It’s been about a month since we last checked in with the Pierce family, but Black Lightning kicked off 2019 in the most brutal way possible.
Both Jennifer Pierce and her runaway boyfriend Khalil know that their journey can’t last forever. This really hits home for Jennifer when they break into Khalil’s old apartment and he gives her back a necklace of hers. Jennifer starts breaking down crying because this is obviously a very romantic moment but she doesn’t want to lose her virginity on the run in a dirty apartment while she worries about what’s going to happen to them and what her parents will think. Khalil assures her that’s okay.
Turns out, it doesn’t take long for Jennifer to find out exactly what her parents think of all this. In the last episode, her mother Lynn had a conversation with Khalil’s estranged father about his secret apartment. Lynn is able to hunt it down and find the place, while Jennifer and Khalil are still in it. Lynn doesn’t come face to face with them but she speaks as if Jennifer is there, and her daughter listens. Lynn says that it’s time to come home; there’s no end in sight for this journey if they just keep on moving.
The message resonates with Jennifer. Khalil has a lot more to lose by turning back, though. While Jennifer has her whole family to protect her, Khalil has no one who can save him from Tobias’ wrath. Nevertheless, he knows she wasn’t meant for the vagabond life, so he agrees to call this journey off.
When they reach the Pierce home, the first thing Jefferson says is that he’d beat Khalil if his family wasn’t around. But Lynn and Anissa are just glad to see Jennifer safe and sound. Now the situation becomes serious, because what is to be done about Khalil? They can’t allow Tobias to get him, especially since he’s now figured out that Jefferson is Black Lightning and Anissa is Thunder — why else would they pursue some random runaway girl so fervently (as we saw in an earlier episode, Tobias is coming close to making this connection, but might not be all the way there yet).
Jefferson declares that the only solution is for Khalil to turn himself into the authorities. Jennifer is opposed, but Khalil again takes it upon himself to make the hard choice and agrees. I don’t want to be a party-pooper here, but the Freeland Police Department basically worked for Tobias as recently as last season. There’s no way it’s still crawling with informants now that Henderson has taken over, right? There’s no way this can go wrong.
I knew things weren’t going to end well for Khalil as soon as he had his post-return conversation with Jennifer. In the past, we’ve seen Khalil resent Jennifer for bringing him to that protest where he got shot. Now, though, he wants to make something clear: It’s not her fault.
Khalil tells Jennifer that he would’ve been at the march even without her; going with her was just like an extra bonus on top of that. It was about here that I predicted Khalil was going to die (or worse), because that’s exactly the kind of emotional moment that makes a coming plot twist feel even more brutal.
The second time I had that thought was when they’re getting Khalil into the police transport and his mother comes out to say goodbye. Credit to Black Lightning that even at a moment like this (when two superheroes are standing guard over a guy with a cybernetic robot spine as he gets shuttled away from the monstrous albino man who wants to kill him), the show is very much aware of racial discrepancies in law enforcement. Khalil is surrounded by a full convoy and squadrons of cops and SWAT soldiers. His mom asks: all this for my son? Really? Anissa registers a similar level of disgust when she notices paperwork being signed to complete the transfer, like Khalil’s some kind of package being delivered.
Once Khalil’s loaded up, the convoy takes off — without the aforementioned superheroes in tow! I don’t know why you’d have Black Lightning and Thunder watch over the transfer but not follow the convoy; has anyone in this show ever watched The Dark Knight? You always attack the convoy when it’s moving!
That’s exactly what Cutter does. Desperate to prove herself to an increasingly-irritated Tobias, Cutter sets up a roadblock by blocking the convoy’s path with her car and laying on the ground next to it. When one SWAT guy goes to check out if she’s alright, she knifes him — and then proceeds to murder every single person in the convoy. When Henderson finally makes it to the scene, several minutes too late, all he finds are piles of bodies, and no signs of Khalil.
I had predicted Khalil would die this episode, but what happens to him is even worse. Upon being brought in shackles before Tobias, Khalil soon relearns what it’s like to be paralyzed. Tobias lifts the boy over his head and rips the fancy cybernetic parts right out of his body. It’s brutal! He then has Cutter and his new henchman Todd dump the newly-crippled Khalil in front of a church, with his spine laying on the ground right in front of him.
I think the “Book of Rebellion,” this short arc about Jennifer and Khalil running away from home, has worked the best out of all this season’s mini-arcs so far. But this episode still has a few glaring holes. Why wouldn’t Black Lightning, Thunder, or even Henderson accompany the convoy to protect Khalil when they knew he was in such danger? How did Cutter kill so many people with just knives?
Ah well, time for the “Book of Secrets.”
- EW’s Fall TV comics reading guide
- Black Lightning EP on how the ‘pain and absurdity’ of the world inspired season 2
- Black Lightning season premiere recap: Freeland is changing