Black Lightning: It’s Been a Rough Day

Black Lightning | Season 2 | Episode 14 : “Original Sin”
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For a quick read, go to Review. For a complete summary, go to Recap.

KBear Recap [Read  time: 5-7 min]

“I didn’t mean to disrespect. It’s just … you caught me off guard. I thought you were dead!” Jefferson Pierce

A lone figure with a gun enters an empty Garfield High. He looks in the principal’s office, but it’s empty. He finally finds his target, Jefferson Pierce/Black Lightning (Cress Williams) grading papers. Jefferson looks up and sees his old student and nemesis, Lala (William Catlett). Jefferson: “Latavius?” Lala: “Why you keep calling me that? You know I don’t go by that no more. That’s like calling Muhammad Ali, Cassius Clay. It’s disrespectful.”  Jefferson: “I didn’t mean to disrespect. It’s just … you caught me off guard. I thought you were dead!”  Lala: “I was dead. Twice.” Jefferson looks at the camera in the classroom. Lala tells him no one is checking, then he shoots Jefferson in the shoulder. Jefferson hand lights up as prepares to strike him with lightning. Lala tells him he’s here to find out some answers, Jefferson shuts down his electrical powers. Lala wants to know why Jefferson killed Earl.

Peter Gambi (James Remar) is in the sanctum with Jennifer (China Anne McClain) and Anissa/Thunder (Nafessa Williams) as he works on Jennifer’s suit. Jennifer: “Okay, lower.”  Gambi [Drawing design]: “Like this?”  Jennifer: “Nhmmm … lower. Lower.”  Anissa: “Hey, hey, hey! It’s not a swimsuit.”  Jennifer: “Okay, thank you, Mom. I know it’s not a swimsuit. Because if it was, it’d be a tiny bikini!”  They all share a laugh.  Jennifer: “Alright, let me show you something. Could you make it a little bit more like this? You know what I’m saying?”  Gambi: “Jenn, you’re not supposed to look like a pop star. The suit is supposed to protect you.”  Jennifer: “Okay, first off, a “pop star”? Really?! And second, that’s dope!”  Jennifer doesn’t want fashion sacrificed. Lynn (Christine Adams) walks in and calls for safety over fashion. She asks for them to take this seriously. Gambi assures Lynn that he is. He tells them he’s learned somethings over the years. To prove his point he brings out Jefferson’s first Black Lighting suit. The ladies start laughing. Gambi tries to defend his creation. Jennifer: “Okay. Well if the suit’s so great, why is it not his suit now?” Anissa: “Well, that’s because George Clinton, he called, he asked for it back.”  More laughter from the peanut gallery. Gambi tells them that even though it protected Jefferson, it was also bad for him. Jennifer goes along with the safety concerns.

The ghosts of Lawanda White (Tracey Bonner) and Will (Dabier) appear and begin talking to Lala. While he is arguing with them, Jefferson stares at him since he can’t see or hear Lala’s ghosts. Lawanda is the angel on his shoulder while Will is the devil. He wants Lala to kill Jefferson, while Lawanda continues to try to keep Lala from doing it. Jefferson offers to help him. Lala points his gun in Jefferson’s face and demands he confess to killing Earl.

Anissa is in the hallway looking at the picture of Grace Choi (Chantal Thuy) with her foster parents. Jennifer walks in and asks what she is doing. Anissa puts the picture away, but Jennifer quickly figures out this is about Grace. She advises her sister to go out and look for her. Anissa gives her reasons why she shouldn’t. Jennifer tells her she still has hope with Grace, “My hope died with Khalil.” Anissa agrees with her.

Lynn is back at the ASA lab, trying to call Jeff. He hasn’t checked in with her and she’s concerned. Wendy Hernandez (Madison Bailey) is hooked up in the testing chamber, they are conducting a wind velocity test. Agent Percy Odell (Bill Duke) is in the room watching. Agent Odell is impatient with Lynn’s progress. He feels like she is coddling Wendy. Odell wants Wendy prepared for service to this country, much like bomb sniffing dogs are. Agent Odell: “I’m not here to waste my sentiments on Wendy.”  Lynn: “Waste?”  Agent Odell: “She can’t sniff out landmines, but she can do other things for her government and country to keep its citizens safe. That’s why she’s here.”  Lynn: “She’s here to get strong, healthier.”  Agent Odell: “She’s here to realize her full potential for the benefit of all of us. Wendy could prove to be more revolutionary than the tank or the machine gun.” Lynn reminds Odell that Wendy is a person and she will treat Wendy as such.

Deputy Chief Bill Henderson (Damon Gupton) stops by the sanctum to talk to Gambi. He shows Henderson a partial picture of Todd. Gambi doesn’t know who he is but he thinks he’s involved with Tobias. At the police station Henderson identifies Todd, he is prepared to pick him up but a policewoman tells him they found a body in a burned out car. She hands Henderson Todd’s glasses. Henderson is frustrated at being one step behind Tobias again.

Using his electromagnetic powers, Jefferson pulls the bullet out of his shoulder and painfully uses electricity to cauterize his wound. Lala isn’t paying any attention because he is too busy arguing with Lawanda and Will. Jefferson gets Lala’s attention so they can talk about Earl. Jefferson thinks the 100 killed Earl, they were hassling him. Jefferson advised him to talk to the police. Lala can’t believe he’d suggest something so stupid and threatens to shoot Jefferson. Will eggs him on to do it, but Lawanda tries to calm him down. Soon Lawanda and Will start fighting and Lala shoots at them. This gives Jefferson a chance to jump Lala so he can get the gun. Lala presses down on Jefferson’s wound to get the upper hand, but Lawanda knocks the gun from his hand. This allows Jefferson to get the gun. Lala tells him it doesn’t matter, he can’t die and puts the gun to his head. Jefferson removes it from his head and unloads the bullets from the gun. He tells Lala he’ll help him. He opens his laptop and pulls up a school picture of Earl. Jefferson reminds Lala how good a student Earl was, how talented he was; Earl won the school talent show that year. Jefferson: “I thought you and Earl were gonna be…” Lala: “Gonna be what?”  Jefferson: “Successful.”

Lynn can’t get into the testing chamber, she thinks it’s a mistake and asks one of her lab assistants to let her in. He tells her that Odell has ordered her locked out of the tests. Lynn goes to another room and watches Odell run the wind velocity test at full volume. Wendy is suffering and Lynn screams at Odell. He sees her and has security remove her.

Gambi contacts Anissa and tells her he has located Grace’s foster brother’s address. Anissa goes over to his place. She knocks on the door. Anissa: “Hi, I’m Anissa Pierce. I’m a friend of Grace … Grace Choi.” There is no response. Anissa: “Like I said, I’m really not here for any trouble. I just want to make sure she’s okay.” An older man (Joseph Steven Yang) opens the door. Old Man: “Trouble will find you if you do not leave this place.”  Anissa: “Excuse me?” His eyes flash a different color.  Anissa: “Wow, is everything alright in here?”  Old Man: “Leave while you can.” He slams the door in Anissa’s face, she continues to bang on it. Inside the apartment, the old man transforms into Grace. [WTF!]

“The past is always tense, but the future perfect.”  Lala

Jefferson asks Lala some questions about Earl. Lala confirms that Earl sold drugs for the 100, but Earl wanted out. Lala was able to get him a free pass out, but Tobias put a hit on Earl for going to the police like Jefferson suggested. Even back then, Tobias had cops who were on the take. Lala: “And I wasn’t gonna let anyone kill Earl.”  Jefferson: “Then what happened?”  Lala [breathing heavily]: “I killed him myself.” Jefferson reacts in horror. Lala continues, “He was caught up. I mean, he was gonna get got.” Jefferson: “Why’d you hang him in the hoop?”  Lala: “Because I ain’t wanna be poor no more. I had to show Tobias that I was serious, and that I could send a message.”  Jefferson tells Lala he should turn himself in to the police. [Hasn’t Jefferson figured it out yet that the legal system in Freeland is totally corrupt?] Lala decides to go after Tobias himself. Lala: “The past is always tense, but the future perfect.”  Jefferson: “Who said that?”  Lala: “Zadie Smith. She also said, ‘every moment happens twice: inside and out, and there’s two different histories.’ I’m sorry Mr. Pierce. Thank you for everything.” After he leaves the classroom, he sees the ghost of Earl in the hallway. Earl turns into smoke and becomes another tattoo on Lala.

Henderson calls Gambi to tell him that Todd is dead. Gambi correctly guesses that Tobias is involved. Gambi has some potential good news for Henderson, he thinks he can trace the radioactive material they found in the basement. Jennifer runs in asking Gambi if he is finished with her suit. He has a model of it, but the suit isn’t finished. To Gambi’s relief, Jennifer loves it and wants to take a picture of it so Jefferson, Lynn, and Anissa can see it. Gambi won’t let her take the photo. She convinces him to let her put it on. Jennifer goes into the bubble, Gambi asks her to move a little, she makes some dance moves and then decides to show Gambi her moonwalk. The suit begins to overheat, Jennifer panics and Gambi gets her out of the bubble. Gambi assures her he isn’t done working on the suit.

Anissa returns as Thunder, she knocks on the door and hears movement inside. She busts down the door and sees a half-eaten deer covered by flies laying on the ground. Grace in her male form appears. Old Man Grace: “You should not have come here.”  Thunder: “I’m looking for Grace. Grace Choi.” Old Man Grace: “Leave, before it’s too late.”  Thunder: “Too late for what?”  Old Man Grace: “You.” Old Man Grace drops a bookcase on Thunder, and the two fight. When Anissa begins gaining the upper hand, Grace transforms into a big cat and jumps out the window.

“Look, that’s why I loved Khalil, okay? He loved me weirdness and all. And I think we all deserve love like that. Don’t we?” Jennifer Pierce

Lynn and Jennifer enter their house with pizza, Lynn is telling her about what happened in the lab. Jennifer agrees that Lynn has the worst boss. Lynn assures her she won’t let Odell hurt Wendy. Lynn asks how the suit is going, Jennifer doesn’t mention the accident, it now has her on the same page as Lynn about safety over fashion. Lynn is pleased. Jefferson arrives, and Jennifer gently chastises him for not checking in with Lynn. Jefferson tells them an angry former student stopped by the school. He doesn’t go into any details and decides to drop it. Anissa walks in and tells them that while looking for Grace she came upon something strange. Lynn: “What you find sweetie?” Anissa: “I don’t know. But I was just wondering how do you know if someone is more trouble than they’re worth? The baggage, the drama, if it’s just way too much for you to take on?”  Jennifer: “Well, Mom should be able to answer that question.” Lynn: “Jennifer!”  Jennifer: “I’m just saying it couldn’t have been easy. You’re so normal and Dad is…”  Jefferson: “Dad is what?”  Jennifer: “Like us. Y’all know what I mean. Look, that’s why I loved Khalil, okay? He loved me weirdness and all. And I think we all deserve love like that. Don’t we?”  Anissa: “Yeah I guess we do.” The family cheerfully sits down to eat and chat, not knowing that they are being watched. Someone has planted cameras and microphones in their home.

Lala is driving and we flashback to two-months ago. In a nightmarish lab of sorts, with bodies floating in tanks, a mad scientist (Michael Wright) pours body parts in a tank. The body parts reform to become Lala. [This is probably after last season when Lala was blown up.] As Lala recovers from being resurrected, the Mad Scientist tells him, “The pain. If you wanna stop the pain, it is tied to Jefferson or one called the Earl.” Lala can’t remember Earl. Mad Scientist: “Your past will give birth to you, time and time again, until you untie the knot of your pain.” Lala: “And then can I die?” Back to the present, Lala engages in a conversation with Lawanda and Will. He tells them that he is going to kill Tobias. Will laughs and asks Lala how many times Tobias has killed him, Lala admits twice. Lawanda offers him some advice, “If you’re gonna do this, you gotta be smart this time. You gotta be ruthless. You gotta be a savage.” Will mocks her by repeating “You gotta be a savage.” Lala responds to both of them, “Because it has to be, because I understand everything that Tobias took away from me and Freeland, and I’m doing this to save Freeland. That’s gotta be my redemption. One way or another, I’m gonna kill Tobias.”

As the Pierce’s enjoy their pizza and each other’s company, Agent Odell is in a motel room with three technicians looking at their monitors. Odell and the techs know the Pierce’s secret. He asks them if anyone else knows, one of the techs assures him they are the only ones who know about the surveillance of the Pierces. Agent Odell is pleased and he kills them; now he is the only one who knows their secret.

KBear Review [Read time: 1-3 minutes]

Lala shows up after school and holds Jefferson hostage to find out if he killed Lala’s old school chum, Earl. Lala brings his ghosts Lawanda and Will with him. Lala appears totally insane to Jefferson since he’s talking to empty space. Lala shoots Jefferson in the shoulder but Jefferson is able to pull the bullet out and cauterize the wound with his electrical powers. Lala doesn’t see this since he’s too busy arguing with Lawanda and Will. After pulling up Earl’s photo, Jefferson finds out that Lala killed Earl. In his tortured state Lala had forgotten he killed his friend. We find out that after Lala was brought back to life again, his pain over killing Earl brought him to Jefferson. He was the one who discovered Earl’s body. Lala had killed Earl for Tobias. Once Lala leaves Jefferson, the ghost of Earl becomes another tattoo on Lala’s body. In the end, Lala decides to gain redemption and peace so that he can finally die; he’ll have to kill Tobias.

Lynn is working with Wendy testing her powers. Agent Odell is impatient will Lynn’s methods. He thinks she is treating Wendy like one of her kids. Odell doesn’t see Wendy as a person but as a weapon that can be used by the government. Lynn plans on continuing treating Wendy as a person, so Odell has Lynn locked out of the testing chamber. Odell ups the test and tortures Wendy in the process.

Gambi is working on Jennifer’s suit. Jennifer is excited about it, she wants her suit to be fashionable; Lynn and Gambi want it to be safe. Jennifer gets to check out a model of her suit, as she moves in it, the suit overheats. That causes Jennifer to decide that safety should be the first priority.

Anissa continues to search for Grace after Jennifer gives her encouragement. Gambi finds Grace’s foster brother’s address so Anissa heads over there. An older man opens the door and tells Anissa to go away. When he closes the door, he transforms back to Grace. She is a shapeshifter! I didn’t see that coming. Anissa senses something wrong, so she returns as Thunder. Anissa hears commotion inside the apartment, so she busts in. She finds a half-eaten deer on the floor. Old man Grace appears and they engage in a fight. Grace turns into a big cat and jumps through a window to escape.

At the end of the day the Pierces gather at home, and except for Lynn, no one else fully goes into detail on what happened to them. It’s apparent that they all had a rough day. They are fortunate that they have each other. As they celebrate being a family, someone is watching them. Agent Odell has placed surveillance equipment in their house. He knows their secret, and he kills his ASA techs to make sure he is the only one who does.

This episode felt different than previous episodes. Each Pierce family member had their own storyline, all having the theme of them experiencing a rough day. It all ties together when the family reunites at the end of the day. Jefferson’s story was more separate from the rest of his family. It was a horror story. Lala was back with the ghosts of the people he has killed. We finally see the process that brings Lala back to life, and it is horrific. Lala is a tortured man, and while no one can say that he doesn’t deserve it, it’s still a horrible punishment. We see once again how Tobias destroys young black men’s lives. We’ve seen Tobias ruin Lala’s life, Khalil’s life, and now Todd Green’s life. Fooling with Tobias leads to death, in Lala’s case, something worse. William Catlett was brilliant as Lala. He sold Lala’s confusion and despair. It was great seeing Tracey Bonner and Dabier as his ghosts. It felt very season one. Bill Duke was very villainous as Agent Odell. He nearly equals Tobias in evilness. He doesn’t see poor Wendy as being even as valuable as a bomb sniffing dog. He plans on turning her into a weapon. Odell also know the Pierces’ secret, we can only imagine what he plans to do. We now know why Grace was trying to hide her secret from Anissa. She is a shapeshifter, we’ll find out more either in the last two episodes, or next season. In her old man form, she and Anissa had a cool fight scene. Finally, Gambi is nearly done with Jennifer’s suit. It was nice seeing Jennifer excited about it and her potential superhero life. We should be seeing the suit very soon. All of these stories were given enough space to breathe while still tying it all together. Sometimes the show has trouble doing that, but they nailed it this time.

The episode didn’t have as many songs as it normally would, but the three they have are great.  The episode begins with Slippin’ Into Darkness by War.  

During the family dinner Maze’s Before I let Go played.  

While Lala drives and we see the scene of Lala being resurrected again, and Agent Odell watches the Pierce family and kills his agents, Why Can’t We Live Together by Timmy Thomas plays us out of the episode.

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