Black Lightning: Praying, Singing, and Marching

Title: Black Lightning Season 1 Episode 3: “Lawanda: The Book of Burial”
Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama, Science Fiction, Superhero
Platform: TV – CW
Director: Mark Tonderai
Writer:  Jan Nash
Rating: TV-14
Release: January 30, 2018
Cast: Cress Williams, Nafessa Williams, China Anne McClain, Christine Adams
Feature image: Source


“So I need 100 god-fearing people to march with me, so that we can take back our community.” The Reverend Jeremiah Holt – Black Lightning

The Reverend Jeremiah Holt (Clifton Powell) is presiding over Lawanda White’s funeral. Anissa Pierce (Nafessa Williams) didn’t attend the funeral with her family; she is at a junkyard exploring her newfound powers. She sets up her cell phone to record the training. Rev. Holt tells the congregation how good a Christian woman Lawanda was, and that she died trying to save her daughter from the One Hundred gang. He tells them that they will have to do like Lawanda and take on the One Hundred. Rev. Holt: “So I need 100 god-fearing people to march with me, so that we can take back our community.” He asks people who will march with him to stand; Jennifer Pierce (China Anne McClain) is one of the first to stand. Anissa is kicking a washing machine, causing more damage to herself than to the machine. She stops and thinks, “It’s my breathing.” Inspector Henderson (Damon Gupton) and Jefferson Pierce/Black Lightning (Cress Williams) try to talk Rev. Holt out of the march. Rev. Holt accuses the police of being in the One Hundred’s pocket. Henderson assures him he isn’t. He asks the Reverend to let the police do their job. Rev. Holt isn’t impressed, and tells Henderson that the ‘overseers’ have sent him to keep the ‘slaves’ in check. This angers Henderson and he responds, “While you up in the pulpit with a $25,000 watch on, wiping your forehead with a silk handkerchief, I’m scraping young black men’s bodies off the concrete. The street is my pulpit. I wear work shoes. What kind of shoes do you wear Reverend?” Jefferson has to keep the two men apart. Anissa controls her breathing and with one punch moves a huge junk pile. In celebration, she kicks her nemesis the washing machine across the junkyard. Anissa screams in exhilaration.

Rev. Holt is upset with Jefferson for not joining him in the march. He accuses him of only being concerned about his students or his family. Jefferson was part of the community and he used to be there with them. Jefferson reminds the Reverend how much he is trying to do. Holt calms down a bit and tells Jefferson, he knows that he and Henderson think that he is doing this for himself, but he isn’t. Holt: “I’m tired, man.” He is tired of all the deaths, of the cops and other blacks killing people in the community. Black Lightning’s return gave Lawanda hope, and it gives him hope. Black Lightning is the answer to their prayers, “With Black Lightning’s help, and with God’s help, we can save this community.” Jefferson is uncomfortable hearing this. He later joins Peter Gambi (James Remar) in his tailor shop’s secret basement. Gambi is tinkering with Black Lightning’s suit to give him a thinner stream to take out someone in a crowd without causing collateral damage. Jefferson is worried about the march, and people gaining hope from Black Lightning; Gambi reminds him that was part of Black Lightning’s original purpose. Jefferson practices with his new weapon in a high tech videogame setting.

“I don’t mind people believing in God, they just can’t believe they can take back these streets.” Lady Eve – Black Lightning

Tobias Whale (Marvin ‘Krondon’ Jones III) and his henchwoman Syonide (Charlbi Dean Kriek) are dropping off a payment to Lady Eve (Jill Scott) to make up for the damages caused by Lala. What she would really like is for someone to take care of Black Lightning. Tobias insists he killed him. Lady Eve asks, “Tobias, are you a church going man?” Tobias: “My life hasn’t exactly led me down a spiritual path.” Lady Eve discusses the march that Rev. Holt is planning, with its spiritual connotations, and how it can affect their business. A minister under her control informed her of it. She wants Tobias and the girl “with death in her eyes” to take care of the march. Lady Eve: “I don’t mind people believing in God, they just can’t believe they can take back these streets.”

“Oh, I do love a costume.” Anissa Pierce – Black Lightning

Jennifer and Khalil (Jordan Calloway) are sitting outside her window busy making plans for their first time together. Khalil breaks down and admits the truth; he had lied about his sexual experience. He has none; he is a virgin. He lied because he wanted Jennifer to think that he has ‘swag’. He apologizes for not being truthful. Jennifer smiles and says, “So…a fine ass virgin tells the truth and risks remaining a virgin. Khalil, my virgin self couldn’t find you sexier right now.” Anissa is at a bookstore sitting on the floor watching her junkyard session. A cute woman Grace Choi (Chantal Thuy) is stacking books; she asks Anissa what she is reading. Anissa tells her she is reading a book on genetic mutations. After checking to make sure Anissa is okay, she starts to stack some books. Anissa checks Grace out and notices a comic book in her back pocket. She asks Grace about the comic book, the “Outsiders”. Grace: “You know if you’re reading about genetic mutations for fun, maybe it should be. I mean, this is nerd-bait. Young folks with outsized powers traveling the world, knocking bad guys on their asses, and then there are the costumes.” Anissa: “Oh, I do love a costume.” “I tend bar at the Ruby Red Lipstick bar and we do a cosplay party on Friday nights,” Grace revealed. “You dress up as any superhero you want. Supergirl. Looker, if vampires are more your thing.” Anissa contemplates going.

Inspector Henderson informs Jefferson that the police will only supply one squad car to work the march. He checked with different officials in the police department, it isn’t clear who is doing this but it could go all the way to the top. Henderson asks Jefferson to try to persuade Rev. Holt not to hold this march. Jefferson tells him he can’t; Black Lightning inspires Rev. Holt and the marchers. The mere mention of Black Lightning’s name pisses Henderson off. Jefferson goes back to Gambi with a plan to reroute the march to make it easier for him to protect the marchers.

It is family dinnertime and Jefferson and Lynn Pierce (Christine Adams) are discussing Anissa’s absence. In a few years, Jennifer will be off to college and Jefferson wonders if Lynn will come by to have dinner with him. Lynn brings up Black Lightning, and before they can argue, Jennifer walks in. She is disappointed that Anissa isn’t there because she is going to need her support. Jefferson and Lynn ask why she needs her big sister’s support; Jennifer informs her parents that she has decided to have sex. The Pierce’s calmly discuss this over dinner. Lynn is pretty calm, while Jefferson is struggling to remain so. Jennifer has it all planned and makes it sound casual. Later in her room, she complains to Anissa that she is never around. She could have used her at dinner. She asks her big sister to go to the march with her. She is surprised when Anissa tells her she isn’t going, she is tired of protesting, and it doesn’t seem to do any good. She wants to do more. Jennifer manages to guilt her into going with her. Anissa begins to discuss birth control with an embarrassed Jennifer.

“Are you sure we’re not being too liberal here. My father would say ‘this is some white folk’s mess’ ”. Jefferson Pierce – Black Lightning

Downstairs in the kitchen, Jefferson and Lynn are still discussing Jennifer’s plan. Jefferson: “Are you sure we’re not being too liberal here. My father would say ‘this is some white folk’s mess’ ”. Lynn tells Jefferson she thinks she should spend more time with Jennifer, Jefferson thinks that is a good idea. She thinks that since he’s being Black Lightning again, Jennifer should move in with her. Jefferson firmly says no. Lynn warns Jefferson that she will bring this back up. Back at school, Jefferson runs into Khalil in the hallways and begins an awkward conversation on Khalil’s shower technique. Khalil tells him he dries his feet with his towel and then dries the rest of his body. Jefferson takes that to mean even his privates and says, “Are you gonna give my daughter athlete’s foot in places where athlete’s feet should not be?” This shakes up Khalil. Jefferson tells him that maybe he should slow down with his daughter, and he walks away from their encounter grinning.

Anissa is at the Ruby Red Lipstick dancing with Grace wearing a skintight black outfit and rocking cat ears on her head. Her girlfriend Chenoa (Shein Mompremier) walks into the club. She accuses Anissa of cheating. Things heat up between the two so Grace asks Chenoa to leave. Anissa goes after her. Anissa comes back into the bar a short time later. Grace: “How’d it go?” Anissa: “She took her key back.”  Grace: “I’m sorry.”  Anissa: “No, she was right, we were done.” They continue their conversation. Anissa admits that they should have broken up long before this but that she held on to Chenoa because her life is changing so much. The two discuss changing the world with superpowers. Grace thinks that you’d have to keep it a secret so not to worry the ones you love.  Anissa: “Today I felt invincible, and now?” Grace: “Back to reality? We’re all just playing at being superheroes.” Anissa: “It’d be nice though, superpowers.” Anissa has to leave so that she can go to the march with Jennifer.

Tobias Whale is giving one of his henchmen an unmarked machine gun to shoot into the crowd. The henchman is hesitant to touch the machine gun, he tells Tobias it’s because he isn’t wearing gloves. Tobias seems to understand, but then he pins the man’s hand in his desk with a knife. He reminds the henchman that he was the one who wanted to step up and take Lala’s place in the organization; this is how it’s done. Tobias wants to send a message to the community, “These are my streets, and nobody messes with my streets.”

Gambi is wearing a city workers uniform and moving around street barriers. Back at their headquarters, Jefferson and Gambi discuss the new marching route. Black Lightning with have a high point from a close by building to watch the marchers and detect any danger. Gambi figures the One Hundred aren’t planning on killing Rev. Holt and making him a martyr; they will randomly shoot marchers to cause fear in the community.

“They all want to go to heaven but none of them want to die.”  Tobias Whale – Black Lightning

The march is happening. The marchers are quietly chanting “freedom”. Lynn is marching beside her daughters. Black Lightning is on a nearby roof watching the march. He spots Tobias’ henchman toting the machinegun, he jumps from the rooftop unto a car roof. He steps between the gunman and the marchers and creates an electric shield. He spots a second gunman and shoots him with a thin stream of electricity. The marchers stare at Black Lightning with amazement, and Rev. Holt leads them into singing “Amazing Grace” to Black Lightning. Tobias drives by to check out the damage. “No, no, no, no, no, he’s supposed to be dead,” Tobias screams in anger. He turns to Syonide and angrily says, “That’s why I hate these churchgoing Negroes, always praying and singing, singing and praying…. They all want to go to heaven but none of them want to die.”  He orders Syonide to kill “the electrified freak”. She misses Black Lightning and instead hits Rev. Holt. The bullet goes through Holt and hits Khalil too.

The family waits at the hospital to hear about Khalil’s condition. Anissa comforts her sister. She tells her that Rev. Holt is all right, so maybe Khalil is too. Jefferson listens to a newscast say that Black Lightning saved the marchers. Henderson is on the newscast and he offers a differing opinion, Black Lightning caused it. Lynn apologizes to Jefferson for suggesting that Jennifer live with her. The shooting gave her a different perspective; danger can come from anywhere. She has to accept that Black Lightning is back. Back in his shop, Gambi looks over the video of the march and spots Tobias in his car. He deletes the video and apologizes to Jefferson. Lynn asks Anissa what’s been going on with her. She has been keeping a distance between herself and the family. Anissa tries to divert Lynn by telling her that she and Chenoa broke up. Lynn offers her sympathy but she knows Anissa wasn’t into Chenoa like Chenoa was into her. She tells Anissa she doesn’t have to hide anything from her. Jennifer walks in the room and tells them that the bullet hit Kahlil’s spine and he may never walk again.

The repercussions of Lawanda’s murder are being felt in the community. At her funeral Rev. Holt calls on 100 god-fearing people to march against the One Hundred gang. Both Henderson and Jefferson are against it because of the marchers’ safety. This causes Henderson and Holt to clash. Jefferson and Gambi work to protect the marchers by rerouting the march, making it easier for Black Lightning to protect them. It’s a good thing that they did because Tobias Whale sent his shooters to kill marchers and spread fear in the community. This was ordered by Lady Eve, a new player in the Freeland underworld. It appears that Tobias answers to her. I guess we’ll see who she answers to. Jefferson prevents any deaths, but he couldn’t prevent Khalil from being shot and perhaps paralyzed. Poor Khalil and Jennifer had planned to lose their virginity to each other, but that won’t be happening. Jefferson wanted to stop them from hooking up, but not this way. On a brighter note, Anissa is trying out her newfound power and she also met a cute new girl who is into comics and cosplaying. I wonder if Grace can handle a real superhero. We get a new question, why did Gambi erase the video of Tobias in the car. Was it to protect Jefferson, or is he working for the One Hundred? I’m leaning towards the former, but it could be more complicated than we know.

The episode examined faith. The faith that is in the black church, and its role in the community. Tobias hates all the praying and singing, Lady Eve doesn’t mind it, as long as you don’t do anything to interfere with her power. Rev. Holt is trying to harness the community’s faith to retake their community. The people need something concrete to have faith in, something to give them hope, and the person who does that is Black Lightning. Jefferson is uncomfortable with the faith placed in him, but with the power the One Hundred gang has in the community, he gives them the strength to fight back. It’s a burden no man should have, but many have had placed on them even in real life.

It was a good episode, but not as strong as the first two. The best scene was the confrontation between Henderson and Holt. It shows how disconnected the police is from the community. Henderson appears to be a good guy who has the community’s interest at heart, but he’s in a corrupt and racist police force that makes his job impossible. Anissa was the bright spot of the episode, I enjoyed her enthusiasm in her new powers and her budding relationship with Grace. I like Jennifer and Khalil but I wasn’t as interested in their teen drama. I did like seeing the family calmly discuss sex.

The music was top notch again. The standout being Mary, Don’t You Weep by Aretha Franklin. They played it during the funeral at the beginning of the show, and at the end at the hospital. There was a nice jazz piece, Sorcery by Charles Lloyd when Jefferson was practicing with his thinner strains of lightning. The End by Jennah Bell is playing when Anissa meets Grace Choi. Renegades by Dawn Richard is playing during the cosplay night at the Red Lipstick while Anissa and Grace dance.

Grade: B+


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