22nd Mar2018

‘Black Lightning 1×09: The Book of Little Black Lies’ Review

by Jason Brigger

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

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This week’s episode is all about family secrets and the rifts that occur between the characters when the secrets are exposed. Episode 9 opens with Jefferson Pierce releasing his frustrations with Gambi and his secrets on a heavy bag and I actually feel sorry for this inanimate object as an angry Jefferson is not one to be messed with.

Despite finding the shallow grave of the murderer of Lady Eve, Black Lightning is still enemy number one in the police force because a dirty cop not only blew himself up but also the evidence to clear Lightning last week. A rift is forming between Detective Henderson and Black Lightning but they both realize they need to stop the drug Greenlight from destroying their community. Henderson volunteers to use some of his vacation time to do some unsanctioned investigating and asks Black Lighting that if he dies, Lightning will do everything in his power to stop the police from tarnishing Henderson’s credentials.

Back home, Jennifer is having difficulty accepting she is a meta-human and it only gets worse when Anissa tries to prove Jennifer is in a family of superpowers by lifting Jennifer’s bed with her still on it. Jennifer becomes even more freaked out and unhinged when Anissa accidently tells her that her dad is Black Lightning. Jefferson is not happy having Jennifer know his secret and despite some very funny reactions and lines in this scene, Jennifer is upset her dad was keeping this secret for her whole life.

Lynn lays the mom smack down on Anissa by defending their choice not to tell their daughters about the superpowers by stating they protected them by withholding information and they never lied. It was nice to see Lynn and Jefferson on the same page despite their difference of opinions on Black Lightning’s influence and it was even nicer to see Anissa understand her parents’ reasons for not telling their daughters. Anissa thinks Jennifer will be fine in a few days after she cools off and accepts her newly discovered powers but I am worried that Jennifer may be influenced by the Dark Side (see below).

Lynn and Jennifer’s relationship is the backbone of this series and despite being divorced, they are true “relationship goals” for co-parenting. They may argue and disagree but they always have the best interests of their daughters and family in the forefront. Lynn working as the unofficial intelligence officer on the Black Lightning team has truly made this superhero team a family affair and her viewpoint from a non-powered individual brings a much-needed perspective to the team. In terms of character growth, Lynn’s story and character arc is far above any other characters in this series. That’s not an insult to the other characters but a compliment to the actress and writers on how much growth the character of Lynn has established in the series.

Since Black Lightning is still on the most wanted list, Jefferson and Anissa must continue their Scooby Doo investigation without their typical uniforms, which leads to them donning a few President Obama family masks to conceal their identities. After finding out an unknown suspect tried to bribe Anissa’s grandfather from running the story on the Freeland Experiments, Anissa and Jefferson pay a visit to the law firm the suspect used as a cover for the bribe attempt. After a little convincing, the attorney is more than happy to divulge some new information regarding the suspect and factory where Greenlight is created.

This week we see more of Gambi and Detective Henderson as they are conducting their own individual investigations outside the Black Lightning team. Gambi is meeting with a mysterious arms dealer known as Kaleb to determine the source of the nuclear gun that killed Lady Eve while Henderson, doing his best Peter Parker impression as a photographer, finds out there are a lot more dirty cops than he originally thought.

Jennifer and Lynn have an emotional mother/daughter talk and Jennifer’s fears about her powers come pouring out. Jennifer knows she is no longer just another teenager… now she is a meta-human and all the baggage with being different is on her. She worries about her future relationships since both her parents broke up as well as her sister and her girlfriend over the issue of superpowers. She worries that her future may not be what she thought it would be and despite Lynn’s best efforts to comfort her, her mother does not have all the answers.

Episode 9 is the first episode we see Anissa and her father team up as Thunder and Black Lightning to take down the doctor creating Greenlight and a few dirty cops and the scene does not disappoint. It’s a fun action set for the week and is nice to see how Thunder and Black Lightning look out for each other when facing their enemies. Detective Henderson even gets in on the action by saving Black Lighting from a thug about to shoot him and Henderson gets his moment in the sun by arresting the Greenlight doctor. Only one issue. Why is Black Lighting destroying all the chemicals used to make Greenlight at the factory? Do the police not need that for evidence?

One Good Thing:

  • Gambi is a scary man when Jefferson isn’t around. Since Jefferson is pulling the silent treatment on Gambi, he is on his own and is using all of his shady sources, including injecting Black Mamba snake venom into the neck of a poor informant. The extreme tactic works though since the informant provides Gambi with the information he needs to get closer to the mastermind killing the subjects of the Freeland Experiments. We have seen clues of Gambi’s scary past but it’s even more in the forefront when he has nothing to lose and is trying to make amends with Jefferson. This series has done a tremendous job showing everyone is a shade of gray and not just a “good guy” or a “bad guy”. Can we please get an origin episode of Gambi?

One Bad Thing:

  • I miss Lady Eve. Just like last week’s episode was missing “something” with Whale not being in it, the lack of Lady Eve in the series is disappointing. Lady Eve had a chance (as I noted in earlier reviews) to provide something new to the typical crime lord. Her mysterious background and her “deal” with Gambi only reinforces that idea. Lady Eve may be resurrected like LaLa was but if that does occur, I actually would be disappointed and feel like death in this series is as serious as in the Marvel Cinematic Universe…non-existent. As much as I am enjoying Whale in the series, I am hoping his character steps up even more and takes over the leadership role that Lady Eve once occupied.

What We Learned:

  • Anissa has a superhero name! Anissa, much to Jennifer’s mocking, is now known as Thunder on the streets of Freeland. It may be a little hokey (Thunder/Lightning) but it’s a fitting team name. Moreover, Gambi gives her a new upgraded suit! Now, if only we can guess what Jennifer’s future codename will be.
  • Jefferson does not trust Gambi but Anissa is still on the fence about him. Anissa is visiting Gambi behind her dad’s back to determine if there is any chance of reconciliation between her family and Gambi. We get a little more backstory into Gambi as he was placed in Freeland as a scout for the government to find the children experimented on. Thirty years later, the agency Gambi used to work for is murdering the children from the experiments and Black Lightning is next. Jefferson actually seems okay with Anissa meeting with Gambi so maybe there is hope for a reconciliation.

Some Questions:

  • Where has Whale been? We are now two weeks since the last Whale sighting and while the series is more focused on the distribution of Greenlight, the lack of a major villain two weeks in a row leaves a void in the story.
  • Will Jennifer suit up? The obvious answer is yes because it’s a superhero show. I wouldn’t mind if the writers did s slow burn and actually not introduce Jennifer as superhero until season 3 or later and rather focus on her daily trials as a meta-human teenager. I feel that storyline could be similar to the X-Men and would add another different element to the series. On the other hand, she may just go bad and join her boyfriend on Whale’s team.

This Episode’s Grade: B+ (Very Good)

This week’s episode focused exclusively on the Pierce family and trust. Rifts may be seen but at the end of the day, Jennifer and Anissa may not understand why their parents kept the meta-human secret from them but they at least respect why they did. Black Lightning delivers another good episode but after a few weeks of dealing with the superpower secrets, I am hoping next week we get more of the main villains to appear. On the positive, no LaLa and his spirit guide this week so that always makes the grade rise.
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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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