Black Lightning recap: Meet the new boss
Well, I predicted one thing correctly: The new white principal of Garfield High is simply awful. His name is Major Lowry, and the slave-master connotations of this episode’s title (“Master Lowry”) are barely an exaggeration. I’ll admit I was always a little suspicious of the show’s attitude towards Garfield High considering that it’s a charter school, and real-life charter schools are notoriously racially segregated to the detriment of their students. It was one thing when Jefferson Pierce was in charge and Garfield could boast the appealing “cultural homogeneity” described in a December 2017 Associated Press report. But now that we’ve seen that the school board is mostly white people, and now that they’ve installed a white yes-man at the top, Garfield might start to feel more like apartheid South Africa than Freeland’s singular safe space.
As befitting the typical security paranoia of an apartheid regime, the first thing Jefferson sees when he arrives at Garfield on his first day as non-principal is a bunch of metal detectors being installed. When he goes to ask Lowry about it, he finds his replacement on the phone. Literally, our first experience of this yes-man is seeing him say, “Yes, we absolutely can do that” over the phone. Even after he hangs up, Lowry can barely be bothered to look Jefferson in the eye, let alone shake his hand. He explains the metal detectors with a hand wave: If they weren’t necessary, then you’d still have this job, right? This is actually our only scene with Lowry in the episode named after him (he tells Jefferson to meet with him one-on-one later, but we never see it), but I suspect he will only get more racist and uncomfortable the farther we get into the season.
Henderson clearly still resents Jefferson for lying to him about the whole Black Lightning thing, but he nevertheless finds himself in need of the vigilante’s services after Detective Summers’ burned-out car is discovered (you may remember this detective as the guy who leaked information to Tobias last episode and got two bullets in the head for his troubles). Henderson knows that there are only three arsonists in the city who could have pulled off such a job so quickly, and two of them are in jail. He wants Black Lightning to find the other one. But besides discussing crime-fighting business, he’s not ready to talk things through yet — nor is he ready to divulge a critically important piece of Tobias-related information to his old friend.
While Black Lightning is busy hunting down this arsonist, his daughters are trying to figure out their lives. Jennifer’s problems have escalated to the point that her parents have decided to assign her a superpowered therapist to talk things through. Unfortunately, they don’t tell her first! Perenna approaches Jennifer when she’s walking through the park and transports her to a telepathic safe space, which has the predictable result of completely freaking her out. Over time, though, Jennifer sees the upside of getting help and starts talking with Perenna for real. Her desire to stuff her feelings away is extremely relatable, but unfortunately, Perenna tells her that they have to actually talk through those feelings before she can stuff them away.
Anissa is also having some trouble figuring out whether to let her feelings out or keep them in. After her awkward run-in with Grace while on another date, Anissa shows up at Grace’s bar to talk. Grace seems genuinely hurt and disinterested at first, but Anissa says that as much as she loves her “work” (we all know what that means) she also wants to seriously try to find other things to love. It’s cute, and it might just work. Grace is definitely a fun character so I wouldn’t mind seeing her around more.
Anissa does have some “work” to do this episode, though. When she learns that an important church health clinic will go under for lack of funds, she decides to Robin Hood some more drug dealers out of their blood money. As long as she’s keeping the Thunder costume in the closet, I’m going to call her Antifa Anissa — especially since real-life anti-fascists would probably approve of the way she’s redistributing money to neighborhoods that need it.
After the arsonist tells Black Lightning that he was offered the job by someone with “weird gladiator things on his arms,” the superhero pays a visit to Khalil’s mother. That, in turn, brings him a meeting with Khalil, who clearly still cares about his mother deeply. He’s still just a kid, really, one who’s been given too much power and thrown into an underworld he doesn’t understand (as we glimpse in the horrified look on his face when he accidentally kills a Tobias underling he was just trying to intimidate into respecting him). Khalil did manage to kill Black Lightning the last time they met, so he arrogantly tries again. Jefferson responds by catching the poison dart in a ball of electricity and electrocuting the boy with a whip of lightning. That scares him off for now.
When Jefferson gets back home, he’s greeted by a surprise guest: It’s Henderson, here to tell him that the police found and arrested Tobias. The complicated emotions that play across Cress Williams’ face in rapid succession make me long for his next encounter with his father’s killer.