Black Lightning: Are You Back?

Title: Black Lightning Season 1 Episode 2: “Lawanda: The Book of Hope”
Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama, Science Fiction, Superhero
Platform: TV – CW
Director: Oz Scott
Writer:  Salim Akil
Rating: TV-14
Release: January 23, 2018
Cast: Cress Williams, Nafessa Williams, China Anne McClain, Christine Adams
Feature image: Source


“Black Lightning is not back. The girls are safe. I’m done.” Jefferson Pierce – Black Lightning

Jefferson Pierce/Black Lightning (Cress Williams) looks at his ex-wife and youngest daughter sleep in bed and watches a civic leader on TV who believes that Black Lightning is back. If Black Lightning is back for the people, he is for him being back. If he’s only back because of a personal vendetta, then the community doesn’t need him. The people can’t afford any false hope. He concludes with, “I believe he is the answer to our prayers.” Jefferson has lightning surges throughout his body; he’s in pain from the previous night’s battle. Lynn Pierce (Christine Adams) wakes up and sees him. She jokes, “Black Lightning is getting too old for these streets.” When they first started dating, she thought it was cool that her man was a superhero. That was before she saw what it did to him and their family. She feels like a hypocrite for sending him back out there to rescue their daughters. Jefferson: “Black Lightning is not back. The girls are safe. I’m done.” They begin to kiss, but Lynn withdraws before things get too heated.

Jefferson holds a meeting in the school gym with concerned parents. He tries to calm them down by quoting Dr. King, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”  Someone reminds him that they shot Dr. King. The parents are upset that the 100 gang is winning the streets. The 100 is holding Lawanda White’s (Tracey Bonner) daughter in sexual slavery. Jefferson thinks that the Seahorse motel is still closed, but he finds out it is open again. Lawanda asks, “Why’d Black Lightning rescue your girls and nobody else’s?” She concludes, “Unless all of us are free, none of us are free.”

“I love black people, But y’all keep us acting like newly freed slaves.” Tobias Whale – Black Lightning

Tobias Whale (Marvin ‘Krondon’ Jones III) tells Lala (William Catlett) to shake down and squeeze the community. He can’t have them thinking that this ‘fake’ Black Lightning can save them. He says some derogatory things about black people. Lala thinks that Whale hates black people. “I love black people,” he says to Lala. “But y’all keep us acting like newly freed slaves.”

Lawanda asks Jefferson to help her get her daughter. The community thinks he is ‘Black Jesus’. He tells her that he can’t, she tells him then she’ll have to do it herself. Jefferson talks to Inspector Henderson (Damon Gupton) about the Seahorse reopening so quickly. Henderson explains the problems the police have trying to stop their prostitution ring. Even if they could keep the Seahorse closed and get the girls away from the gang, “It’s not only their bodies that are slaves to these guys, it’s their minds.” Henderson also reports that Lala isn’t in jail; he has 15 witnesses saying he was at a party during the incident. To make matters worse, Will (Dabier) escaped from the ambulance and is on the loose. Jefferson nearly exposes his secret identity when he asks how he could escape after Black Lightning dropped him two stories. Henderson didn’t tell him this, but Jefferson quickly lies and says his daughters told him.

Henderson has sent a police car outside Jefferson’s home to protect his family. The little boy from the first episode Malik (Caleb T. Thomas) walks up to Jennifer Pierce (China Anne McClain) and squirts her with a red substance from a squirt gun. He tells her it is courtesy of Lala. He gets away before the police can catch him. Jefferson goes to meet Lala in a parking lot. Young hoods are on bikes, Lala calls it the “Ghetto Circus Ole”. He wants Lala to honor their previous agreement that he leave Garfield High alone, along with his daughters. Lala tells him the agreement has changed since his daughters are talking to the police about him. He advises Jefferson to send his daughters on a long vacation before he does. Jefferson makes a move on him and one of the gang members hits him and pulls a gun. Jefferson’s eyes begin flashing lightning but he keeps himself from doing anything. He gives Lala this warning, “Don’t mistake my patience for weakness, boy.”  Lala stupidly laughs at Jefferson.

Jefferson meets with Peter Gambi (James Remar) at his tailor shop. He tells him what is going on. Gambi wants Jefferson back in the game as Black Lightning permanently. He wants them to go after Lala so that he can take them to the big boss. Jefferson only wants to get Will and Lala to protect his family.

Anissa Pierce (Nafessa Williams) is in bed with her girlfriend Chenoa (Shein Mompremier). Chenoa points out that they have been dating for a year, yet Anissa hasn’t met her parents or her friends. Anissa says she has been too busy with work, school, and the community. Chenoa is concerned about the stress she must feel from her kidnapping. She tells her girlfriend about the sink she broke with her bare hands. Chenoa thinks something was wrong with the sink [if it happened]. She recommends Anissa see a therapist for her stress.

Henderson stops by with his dog to check up on Jefferson. Henderson: “And it don’t stop.” Jefferson: “Said every hype man ever on the stage.” He informs him that Lawanda is in the Seahorse parking lot filming johns going in and out of the Seahorse and writing down their license plate numbers. He is afraid it is going to get her killed. Lala is in a parking garage singing along to a Latimore song. Another car pulls up with Will in its trunk. He tells Will that it’s not good working with family and shoots him in the head. Jefferson goes to the Seahorse parking lot to talk to Lawanda. She is just finishing talking to a TV reporter on camera. Jefferson warns her that this will get her killed. She is willing to die to save her daughter. He asks her to give him 48 hours to get the police to get her daughter out of there. She promises to quit recording, but she is staying in the parking lot in case they try to sneak her daughter out of there.

 “When you try to look at his face it hurts. I don’t know. It’s like looking into a spotlight. It’s out of focus.” Jennifer Pierce – Black Lightning

A classmate, Khalil (Jordan Calloway) visits Jennifer. He asks her about seeing Black Lightning. Jennifer:  “When you try to look at his face it hurts. I don’t know. It’s like looking into a spotlight. It’s out of focus.”  [That is how he keeps his secret identity.] They have been friends for a while, but because of her near death experience, he realizes he needs to do this now. He asks her to be his girlfriend. She happily accepts. [Sweet scene.] Downstairs, Lynn is on the computer. Jefferson tells her that it’s good to have her there. Lynn: “As a neuroscientist, I know everything there is about the brain, but not so much about the heart.” [Shut-up Lynn] They kiss again, and she says they need to take things slow.

“It’s still a gift, still a blessing from God. And I need to use it. It’s time for people to know that Black Lightning is back.” Jefferson Pierce – Black Lightning

Lawanda sees Lala after he killed Will; she goes up to him to demand he free her daughter. Since he is in a killing mood, he shoots her down. Lawanda had positioned her phone in her car to record their confrontation. Henderson calls Jefferson to tell him that Lawanda is dead. The news crushes Jefferson; he goes to talk to Lynn. Jefferson is angry with himself for not being Black Lightning and saving Lawanda. Jefferson: “She was my student. I had a fantasy that when they leave me, their lives are better. That they could transcend this neighborhood, city world. I saved more lives as the principal of Garfield High than I ever did as Black Lightning… I could have saved her. I could have saved so many. I’m living a lie. Living in the hopes that you, and me, and the girls could somehow live behind a white picket fence.” Lynn tries to talk him out of going back to being Black Lightning; she calls being Black Lightning an addiction, an addiction to his power. He reminds her that she use to call it a gift. Jefferson: “It’s still a gift, still a blessing from God. And I need to use it. It’s time for people to know that Black Lightning is back.” He is ready to help everyone, not just his family.

Gambi finds Will’s body in a garbage container. He calls Jefferson and tells him he also found Will’s phone, “Mobile phones are the enemies of bad guys, when are they going to learn?” He is going to use it to track Lala. Jennifer is in the school gym drinking wine and trying to get her head around what is happening to her. She stumbles upon Khalil who is running on a treadmill. She’s drunk and he tells her it isn’t cool drinking in school. She tries to justify it with her problems, but he straightens her out on that. Khalil:  “I lived the life rappers talk about, but it ain’t cute.”  He is going to use his athletic ability to get out of here and he wants her to go with him, but not like this. She gets it.  Lynn stops by Gambi’s shop to talk to him about Jefferson. She wants him to talk Jefferson out of using his powers. She blames Gambi for encouraging him. Gambi blames Lynn for stopping Jefferson from using his powers in the first place. He tells her that it is up to Jefferson anyway. After she leaves, he calls Jefferson; he has tracked down Lala.

Black Lightening strolls down the street so everyone in the neighborhood can see him. The doorman at the building Lala is in holds the door and says, “Black Lightning, my man!”  Some of Lala’s men show up and Black Lightning lights their asses up. The elevator operator holds the elevator for him. Black Lightning: “I’ll take the stairs. I’m just getting back into this. A brother needs all the exercise he can get.” In the staircase, he whups some more of Lala’s men. When he gets to the penthouse, he kicks Lala’s arse. Fortunately, for Lala, Henderson and his men show up. Instead of sticking around, Black Lightning jumps off the roof.

“Lawanda is telling her story from the dead, buddy.” Inspector Henderson – Black Lightning

At the police station, Henderson tells Lala they have Lawanda’s recording of him shooting her. Henderson: “Lawanda is telling her story from the dead, buddy.” Jefferson gets back home satisfied; he tells Lynn they can work out him being Black Lightning again. Lynn isn’t having any of it and walks away. Anissa wakes up in the middle of the night. She goes to the drugstore to get some over the counter medicine. A robber is robbing the drugstore. He tells Anissa to get down and grabs her. She is afraid at first, and then she easily picks him up and tosses him a few aisles down. She realizes her newfound strength and feels fantastic. Whale shows up at the police station with a henchwoman. A dirty cop lets them in through the back. Another dirty cop leads him to Lala’s cell. Whale: “You shot somebody’s mama? Any man who would do that would not have morals, no principles to live by, which means there’s nothing you’re not capable of, including becoming a rat.”  He grabs Lala by the throat and with one hand and strangles him to death.

The second episode of a new series usually gives you a better idea what type of show you’ll get weekly. They usually have more time and money to craft the pilot, but the second episode is in the regular production schedule. If that the rule holds, then we should expect to have a great first season [and beyond] of Black Lightning. The episode dug deeper into the characters. We get a better view of the friendship between Jefferson and Henderson. [Did anyone say Henderson’s first name?] We found out that Anissa is a lesbian, and it wasn’t a big deal. The only coming out story they are going to tell is Anissa coming out as a Meta. Lynn won’t be pleased about that. With Gambi’s technical skills, I think it is safe to say that he wasn’t always a tailor. Maybe he’s like Garak. [Shout out to Deep Space Nine fans.] Jennifer has a new boyfriend, and since he appears to be a good, upstanding young man, he won’t make it out alive of this season. Prediction, his death will be the reason Jennifer gets in the superhero game. Even though it’s only the second episode, I’m already interested and invested in all these characters. That is the basis of a great show. I enjoyed all of the interactions between the characters. I really felt bad about Lawanda’s death, and thought Tracey Bonner did a great job bringing the character to life. I was surprised that Lala met his end so soon, since William Catlett did such a great job with him. It did make Tobias Whale that more imposing. With him being albino and his loathing of the black community, he makes an interesting and perplex villain. I can’t wait until Black Lightning and Whale square off. The fight scene in Lala’s building was great; my only complaint, basically that was the only action scene we got, and it came in the last few minutes in the episode. I think it was more important to build up the characters, so I’m okay with it.

The musical selections were excellent again. Here are the episode’s standout songs. Simply Beautiful by Al Green, at the beginning of the episode when Jefferson watches Lynn and Jennifer sleeping together peacefully in bed. Rocket Science by Joyce Wrice, featuring Kay Franklin, when Anissa and Chenoa are making love and later talk about their relationship and broken sinks. Let’s Straighten It Out by Latimore, when Lala is in the car singing to himself before he kills his cousin Will. Am I Black Enough For You by Billy Paul, when Black Lightning is lighting up fools in Lala’s building. I hope the showrunners are able to keep up this level of music. You should listen to these songs again when you get a chance. Keeping real music alive.

Grade: A







Anthony (Kbear!) Nichols | Editor-in-Chief
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