Recap: Black Lightning Season 1 Episode 3 – “Lawanda: The Book of Burial”

“He is an answer to our prayers.”

Reverend Jeremiah Holt (Clifton Powell) spoke these words of encouragement to a discouraged Jefferson Pierce/Black Lightning (Cress Williams) after the funeral of Lawanda White. Lawanda was one of three casualties from the last episode. Reverend Holt preached at the funeral and inspired the congregation to march/protest and take the streets of Freeland back from the 100 gang.

What sets this show apart from other CW shows is the social commentary that is a mirror reflection of modern day society. It’s pulled right out of the headlines which makes the show not only relatable but relevant. My long-term hope is that this will generate conversations and change the narrative of how diverse cultures perceive each other.

The funeral was infused with the hymn “Mary Don’t You Weep”. My only gripe about the funeral is most likely directorial. Nobody shed a tear or appeared moved in the moment. Most of the congregation’s expressions were blank until Reverend Holt proclaimed a march, then everyone came to life. Reverend Holt is very inspired by Black Lightning and believes that Black Lightning’s return is the opportunity to take back the streets from the 100-gang with a march.

Who isn’t on the Black Lightning savior train is Detective Henderson (Damon Gupton) who considers Black Lightning more of a problem than a solution.

I do like Jefferson going to Peter Gambi (James Remar) to express his thoughts and get his technical help. James Bond has “Q”, Bruce Wayne has “Alfred”, Poe Dameron has “BB8”, Black Lightning has Gambi. I’m glad we got a little more explanation from Gambi about the capabilities of the super-suit he designed. This week’s upgrade gave B.L. the ability to focus the electrical discharge into a single concentrated blast which is pretty cool. I thought he could already do that, but evidently not.

With the CW shows, you truly have to suspend the belief that a pair of goggles and a well-trimmed beard makes Jefferson unrecognizable when he dons the Black Lightning nomenclature. At least the afro-wig attached to his mask in the comics sort of hides his identity. I sincerely hope not to ever see an afro-wig in live action.

Anissa (Nafessa Williams) explored her powers in this episode. She beat down a washing machine in the junkyard and recorded herself. It would not surprise me if that video comes back to haunt her one day. What haunted me was how out of character Anissa was in this episode. Previously, Anissa was touted as the activist in the family. The level-headed one, but tonight she forgot about her long-term girlfriend, Chenoa (Shein Mompremier) and flirted with Grace (Chantal Thuy) at the library. This led to a less than platonic costume-party dance at a bar. Chenoa conveniently showed up and confronted the apathetic Anissa, who was ready to lunge had Grace not intervened. The two go outside to talk and later Anissa is at the bar saying they broke up. It would have been nice to see the breakup. What was the point of even having the Chenoa storyline? Was it just to show that Anissa was flawed? There was no pay-off. I think it would have been more interesting if Anissa was single, met grace and we see a relationship blossom. Anissa and Grace do have chemistry. We saw it at the library.

I particularly liked when Grace showed Anissa an “Outsiders” comic book which Black Lightning is a part of. Great nod to the comic book lore. Grace also said Anissa could dress up like Supergirl at the costume party which confirmed they are on Supergirl’s Earth. Please, please, please no cross-overs this season. Another thing, if Anissa is this activist, I would have thought she’d be the first one to sign up for Reverend Holt’s march rather than reduce it to only going for her Jennifer’s sake.

Speaking of young Jennifer Pierce (China Anne McClain), I really enjoyed her scenes tonight. We got to know the real Jennifer tonight. Every scene between Jennifer and Anissa was real, believable and true. Especially the Sisterly advice Anissa offered Jennifer about sex.

I also really liked her scenes with Khalil (Jordan Calloway). He innocently admitted to Jennifer that he’s a virgin and Jennifer reciprocating that she is too, was a refreshing character moment for both. They planned a hotel rendezvous that weekend. When Jennifer boldly exclaimed “I’m ready to have sex!” to her stunned parents really added some much-needed levity. It was a hoot watching Jefferson and Lynne struggle to explain love and sex to Jennifer. Today’s birds and bee’s conversations are very different than they were back in my day. Afterwards, Jefferson rightfully put the fear of God into Khalil as any father should. Another grounded moment.

What needed to be more grounded was Reverend Holt’s march. It should have been a bigger deal especially considering today’s social climate. I wanted more passion, more drive, to emphasize the need to take a stand. Even the crowd chant was flat and uninspired. I didn’t feel the passion from any of the protesters. The march didn’t inspire me at all. I so wanted to be on the journey with them.

As I’ve said before, whenever my man, Tobias Whale (Marvin ‘Krondon’ Jones III) is on screen, he commands your attention. When Tobias impaled the hand of his latest flunky, I jumped. Tobias is one bad dude. I love watching him in motion.

Tobias met his match in the equally powerful Lady Eve (Jill Scott). She matched him toe-to-toe with the intimidation factor. She is a perfect cross between proper etiquette and kill-you-with-a-look subtext. She meant business and put Tobias in his place. Lady Eve is obviously the queen-pin to his kingpin. I can’t wait to see more sparring between these two titans.

That’s why I was expecting a bigger moment when Tobias realized Black Lightning was alive. It was beautifully foreshadowed that all roads lead to the march. We have Black Lightning on guard duty on the rooftops, protecting the marchers from any 100-gang interference which means Tobias is somewhere close by.

When Tobias’ flunky fired bullets and Black Lightning took him down, I salivated for Tobias to show up and set it off. Instead, Tobias flatly dialogued that Black Lightning is still alive. What-the what? Where is the man that I’ve feared for two episodes? Tobias has one-hand strangled folks, impaled folks with harpoons and letter openers but just sat there and pouted that his nemesis is still alive. Tobias should have crushed the side mirror of his car, mangled the steering wheel or broke something (or someone). Tobias casually told Syonide (Charlbi Dean Kriek) to kill that “electrified freak.” I was baffled when she shot Reverend Holt and Khalil with the same bullet. Did the deathly-chill, Syonide miss? Or was Reverend Holt the target all along? A bit more clarity would have been nice.

This took us to a long night at the hospital, where we got some great moments between the Pierce family. I was wondering where was Khalil’s mom? I think at least a mention of her would have been appropriate, even if Khalil has no one, remind us of that fact.

I could have sworn Khalil’s paralysis diagnosis was a commercial break, not the actual cliffhanger. It didn’t have that hook that was so powerfully executed in the previous two episodes. Having “Mary Don’t You Weep” play in the background didn’t help. Maybe showing Khalil in recovery and the Pierce family at his bedside would have made the scene feel stronger, OR what about Gambi’s ominous deletion of the surveillance footage of Tobias Whale at the march? This would have been a great way to end the episode. You never go wrong ending on a hopefully nefarious secret.

In the last episode, 3 people were killed. This episode, 2 were shot and both survived. Not that I’m a fan of murder, but I think a well-executed death would have been a more powerful illustration of how dangerous the streets of Freeland truly are.

This episode was good, but not great. It effectively moved the story forward but was mired in some lackluster moments.

It doesn’t lessen my LOVE for this show. I’m still all in and looking forward to what comes next. I nitpick because this is my favorite CW show at the moment. I have high expectations for it and anxiously await the next episode.

Let me know your thoughts.

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