25th Jan2018

‘Black Lightning 1×02: LaWanda: The Book of Hope’ Review

by Jason Brigger

Stars: Cress Williams, China Anne McClain, Nafessa Williams, Christine Adams | Developed by Salim Akil

BL-101-1

Black Lightning’s second episode brings Jefferson Pierce and his family into an even more complicated and dangerous world than Pierce wanted for his family. After using his powers for the first time in nine years, Pierce is in physical pain and only Lynn, living in the same house but in separate bedrooms, can comfort him back to health. Lynn admits it was selfish of her to make Pierce become Black Lightning again in order to save their daughters but Pierce promises his superhero activities were a “one night only” and he rather have a future with Lynn than be a superhero. The pieces of the Pierce family is coming back together, at least for a bit.
During a school assembly, Pierce learns from a former student’s mother, Lawanda (Tracey Bonner), Black Lightning’s attack at the crime-infested Seahorse Motel is not enough to shut it down permanently and Lawanda’s daughter is still being held by Lala as a sex slave. The million-dollar question is posed by Lawanda, “Why did Black Lightning save the Pierce girls and none of the other girls?”

Cress Williams does an amazing job portraying Pierce as a conflicted man in this episode as he must choose between being happy and regaining a future with his ex-wife or choosing to save his city as Black Lightning. This is even more apparent when little Malik (Caleb Thomas), the child Lala was scolding last week, is sent to Pierce’s house and shoots Jennifer with fake blood from a toy gun. The message from Lala is apparent: Jennifer and Anissa are not safe anywhere and by talking to the police, their fates are in jeopardy.

After a brief confrontation with Lala, Pierce is at a crossroads and seeks the advice of his mentor, Gambi. Despite Gambi’s insistence that Black Lightning will do more for the community than Pierce as a man would, Pierce relents as the hope for a future with his ex-wife outweighs the good of the community. Thanks for showing up in this episode Gambi. This is all for naught when Lawanda, after spending a few days outside the Seahorse Motel filming the criminal activities, confronts Lala and is shot and killed, prompting Pierce to realize his power is a “blessing from God” and must become what Lynn despises.

Just a quick thought – it was brave of Lawanda to film the criminal activities and to confront Lala. It was not smart to confront Lala on his home turf with no witnesses. This is also the second person we see Lala murder this episode as he assassinates his own cousin, Will, after messing up the kidnapping of the Pierce daughters.

After Pierce’s epiphany, Black Lightning attacks Lala’s base of operations, kicking some ass, maybe killing some people (it’s unknown if this hero kills or not) and is stopped from beating Lala to death by a very timely police raid. See, Lawanda decided that if she was going to confront Lala, she was going to record the whole interaction with her cell phone propped up on the dashboard of her car, unbeknownst to Lala. Luckily, the police find her cell phone and Lala is going away for a very long time. Until Lala’s boss, Tobias Whale, pays off a few guards and murders Lala in his cell. Well, I DID like the evilness of the Lala character.

This episode clarifies a few things: Black Lightning is back and his community loves him for it, Pierce’s future with Lynn is on life support, and Lightning’s suit is finally growing on me…unlike Whale’s Amish beard. I am hoping Whale sticks around as the big villain in this series for a few seasons, unlike one-season villains in almost all other superhero shows.

One Good Thing!

  • Cress Williams. I seriously cannot say enough about Cress Williams in this series. The man exudes strength, both physically and emotionally, and when he delivers the line his powers are “a gift and not a curse. A blessing from God,” you feel that Pierce finally accepts his destiny to be Black Lightning.

One Bad Thing!

  • The Detective. Inspector Henderson, Pierce’s friend and neighbor on the police force, has not been given much to work with in the first two episodes and for this reason alone, the character has looked very one dimensional. This is not the actor’s, Damon Gupton, fault but Henderson has been more of a reaction character (a murder takes place, he arrives and drives the plot forward) rather than a police officer taking action to protect the community under siege from the 100 gang. Henderson plays the good cop while Black Lightning plays the bad cop but that is about the extent of this character’s story. I’m hoping future episodes expands into Henderson’s personal life and more of what makes him “tick” but as of now, the character leaves a lot on the table.

What We Learned:

  • Whale has super strength and possibly more. When Whale decided Lala can no longer be trusted and needs to be removed from the Earth, Whale doesn’t send a flunky to take care of the problem; he kills Lala himself. Whale showed hints of his super strength when picking up Lala with one hand and choking him in a matter of seconds. We may not know the full extent of Whale’s powers but this shows he definitely will be providing a difficult fight for Black Lightning in the future.
  • Anissa has a girlfriend, Chenoa, and Jennifer has a new boyfriend, Khalil. One of my favorite things about Black Lightning is how the Pierce family is written as a smart and regular family and not as television characters. It’s 2018 and Jefferson and Lynn support Anissa’s life and no conflict arises with whom Anissa chooses to love. Pierce and Lynn also realize that Jennifer is sneaking out on the roof of their house to talk to Khalil but trust her enough not to bother them. The family has “real life” arguments but work them out and actually are presented as loving towards each other. It’s a rare find on television and one that makes the series that much better.
  • Jennifer is having a difficult time coping after her kidnapping. Though only shown briefly, Jennifer being kidnapped by Lala is messing with Jennifer’s state of mind. Jennifer begins drinking at school with one of her friends (who I really thought was working for Lala and which would not end well for Jennifer) and realizes YOLO (you only live once) so you might as well do what you want. Luckily, Khalil finds Jennifer drunk before the school administration does and tells her that she needs to change her ways and he’s there to support her. Khalil is working towards a college scholarship for track and wants Jennifer to join him but only if she gets her life together. I fear this will not end well for Khalil.

This Episode’s Grade: B+ (Very Good)

Black Lightning is now two for two in delivering fun, in-depth and interesting episodes that is unlike any superhero show on network television. The cast continues to shine with their characters and the environment/community is just as much of a character as the Pierce family. The Black Lightning character was only in this episode for two minutes but at this point, the Pierce family is more interesting than seeing another superhero fighting nameless thugs. After just two episodes, Black Lightning is already finding its “groove” and separating itself from most other network television shows.

You can catch Jason Brigger on the geek-centric podcast, The History of Bad Ideas, as new episodes are released every week at www.nerdly.co.uk or subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher and other podcasting apps. You can listen to their latest episode right here.
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