Black Lightning recap: Crisis comes to Freeland
It finally happened, readers: Black Lightning got drawn into a CW superhero crossover, and it was exciting as hell. We knew from promos for “Crisis on Infinite Earths” that Black Lightning himself would eventually show up on the Monitor’s ship to help the other heroes save the multiverse, but that’s for tomorrow night’s episode of The Flash. I love how tonight’s episode used the backdrop of “Crisis” to do some really interesting character work with Jennifer.
Things began innocently enough, with Jennifer making a late-night video message for Anissa explaining how she feels stuck between her head (helping Agent Odell protect Freeland from the Markovian threat) and her heart (helping her family members lead the anti-ASA resistance). But as with the video messages Anissa made earlier this season in case she died, this video is never sent; Jennifer decides to suit up and go talk to Anissa in person.
On her way, we get brief check-ins on the season’s standing plotlines. Rebecca Larson, a pitch-perfect Fox News parody, is seen on TV debunking the “fake news” of Jamillah Olsen’s footage from the Freeland occupation; the resistance suspects the ASA may have been able to tamper with the signal. A fully recovered Agent Odell calls Jennifer to tell her to make the right choice and keep helping him, despite her family’s role in the resistance. He tells her that blowing up that Markovian data farm saved more lives than Black Lightning ever has, which is obviously an exaggeration. But combined with HBO’s Watchmen, it got me thinking about how tempting it might be to follow the logic. But once you do, the line between “superhero” and “cop” or “soldier” starts to dissolve, and not for the better. Worst of all, Odell references what happened to Khalil as an example of Black Lightning’s inefficacy (neglecting to mention how he himself later dug up the poor kid’s corpse and turned him into a zombie cyborg), which made me think that hey, maybe Black Lightning should’ve just let the Markovians kill this guy.
Then the skies go red, and the Crisis comes to Freeland. Sitting on her sister’s porch watching the weird weather hit, Jennifer suddenly finds herself transported to a void space alongside two alternate versions of herself: One, dressed in white with a power-suppressing ASA collar calling herself “Gen,” and another dressed in a black supervillain outfit calling herself “Jinn.” Jennifer takes a ride through both of their lives. Gen, who hails from Earth-1, earned that collar by manipulating the Freeland water (“like Flint,” she says, not the first time Freeland has been compared to Flint) so that anyone who drank it would lose their metagene powers — Jefferson and Anissa included. Jefferson has taken a job as secretary of education, as he once did in the pages of DC Comics, in order to separate himself from her actions. She now spends most of her time locked in the Pit, but is allowed to go home for Christmas, where tragedy awaits her. After talking to Anissa (who, in this world, is still closeted and dressed more conservatively), Gen is seized by ASA soldiers, who hold her and Anissa back while Odell executes Jefferson in their living room for running an Underground Railroad alongside Rev. Holt (who confessed the truth and earned a bullet for his compliance). This experience obviously shakes our Jennifer to the core, but we see a little more from Gen. Anissa visits her in the Pit afterward, and they have a really resonant conversation about family members in prison. Gen complains that her mom (who, in this world, stayed separated from Jefferson) never visits her in her cell. Anissa tells her that it’s hard for Lynn to see her in there, to which Gen replies, “It’s hard being in here!” I found that scene really powerful.
Jinn’s life on Earth-2 is somehow even more unpleasant than that. In all three worlds, Jennifer’s fate is tied to Odell. Gen’s stunt of depowering Freeland went against Odell’s wishes, earning her the cell, the collar, and ultimately the death of her father. But Jinn works with Odell willingly and vamps through the halls of Garfield like a dark fairy queen. Here she’s gone much farther than just blowing up a data farm; she ended the war with Markovia by killing even more people. She tells her father that she did it to have a “normal” life, but he thinks she’s addicted to her powers like a drug. When the whole family tries to hold an intervention of sorts at home, Anissa responds by killing Anissa and Lynn. Jefferson tries to fight her, and for a while, they have a Dragon Ball Z-like energy blast standoff, but ultimately she’s just too powerful. She kills her dad, and horrifically recites his classic inspirational mantra to his corpse.
That’s too much for our Jennifer. When they get back to the void space, she starts tussling with Jinn. Seeing Earth-2 has shown Jennifer once more that her father’s code of honor does have its benefits, and anyway “there is no such thing as ‘normal.’” But then things take a turn for the worse. The anti-matter wave wipes out Gen and Jinn, but that doesn’t help Jennifer. The wave wipes out our Freeland too; only Jefferson, who teleported out seconds before, is spared. Looks like Black Lightning has his work cut out for him if he wants a Freeland to come back to!