“Black Lightning” Episode 108 Recap: Didn’t Anyone Ever Tell You Black People Die in the Woods?

Last week on Black Lightning, Lady Eve died and I have worn black all of this week in mourning. My sweet, vicious purring voice! Why oh why did you have to leave us so soon! At least Jill Scott channeled her inner Okoye on her way out the door. As far as I’m concerned, Lady Eve’s last words were “Wakanda Forever.” Prove me wrong.

RIP

Also, in case you forgot, we are dealing with zombies now. Thank you for asking, no I’m still not sleeping.

The local news tells us that search for Black Lightning, who was framed for Lady Eve’s death, continues — but Jefferson and Anissa are holed up in Gambi’s lab, playing “Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting” on the 8-track and training together. Gambi has a virtual reality simulator that creates 3-D “urban crowds” around our superhero team.

Anissa spots a white man with a confederate flag t-shirt in the virtual crowd and holds her breath, shaking the ground the fake-racist walks on and cracking his ankles into little fake-pieces.

“Make America Great—”

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Not today.

Jefferson stops the stimulation, telling his daughter the passerby “may be racist, but he wasn’t a threat.”

HOLD UP JEFFERSON! If I see an arrogant young white man in a confederate flag shirt walking around plain as day in a majority black space like Freeland, I am going to assume he’s looking to stir up trouble. That’s called self-protection, and it has served our people well for the last four centuries. Don’t act brand new.

Jefferson’s tough on Anissa, tricking her to let her guard down and then purposefully whooping her ass. It’s life or death out there. Better she learn that now.

Hot Tip: She’s going to win.

On their first joint superhero outing, Anissa and Jefferson break into the city mortuary to find Lady Eve’s corpse (EVE, I MISS YOU!! COME HOME!!). Jefferson is busy trying to teach Anissa a morality lesson about the importance of human life, while Anissa uses her super smarts — ok then, medical school! — to puzzle together that Eve was in fact not killed by a lightning strike. Her flesh is burned, but it doesn’t have the lichtenberg scarring traditional from lightning. Lady Eve was killed by a portable nuclear weapon.

The Pierce duo track down the nuclear weapon used to kill Eve in the woods outside of Freeland. In the dark. Late at night. Anissa, clad in her already iconic black hoodie, lays down by far the best line of the night:

“You know how I feel about the woods. Black people die in the woods.

Yes baby girl, they sure as hell do.

Jefferson tries to calm her nerves, telling her that only happens in horror movies (What does he think he’s in the middle of right now? THERE ARE ZOMBIES WALKING AROUND! But I guess he doesn’t know that yet). Plus, as Jefferson reminds us, black people only die after the token white nerd. Since there’s no nerd, they are safe.

That sounds like faulty logic to me, but sure, let’s go with it.

I think she’s smiling like that because they’re talking about Grace. I miss Grace! Bring back Grace!

Jefferson uses his Black Signal phone to call Commissioner Gordon Inspector Henderson and point him towards the weapon, exonerating Black Lightning once and for all. While waiting for Henderson, the Pierces encounter a dirty cop who arrives at the crime scene first. Jefferson warns Anissa to stay back as he explores closer, but Anissa realizes at just the right moment that they are both in danger.

She takes off at a run — breathing out “Dad!!” and breathing in deep, using her indestructible body to protect them both from the nuclear bomb that goes off.

KABOOM!

Also, Gambi is holding secret parking lot meetings with Martin Procter, a head figure of the ASA. Procter’s played by an actor I mostly remember as Senator Hollis Doyle, a his pitch-perfect parody of Presidential candidate Donald Trump in Scandal’s fifth season. I’m guessing that the production team of Black Lightning also looks back fondly on his performance in that role, because he’s back and playing another hardcore racist. Proctor hates Freeland. He thinks that black people are lazy and dirty and only eat fried food (side note: Everyone eats fried food in America. It’s unhealthy, but it’s delicious. That’s not unique to black people. Asshole.) As far as he’s concerned, the only thing the black residents of Freeland are good for is human experimentation.

Procter’s going on and on about how the ASA should have killed Black Lightning when the spy organization had the chance. Now Lady Eve is dead and they have no one to continue the Green Light Experiment that they’ve been covertly running in Freeland. He’s ready to declare open season on Black Lightning’s “black ass.”

The minute I heard the intentional wording of the “Green Light Experiment”, a shiver ran down my spine. The phrasing is a purposeful callback to the real life “Tuskegee Experiment”, where over 400 black men in rural Alabama during the 1930s – 1970s were left untreated with syphilis while being actively lied to that they were receiving healthcare from the federal government. It’s one of the United States most horrific public health crimes against its own citizens, and obviously because those citizens were black, we don’t often talk about it. The revelation that the ASA has been secretly pushing Green Light into the black communities of Freeland via the One Hundred gang and Lady Eve comes with a similar sinister intent. The implication that a federal agency is behind a drug epidemic that’s ravishing the black community also alludes to the silent role that many believe the CIA and DEA played in cocaine’s explosion in South Los Angeles during the late 1970s and 1980s. Once again, Black Lightning is using seemingly light-hearted comic book fare to draw parallels to real life black suffering.

I drew pictures of daffodils on my AP Physics test back in high school. Please don’t ask me to make sense of this computer screen.

While cleaning up her lab with Jennifer, Lynn realizes that the break in from two weeks ago was a cover up to steal Grandaddy Pierce’s research on enhanced humans. Following the crumbs on that particular gingerbread trail leads Lynn directly to Gambi. Grandaddy Pierce’s research is 30 years old. Gambi has been in Freeland for almost exactly 30 years. It doesn’t take much for our resident neuroscientist genius to put two and two together. She has the heartbreaking job of telling Jefferson that something is wrong with his supposed mentor.

This will not make me like you more. There is no hope for that.

Gambi, meanwhile, is wrecked with guilt. He even went to church over it! And building on that theme, he finally gives Jefferson his full confession:

His real name is Peter Esposito. 30 years ago he came to Freeland as an agent working for the ASA. The organization was doing human testing, giving black people a vaccine that would keep them passive during a time of militancy and political upheaval. When Gambi realized that the vaccine had the side effect of giving certain kids super powers, he leaked the information to Jefferson’s father. As we all know, Jefferson’s father paid the price for that research with his own life.

Gambi swears that he only ever wanted to protect Jefferson, which is already a stretch to believe if you ask me, but now he can’t even do that. The ASA is going to kill Jefferson. Then they will find Anissa, and they will kill her too.

Our superheroes are in mortal danger! While that’s sinking in, let’s pop on over to the high school.

Keisha, Jennifer’s best friend and the resident Party Queen of Garfield High, is running for student council. It’ll look good on her college apps — I see our favorite bad influence is taking the age old motto “Work Hard, Play Hard” to heart. While climbing a weak scaffolding to tape her campaign poster high on the wall, Kiesha falls. Jennifer panics, watching as her bestie plummets, and her eyes flash orange!! Her hands glow and burn!! And OH MY GOD YES THE MOMENT I HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR HAS ARRIVED!!! JENNIFER PIERCE HAS FINALLY COME INTO HER SUPER POWERS!!!

Both Jennifer and Anissa’s powers came from a moment of fear, but the circumstances coloring their transformation are different. Anissa was was worried about her and Jennifer’s safety; Jennifer was worried about Keisha. Jennifer didn’t have panics after the motel kidnapping, because her big sister was there to protect her. No one was there to protect Keisha. I love that for both Pierce women, the strength and support of female relationships ultimately helped them find their own power. I really love that for Jennifer, that impetus was her relationship with her best friend.

Later, alone in the safety of her incredibly pink bedroom, Jennifer recreates the self-start fire all over again. She focuses and closes her eyes, not stopping until she once again sends sparks to her cell phone. I’ll give the younger Pierce sister this, she’s figuring out the ins and outs of her powers much quicker than Anissa did at the start of the season. Maybe Jennifer applying to Harvard isn’t so far fetched after all.

Please God! Let me get Beyoncé tickets!

Jennifer continues her hot streak (sorry, I couldn’t help it!) of good ideas by taking all of this new information to her older sister. At first Anissa waves her off, thinking that Jennifer is just being her nuisance self again, but she stops cold when she sees the pain-stricken look on Jennifer’s face. Her first thought, “Are you pregnant?”

Then Jennifer presents her with her phone. Burned and charred to pieces.

The power of the #BeyHive

“You wished too hard for Beyoncé tickets again, didn’t you?”

Next week my dreams are going to come true, and we will have a Pierce Sisters super power team on our hands! Can you imagine?? Until then, I hope you are all enjoying that extra hour of sunlight that Daylight Savings brought us. Love you!

Carmen is Autostraddle's Deputy Editor and a black Puerto Rican femme/inist writer. She claims many past homes, but left the largest parts of her heart in Detroit, Brooklyn, and Buffalo, NY. There were several years in her early 20s when she earnestly slept with a copy of James Baldwin’s “Fire Next Time” under her pillow. You can find her on twitter, @carmencitaloves.

Carmen has written 246 articles for us.

21 Comments

  1. I really like this show and the elegant way it deals with its metaphors. It’s shaping up to be consistently interesting, folding new things in gradually and engaging with its material in a thoughtful way. It’s a real standout as far as the CW superhero shows for sure.

    And I’m officially coming out as having a tv crush on Anissa. Thank you for your support during this time. I know it’s early, so I can but hope she stays amazing forever but ohmygosh I like her so far.

    I also enjoyed this recap and would gift it a Beyonce ticket were it within my power. I especially appreciate the Lady Eve eulogizing because I, too, was sad to see her gone so soon.

  2. I absolutely love your recaps. Thank you so much for breaking down the real-life atrocities that the United States government has committed against black people.

    I’m so looking forward to next week’s episode with the Pierce sisters’ superhero team!

  3. I have really enjoyed every single episode of this show so far. What a great series! It’s kind of interesting how for Jeff and Anissa their powers manifested when they were out of their teens but Jennifer’s are happening so young. She’s precocious that’s for sure. The Lala stuff was creepy!

    • I cut a paragraph about Lala because it didn’t fit the tone about the rest of the article., but suffice it to say: The Lala stuff was so creepy!!!

      My favorite part was that whenever Zombie Lala showed up, all the members of his old crew, the color would drain out of their face like they’d seen a ghost (because they had!). So all these gangsters are freaking out, but nobody says anything because who really wants to accuse their boss of being the walking dead?

  4. Another great episode, another great recap! Thanks for always connecting Black Lightning‘s stories to the real ones that have impacted (and are continuing to impact) our communities, Carmen. Knowing the Akils and their writing style, all those parallels are wholly intentional and I know they’d be thrilled that someone truly grasps what they’re trying to do.

    I’m sorry that everyone’s hopes that Lady Eve didn’t meet her demise weren’t realized…I mean, I guess it’s possible that she could still rise up from that steel gurney…after all, Lala was dead and now he’s up and taking showers with the ghost of the woman he killed.

    Can I tell you, when Anissa said, “You know how I feel about the woods. Black people die in the woods,” I felt so seen. I drop that same line every time one of my friends tries to convince me that camping is a fun way to spend the weekend. Nope, no ma’am, no thank you. I am not trying to die out there.

    I loved seeing Jennifer get her powers…though I am curious what causes a person’s powers to manifest when they do? And I mean that both in terms of the timing–why do Jennifer’s powers manifest when Keisha’s in trouble but not in the pilot episodes when her life’s being threatened by ol’ boy at the club–and her age. Hopefully we’ll see more of that in the coming episodes.

    I’m not counting on Jennifer being too excited, at least initially, to embrace her powers. She’s never been the crusader for truth and justice that her father and sister are. Either way, though, I can’t wait to see what happens?

    • First of all, thank you Natalie, for always being so generous with your feedback and comments week after week! It’s so great to be pounding the comment boards with you, like the “good old days”, lol.

      I agree that the Akils are being purposeful (or at least that’s what I tell myself, so I don’t worry too much about ‘over-reading the material’!). I’m just thankful that you guys haven’t tired of me nerding out yet!

      I DEFINITELY fell out laughing when Anissa was like, “Black people die in the woods”. I don’t mind a cabin- with running electricity- but when I was a teenager in Detroit, we used to call those situations, “too many trees, not enough witnesses”. ???

      I hadn’t thought about the differences in how Jennifer might react to her powers, as opposed to her father or her sister. Fascinating! I really hope we get to explore some of that next week!

  5. First of all, where in the world is Grace? It seems this show isn’t interested in romance at all. I want my Thundergrace romance. I will be pissed if I see they are developing their relationship off screen. Like if I see them kissing already when next she appears. I was hoping to see a slow burn and see them fall in love. But the writers aint interested in that. Will Grace even still appear at all? She’s been missing for 4 consecutive episodes and there’s only five episodes left fot the season. No time left. And with next episode being focused on Jennifer’s revelation, i can bet my money Grace won’t appear again. Sigh.

    Also, thank you Carmen for always drawing out and explaining the meanings of all these situations through your knowledge of black history. Not just any reviewer will be able to make the connections. But you show us each week that these things happening on the show are more than mere fiction but go deeper into reality that has happened or still happen. You are the best. Pls don’t ever stop reviewing this show.

    • Yeah, I definitely get your frustration about Grace Choi: Missing In Action. I have no proof, but I’m thinking we’ll pick back up on our ThunderGrace relationship after next week. By then all of the Pierces will be out of the “superhero closet” and the show can move their attention elsewhere.

      I’m so glad you are enjoying the recaps!! I promise to keep writing them as long as we’re having fun together and Autostraddle gives me the space to do so!!

  6. I suspected a Tuskegee Experiment kinda thing going on and fuck you Martin Procter there’s fried chicken recipes from 18th century (that’s the 1700’s kids) New England of white British origin. Frying is and has been a way to maximize caloric intake and use as many resources for food as possible.
    Also back in the 1700’s chicken was a lot more tough that 21st factory farm chickens so some of the soaking in a sauce, breading and frying was to soften it up.

    This episode gave me a lot of feelings, just not the ones I expected with Tori’s death but that’s probably coming.

    “Black people die in the woods” made me dry heave a bit. Sometimes just because a very ugly thing is a part of American history doesn’t mean one should go seeking pictures of it. Some things cannot be unseen.

    I am surprised that the original experiment in Freeland was about pacification but DC doesn’t have the metric ton of super soldier fuckery like Marvel does they do have General Eiling and the Ultramarine Corps etc.
    I think it’s now about something super soldiery tho maybe?

    Poor Jennifer, give her a hug someone please.

    • Standing Ovation For The History Lesson of 18th Centiry Fried Chicken Recipes!!!!!!!!!!!!

      (Also, yes, the history of lynchings in this country is the thing that takes the most out of me as well. It’s unbearable, and yet, we must bear it. Because it is ours to bear.)

      • I have much feeling about food and how it got and gets turned into an “ethnic thing” in the very intentionally mean way I will throw down about it at the slightest provocation

        Before colonialism in Europe only privileged people could afford spices. Once every one could flavour got scorned and looked down up as something tawdry and oh so untrustworthy. >_>

        (Aye, but there’s a difference in bearing something. Being witness so it is not forgotten and intentionally hurting yourself. Basically I know too much about decom and certain smells to look at certain pictures. It’s like a triple whammy that’s what takes it out of me and sometimes I wonder if I was history teacher if I could use that in a lesson. Explain what decom in the heat smells like, what it’s like to be attacked by a group of people and how there’s no escape, no mercy only hate.)

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