Black Lightning recap: Confronting those deep, dark truths
Last week’s episode ended with a woman jumping out of a window, and this week’s episode begins with one. There’s no sign of Kara after her harrowing confrontation with Tobias; instead, this episode’s window-jumper is Wendy Hernandez, one of the pod kids. While an ASA scientist is checking out the pods, one boy suddenly bursts out of his, shooting lighting-like energy out of his mouth. His superpower kills the scientist and apparently burns him out too. But then another pod opens, and out comes Wendy. Before Lynn and the other scientists can wrangle her, she blows a hole in the facility wall and escapes.
Since Gambi was the ASA spotter who originally recruited her, he gives us the low-down. Wendy’s power is “aerokinesis” (exactly the kind of made-up comic book word I’ll always love), which means she can control wind. It sounds kind of lame until you realize that she has just as much power over wind as Jefferson has over electricity. She can summon gale-force winds at a moment’s notice, and the fact that she’s currently going through a psychotic episode (due to, oh I don’t know, hibernating in a pod for 30 years and then waking up in the middle of a horror movie scene) means she’s quite dangerous.
Issa Williams is also quite dangerous in his own way. He’s the metahuman we were introduced to last week when he suddenly woke up from his body bag to the horror of everyone around him. His mom even said, horrifyingly, that she was happier when she thought he was dead. In this episode, we finally get answers as to why she would say something like that.
When Lynn is given supervision over Issa by her cranky new boss Agent Odell (Bill Duke), she finds the poor kid handcuffed to a chair with a black bag over his head, as if he were a suspected terrorist in Guantanamo Bay. Unfortunately, since Issa’s family is so freaked out by his resurrection, there’s nobody to claim him. Lynn, therefore, takes it upon herself to bring Issa home with her, just so he can get out of jail for a while. Jennifer and Anissa are surprised when their mom shows up for dinner with Issa in tow, but the Pierce family is even more surprised when they suddenly start sniping at each other with cutting comments.
Later, up on her rooftop safe space, Jennifer figures out Issa’s powers. When he makes eye contact with someone while his metahuman energy is surging in his neck, that person is compelled to tell a deep, dark truth. I think it’s an incredibly potent metaphor for Black Lightning to give the power of exposing uncomfortable truths to a black kid murdered by the police. Confronting the reality of black children shot by police (or immigrant children forced into camps, not unlike the Green Light pods) often feels like exposing the deep, dark truth of the society we live in. Jennifer even discovers that the effect is neutralized if you don’t make eye contact with Issa while his power is surging; just like how most people would prefer to pretend that all those police shootings and child detention centers don’t exist.
NEXT: Oh Captain, my captain…
Issa isn’t the only visitor to Jennifer’s rooftop this week. Khalil also appears there, which seemed utterly inexplicable to me until I realized he still has no idea that Black Lightning is Jefferson Pierce. He apparently still has feelings for Jennifer (or is just reaching for connection after getting bullied by Tobias again) and thinks she does too. She pushes him off her roof.
After Jefferson gets fed up with Thunder’s show-off attitude, he decides to take on Wendy by himself. At first, she tosses him around like a leaf in her wind, but once he’s able to blast her with lightning it wakes her out of her psychotic episode.
Unfortunately, there still isn’t much for Wendy in the waking world. Lynn still hasn’t found the metagene cure, and everyone she knew is dead or gone, so Wendy willingly goes back into the pod to wait. Issa, though, has no intention of going into a pod. He decides to spend the time he has with his parents — everybody, apparently, having been caught up on the nature of his powers. It reminds me of the ending of the Warren Ellis/John Cassady comic Planetary, in which Elijah Snow explained that he didn’t want to wait to perfect the time-travel process to save his fallen friend; he wanted to save him now, to save his life and his chance at a fulfilled existence with his family while they’re still around. I can only hope the same for the pod kids.
The non-meta children of Garfield High, though, are in good hands. The episode ends with Jefferson announcing his resignation to them (though he’s still staying on as a teacher, so Garfield will still remain a big set piece for the show). After he does so, they respond by shouting back his old mantra about living for the future and seizing the opportunity. It’s a really cute scene, like a Freeland remix of Dead Poets Society. I suspect only the worst from Jefferson’s white replacement, though…