Black Lightning recap: 'Lawanda: The Book of Hope'
Black Lightning is back! Or is he? Despite triumphantly returning to his superhero costume to rescue his kidnapped daughters in last week’s season premiere, Jefferson Pierce is still hesitant about returning to the crimefighting life full time. After all, a kiss with his ex-wife Lynn after the successful rescue seems to indicate that they are coming close to a reconciliation — and Jefferson knows that Black Lightning is the one thing she won’t accept.
Lynn has long favored the idea that Jefferson does more good as Garfield High’s principal than he ever did as Black Lightning, but that argument is starting to fall on deaf ears. After Black Lightning’s big show, parents are wondering why no one has intervened to save their kids from the claws of the One Hundred. Jefferson trots out the tried-and-true MLK quote (“the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice”), but as one parent points out, MLK got shot in the head (coming little more than a week after this year’s MLK Day, I love how this show uses his quotes and offers different interpretations of his legacy). These people need someone to fight for them, not just educate them. Since Jefferson is still reluctant, one mother, LaWanda White, decides to make her own attempt at rescuing her captive daughter from the gang’s Seahorse Motel.
On top of that, the police aren’t having much luck solving these problems the legal way. Will apparently jumped out of his ambulance mid-ride, and they haven’t found him. LaLa has been able to keep witnesses silent about his presence at the Seahorse, so with only the Pierce girls’ word to go on, the police can’t make a move against him. That has the added effect of putting the Pierce girls in a very dangerous situation, as LaLa makes clear when he sends a young boy to prank Jennifer with a red water gun. Riled that LaLa is breaking their agreement not to come near his family, Jefferson confronts him in public. But LaLa is getting pressure from Tobias to maintain the One Hundred’s control over Freeland and refuses to back down. He even knocks Jefferson to the ground. But though his electric powers crackle in anger, Jefferson holds them in for now. He leaves LaLa with a warning: “Don’t mistake my patience for weakness, boy.” To his detriment, LaLa doesn’t take the message.
Tobias does a great job of instilling fear in his subordinates, because LaLa is showing no mercy to people who might lead the authorities back to him. Even Will, his own family, gets a bullet in the head, execution-style.
Then comes LaWanda. Despite Jefferson’s warnings, she sets up a stakeout outside the Seahorse, where she believes the One Hundred is keeping her daughter in sexual slavery. Jefferson asks her to give him two days to fix this somehow, but unfortunately she can’t keep that promise. When she sees LaLa pull up ostentatiously to the motel, she goes out to confront him. He shoots her but seems unaware that she had set up her cell phone in the windshield of her car, capturing the whole exchange on video. (Recap continues on page 2)
News of LaWanda’s death is the last straw for Jefferson. Lynn or no Lynn, he decides that it’s time to show the city of Freeland that Black Lightning really is back, for good. After all, LaWanda is a former student of his; he thought he was protecting his students as their principal, but she died and it was Black Lightning, not Principal Pierce, who could’ve saved her. He refuses to let it happen again.
Back in the suit, Black Lightning proceeds to storm LaLa’s building in an amazing action sequence. I especially love the way it kicks off (with the doorman going, “Black Lightning, my man” and directing him to the gangster’s penthouse) because it illustrates the unique flavor of Freeland, much like the video testimony of the convenience store owner did last week. This show also has a knack for music cues; Billy Paul’s “Am I Black Enough For You?” provides an epic soundtrack to this battle sequence. I love how versatile his powers are, ranging from lightning-powered punches to electric blasts that can move people around. It’s a shame that this show debuted after the release of Injustice 2, because now I want nothing more than to play Black Lightning in a fighting game.
Anyway, after beating the daylights out of LaLa, Black Lightning absconds as the police arrive. Luckily, thanks to LaWanda’s phone, the police have everything they need to put LaLa away. But as they say: Live by the sword, die by the sword. That night, Tobias arrives at LaLa’s cell, thanks to some friendly cops (who helpfully open the station doors for the One Hundred boss and lead him to LaLa). Black Lightning’s oldest enemy then strangles his erstwhile subordinate to death. This episode alone racked up quite a body count, but I’m most interested to see how Jefferson’s dynamic with the police evolves now that he’s fully back as Black Lightning and we the audience know people in the department are on Tobias’ side.
I also want to see more of Anissa; this episode showed her with her girlfriend, and using her powers once more at episode’s end to thwart a convenience store robbery, but so far she’s mostly been the passive subject of events unfolding around her. I can’t wait to see what this show becomes once she comes into her own as Thunder.