TV Recap: Black Lightning – The Price of Faith …

Black Lightning
“LaWanda: The Book of Burial”
January 30, 2018

Lots of forward momentum in tonight’s episode of Black Lightning, which is great.  We finally have some back bone resolution from Jefferson while the sides of good and evil begin to square up against each other with some players, maybe, mired in the middle.

Separate from Jefferson, we get some good movement on Anissa’s character and some much needed realistic acceptance from Lynn.  And on the bad guy front, we also get another layer of the evil onion pulled back.

Black Lightning is moving in the right direction and as long as it doesn’t get bogged down too much in the morality play, I think we’re all going to like the journey and the destination.

Read on for our deep dive recap of “LaWanda: The Book of Burial” … after the jump!

Reverend Holt’s Church.  We open on the funeral service of LaWanda White, the unwitting catalyst of a story so much larger than herself or her missing daughter.  Reverend Holt is holding court (its just nice to see him somewhere other than the TV) and he is in full Preacherman mode, stirring the crowd, rousing them to march. To march in protest of The 100. “March with me,” he invites his flock, march against The 100 and send THEM a message.  Missing from the Pierce family conclave in the audience? Anissa.

As we watch LaWanda’s funeral, we get quick cuts of Anissa setting up a Junkyard testing ground.  With her phone on record, she tries to move a heavy industrial washer … to no avail. She pushes, kicks and grunts but the damn thing won’t move.  She thinks its her breathing.  Sure, ok.  Let’s go with that.

That’s the thing with super powers, you’ve got to learn how to master them, less they master you.

After the service, Inspector Henderson is trying to Rev Holt back from his planned March but Holt isn’t having it … we wouldn’t have to pay protection to The 100 if half the police weren’t in the pocket of The 100, and so, Holt is going to put his trust in God because “we damn well can’t put our trust in you.” Sick burn, Preacher!

Jefferson tries to defend his friend and his integrity but Holt is angry and and tired and he’s had enough.   Henderson doesn’t need any help though and is quick to point out the $25,000 watch and silk handkerchief the Good Revered is sporting from the pulpit while Henderson is scraping the bodies of black men off the street. “I wear work shoes. What kind of shoes do you wear, Reverend?”

These two are on fire and Jefferson actually has to put a hand between them to keep it from coming to blows.  Henderson has the good sense to stalk off before he cold clocks the older preacher.

Photo: Carin Baer/The CW

Junkyard.  Back to Anissa for a second, she is managing and focusing her breathing and something clicks inside her and she feels it.  She dead on punches a tall junk tower and makes it rumble. It brings a TV down on to her back and nothing; she’s feeling it now and she spin kicks the industrial washer down field like a striker going for a goal.  Girlfriend has a taste for the power and her juices are flowing fine now.

The Church.  With the tension ratcheted down slightly, Holt calls out Jefferson for being against the March.  He says that people used to call him Black Jesus, used to listen to what Jefferson had to say because he was one of them. He was from the community and fought with them, for them. Now, Holt says, Jefferson only fights for those in his school or in house house.  Jefferson says it isn’t true but Jeremiah isn’t done.  He turns to Black Lightning and LaWanda and says that it was Black Lightning that gave her hope she could rescue her daughter. “But she failed, they killed her,” Jefferson protests but Holt isn’t deterred. Black Lightning’s return is divine intervention and with his faith in God and Black Lightning, the Reverend believes they can save this community.  Kind of an awkward situation for Jefferson to be in.  Is it talking in the third person when you’re referring to superhero alter ego?!?

Title Card.

Gambi Tailors. Down in the lair, Peter is showing Jefferson the tweaks he has made to the suit, specifically, a thinner, more accurate stream of electricity of out of the fingers of the glove.  Why?  Dealing with a large crowd, you’ll want to be able to deal more surgical strikes.  Jefferson tests it out and takes a few tries to focus his energy on the right target (interesting its the cop next to the bad guy that he keeps shooting).  After he finally  focuses and nails his intended target, the smile cracks wide open; its good to see a superhero enjoy their powers … they’re usually all brooding all the time.

Funeral Home.  Meet Lady Eve (the fantabulous Jill Scott), the woman that Tobias Whale answers to (we all answer to someone, don’t we?).  She interrupts her good mannered note making to chastise Tobias about bringing her a bag of cash when Black Lightning is out there inspiring the people.  If the people rebel, they’ll think they don’t need to pay their protection money. Having heard ab out Holt’s planned march (from another pastor of all people), she muses that she doesn’t mind people believing in God as long as they don’t believe they can take back the streets.  With marching orders in hand, Tobias and his lady friend “with death in her eyes” (whose name is actually Syonide not that I think we have heard her called that, played by Charlbi Dean Kriek) take their leave to deal with Reverend Holt … in a permanent way.

Pierce House, Roof.  Khalil and Jennifer are discussing important matters … losing their joint virginity. Khalil does the baller move by admitting his virgin status which only makes him more attractive to Jennifer.  Oh these two.  Its happening this coming weekend at a hotel (classy) at 2pm.  Synchronize  Your Virgin Watches!

 Photo: Carin Baer/The CW

Library.  Anissa is camped out in the school library watching her video of her superpower demonstration (and being very happy with herself) and researching genetic mutation, when one Grace Choi (Chantal Thuy) rolls up all “hey girl, hey!” They make some “meet cute” flirty conversation but things ramp up when Anissa asks about Grace’s ass comic book sticking out of her pocket. Its the Outsiders (Fun Fact: The Outsiders is a real comic book in the DC Universe, natch, and its where Black Lightning and Thunder (his daughter, cough*Anissa*cough, were introduced); all nerd gasm material plus the costumes! Anissa says she likes costumes and Grace invites her to the bar where she works – they do Cosplay Fridays, dress up like your favorite Superhero (DC Universe Only Thank You Very Much … she doesn’t say this but, you know they wanted to). And just like that, Anissa has a date. Chenoa who?  Oh, we’re getting to that.

Garfield HS. Henderson tells Jefferson that the “powers that be” in the Freeland PD have sanctioned only 1 cop car for the march and Henderson stresses that Jefferson has to convince Holt to cancel.  He tried, he says, but he’s been inspired by Black Lightning.  Henderson chuckles dryly and says Black Lightning is going to get them all killed.  “I hope not,” Jefferson mutters after his friend walks away.

You know, Henderson should more time rooting out the corruption on his police force and less about the vigilante.  I’m just saying.  Henderson is no superhero, that’s for sure.

Gambi Tailors.  Peter has prepped a hologram of the parade route. Jefferson wants to change the parade route, make it easier for Black Lightning to protect the marchers.  Its too late to formally change the route but Jefferson has a more “old school” plan than that, one that involves Gambi in coveralls and getting dirty. Nothing like drafting your friends into your plans! Commercials.

Pierce  House. Jefferson and Lynn make a family dinner but they’ll be one Anissa short.  Jefferson remarks that she’s been absent lately but Lynn says its just a testament to them having raised a strong, independent woman.  She has no idea how strong (*rim shot*).  Jefferson outs that soon Jennifer will be off to college and it’ll just be the 2 of them for dinner, will Lynn still come then?   Jennifer enters and vents her frustration that Anissa isn’t attending (dinner isn’t optional for Jennifer, Jefferson reminds her in case she had her doubts).  Jennifer has some news and wanted her big sister for back up.  As dinner prep continues, she reveals, quite matter of factly, that she will be swiping her V Card this weekend and just thought they’d like to know.  Over dinner, Lynn thanks Jennifer for coming to them as they always encouraged her to do growing up.  Jefferson can only remark how young she is.   She counters, as only kids can do, with “How old were you?” Which Jefferson declines to answer and also, he dodges how many people they may have had sex with before each other. This is a lose lose discussion for parents to have if they’re not ready to use the “Because I said so” gambit. Which, the Pierces aren’t because they are cool and hip and woke.  I would like to note that Jefferson looks like a bee is flying around in his throat this entire scene.  And its hysterical.  Jennifer clarifies the details that’ll happen on Saturday afternoon but she’ll be home by curfew.

Later that night, the Sisters Pierce catch up and Anissa jabs that it was a bit cruel to spring sex on mom and dad at dinner but Jennifer counters that Anissa was supposed to be there to soften the blow. Also, Anissa has turned into a ghost.  Jennifer asks if her sister is ok, especially when she tries to tell Jennifer she doesn’t want to go to Holt’s March.  Marching?!? That’s like what Anissa does, Jennifer says.  Anissa is tired of holding a sign, trying to change people’s hearts” but her sister guilts her into going anyway. Now, let’s talk about birth control, Anissa says, but thankfully the scene ends before we have to watch that awkward conversation.

Garfield HS. Lynn comes to school to discuss with Jefferson their parenting fail and next steps. The REAL point of Lynn’s visit is to suggest that maybe Jennifer should move in with Lynn; what if she catches Jefferson all beat up in  his Black Lightning outfit?!?! He says “No” in such a way that it brooks no further discussion and she leaves.

NOTE: This whole set up is odd, I didn’t really think about it before but why doesn’t Lynn have custody of the kids to start with (well, Jennifer anyway as Anissa is an adult).  There must be some backstory on Lynn we don’t know yet which made her unfit to not have custody because, even in this day and age, mom almost always gets main custody.  My guess – she turned to substance abuse after splitting with Jefferson as a way to deal with the whole Black Lightning thing.

Moving on, Jefferson, who has clearly been ruminating on his daughter’s impending sexual encounter, corners Khalil and in a probable abuse of his Principal authority, proceeds to do the most dad thing that has been ever done. Long story short, through a building blocks of steps involved in Khalil’s basic hygiene routine, Jefferson accuses Khalil of intending to give his youngest daughter athlete’s foot in her vagina.  Which, OMG, this is so cringeworthy but hysterical.  Well, hysterical to everyone except Khalil. Having accomplished his mission of instilling pure fear, Jefferson walks away with a smile on his face.

Grace’s Bar.  I think this was called the Red Lipstick  Bar and Cosplay Friday is in full effect. As there are only women around, I’m thinking this is a lesbian bar … I feel good about that guess. Anyway, Grace and Anissa are all dancy dancy in their spandex (Anissa went with “sexy kitten” look though fails as a real “Catwoman” costume … sorry, my nerd is showing) when Chenoa comes in and busts her.  Referring to Anissa as “Miss Black Lives Matter,” she accuses her of cheating with an “Asian” (whoa, Chenoa, get woke girl).  Anissa denies cheating and Chenoa refers to as looking like “an Instagram ho” which, UNFAIR.  Anissa is much more attractive than that.  Chenoa storms out and after a beat, Anissa goes after her.

On the street, we see Gambi finishing up establishing a “Detour” on the parade route, using all realistic looking road work crew signals and cones and saw horses.  Not terribly elaborate, very old school as Jefferson promised.

Whale’s Lair.  Tobias is handing over a weapon to a young man, serial number removed, giving him final instructions to not leave fingerprints and drop the gun at the scene.  Sensing the man’s hesitation, Tobias comes around to give him some encouragement … in the form of a knife through the young man’s hand.  Tobias runs down the situation:  The young man  agreed to do this, said he wanted to move up in the organization and maybe even take Lala’s place, right? Well, Tobias needs him to send a message that these are Tobias’ streets and nothing is changing that.  He then commands the man to stop bleeding on his desk and dismisses him.  Tobias is a fucking whackadoodle.  Commercials.

Grace’s Bar.  The night has worn down and Anissa tells Grace that Chenoa took her key back.  Its cool though, it was just another thing that’s changing in Anissa’s life.  As the talking heads on TV report another shooting in Freeland, Anissa ruminates on how it would be nice to have super powers and help people. Grace thinks its a lonely existence since you have to keep your identity a secret.  To protect your loved ones, Anissa scoffs.  Girl, you don’t even know what you’re scoffing at.

Looking at the time, Anissa takes her leave so she can get to the March with Jennifer.   Unrelated to the narrative, Anissa has been sitting in what can only be described as a swing, while sitting at the bar.  Grace’s Bar is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen, I hope swing seats catch on.

Gambi Tailors. Down in the lair, Peter and Jefferson go over last minute superhero prep. As they scan the hologram of the changed parade route,  Peter makes a few good points including, one, The 100 will be looking to incite the most fear, not make a martyr so expect a spray of bullets, and , two, the shooter will look nervous — its not easy to kill in cold blood.

 Photo: Carin Baer/The CW

The March.  As Revered Holt leads his flock down the streets of Freeland, chanting “Freeland” over and over, Black Lightning keeps watch on the vent from a rooftop.  He loses focus a bit when he see Lynn and his daughters in attendance but Peter reminds him to stay on point, nothing he can do about the girls at this point.  The shooter emerges from an alley and Black Lightning picks him up immediately.  Commercials.

When we come back, Black Lightning drops in front of the nervous shooter and creates a lighting force field as the young thug brings up his uzi like assault weapon and opens fire.  Once the clip is empty, Black Lightning dispatches him without any more difficulty and quickly zaps (using his thin stream of electricity) a second gunman who was drawing a traditional handgun.   Threat neutralized, Black Lightning turns to face Reverend Holt and all of the marchers (including his family) and they stare at each other as “Amazing Grace” breaks out in the crowd.

Tobias rolls up with Syonide in the driver’s seat and can’t believe he’s still alive (he could be talking about Holt or Black Lightning or both but I think he’s talking about Black Lightning). He catches wind of Amazing Grace and this sends him off on what of his classic uber-racist screeds about “church going negroes” always singing and praying.  He says they all want to go to Heaven but none of them want to die.  This guy is fucking delight.  He tells Syonide to kill “that electrified freak” and she aims her scope right out of the passenger side window.

She takes her shot but misses Black Lightning. The bullet takes the Reverend in the shoulder on a through and through and the bullet finally lands inside of Khalil. Goddammit, I liked him.  Lynn tends to Holt’s wound as she implores Black Lightning to make himself scarce, the police sirens are heard in the background.  Commercials.

The Hospital. When we come back, Jennifer is escorting a gurneyed Khalil into the ER but is stopped by a nurse after a point.  We see her pacing the hall as Anissa comes in to give comfort.  Jennifer makes the leap that since Reverend Holt will be ok, maybe Khalil will too.  Sure, let’s go with that.

Somewhere else in the hospital, Lynn leans on Jefferson as they watch the news coverage of the shooting.  The people are praising Black Lightning and crediting him for making the shooting so much less than it could have been.  Inspector Henderson, like predictable clockwork, appears on screen to call him a vigilante whose presence has brought an increase in shooting and death.  Whether he’s the caise or a magnet, Henderson finishes, Black Lightning is not making things better for the citizens of Freeland.

I don’t know Henderson, this seems a little chicken or the egg to me and your bias against Black Lightning is forming your conclusion that Black Lightning has caused the uptick and not the other way around. It could be just as easy that Black Lightning is back only because of the uptick in violence.

Turning to Jefferson, Lynn explains that she was at the March to have some family time with the girls and Jefferson. She says the bullets gave her some perspective that danger is everywhere and she apologizes for suggesting that Jennifer comes live with Lynn. Again, I don’t understand this whole plotline – she’s the mom, why is she apologizing; I’m missing something here.  Jefferson reminds her that no matter where they live, the 3 women are his priority, “suit or no suit” and Lynn calls him a good man.

Gambi Tailors.  Peter is reviewing camera footage which captured a dead on face shot of Tobias in the car at the scene of the shooting.  Apologizing to a not there Jefferson, Gambi deletes the media file. The Fuck is Hat About?!?!

The Hospital.  Lynn and Anissa are catching up and Anissa’s getting the same treatment that Jennifer gave her; you’ve become a ghost – what’s going on with you?  Lynn goes on to remind her that there is nothing Anissa can say that would stop her love and that Anissa’s silence is far worse than anything she could possibly say … be careful what you wish for, Lynn. Be careful.  Anissa deflects with an easy one, saying that she and Chenoa broke up which Lynn says she is sorry for BUT Lynn is not stupid and knows there is something else really going on.  So, when you’re ready to say, mom will be ready to listen.

The ladies meet Jennifer and Jefferson; we learn that the bullet hit Khalil’s spine and he may not walk again.  The sadness is palpable; Khalil’s legs were his ticket out, and the family of four embrace each other.  As the episode ends, we hear a citizen damning what the police say, Black Lightning is “an angel, a costumed answer to all our prayers.”

Thoughts.  Finally, we have some resolution in Jefferson.  This is the first episode where he doesn’t really hem and haw about doing what is necessary vis a vis Black Lightning.  With Gambi pushing and guiding, he’s embracing the role he is meanto to play, savior of the Freeland Community.  He’s becoming what Reverend Holt says Black Lightning already is, the hope of the community, the savior that makes them believe.

Lots of religion in this episode, well, the series so far as a whole. Every episode has referred to Jefferson (not Black Lightning) as the Black Jesus, the voice of reason that people of Freeland flock to while Black Lightning is accorded a god like status – a man to inspire and command the faith of the masses, a savior of the sins and dangers that threatens them all.

Its interesting to see Jefferson embrace this role because like Jesus, he has his doubts.  He doubts his abilities to do all that everyone says he must do; to full the promise that others seem to be waiting on.  But he is trying, he is trying with every decision he makes.  And it seems like he is finally trying to be at peace with those choices that maybe he doesn’t really have control over.

Random Thoughts:

  •  What game is Gambi playing at?!?! Is this about saving Jefferson from being bogged down with this former arch enemy?!? Or, is Gambi a secret agent of Tobias, voluntarily or involuntarily?
  • Who Lady Eve and how does she control Tobias … and what else does she control.  Is she the ultimate puppet-master of crime and corruption in Freeland?
  • Anissa.  She’s got some major life changing decisions in front of her … how will she manage and more importantly, how long is it before she lets her parents know her secret?






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