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Entertainment Weekly

TV Recaps

Black Lightning recap: 'Lawanda: The Book of Burial'

Carin Baer/The CW

Posted on

We gave it a B+

Black Lightning

1/16/18 - 1/1/70

type
TV Show
genre
CW Superheroes
creator
Mara Brock-Akil, Salim Akil
performer
Cress Williams
Producer
Greg Berlanti
broadcaster
The CW
seasons
1
Current Status
In Season

Another week, another astounding Black Lightning episode. By my count this show is three for three so far, and this time it even showed a wider emotional spectrum. I sure hope you skipped the State of the Union tonight and had some fun with superheroes instead.

We start with Lawanda’s funeral. As gospel music plays (this show continues to kill it with the soundtrack picks), the reverend at Lawanda’s church calls for 100 “god-fearing people” to march in the street with him in protest of the One Hundred murdering another one of their own. Not everybody thinks this is a good idea. Inspector Henderson tries to cut him off, but the reverend rightly points out that most of the police department is corrupt and working for the One Hundred (as we saw last week when they just let the gang’s boss Tobias walk into their station and murder a prisoner in his cell), so why should anyone trust the cops to protect them? He’s put his faith in Black Lightning instead. Jefferson Pierce also tries to warn the reverend away from such a dangerous and deliberate provocation of Freeland’s ruling gang, but he’s not any more successful than Henderson is. Black Lightning’s influence is growing beyond Jefferson’s control; people are so inspired by his example that they want to take their own stands in favor of justice. The problem, of course, is that they don’t have lightning powers.

But Anissa does! Well, we still don’t know the true nature of her superpowers, but she’s clearly angling to find out for herself. Late at night, Anissa takes a walk out to an old junkyard so she can test her strength hitting some garbage. After giving herself several bruises punching a dilapidated washing machine, she figures out that breathing is the key. Once she concentrates, she’s able to kick the washing machine yards away and make an entire tower of junk shudder at her punch.

But as we all know, powers are only the first step to becoming a superhero. You gotta have a costume! While researching genetic mutations at the library, a cute librarian named Grace invites her to a cosplay party at the bar she works at. To be honest, I’m a little disappointed by the cosplay club scene. I know the CW is trying to keep Black Lightning separate from the “Arrowverse” shows, but how funny would it have been to watch people in the background walking through this club in their makeshift Flash and Supergirl outfits? Anissa just settles for some cat ears, which is already enough to inspire a breakup with her girlfriend — and, perhaps, a blossoming new romance with Grace?

Anissa isn’t the only Pierce daughter trying to figure out something about herself. Jennifer is excited to have sex for the first time with her track star boyfriend, Khalid — so excited, in fact, that she notifies her parents of her plans! The Pierces are a remarkably open family. This is a great little story line, because it introduces some light elements into the episode. Jennifer confronting her parents about their own sexual history is hilariously awkward on its own, but then it gets surpassed when Jefferson confronts Khalil in a school hallway and demands to know his cleaning routine: “Are you gonna give my daughter athlete’s foot in places where athletes’ feet should not be?” (Recap continues on page 2)

Soon it’s game time. The reverend accused the Freeland police of corruption, and his allegation certainly looks true once the department notifies everyone that they’re only deploying one squad cover to cover the march. It seems like an obvious setup by the One Hundred, but the marchers aren’t backing down. They want to send a message.

The One Hundred wants to send a message too. We soon learn that Tobias isn’t the only force of evil in Freeland when he makes a report to the mysterious Lady Eve. We don’t know much about her yet, but I’m loving the villainous vibes from actress Jill Scott so far. She’s all smiles and sugary sweetness, but she clearly rules her domain with an iron fist. She tells Tobias in no uncertain terms that “I don’t mind people believing in God, they just can’t believe they can take back these streets.”

Both sides play their cards. Tobias sends a young man to follow the march with an assault rifle, while Black Lightning prepares to protect the marchers. Gambi understands that whatever the One Hundred is doing is going to be designed to maximize fear, so when the big day comes Jefferson follows the crowd at a distance on the nearby rooftops, alert to any possible danger. Soon that danger arrives: Tobias’ henchman springs from the shadows, gun in hand, ready to lay into the reverend. Black Lightning intervenes just in time, erecting an awesome lightning shield to deflect the bullets from the protesters. Amazed at the heroic arrival, the reverend starts singing “Amazing Grace” to Black Lightning as the other marchers join in.

That’s when Tobias shows up to ruin the party. Having finally confirmed with his own eyes that his old foe is alive and well, Tobias orders his right-hand woman to open fire. She does, hitting both the reverend and Jennifer’s boyfriend Khalil in the process. Both seem to survive their wounds, but Khalil might never walk again. And so the family-comedy lightness earlier in the episode comes full circle in the most devastating way possible. On the plus side, the One Hundred’s plan to reinstill fear in the populace doesn’t appear to have worked. Even as Henderson and the police try to pin the blame for the violence on Black Lightning, a woman interviewed on local news says she still believes in her hero. She’s not the only one.

I don’t know about you all, but I’m dying to know about Black Lightning’s prior history with Tobias. I love the idea that both men think they killed the other one years ago. Tobias has now learned the truth, but Jefferson’s revelation is delayed for a little while longer after Gambi erases the footage of Tobias at the scene, apologizing to his friend under his breath as he does so.

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