Black Lightning | Season 3 | Episode 1 : “Birth of Blackbird”
For a quick read, go to Review. For a complete summary, go to Recap.
KBear Recap [Read time: 5-7 min]
“This ain’t no damn street fight; this country is on the brink of war. How we handle this crisis in Freeland will determine the future of warfare.” Commander Carson Williams
The show begins with cartoon panels of Black Lightning, the only time we see Jefferson’s alter ego. In a sterile white room, a computer interrogates a young Muslim woman named Maryam Lugman (Zoe Renee). It asks Maryam about her Meta power, which is she can blend into the scenery, being invisible. [Many socially awkward people have that ability] The computer asks when she used Green Light. She tells a heartrending story about racist students at her fancy prep school putting the drug in her food, it made her freak out and the next thing she knew, she was in this facility. The next person the computer interrogates is a young man named Devonte Jones (Rafael Castillo). It asks him the same questions but he angrily denies having any powers aside from hypertension and stage 2 diabetes. The third person the computer interrogates is a figure we know well, Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams). Jefferson looks worse for wear. We see different days that he is interrogated and ‘tested’. The test look more like torture. We finally get to the 31st day of his captivity.
A reporter from Clapback News, Jamillah Olsen (Adetinpo Thomas), is conducting man on the street interviews with the citizens of Freeland. 37 days have passed since the pod kids escaped; they are still missing. One man blames Black Lightning for the city’s occupation by the ASA. A woman thinks he’s dead and she is grateful for the new superhero in town, Blackbird. She thinks Blackbird cares more about the town’s citizens than Black Lightning ever did.
Anissa/Blackbird (Nafessa Williams) is at a detainment facility with other clinic staff members and Rev. Jeremiah Holt (Clifton Powell). Rev. Holt is disgusted seeing children locked in cages. They hear gunfire in the distance, soon a wall disintegrates before them and a man in a mask walks in. The guards try to shoot him but he holds their bullets in the air and flings them back at them. He announces that he is Cyclotronic (Chase Anderson). A military officer enters with some armed men behind him. He calls Cyclotronic Ned Creegan and accuses him of deserting his fellow soldiers. Cyclotronic accuses Commander Carson Williams (Christopher Duncan) of turning him into a killer. Williams agrees with this assessment and decides he’ll put Cyclotronic down himself. The two men fight, and Williams is able to mimic Cyclotronic’s power. He gets him on the ground and breaks his neck. Williams calls Agent Odell (Bill Duke) and tells him that the Markovians sent a strike team and a Meta to steal the children in the detainment facility. Odell tells him to put Freeland on lockdown.
Jennifer (China Anne McClain) is at school in pain. Her powers are flaring up; she makes it to the bathroom. Anissa is in a van with the other clinic staffers. One of the nurses Betty (Kristyl Tift) is disturbed at what they saw. She is afraid the ASA is using the clinic to identify Metas; she saw several of their patients there. Another woman, Ms. Reeks (Nevaina Graves Rhodes) isn’t concerned. Betty doesn’t want any part of this and demands to be let out of the van right now. Ms. Reeks snidely asks if Anissa wants to join Betty, Anissa keeps her cool and closes the van door.
Commander Williams is at the police station badgering Deputy Chief Bill Henderson (Damon Gupton) to go on TV to announce a curfew. Henderson refuses; he and the department aren’t going to be the face of what the ASA is doing to Freeland. Commander Williams: “I’m guessing you don’t understand the situation, Deputy Chief. This ain’t no damn street fight; this country is on the brink of war. How we handle this crisis in Freeland will determine the future of warfare.” Williams threatens to get Henderson fired and have someone else in the department do it. He promises that Henderson won’t be able to get a job anywhere else. He won’t be able to send his daughter to school, or pay the mortgage. He smugly tells Henderson his wife will leave him. Henderson lands a punch on Commander Williams’s smug face but Williams’s men jump him. Williams pulls a pistol out and threatens to kill Henderson if he doesn’t make the announcement.
Jefferson and Lynn (Christine Adams) are in Jefferson’s quarters. The ASA are going to release him today. Lynn is horny and is ready to sex up Jefferson right there. Before they can do anything, they hear a familiar voice; Agent Odell. He tells them about the Markovian attack on their detainment facility. Because of their value to the ASA and their potential value to the Markovians, he is placing the two in protective custody. Jefferson consented to his imprisonment so that Odell would leave Lynn and the kids alone; Jefferson warns Odell he doesn’t want to see him lose his patience. Odell doesn’t mind, just not now. He’d like to see Jefferson in action against the Markovians.
Henderson is on the TV announcing the new curfew for Freeland, he asks the people to cooperate. Anissa and Jennifer are in a tricked out Jeep watching the news conference on TV. The Jeep even has an AI named Shonda (Sh’kia Augustin). Jennifer: “Girl, Gambi pimped out your ride.” They are excited because Jefferson is coming home today. Peter Gambi (James Remar) appears on the viewer screen. He’s in the woods trying to find a weakness in the ASA perimeter.
Anissa enters her new apartment, which is very nice; she even has a great view of the city. Shonda greats her as she enters. Anissa changes into shorts and admires her body in the mirror, but she isn’t just being vain, she tells Shonda to open the mirror, and inside her closet is a secret room with high-tech equipment. She contacts Gambi and reports on what happened at the detainment facility. She could barely keep from getting out of the van with Betty, but Gambi reminds her they need her on the inside so they can rescue those kids later. They have to maintain their plan of destabilizing the ASA in Freeland. She tells him about the Meta Cyclotronic and the fight between him and Commander Williams. Gambi pulls up his file, Williams is a Meta who commanded a taskforce; Cyclotronic was one of his soldiers. Williams can mimic the powers of other Metas. Anissa is impressed, but Gambi tells her there is a downside, Williams needs a special drug to keep alive, he has a form of sickle cell anemia for Metas. Gambi has information on the ASA taking a busload of kids to the detainment facility. Anissa and Gambi have other plans.
“We see children taken from their parents. Some of them may never ever see their parents again. Now, does that sound familiar to you?” Rev. Jeremiah Holt
Blackbird stops the bus and beats up the guards. She tells the bus occupants they are going somewhere else. Jamillah is conducting an interview with Rev. Holt, “These days everything’s live…in HD. And we’re watching it like it’s a form of entertainment. Like it’s a reality show. We see kids in cages. We see children taken from their parents. Some of them may never ever see their parents again. Now, does that sound familiar to you?” Jamillah says that the government says the kids’ parents were trying to get their kids out of Freeland during the quarantine. They were breaking the law. Rev. Holt: “Not long ago, Jim Crow was the law of the land. Laws are not infallible my dear. Remember that.” He tells her he has to go. He leaves Jamillah to meet Blackbird. He and the church are hiding the kids. He tells Blackbird that they need to move the kids soon, they are becoming agitated and you don’t want a room full of agitated Meta kids. Anissa agrees and tells him they are close to penetrating the ASA perimeter and getting them out of Freeland.
A young Asian woman (Esther April) is in a tunnel practicing her electric powers. She has Jennifer’s power set. Lynn and Jefferson are lying down in Jefferson’s quarters. Lynn: “People are saying Black Lightning is dead.” Jefferson: “Feels like he is in here.” When he gets out of bed, he looks down at the floor and sees Issa Williams (Myles Truitt) in a cell. Gambi tells Anissa he thinks he’ll have the perimeter down by tomorrow. He plays her an audio from a police scanner; a leopard ate the cop’s partner and then attacked him. Gambi found a video of the leopard, it walks out of camera view, and a man appears in its place, the man’s eyes light up. Anissa thinks it is Grace.
Anissa is at a bar drinking. Jamillah spots Anissa and joins her. She introduces herself, she saw Anissa at the detainment facility. Jamillah came to Freeland to report on the quarantine, but now finds herself trapped in the city. Anissa asks it she comes to bars to find her stories; she tells Anissa she goes to them to meet beautiful women. One thing leads to another and the two end up at a hotel room. Jamillah is a little nervous and keeps talking while Anissa is trying to undress her. Anissa: “Damn it, woman, this is not an interview. Okay?” After making love, the two lay in bed talking. Anissa admits she was at the bar hoping to run into Grace, and wonders why she is in bed with Jamillah instead. Jamillah: “It’s called loneliness. That is why you are here. I suffer from it as well, and you shouldn’t feel bad for wanting a cure, because it hurts.” Jamillah would like to see Anissa again. Before Anissa can say anything, she gets a phone call; she becomes visibly upset with that ‘damn girl’.
The young Asian woman is playing a game with her phone when a young man (Nakia Dillard) walks up to her table. He introduces himself as Terrence and asks her name, she answers Jennifer. They are soon outside talking about the situation in Freeland. The young woman asks whether he is scared that the ASA will grab him. At first, he tries to play nonchalant about it, but he admits that he’s scared like everyone else. Anissa pulls up in her Jeep and demands the young woman get in. When she gets in the Jeep, she tells the young woman to turn off her cloaking device. It’s Jennifer Pierce in disguise. Anissa lectures her about being out there, especially with there being a curfew. The Markovians could have captured her. She asks what Jennifer is thinking; Jennifer doesn’t answer at first. Jennifer: “It hurts Anissa.” Anissa: “What?” Jennifer: “It hurts. My powers, they’re growing inside of me. And if I don’t use them, it hurts.” This silences Anissa. She regrets that Jennifer can’t enjoy the life of a normal teenager, but with Jefferson and Lynn in custody, “All we got is us.” She tells Jennifer how bad she’ll lose it if anything happens to her. They both smile and hug.
Jefferson is walking down the hallway; he looks down and sees Tobias Whale (Marvin “Krondon” James III) in his cell. Later, Jefferson tells Lynn that since they started doing the test on him, he thinks they’ve opened up some of his powers. He can see through things, before he needed his suit to do it, but now he can do it organically. Lynn asks about Tobias, Jefferson tells her he looks old and in bad shape. He assures her that Issa looks fine. She wants to confront Odell about this, but Jefferson advises her not too. Odell will want to know how she knows he has him. Lynn says she won’t tell him, but Jefferson asks what if Odell uses Issa to make her tell.
“Proctor wasn’t a rogue agent. He was always meant to be a scapegoat.” Tobias Whale
Odell is using Issa to question Tobias. Issa has an earpiece so he can hear Odell’s instructions. Tobias looks old and haggard. He admits he’s dying from old age. [The drug that kept Tobias young and super strong appears to have worn off] Odell wants to know the location of the briefcase Tobias had last season. Tobias tells Issa he doesn’t know, he hasn’t seen it since Lightning attacked him. Odell gives Issa a new question to ask. Issa: “What’s in the briefcase?” Tobias [tries to fight the effects of Issa’s powers but fails]: “Proctor wasn’t a rogue agent. He was always meant to be a scapegoat. Proctor was working directly under orders from Odell, who received his orders from POTUS. Odell was sent to Freeland to follow three orders. Obtain all Meta subjects. Turn the metas into weapons. And clean the Freeland project of anything and anyone who could link POTUS to the program.” Odell isn’t happy; he decides to poison Issa. He tells Issa that with his powers to get the truth out of people, he’s too dangerous to have around; he already knows too much about Odell’s plans. Odell looks sorrowful, but that doesn’t make poisoning an innocent kid any better. He later tells Lynn the Markovians captured Issa and tortured him for information he didn’t have. He’s sending his body back home but Lynn can see Issa before they release his body to his family.
Blackbird is leading a group of people in the woods to freedom. Gambi is using the cloaking device to appear to be a younger man. One of the men won’t stop loudly talking; he questions whether Blackbird is leading them to a trap, so she knocks the fool out. Gambi opens the perimeter and the people begin escaping through it. Jennifer is back at the sanctum monitoring the operation when she sees red blips appear on the screen. It is the ASA, Jennifer warns Anissa. Anissa fights off the guards allowing everyone to get through the perimeter. An ASA solider uses a bazooka, and blows Blackbird through the perimeter hole. It closes and Anissa is unconscious. Jennifer puts on her Lightning suit to find her sister but Gambi persuades her to be patient. If Anissa doesn’t show up by morning, they’ll go looking for her. Jennifer reluctantly agrees.
Lynn sees Issa’s body. Odell tells her that she and her family’s life is in danger because of the Markovians. The Pierce’s are only safe in his hands. Lala (William Catlett) wakes up in a hotel room. He’s unsure where he is or what happened, he also has the briefcase.
KBear Review [Read time: 1-3 minutes]
The ASA has placed Freeland under quarantine. Anyone they suspect is a Meta; they are rounding up and putting in detention facilities. They are taking children from their families and putting them in cages. Does that sound familiar? Jefferson volunteered for his captivity to spare Lynn and his daughters. Anissa and Gambi are working together to destabilize the ASA’s occupation of Freeland. Instead of being Thunder, she is now Blackbird, defender of Freeland. For some reason Agent Odell and the ASA don’t know it’s Anissa. Jennifer isn’t actively involved in Anissa and Gambi’s plan. She is in pain because her power is growing and she can’t use it. Using a clocking devise that Gambi created, she is disguising herself as an Asian woman to use her powers in secret and go out. The Markovians send a strike team and a Meta called Cyclotronic to kidnap the children in the ASA detainment facility. Another Meta who works for the ASA, Commander Carson Williams fights Cyclotronic, using his own powers to defeat and kill him. Williams ran a Meta task force that Cyclotronic was a previous member. The Commander is a total wack job, he forces Deputy Chief Henderson to issue a new curfew on television by threatening to ruin his life and kill him. Gambi reports that Williams can mimic other Metas powers. He also needs medication to keep from dying. The tests that the ASA have done on Jefferson are causing him to access his powers without the suit. He is able to see through solid objects, he spots Issa and he later spots Tobias in their cells. Agent Odell uses Issa to question Tobias to find the briefcase. Issa has the power to make people tell him the truth, Tobias doesn’t know where the briefcase is but he tells Issa what was in it. Tobias tells him about Agent Odell’s true mission, which comes directly from the President. Odell poisons Issa to keep it a secret. Anissa/Blackbird stops a bus with Metas that was heading to a detainment facility, Rev. Holt and his church hides them. After Gambi penetrates the ASA perimeter that engulfs Freeland, Anissa leads them to freedom. The ASA shows up and uses a bazooka on Blackbird; it knocks her on the other side of perimeter unconscious. At the end of the episode, Lala wakes up in a hotel room with the briefcase.
One of the strengths of Black Lightning is that the show covers topical social issues. Sometimes they can be a little heavy handed with it, but they usually do a good job. Even though one could say they are being a little heavy handed with the detention story, I say who cares. This needs to be talked about and I love that the show is doing it. Jennifer always calls Anissa ‘Harriet’ after Harriet Tubman, in the episode Anissa lives up to the name. I thought it was a nice touch with Anissa knocking out the guy who began questioning her. Harriet Tubman would pull a pistol on anyone who wanted to head back to slavery. There is always going to be some fool who won’t shut up, and will be an unwitting tool for the oppressors, they need to be straightened out either with words or a mean left hook. Christopher Duncan is a nice addition as Commander Carson Williams. His is someone the audience will love to hate. He is a Meta who is portraying other Metas. I wonder who will get the privilege of taking this SOB down. My vote is Black Lightning; it’s his show after all. Bill Duke is killing it as Agent Odell, he is menacing without going over the top. He shows just enough flashes of humanity to make his actions even more monstrous. The stunt team choreographed the fight scenes with Blackbird extremely well.
Aside from the Pierce family interactions, the other strength of this show is its music. There is never a bad episode of music, it either ranges from good to great. This week’s music is on the great side. More R&B and the blues than usual. Anissa orders her new AI Shonda to play Sweet Thing by Chaka Khan.
When Blackbird is fighting the ASA to liberate the bus of Metas, Shake from Gary Clark Jr. plays.
Bold Soul Sister by Ike & Tina Turner plays in the background when Jennifer disguised as a young Asian woman uses her powers in the tunnel.
Anissa and Jamillah get it on to Rescue Me by Fontella Bass.
The Staple Singers sing Master of War during Issa’s interrogation of old man Tobias Whale.
As Lynn stands over Issa’s body with Agent Odell, This Time I’m Gone for Good by Bobby “Blue” Bland plays.
- Moon Knight: Steven Grant of the Giftshop - April 6, 2022
- Eternals: Through the Ages - April 3, 2022
- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings: Slackers - March 12, 2022