Surprise! Surprise! We did NOT pick up where we left off last week, with Anissa waking up from a concussion, still in costume as Thunder, to discover that her dad is Black Lightning. I was so ready for a full on Pierce family confessional, but it seems that the TV Gods have once again forsaken me!
Instead we open with Anissa having a physical examination with her mom. Lynn watches in awe as Anissa heals with the same quick regeneration as her father, but she’s also worried. Perhaps than more anyone, Lynn has seen what a toll the superhero life can have.
She begs Anissa to reconsider, but her daughter is already too far gone. She has visions of a Daddy-Daughter Gang Busting Team dancing around like sugarplums in her head. She’s ready to take down The One Hundred once and for all.
Lynn protests, and Anissa counters, sounding far more petulant than I believe she intended — “Do you have powers? Can you stop a bullet? Shoot lightning out of your hands? Then how can you possible understand what I’m going through?” (GEEEZ MOM, YOU’RE RUINING MY LIFE!!)
It’s easy to think of Lynn Pierce as the family’s wet blanket, but I empathize with her. I think a lot about this running joke that Barack Obama had during the end of his last year in office. Interviewers would ask him if he was sad he couldn’t run again, and he would respond that even if a third term was constitutionally available— Michelle Obama most certainly would have divorced him if he tried to go for it. You can almost hear the drum rimshot as the audience laughs right on cue. Here’s the thing, Betty Shabaaz and Malcolm X were barely on speaking terms at the time of his death. The relationship between MLK and Coretta Scott King was famously strained. There’s a long history of black families who have been torn apart because someone felt drawn to “the cause.” I don’t blame Lynn for prioritizing her family first.
Now that Anissa has super powers, it occurs to the the Pierce parental unit that Jennifer may have them, too. I don’t know about you, but all I want is a Pierce Sisters superhero team! I will give every writer on staff at Black Lightning a puppy! I’m allergic, so I probably won’t do that. But I would bake a dozen cookies in their honor! And then eat them myself, because yuuuuuuuuuum cookies. Anyway, I’m losing my train of thought: Give me Pierce Sister superheroes!
Gambi lies to Jefferson about the circumstances surrounding Lynn’s break in last week. He’s trying to cover up his ongoing relationship with Lady Eve. Jefferson ain’t buying it. He’s still pissed because Gambi kept it a secret that Tobias was alive. Gambi, spin master that he is, swears that he didn’t tell Jefferson to help save him from his own worst intentions. Jefferson doesn’t trust him — and he shouldn’t, because Gambi is a damn liar.
Smooth jazz plays in the background as Lady Eve and her purring voice are once again up to mischief. Jazz is its own reoccurring character this episode, just like in one of my favorite Toni Morrison novels. The of music Black Lightning thus far has largely pulled from hip hop, R&B, and 70s soul. The jazz riffs stand out here as they play between scenes, connecting Lady Eve, Tobias, Jefferson, and Lynn Pierce. Of those four characters, the jazz fits most organically with Eve. In seven episodes, Jill Scott hasn’t ever raised her voice, but she’s already more menacing than any of the villains of the show. She’s a study in the importance of subtlety; a little can go a long way.
Lady Eve is in the basement of her mortuary, embalming people and probably making the next generation of Walking Dead zombies, as one does, when Gambi pays her visit. Tobias is opening a jazz club, which is a problem for someone who’s supposed to have been dead for roughly 20 years. Gambi is concerned, but Lady Eve seems confident that she has it all under control. Together they devise a plan where Gambi will kill Joey Toledo (Tobias’ first lieutenant) in the hopes that it will scare Tobias off?
I’ll be honest with you, little of this makes sense to me! And I watched it twice! I think Eve wants Joey Toledo dead so she can instigate a war with Tobias, but I don’t really understand what she gets out of that. This episode is a chess match, except I can’t tell in any given situation who are the players and who are pawns. Gambi, Tobias, Lady Eve — everyone is saying one thing and doing another. There are secret motivations abound.
Jefferson finally has the time to talk to Anissa. She wants to be trained, but he doesn’t believe she’s ready. Really, he’s scared to lose her. It’s breakfast time at the Pierce family home. Everything is bright, the sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and our poor Jennifer is caught in the middle of an ice war between her older sister and her dad.
She tries to get by doing her “Jennifer thing”, by which I mean taking turns being charming and throwing out snark until someone cracks — Hasn’t Anissa noticed that Jennifer borrowed another one of her shirts without asking? Doesn’t Jefferson want to know what her plans are now that she’s quit track? Anything? Bueller? Bueller? But the most she gets out of them is a lie, covering their superhero antics with Jefferson’s ongoing health concerns.
Anissa visits her mom, who is currently living in Gambi’s secret lab basement until they know she’s safe. The Pierce women try for a second round of their heart-to-heart. Lynn wants her daughter to understand: every time Jefferson walked out the door, Lynn didn’t know if he was going to come back. The pressure of it ended their marriage.
Being so lost in devotion to a cause that you let all of your personal relationships wither away, that’s no way to live a life. Dedicating yourself to everyone else’s happy ending doesn’t leave any time for a happy ending of your own. Lynn wants to know, when was the last time Anissa was even on a date?
(Yeah Anissa, there’s a bartender /slash/ comics nerd at the local gay bar waiting for you. She’s cute. Don’t miss the boat.)
In the wake of the break in at Lynn’s lab, Jefferson and Anissa have realized that Grandaddy Pierce’s research might be dangerous, so Anissa goes to warn Editor Huggy Bear. When she gets to Huggy Bear’s office she finds out that she’s too late. He died a few days ago! Supposedly he was struck by a car during his morning bike ride, but I’m thinking Lady Eve got to him while we were busy looking the other way.
Anissa comes home shell shocked. The death of Editor Huggy Bear finally got her to lock in on what her parents couldn’t — that there’s life and death danger to this whole superhero thing.
Meanwhile, alone with a glass of red wine in the Gambi’s basement— girl, you deserve better than this— Lynn realizes that there is no changing her daughter’s mind. She asks Jefferson, does he remember when Anissa was ten months old and first learning to walk? She’d fall, she’d cry, and then she would get up and try again. Over and over, until a week later— she was was walking. Their daughter’s fiercely stubborn and nothing gets in her way. She will become Thunder, there is no stopping her.
Lynn knows her daughter. After all, she’s flesh of her flesh.
Their only choice is for Jefferson to train her. And for Gambi to make her a banging new high-tech suit.
As previously planned, Gambi kills Joey Toledo. His murder sets the stage for Tobias’ retaliation. I loved the cinematography of what comes next! Lady Eve and her twin minions— dressed as butlers!— prepare for battle in the lush warm red velvets and dangling chandeliers of her mansion. Tobias and his crew lurk in blue steels of the tunnels beneath of his club.
First, Black Lightning shows up in the tunnels, taking on Tobias’ crew in hand to lightning combat. That is until Tobias’ sister, Tori, gets shot by a stray bullet. The surviving gang members pull Tobias away from a dying Tori, screaming and crying for his sister’s body. Jefferson stays with her, begging her to breathe, until she finally closes her eyes.
At the same time, two of Tobias’ henchmen break into Eve’s mansion using high tech guns that shoot ice blue electric rays into the air.
She goes full out gangster! She uses her butlers as human shields before directly taking on the electric gun toting henchmen herself. There is something so magnificent about watch a fat, femme, black woman really dig into physical action work. We never, not ever, not in million billion years get this! She’s kneeing people and punching people, grunting, gnawing her teeth, in full and complete ownership of her body. The splendor! My God.
Jill Scott brought all of herself to the table.
She wrestles free one of the electric blue guns, breathing hard, sweat on her brow. She circles around her living room, checking all the corners — her lips curled into a snarl. I stood up and cheered! As much as I have loved Lady Eve’s cool, sexy routine, it was so satisfying to watch the blood pump and boil in her veins! Every bit a damn action star.
I was so preoccupied cheering, that I almost didn’t see it. I almost missed when one of mortuary caskets opened up behind her shoulder. She missed one. She turned around a second too late, and finds herself electrocuted to the ground in bright blue shock waves.
NOT MY LADDDYYYY EVEEEEEEEE!!!!!!! NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!! Take me instead! (Ok, don’t take me instead. I loved her, you guys, but I love me the most.)
Tobias used those special high tech blue electric ray guns so that he could frame Black Lightning for the hit job at the mansion, essentially killing two birds with one stone. Following the Batman analogies that this show keeps pointing us towards, we are about to start Jefferson’s “Dark Knight” chapter. He’s going underground, because he is the hero we deserve — but not the hero that we need. Or something like that.
All I know is that I’m going to be licking my wounds about losing Lady Eve for a long time. I think that Jill Scott was an infinitely more fascinating villain than any of the men left standing to take the mantle in her wake. She has left a hole that is going to be incredibly hard to fill.
Jazz turns to soul music as we wind down the episode. Anissa, laying comfortable in her bed, takes her mother’s advice on one last thing: She calls that cute bartender that we’ve all been missing.
We haven’t seen her quite like this before, so I have to say: Anissa got some real game! She lowers her voice an octave, bites her lip even though no one can see it, and tells Grace how much she misses her. It’s sexy. So sexy. If Grace doesn’t call back by morning I am going to jump in my television ask Anissa out myself levels of sexy.
Oh but wait, there’s more! As the evening news in a seedy motel flickers with details about the murder of Evelyn Stillwater Ferguson (Lady Eve), the camera pans to Lala lying on a bed. You maybe remember Lala? He was the drug dealer that Tobias choked to death in the second episode. But if he’s dead, tell me how he just took a deep breath and sat up in the bed! HOW!?!?
Before Lala died, you might remember that he shot Lawanda White in cold blood. She’s dead, too. Except if she’s dead, then how in the hell did she just come out of the motel bathroom? In the same bloodied clothes she was murdered in?? HOW?!?
She asks Lala if he believes in resurrection, a line that Lady Eve once asked Tobias long ago. Then, before he can answer, SHE TURNS INTO SMOKE!!!!!
SMOKE. I watched a formerly dead woman turn into smoke and enter this formerly dead man’s body right before my very eyes. She turns herself into a tattoo branded on Lala’s chest.
If you need me from here on out, I will be outside jogging and taking several laps around the block. I’m never going to sleep again.
Please tell me that some of y’all saw this craziness and I’m not making it all up? I need someone to freak out with me in the comments! I love you, don’t leave me alone with my zombie nightmares!!