Black Lightning recap: 'Three Sevens: The Book of Thunder'
The superhero show tackles 2017's Charlottesville protests, while Black Lightning finally confronts his biggest fan
It finally happened: Freeland’s two superpowered do-gooders finally came face to face, though certainly not in the way I expected.
But before we get there, we pick up where we left off: Black Lightning lying in an alley, finally struggling with the limits of aging while a gleeful Joey Toledo runs home to Tobias. The albino crime boss doesn’t want Black Lightning to survive the night, and he tips off the white, mustachioed police chief about the hero’s location. Luckily, Gambi and Lynn are able to scoop up Jefferson and get him out of there before the police arrive, though the chief’s shadiness about his tip is enough to finally get Henderson to suspect the full scope of his department’s complicity with Tobias and the One Hundred — especially the white police leadership.
Although Lynn was initially receptive to Jefferson putting the costume back on, she’s reaching the end of her rope. Jefferson explains that Tobias is the eternal exception into any rule, and that he will do whatever it takes to put a permanent stop to his father’s killer. Yet here he is, lying broken and beaten on a stretcher, with Lynn forced to stitch him back together again. Not for the first or last time, she wonders why he insists on maintaining such a dangerous and harmful course of action.
Jefferson, of course, has the same question — just not about himself. After Anissa gets arrested protesting a Confederate statue, Dad has to come bail her out again, which sparks another fierce inter-generational debate. Anissa insists the statue was an injustice that needed to be protested, while Jefferson reminds her that all it would take is one racist police officer to end her life with impunity. Gee, I wonder why a member of the Pierce family would risk life and limb to fight against injustice. It sure is a mystery!
Though Jennifer continues to playfully chide Anissa’s activism, she’s going through some heavy stuff as well. Khalil’s paralysis means that if she stays with him, she won’t lose her virginity the way she imagined, and she certainly won’t be able to slide across the dance floor with her partner. For his part, Khalil is filled with both pain and resentment, and he’s taking his anger out on her. Playing into other girls’ teases of his girlfriend, Khalil posts on Instagram accusing Jennifer of wanting to be white. He even calls her “Becky” (a generic term for a white girl that you may remember from Beyoncé’s Lemonade).
Jefferson advises his daughter to give this hurting young man some space, but she’s got that Pierce stubbornness too. She confronts Khalil about the comments, and it doesn’t go well. Khalil accuses her of being responsible for his paralysis since she brought him to the protest. He certainly doesn’t feel responsible, since he did “everything right” (no drugs, no jail, no kids) and yet still finds his future taken away from him. Khalil tells Jennifer to leave, and in turn grows closer to Tobias (who is of course the person actually responsible for crippling him, which I sure hope Khalil learns at some point). (Recap continues on page 2)
Every week, it seems, Black Lightning gives me a new reason to love it. This time, it’s the fact that they managed to incorporate a story line about the white nationalist protests that rocked Charlottesville, Virginia, last summer. The setting is the same (a politically charged battle between progressive activists and white nationalists over a Confederate statue), the chant is the same (white nationalists shouting “You will not replace us!”), and so are the details. As TV news anchors report that a woman has been killed by a white nationalist driving his car into the crowd near the statue (as happened to Heather Heyer at last year’s Charlottesville protests), Anissa hears someone say that they wish they had the power to stop this madness. Well, Anissa does! She busts out that glam superhero outfit and uses her powers to destroy the statue in one go. Now that’s what I like to see from a superhero show: incorporating real-life cultural and political currents, while still using the genre’s fantastical elements to act out the kind of catharsis that remains unavailable in the real world.
Jefferson is interested in a different kind of catharsis. Now that he knows Tobias is not only still alive, but in Freeland and masterminding the One Hundred’s Green Light operation, Black Lightning can only see red. He tracks down a local doctor skilled in treating albinism, and discovers that the man is being blackmailed into treating Tobias. Gambi practically begs Jefferson to leave him alone, which raises some major red flags. We know that Gambi has some kind of deal with Tobias where he leaves the One Hundred’s head honchos alone in exchange for safety for the Pierce family, but now Jefferson is close to figuring it out as well. Spurning his old teammate, Black Lightning prepares to assassinate Tobias when he shows up for his next doctor’s appointment. But Gambi is relentless, patching Lynn through to Jefferson’s headset in order to make him call off the attack. What actually makes Black Lightning spare his oldest enemy, however, is the sound of people breaking in to his wife’s office.
Anissa gets there first. She finds her mother bound and gagged with a robbery in progress. She makes short work of the assailants, but then Black Lightning shows up, and each considers the other an unknown enemy. Anissa is able to hold her own, deflecting lightning and sending her father through a plate-glass wall, but then Jefferson really turns up the juice and knocks her out. Only then, of course, does he realize he’s been fighting his daughter, and that she has her own superpowers. When Anissa finally comes around, she learns that her stodgy conservative father is also the costumed crime-fighter kicking the One Hundred up and down the streets. We’ll have to wait another week for them to fully process this revelation, but you can tell from their faces that this is a life-changing revelation for both of them.