Our long national drought is finally over!
No, I’m not talking about the welcomed return of Grace Choi – her first appearance since the start of the new year – this week marked the first Black Lightning episode since NOVEMBER that I genuinely, full heart, watched-it-twice-and-felt-delighted-both-times enjoyed. This week’s Black Lightning proved once again why the show remains one of the CW’s best. It managed to hurt without being sickening; the villainous threats were menacing without being overexposed; characters that I once wrote off as non-important came back to the fold in gratifying ways; and after weeks of circling around the same track – the plot actually moved forward! It was all there. Plus, of course, sweet domestic ThunderGraceTM. Can never forget about my girls. ⚡️❤️
I am going to depart from our usual format a bit and talk about the ending of the episode first, because there is no point in stretching out this pain any longer than we have to. I thought for sure that Khalil was going to die last week, but instead he survived just long enough to make his actual death scene this week as sad as possible.
The entire Pierce family joins Khalil’s mother at Freeland hospital to watch as he’s placed in a support hold. Everyone’s devastated. Jefferson, I think, feels somewhat personably responsible – he was the one who encouraged Khalil to turn himself into the police. Lynn is franticly trying to use her ASA powers to help. Jennifer is forced to watch the love of her young life slowly die in front of her eyes. Anissa is rendered helpless in the face of her little sister’s heartbreaking coming-of-age. The toxins in Khalil’s blood mean that his body can’t accept anesthesia (on top of the fact that the technology Tobias used to create his spine cannot be replicated by anyone working on this side of the law). He won’t survive surgery and can’t be placed into a pod. Jennifer has to say goodbye.
She takes Khalil to the safe space in her mind, the one that Maxine Shaw: Therapist At Law helped her build. She’s able to give her relationship with Khalil one last gift, a wish fulfillment of spending their prom night together. Their eyes glisten, they say that they will always love each other. Then Khalil fades away. A poetic, and effective, gut-punch to an otherwise fraught storyline that went on about three episodes too long. Still, I won’t speak ill of a dead teenage black boy (even when I critiqued him in his “life” – it’s complicated). I wish Khalil and Jennifer peace.
Elsewhere in the hospital, we are treated to another romantic reuniting! THUNDER GRAAAAAACE (#GiveThePeopleWhatTheyWant). Did you know that Grace Choi is the lock screen on Anissa Pierce’s iPhone X. The truest sign of millennial love if I’ve ever seen it. Grace shows up at the hospital to keep Anissa company under the grey-blue tinged lights. She cryptically mentions that she knows what it’s like to wait helpless in a hospital before offering up greasy burgers as comfort food. Anissa snuggles into her girlfriend and they share the fries.
Chantal Thuy and Nafessa Williams have found a grounded, rooted chemistry with each other onscreen. It’s almost easy to float away with them on a cloud of domesticity. I watch them, and I believe that Grace and Anissa are girlfriends who care for and support each other. I believe they have shorthanded inside jokes. I believe that Grace knows that Anissa orders the #7 extra pickle from Five Guys and hates ice in her Diet Coke. Few actors have done so much, with so little.
That’s also the problem. When I step away from the scene, all of my questions come flooding back: When did Grace and Anissa make up? Six episodes ago they had a massive fight about trust and Anissa’s heavily guarded heart. Even though we’ve seen the two as a couple since then, we never actually saw them make up. And when did they have time to build up this domestic routine while Anissa looking for her runaway teenage sister? If Grace is at the hospital, does that mean she’s already met Jennifer? Or Jefferson? Or Lynn? Is she still Anissa’s flyby secret? If she’s her secret, then why is she the lock screen on Anissa’s cellphone? If she’s not her secret, then why have we never seen Grace interact with the rest of the Pierce family – even when they are all at the same hospital together waiting on the same news.
I may not have agreed with Jennifer and Khalil’s storyline, but it was painstakingly written. That’s also true of Jefferson and Lynn’s complicated martial backstory. Anissa has not been given the same respect. Nafessa Williams and Chantal Thuy continue to sparkle through the holes in their storyline on the strength of their charisma. When you squint, it almost even works. Thunder Grace could, without any doubt, be my favorite couple on television. If only the writers tried.
OK. So here is what else I loved about this episode: PARKING. LOT. PATTY. Y’all remember Barbecue Becky from last spring? The white woman who called the cops on that black family in a public park in Oakland for… having a family reunion? And then became the face for all the myriad ways that privileged and self-assured white women assert their power over black folks in this country who are just trying to live their lives. She got meme’d mercilessly and deserved all the heat she received. Right, glad we are caught up.
Well, Jennifer meets her own version of Miss Becky while crying alone outside of Freeland hospital. Some white woman (Parking Lot Patty) approaches her and accuses Jennifer of trying to steal her car!! Why? Because she was standing next to it. The woman immediately pulls out her cellphone to call the cop. While her back is turned, Jennifer lets off some excess electricity by blowing her car to bits!!
When the woman tries to accuse Jennifer of more wrongdoing, the teenager smirks: “Your car got hit by Lightning. You gonna call the cops on God?”
First of all, since we know Jennifer’s superhero name will in fact eventually be Lightning, the burn of this diss is soooooo good. Second, these are the kind of scenes that I want more of from Black Lightning! Much like when Anissa destroyed the Confederate statue on her campus in Season One, this scene with Patty provides commentary on real-world racist trend and gives it some much need superpowered catharsis. There’s pain, but also levity and triumph. I miss this version of Black Lightning and I hope we get see more of it in this last batch of episodes.
(EXTRA BONUS POINTS – Maxine Shaw: Therapist at Law shows up to help Jennifer get her powers back under control by using many of the same techniques my therapist has taught me to control my anxiety. We stan a black girl getting the mental health help that she needs in a supportive and loving environment, yes we do.)
And since we are on the topic of black girls kicking ass, I know that I shouldn’t technically root for Rev. Holt’s death, but damn if Cutter wasn’t smooth as ice in how she killed him.
By Poison! In Church! On a Sunday! While he was giving a truly excellent sermon about self-determination’s role in black liberation! Rev. Holt died with Fannie Lou Hamer’s name on his lips and Cutter got up, adjusted the brim on her Church Hat – the outfit was flawless by the way – and carried her black widow/femme fatale ass out of there without even breaking a sweat. I love her y’all. I love her so much.
It feels pretty certain to me that Tobias Whale is going to die, maybe not today and maybe not tomorrow, but I don’t see him leaving this show breathing. Not after Khalil’s death. Jefferson and Gambi have introduced Henderson to
The Batcave Gambi’s Lab. Having those three teamed up feels like a step in the right direction. Granted, Tobias now has crazy Dr. Jace on his side (who, get this, conducted the ORIGINAL Freeland Experiment 30 years ago! And invented Tobias’ “stay young” serum! Talk about a real comeback for Dr. Jace!). Who knows what’s going to happen next?
Other than more time for Anissa and Grace that is, Chantal Thuy is slated to return next week. Until then, stay warm my loves!
Thank you for the for the recap Carmen! I totally enjoyed this week’s Black Lighting for the obvious reasons, we finally escaped the tiresome storyline of Jennifer’s & Khalil’s tragic romance that some how traveled all the way from season 1 into the mid season 2. This storyline was a nice character development but it started to wane on me and I wanted to see more characters get their shine, prime example Thunder, every time we have a little hope they are going to give us this kick ass scene with her and then some quality time with Grace Choi she gets sideline to some other unnecessary storyline where she has to play ‘Robin Hood’ for the hood and track down her baby sister who thinks she’s grown and needs to runaway with some boy. Hopefully, we get more Anissa & Grace.
But back to why I liked this episode, it finally put to rest the Khalil’s story and gave us ‘Parking Lot Patty’ which I had to rewind twice because it made me angry and then filled me with joy when she blew up PLP’s car; that moment made me as grown woman wish I had powers. However, like you said I hope we get back to that season 1 feel but with more ThunderGrace.
I was surprised that I found myself hoping for some miracle to save Khalil…I imagine that had more to do with not wanting to see Jennifer suffer but, still, I’d just started to see Khalil in a new light and now he’s gone.
I laughed out loud at Parking Lot Patty…and really appreciated the break in the show’s darkness.
That said, you’re right about Tobias. There’s no way this doesn’t end with him dead…and I’m not sure how it is that Jefferson and Henderson don’t see that. The idea that this criminal, who is responsible for so much death and destruction in Freeland, including just taking out a whole army to get to Khalil, is just going to go to prison willingly…that just seems ridiculous.
You’re spot on about ThunderGrace, Carmen. Those two actresses are really doing the most with the absolute least…and I hate that more time’s been spent on Tobias’ new nerdy sidekick than Grace.
I do have a question, though: what’s the deal with Maxine Shaw, Therapist at Law? How does she just randomly appear exactly at the moment that she’s needed?
One thing I super appreciate about these recaps is how much they get me thinking about narrative, and how not just what stories we tell but the way they’re told and which beats and images and background music are chosen to convey them matter. Which, like, I know in theory, but it’s so much more understandable in actual practice.
Cutter’s outfit (fan’s self vigorously)! I was also surprised to find myself hoping they’d figure out a way to save Khalil. But I was even more surprised by the Dr. Jace reveal because her relationship with Jefferson Pierce has taken a decidedly different tack on Young Justice.
Great recap as always, Carmen! I can’t wait to see how Khalil’s death pushes Jennifer’s character development. It’s rare when you get to see the fridging trope propel a woman’s character forward vs. a man’s.
I also agree 100% with you on Anissa and Grace. I just have not been able to connect with their relationship because the show never shows their relationship. All we see are random snapshots surrounded by giant plot holes. It’s a glaring disservice considering how important Anissa is to the main plot of the show.
I hope you’re right that Tobias is not long for this world because I think the show is getting unbalanced. So far Tobias has never lost; he is practically invincible. A superhero narrative needs to have balance between the good guys winning and the bad guys winning, or it gets too hopeless for the viewer. I feel the show becoming too hopeless because Tobias has never had a real setback, so he’s got to go in my opinion. And his clear self-loathing, hateful comments about the Black community are tiresome. Maybe Jill Scott’s Lady Eve could be resurrected to take his place as the Big Bad next sesason (she was fantastic).