The Book of Secrets: Chapter One: Prodigal Son
Credit: Jace Downs/The CW

Well, this was a heavy one. I thought Khalil was dead for sure as soon as Tobias ripped his spine out last week, but it turns out he was able to survive just long enough to make his actual death scene as sad as possible.

The whole Pierce family gathers at the Freeland hospital to watch over Khalil as he’s placed into a support bar. Everyone’s feeling bad, but Jefferson especially since it was his idea for Khalil to be placed into police custody in the first place. There weren’t a lot of options, but even so, you’d think that the result would shake Jefferson’s faith in doing things by the book. Khalil challenges him on this directly. When the boy says that he knows all kinds of information about Tobias’ routes and routines that could give Black Lightning an opening to kill his oldest enemy, Jefferson is reluctant and wants the system to take care of Tobias. But as Khalil says, this “system” is what let Tobias get away with ripping out his spine and killing Alvin Pierce. It’s kind of like a “is this your king?” moment, but more tragic and pathetic than epic and badass. When Khalil asks, “Can you make him suffer like me?” Jefferson finally says, “Yes.” Boy, I can’t wait to see where this leads.

Emotions are running high elsewhere in the hospital. The stress from Khalil’s condition starts getting to Jennifer, and she has a bad run-in with an obnoxious white woman in the parking lot. This woman immediately pulls out her cell phone to call the cops on Jennifer, and while she’s distracted, Jennifer lets off some excess electricity and blows up the woman’s car. I absolutely love this scene because it’s exactly the kind of thing I think has been mostly missing from Black Lightning season 2. Like the scene of Anissa destroying the Confederate statue in season 1, it takes a real-world trend (in this case, the recent series of white women publicly calling the police on black people for innocuous activities) and shows how the existence of black superheroes could alleviate it with some superpowered catharsis.

That said, Jennifer’s powers really are starting to spin out of control. Jefferson shuttles her into a supply closet at the hospital before anyone sees, but she’s radiating too much power even for him to absorb. Luckily, Perenna somehow shows up at the same time and talks Jennifer through it until she calms down.

NEXT: Shine your light on the world

Even as Khalil suffers, Tobias still hasn’t forgotten his other primary target: Reverend Holt. After so many failed attempts to assassinate the activist preacher, Tobias dispatches Cutter, who infiltrates a church service and slips the reverend a poisoned handkerchief. The more he dabs at his sweat during his impassioned sermon, the sicker he gets, until he finally collapses.

That said, it feels like there’s a ticking clock on Tobias. Moved by Khalil’s words, Jefferson decides to bring in Henderson on the Black Lightning operation. He brings the deputy chief down to the Lightning Cave (as I call it) beneath Gambi’s tailor shop, and also shows him that Gambi is still alive. Gambi gives Henderson a wire and sends him into Tobias’ apartment — not to arrest him since they don’t have evidence or a warrant, but to collect information. Gambi is able to detect the safe in Tobias’ place, though unfortunately, the briefcase is not inside. Still, this budding Black Lightning-Henderson alliance feels like it has real potential to make Tobias’ life difficult.

That would be a welcome change of pace because right now Tobias is getting everything he wants. After Todd hacks into security footage of the pod kid clinic, Tobias recognizes Dr. Helga Jace — apparently, she designed the anti-aging serum he uses to stay so fresh. With her help, Tobias and Todd are able to break into the place where the pod kids are. On the one hand, I welcome this development because it finally means something interesting might happen with the pod kids, but on the other hand, it feels like that room is full of new Khalil’s just waiting to be exploited and destroyed by Tobias. Jace mentions having recently been recruited to the country of Markovia to work on their metaprogram. If you happen to also be watching Young Justice: Outsiders right now, you’ll recognize some of those concepts! Funny that these two different DC shows are both riffing on the same material right now.

Speaking of the original Khalil, it eventually becomes clear that he cannot be saved. The toxins in his blood mean that his body can’t accept anesthesia, which means he can’t be placed into a pod for safekeeping like Jennifer wants. So she has to say goodbye. She does so in a very touching way — she brings him into her mind palace, where they get to live out a fantasy of going to prom together (and admitting their love for each other) before he fades away. A very emotional gut-punch conclusion to their recent storyline. I’m very interested to see where the season goes from here.

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