
“LaWanda: The Book of Hope”
January 23, 2018

Tonight’s episode, “LaWanda: The Book of Hope”, moves us forward towards the meat of the season, Black Lightning versus Tobias. By the end of tonight, the pieces on the board are set and it’s time to start moving them around.

Which is good. Two episodes of preliminaries is enough, let’s get down to brass tacks and begin the battle of good versus evil.

Recap of “LaWanda: The Book of Hope” (spoilers warning!) … after the jump!

Pierce House.  We pick up minutes after the pilot episode ended and Reverend Holt is still chatting away on Channel 7 news about whether Black Lightning is back and if he’s back for a personal vendetta (not cool, says Rev. Holt) or for the community (cool, says Rev. Holt). Is Rev. Holt employed by Channel 7 news because he has been talking on that channel for basically two episodes now?!?  Go Home, Rev. Holt. We get it, you want Black Lighting back and don’t want home to spread false hope.

Anyway, Jefferson is trying to sleep but is experiencing something a little more urgent than a tummy ache. His body is pulsing electric blue and it looks pretty painful. Lynn, hearing the grunts coming from the bathroom, finds Jefferson laying on the floor. Its a nice juxtaposition to last week’s flashbacks where we saw Lynn in a similar position, nursing a bloodied Black Lightning just back from some mission and telling him she can’t do this.  This leads to a conversation about Black Lighting being back and that she still can’t go through this again, even if she is happy Jefferson was able to save their daughters last week. Which … I get where she is coming from but she’s also right when she says she’s being hypocritical and selfish. But its all moot because Jefferson is sticking to the company line that Black Lightning is not back; his girls are home and safe, its done.   Dude really wants his wifey back.

Although, last week, he told Lynn that it wasn’t done yet and that had to have been only a few hours ago at this point in the show’s timeline.  Maybe the Electric Blue Pain is making him reconsider his whole re-commitment to the cause.   I don’t know.  Lynn and Jefferson both seems to be conflicted and confused on their feelings.  I think that’s the take away here.

Garfield High.  In the aftermath of the daylight kidnapping that happened on school grounds to a teacher and student, its not surprising to find Jefferson addressing a group of parents in the gym.  He’s doing his Jefferson thing, quoting Dr. King and talking about hope and how they are training their kids to be something more but none of the parents are having it.  “They shot Dr. King in the head,” replies one angry father.   Where is your comeback quote for that, Jefferson? The problem is he’s giving these parents “pretty words” but all they want is action.

Photo: Richard Ducree/The CW

In particular, a Ms. LaWanda White (Tracey Bonner) who is carrying around a photo of her daughter wants justice for her daughter.  Little LaWanda has been taken into Lala’s prostitution employ at the Seahorse Motel and the police aren’t doing anything to help get her daughter back.  Jefferson is more than a little surprised to hear from LaWanda (and have confirmed by Henderson, who is there right behind Jefferson) that the Seahorse is already reopened and back in the pimping business.   Among other things, LaWanda would like to know why Black Lightning only saved Jefferson’s daughters and no one else.

The Lair of Tobias Whale.  Tobias is telling Lala and the other hench people to turn up the pressure on the racketeering business (“protection”); if the squeeze, eventually someone will come forward with information on this Black Lightning person and they can take action.  To his credit, Lala seems to have healed really well from being recently harpooned in the chest.   I am skipping over Tobias’s several distasteful epithets for black people he uses in this scene, as it doesn’t really add to the narrative and I don’t want to glorify such behavior. But, so we are clear, if it was necessary to explaining the story or elucidating a point, I would quote such language, no matter how vile.   Back to the story, Tobias says he doesn’t hate  black people but he does hate competent people who try to do good things.  Then he gags Lala with a belt.  Which, is the only good thing Tobias has done.  This guy is the worst but Lala sucks ass too.

Photo: Richard Ducree/The CW

Back at Garfield, the assembly has ended and Jefferson and LaWanda are catching up about the love her life, her high school sweetheart Darnell, who died in combat and how LaWanda’s life fell apart afterwards.  She tried to raise Little LaWanda (whose name is actually Shaquandalyn – we’re going to keep calling her Little LaWanda) right but her daughter was determined to find her daddy “in all the wrong men.”  What can Jefferson do to help?  You’re Black Jesus, you can do whatever you want Mr. Pierce, you can go in and get her.  He really can’t he says, and she’s all pssshhh.  I’ll do for myself.  Screw everyone else.

In the hallway, Jefferson is reading Henderson the riot act on how they could not be doing less than they already are to stop Lala and the rampant prostitution we all know is happening as the Seahorse.  Henderson demurs that once the crime scene was cleaned up, they couldn’t keep it closed.  And, no one in Lala’s employ will flip on him – you arrest the guys, the girls say they aren’t being forced, and you arrest the girls, they get out and run right back to the Motel.  Also, Will is missing. *Record Scratch* WHAT?!?!?  Jefferson is incredulous that Will escaped after a two story fall … Hold up, Henderson says, how do you know that?  Jefferson is a terrible liar.  He says his daughters told him but you know that seed has been planted in Henderson’s head now. When Henderson eventually figures out that Jefferson = Black Lightning, this moment right here will have started the unrolling of that particular ball of string.

Back to the story, this news is beyond distressing to Jefferson as we all know what happens to witnesses on the streets.  Henderson says he has it handled with a police car stationed outside the Pierce House. We’ll see how useful that is in a minute.

Pierce House.  You remember when Jennifer name dropped a “Khalil” last week as a cover story for where she was going (when she really went to Club 100)? Well, he exists (Jordan Calloway) and he’s Facetiming with Jennifer who is sitting on the front porch.  So, school is still in session — that’s going to become important to my issue with the Freeland PD in one second. Another face from last week appears, Malik (Caleb T. Thomas)! You’ll remember we last saw Malik sweeping up the Youth Center Floors for Lala as punishment for slacking in his drug selling.  Anyway, Malik, who is no more than 11 or 12 and probably younger, walks by the Freeland PD car Henderson stationed outside.  Let me say that again. The 11 year old WHO IS A KNOWN ASSOCIATE OF A MAN WE FEAR MAY SEEK RETRIBUTION AGAINST THE PIERCE DAUGHTERS WALKS BY THE POLICE CAR WHILE SCHOOL IS STILL IN SESSION, and the cops just say “Hey.” These fucking Freeland PD cops are just the absolute worst.  Ugh. Anyway, Malik strolls right up to Jennifer, whips out a realistic enough looking gun from the giant box he was holding as he strolled passed the incompetent police who said “Hey” to him instead of asking why he wasn’t in school … *breath* And shoots Jennifer. Luckily, its just a water gun filled with paint.  But, Lala’s message has been delivered.

The Ghetto Cirque du Soleil.   Jefferson, who is fuming with figurative smoking coming out of his ears, pays Lala a visit while Lala entertains the crowd with hired dirt bike racers doing tricks and popping wheelies in the street.  Things go south immediately when Jefferson starts making demands and voicing his outrage at Lala for breaking their deal and continuing to threaten his daughters.  Its not long before Jefferson is on the ground with a bunch of guns drawn down on him as Lala speechifies that he will kill those girls if they keep running their mouths about him.  Jefferson has a temporary Black Lighting moment but is able to keep his cool. He stalks off but warns Lala, “don’t mistake my patience for weakness, boy.”  Commercials.

Gambi Tailors.  Needing to vent his exponentially increasing anger, Jefferson heads to Peter’s shop to blow off some steam. Unfortunately, Gambi is still hard core pushing the need for Black Lightning to return so this isn’t the stress reliever  Jefferson hoped for.  He convinces Jefferson to get back in the suit, at least to take down Will and Lala. He’s not interested in pursuing the chain higher than him. Mmmmhmmm, we’ll see.

Chenoa’s Place. Who is Chenoa (Shein Mompremier)? Good question.  She’s Anissa’s girlfriend and I mean that romantically.  Some things to know about these two.  They have been together a year; Anissa hasn’t meant anyone in Chenoa’s family and she’s starting to feel like a space filler for Anissa versus a serious, important part of her life, and Anissa seems to think she broke her sink into a 1,000 pieces simply because of stress from the kidnapping.  Chenoa isn’t much help, blowing over the whole sink smashing thing (probably an old porcelain sink – what does that even mean?), and saying they’ll find Anissa a good therapist to get her right.  The most interesting part of this scene is how we learn that these two really are in a loving, committed relationship. How can you tell, you ask?  When Anissa tells Chenoa the story of breaking the sink, she starts it off by saying she got up “to go pee.” No woman admits that to just anyone … only to someone she loves and feels very comfortable with.  #facts.

Pierce House.  Henderson comes over, complete with robe and dog, to check on Jefferson and everyone.  He really wants to know if Lynn is still there … this gossip. Worry more about the rampant crime and prostitution, and less about Jefferson’s love life.  Jefferson responds that Lynn IS in fact there but they are not back together. Not yet.  As Henderson takes his leave, he drops a nugget of info that LaWanda has stationed herself outside of the Seahorse and is taking pictures and writing down license plates. “She’s going to get herself killed.” But, he says he can’t do anything as she’s got rights. Henderson, man. You need to step up to the task at hand my man.  Bring her in on some charge at least to get her off the street. Loitering or something. C’mon man.

Parking Garage Where Bad Things Happen.  Lala meets a car which is carrying his cousin Will, bound in the trunk.  He grouses about the problem and hassle of hiring family before unceremoniously shooting Will in the back of the head.  Bye Will. You were horrible and will not be missed.   Commercials.

Seahorse Motel.  Jefferson makes a deal with LaWanda, convinces her to give him 48 hours to bring Little LaWanda home before continuing to videotape or do any kind of crazy thing that’s going to get her killed.  She agrees to stop actively doing anything but will not leave the scene (in case they move her daughter). Jefferson promises he won’t her down.  *sigh* You shouldn’t make those kind of promises, Jefferson (e.g., when he told Lynn he was done being Black Lightning).

Pierce House.  Khalil manages to get by the Freeland PD (guys, seriously. You’re fucking useless) and sneaks up to the roof that Jennifer is currently smoking on.  He fan boys over J seeing Black Lightning but she admits it was a little scary. EXPOSITION MOMENT: She says that she couldn’t look in Black Lightning’s face. It almost hurt, like looking into a spotlight and his features were out of focus. Now, we (the audience) didn’t see that BUT it goes a loooooong way to quieting my issue with how his daughters could not plainly tell it was their father – with no helmet and with his beard, Jefferson is pretty distinctive looking.  This helps so thank you Show for dropping this information! Much appreciated.

Anyway, Khalil goes on about he was scared he wouldn’t see Jennifer again and it made him realize that he wants her to be his girlfriend. She accepts and he gives her a chain to wear as proof of his love. Um, Jennifer, you were macking on Dead Will  just 2 days ago while being stoned at Club 100. I’m not going to lie, I am worried about the commitment of this relationship and its potential to last.  At least, Jennifer doesn’t need to worry about Khalil finding out about Will from Will.  Ha! Thanks, Lala.

Inside, Lynn and Jefferson catch up on the girls whereabouts and how they are happy Lynn is there. They make kissy faces but she pumps the brakes.  She’s got the brain locked down, as a neuroscientist, but not so much with matters of the heart.

Seahorse Motel.  LaWanda sees Lala roll up and it takes her about half of one second to grab her camera and break her promise to Jefferson.  Now, so we’re clear on what happens here, LaWanda starts her cell phone camera rolling which she leaves in the car, propped on the windshield, and grabs her camcorder camera as she exits.  She approaches Lala, calling his name.  He tells her to put the camera away and when she doesn’t he puts three in her chest. Center Mass. Doesn’t even blink.  Dude, Lala is stone cold.  This will be Jefferson’s breaking point, FYI. I haven’t seen the rest of the episode but I can feel how this will play out.  Lala’s boys clean up the LaWanda mess, albeit while looking a little terrified at what they just saw.   As we pull away, we see the cell phone camera has captured everything before conveniently falling down from the windshield (so that it can’t be seen by the henchmen). RIP LaWanda.  You made some poor decisions out of love and desperation for your daughter  BUT, your poor decisions made be the catalyst to bringing down Lala.  Commercials.

When we return, Henderson is standing over LaWanda’s dead body (the henchmen put her back in her car). He calls Jefferson to break the news, so he wouldn’t hear it somewhere else first.  He can’t say much more than “sorry” and disconnects.

Pierce House.  Jefferson is having a freak out in front of Lynn.  He had a fantasy that when his students leave his school, they can go on to great things and change the world. The line he has sold himself about having saved more lives as principal than Black Lightning is a lie.  A lie!!! He could have saved LaWanda and countless others if he hadn’t stopped being Black Lightning.  She tries to walk him back, tries convince him he has done good in his life, that he has saved lives. She tells him this is  the “addiction” talking now.  He explodes, this is no addiction, he’s different and she once called his powers a “blessing from God.” And dammit Lynn, those powers still are a blessing.  Its a really powerful scene from Cress Williams.  His conflict that has been welling up for 2 episodes just explodes all over this scene and he’s conflicted no more. But he’s not resigned either. Jefferson is fired up.  He’s got a calling and he intends to answer.

Lynn implores him to stop a second, they are so close to putting the pieces of their family back together again.  Maybe. “Maybe, Lynn” but Jefferson is done with “Maybes.” Its time, he says, that the people know that Black Lightning is back.

Garfield High.  The next morning, Ms. Fowdy tries to get Jefferson to open up, let;s him know she’s there to talk if he needs it.  As she leaves, Jefferson takes a call from Gambi. He found Will but Will is dead.  Jefferson says that Lala is getting desperate and his girls are in more danger than ever.

Photo: Richard Ducree/The CW

Garfield High.  Jennifer and Kiesha are drinking in the back of the gymtorium, talking silly talk.  Jennifer wanders off and finds Khalil in the gym working out. He snatches the liquor bottle from her hands and scolds her that he’s seen what drink will do, he’s got a gift and he’s going to use it run his ass out of this down trodden world. And, he wants J to come with him.  She sees the world differently but he’s not giving up on her yet.

Can we talk about how ballsy it is of her to have the idea to drink on school grounds, given who her father is? Kids today, amiright?

Gambi Tailors.  Lynn is working Peter, trying to discourage Jefferson but Gambi isn’t having any of it.  A. It ends the same for everyone – no one gets out of life alive and B. What kind of happiness did Jefferson really have, Peter retorts?   He’s so much more than “just Jefferson Pierce.”  Also, he was never addicted to his powers, Peter goes on, he was addicted to Lynn … and gave up the war to the save the city to be with her; a war he was winning. She interprets correctly that Gambi is at least partly blaming Lynn for the state of affairs in Freeland.  Which, I see his point.  But, I get hers too.  Again though,  she is taking the selfish angle here out of love for her small family.  The needs of the many, outweigh the needs of the few, Lynn.

See, Spock gets it Lynn, why don’t you?

He concludes that at the end of the day, its up to Jefferson what Jefferson does with his powers.  After Lynn leaves, Gambi calls Jefferson to give him Lala’s location which he pulled from Dead Will’s phone.  Commercials.

Photo: Guy D’Alema/The CW

When we come back, Black Lightning is strutting down the street in full suit, like a pretty peacock.  This is how you let the people know Black Lightning is back, for sure.  He gets to Lala’s apartment and the elderly doorman is only too happy to give up Lala’s apartment floor … penthouse, natch.  Inside, Black Lightning goes to work immediately zapping away bad guys, left and right.  He decides to take the stairs, the exercise you see, but it also allows him to takeout more bad guys.

Photo: Guy D’Alema/The CW

In the Penthouse, he goes to work decimating Lala but before he can land the final blow, Henderson and the Freeland PD show up. Hands up!  “Its been awhile Inspector,” Black Lightning says before flying out the window.

Freeland PD.  Henderson has found LaWanda’s camera and Lala’s boys are flipping on him  Things are looking bleak, Latavious. Might be time to talk.

Pierce House.  Jefferson catches Lynn up on the night’s events … in broad strokes.  What about Black Lightning, she asks?  He says things are different now, with the girls being older, maybe they can find a way to live with it. She takes her laptop and leaves without a word.  So, that’s a hard “no” Lynn?

The Wrap Up Montage.

Anissa and Chenoa comes home after a night out but later, Anissa can’t sleep. She heads to the drugstore for some sleep aids when she sees an armed robbery literally happening in front of her at the checkout counter. The gunman sees Anissa and orders her on the ground, turning the gun in her direction.  As the gunman approaches her, still yelling, still waving his gun, Anissa starts to have the anxiety attack she had the other night in the bathroom. When he physically forces her to the ground, she picks him up and hurls him across several aisles.  Looking confused, but only for a moment, confusion gives way to being impressed with what she just did (the cashier still looks like she’s going to poop herself which, understandable). Anissa puts down the sleep medicine and leaves the store. Yeah, I’m definitely sure, there is going to be some additional questions that arise from tonight’s activities.  She was wearing less of a disguise than her father does!!

At home, Jefferson is drinking some brown liquid medicine while looking at old pictures of Lynn, muttering about being close.

Freeland PD.  Tobias shows up to “take care” of Lala.  Interesting to note, he’s let in the backdoor by a plain clothes cop (looks like a detective level) and then the night desk sergeant lets Tobias into Lala’s holding cell.  How many people does Tobias have on the Freeland PD payroll? This goes a long way to explaining why they are so fucking horrible at their jobs. They are all crooked!!

Tobias reasons out that a man who can kill someone’s mama is capable of doing anything, thus, Lala is a risk of turning rat.  Solid reasoning skills on this one, huh?  Tobias one hand chokes Lala to death. That’s really good grip strength. He’s clearly a murdering psychopath but you can’t take away from him, his impressive grip strength.   Business concluded, Tobias takes his leave quite nonchalantly as we pull in on Lala’s dead, dead body.  RIP Lala. You were a horrible human and you’ll likely rot in hell. Deservedly so.   I will miss your witticisms though. The Black Jesus line from last week and “Ghetto Cirque du Soleil” tonight were some funny lines delivered well and no one else has yet exhibited that humor.  But, still. Horrible, horrible human being.  Glad you’re dead.

Thoughts.  Some interesting themes tonight on what it means to have received a gift from God. Khalil cite his running ability as a gift from God, a gift that is going to allow him to make something of himself.  The kind of something that Jefferson (used to?) believe he had a hand in nurturing as principal.  And then, of course, is that dramatic conversation with Lynn, where Jefferson talks himself, if not his ex wife, into resuming the mantle of Black Lightning.  He’s shunned this “blessing from God” for 9 years and look how people of suffered. In the end, no matter what he did, Principal Pierce couldn’t save LaWanda, nor her husband Darnell and god knows what’s become of Little LaWanda — we still haven’t seen her yet. But Black Lightning?  Black Lightning gets shit done.  He can protect more than just his family, which remains his main goal, he can protect, in a real way, all of his students, all of his community. All of Freeland.  With this, this Gift of God.

Like every Arrow-verse hero, and maybe every superhero ever, there is going to come a reckoning on just how far Jefferson will be willing to go, which lines he’ll be willing to cross in the name of Black Lightning, in pursuing justice at all costs.  If Jefferson is even a fraction conflicted on those lines as he was about resuming being Black Lightning, we’re in for some good storylines.

I liked how we saw Jefferson figuratively waffling with his moral dilemma these first two episodes — the pull of Black Lighting versus the pull of reconstituting his marriage and putting the pieces of his family back together.  Cress Williams gets a lot of the credit here for selling us on his conflict, his uncertainty, his being pulling in opposite directions.  But, I am as equally glad that the decision has been made … after that peacock scene outside Lala’s apartment building, there is no hiding that Black Lightning is back again.  It would ahve gotten tiresome and dragged the show to a halt if Jefferson kept wrestling.  At some point, he needed to make the decision he was destined to make so he can get on to the business of cleaning up his dysfunctional city.

And speaking of dysfunction, last thought.  The Freeland PD are just god awful at their jobs.  Assuming that not everyone is corrupt and Tobias’ payroll, that whole scene letting Malik approach Jenifer – one of your main 2 protectees, was just ridiculous.  If this is the level of competency that Henderson has supporting him, its amazing  that the entire city isn’t already in flames and every good person isn’t dead.  Freeland needs its Black Lightning and they need him ASAP. Luckily, after tonight, he’s back!

Oh, last thought on Anissa.  Her look of admiration for what she did to the drugstore robber is telling and it’s going to be very interesting how A. she begins to explore her powers  but more importantly, B. she reveals them to her family … I think mom and dad are going to actually have very similar reactions to their eldest daughter having superpowers, so that’s going to be some funny, awkward family dinner.

See you need week, friends!

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