Black Lightning recap: The Tobias Whale innocence project
Henderson struggles to build a case against Tobias, while Jefferson and Anissa renew their age-old debate about vigilante tactics
The opening scene of this episode really caught me off-guard. We see the Pierce family doting on Jennifer as she gets ready for a school dance with a date we’ve never seen before. Then suddenly Khalil walks in and starts messing around with everyone. It was about here that I realized we were actually watching a dream sequence of some kind, and sure enough, just as Jennifer blasts her ex-boyfriend with her powers in a way we’ve never seen before, we cut to her and Perenna in the mental white room. It’s just a training session for Jennifer to try to control her powers, and also her feelings. Having gotten her pulse up with that fantasy scenario, Perenna asks Jennifer to concentrate her golden lightning into a box. But when she tries, she’s flooded with images of her relationship with Khalil back in the pre-injury, pre-painkiller days, and she loses control. Her feelings for Khalil are anything but settled. As we see by the end of the episode, the more her parents confuse her and anger her with their actions, the more Jennifer might end up drifting back to Khalil. That probably won’t end well.
As we saw at the end of last week’s episode, Tobias Whale is now in the custody of the Freeland PD…but apparently, it was all part of his plan. Since Tobias stole the evidence regarding Alvin Pierce’s murder (via the crooked detective he then murdered) and also killed his accomplice in the crime, Henderson doesn’t have enough proof to charge him. It really, truly boggles my mind that Tobias can’t be connected to any other single crime over the years, but I guess Alvin is the focus, if only for character and story reasons. As in, when Henderson summons Jefferson Pierce into his office to give him the bad news, it truly unsettles Jefferson to be so close and yet so far from bringing his father’s killer to justice.
That’s not the only thing frustrating Jefferson these days. The Pierce patriarch flies into a rage after Gambi informs him about Anissa stealing the criminals’ money to help the church clinic. Jefferson brings up the very real danger that this will bring to the clinic if the criminals want their money back, and tries to enforce his fatherly control over Anissa. She lashes back. If his ultimatum is “you live under my roof, you follow my rules,” then she’s not going to live under his roof anymore. Not when she can just crash at Gambi’s!
Jefferson’s true rage, though, is reserved for our new friend Principal Lowry. While sitting in his classroom, Jefferson hears a fight break out in the Garfield hallway. He rushes out to get between the two bickering students and quickly calms them down. After reciting a Coretta Scott King quote and getting them to look each other in the eyes and shake hands, he seems to have defused the situation. But that’s when Lowry shows up, having heard about a fight. Lowry says Garfield now has a zero-tolerance policy for fighting; as a result, the boy who threw the first punch is expelled, and the other is suspended for a week.
NEXT: Tobias innocent?
Obviously, the kids freak out at their draconian punishment, and Jefferson follows Lowry into his office to challenge him. But Lowry doesn’t back down; he says that the zero tolerance policy is to make sure no students get kidnapped, high on Green Light, or killed on his watch. It’s not a bad sentiment, but clearly, he should have made these new rules clear before enforcing them so authoritatively. Jefferson is clearly in the right when it comes to problem-solving, though maybe he should have instituted a discipline system that could have survived his demotion or departure.
Lynn’s advice for Jefferson is simple: Take your school back. I’m honestly very interested by the power struggle at Garfield High, but so far it’s only getting about one or two scenes per episode. It keeps feeling like scenes have been cut from this storyline, but maybe we’ll just have to settle for getting it one piece at a time.
Soon enough, the superheroes learn that the clinic has, indeed, become a target. Jefferson and Anissa’s argument about vigilante methodology continues when they’re in uniform. Black Lightning says it’s wrong to steal, while Thunder points out that they’ll never be as bad as the criminals and thieves they fight because they’re doing it on behalf of the people of Freeland. In other words, it’s not theft so much as badly-needed redistribution. If you’ve been reading these recaps you know I tend to side with Anissa on these questions, but their argument (which has been ongoing since the very first episode) is one of my favorite parts about the show.
Luckily, they’re able to use their powers to scan the clinic and find the two bombs that have been planted. Unfortunately, they’re unable to nab the woman who planted them by posing as a pregnant mother. Gambi tries to take her down outside the clinic, but she outfights him. I wonder if this woman just happens to be an exceptionally-talented one-off enemy, or if she’ll develop into the new Cyanide or something.
It’s certainly a good time to be in the Tobias Whale business. Jefferson offered to testify against him since, as we know, he watched his father’s murder from under the bed. But since he and Gambi lied about that back in the day in order to protect Young Jefferson from Tobias’ wrath, it won’t hold up in court now. So the police are forced to release Tobias, and he comes out looking like a free man who’s been wrongfully accused. Marvin Jones III is great at hammy villainy; his celebrations in front of paparazzi cameras really make you long to see him finally brought to justice. Jefferson, for his part, is clearly starting to consider the idea that Anissa isn’t wrong about working outside the law to do what needs to be done…