02nd Feb2018

‘Black Lightning 1×03: LaWanda: The Book of Burial’ Review

by Jason Brigger

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

BL-101-1

Black Lightning’s third episode is more focused on character building than it is world building, resulting in an episode that doesn’t stand out as much as the first two episodes in the series.

The episode begins at Lawanda’s (mother of the missing girl from last week) funeral as the fiery neighborhood preacher, Reverend Jerimiah Holt, calls the community to action by marching for justice for all the innocent lives killed in the last few months by the 100 Gang. The march sounds like a good idea to bring the community together but causes concern for Detective Henderson. An ongoing rift between Henderson and Holt is explored as Henderson feels the good reverend is only an activist to line his pockets and gain media coverage for his congregation. Holt maintains that Black Lightning has sparked something in the community and Holt is only trying to step up and provide guidance and hope, much like Black Lightning. Holt is an interesting character and one that I hope is expanded upon in future episodes.

Meanwhile, Jefferson’s daughter Anissa is spending all of her free time, not with her soon to be ex-girlfriend Chenoa, but hanging out in junkyards and learning the extent of her newly recognized superpowers. Anissa begins her Jedi-like training by realizing that controlling her breathing allows her to harness her powers and the episode hints at her feeling she can do more good in the community by using her superpowers rather than marching for justice.

Pierce, realizing the 100 will not allow a peaceful march to occur, visits Gambi to train for the upcoming potential attack. Gambi has been busy since the last time we saw him by adding new upgrades to the suit, including generating a “lightning shield” and harnessing Pierce’s lightning power to strike only one person in a crowd, which only gives away the ending to this episode. This episode does expand on Pierce and Gambi’s friendship and actually gives Gambi something to do for once as he goes undercover as a construction worker to set up barriers and attempt to divert the marchers to a safer route.

On the evening of the march, the call goes out for one of Tobias Whale’s “red shirt” lackeys to perform a hit on Holt and ending any chance for the community to rise up against injustice. Somehow, only one police car can patrol this big event, which seems rather dubious and my suspicion of Detective Henderson rises a bit. To the shock of no one, Whale’s henchman fails at the assassination attempt due to Black Lightning’s new tech as he protects the demonstrators with his “lightning shield” and is able to take down Whale’s lackey.

As the crowd stands in awe and sings gospel songs to Black Lightning, Whale’s bad-a** right-hand woman snipes not only Holt but Khalil, who was marching with Jennifer, Anissa and Lynn, receiving the fallout from the bullet that struck Holt. I shouldn’t have been but I was genuinely surprised by Holt and Khalil being shot.

The writers have shown they have no issue killing off characters, i.e. Lala, so I was disappointed the writers did not follow through on killing either Holt or Khalil. We learn Holt, while injured, will make a full recovery but Khalil is paralyzed and may never walk again. This news crushes Jennifer and she seeks solace with the rest of her family at the hospital. The one issue I had with this scene is the lack of Khalil’s parents at the hospital. Why are Khalil’s parents not there?

The episode ends with Gambi erasing the video evidence of Whale and his cohort shooting at Holt and Khalil. Gambi is not a turncoat so the thought is he’s being protective of Pierce but for what reason and once Pierce finds this out, how will this affect their relationship?

One Good Thing!

The soundtrack. Each week the music plays as much of a role in this series as the actors. The soundtrack ranges from classical to rap to the Blues and the showrunners have successfully picked the right music for the right scene all season so far. The music gives the series a distinct feel and is another way the series separates itself from other superhero shows on television.

One Bad Thing!

The fallout from Jennifer and Khalil’s decision. Jennifer feels she and her boyfriend Khalil are ready to lose their virginity to each other and nonchalantly drops this bombshell on her parents over dinner, resulting in Pierce and Lynn to drink more wine. I did like that Pierce and Lynn have cultivated a home that is so open that their daughters can talk freely to them but my issue is the Kevin James overbearing father that Pierce acts like when he sees Khalil in the hallway at school the next day. I understand Pierce is not happy about his daughter’s decision but Pierce trying to scare Khalil, involving a story about athlete’s foot being an STD, was awkward and out of place for the characters and this series.

What We Learned:

  • Anissa, just like her sister Jennifer, is having a difficult time coping with her kidnapping. Anissa, while researching genetic mutations at the library, strikes up a conversation with the librarian Grace and is invited to a party at the bar Grace bartends at during the night. Anissa decides dressing up as Catwoman and dancing with Grace is a much better time than hanging out with her girlfriend Chenoa. Chenoa crashes the party and long-story short, Anissa is now single. The struggle Anissa has coping with her kidnapping and her superpowers is apparent in this episode as she realizes she no longer wants to be a victim but is still trying to figure out where she can make the most impact in the world.
  • The boss has a boss. Despite only being shown in one scene, Lady Eve (Jill Scott) is introduced in this episode as Whale’s boss and possibly the true crime lord of the city. Whale, while delivering his own personal money to Lady Eve as punishment for Lala’s poor choices in the prior two episodes, is ordered by Lady Eve put an end to Holt and any chance for the community to rise up. She was never shown on camera in episode one but Lady Eve may be the donor with “deep pockets” at Pierce’s school fundraiser. I do like that Whale is not at the top of the criminal food chain and Lady Eve’s presence adds a unique element to the crime boss situation in the series.
  • Lynn still loves Jefferson. In the first two episodes, Lynn’s opposition to Pierce putting on the costume again was apparent and threatened any opportunity for Lynn and Pierce to be together. After realizing how the community sees Black Lightning as “hope”, Lynn starts to come around on Pierce suiting up and even hinting at a small chance at reconciliation. This character development is a welcomed addition to the old cliché that the hero must choose between his city and his personal life and gives even more depth to Lynn and Jefferson’s relationship.

This Episode’s Grade: C+ (Average)

Black Lightning delivers the first “average” episode of the season and if not for the ending, the grade may would have been lower. The episode was still enjoyable but if you missed this episode, don’t worry, as you will be able to catch up next week on the recap shown before the new episode as not much happened this week.

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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