“DVDs, Baby Clothes… Hey, I got what you want! I got what you need!”
In their greatest shout out to date, this week’s Black Lightning gave us a perspective of Freeland from a different kind of resident — the black community staple, your local bootleg man.
Now blackness is not a monolith, so everybody’s bootleg man works a little differently. When I was a kid, our bootleg man used to show up in the beauty shop on Saturday mornings. He’d offer burned DVDs of old Tyler Perry plays and still in the theater blockbusters to the women waiting to get their hair laid. He always had personalized mixtapes for the teenagers. You could buy them for five dollars each, or three for $10. In my cousins’ neighborhood, the bootleg man worked on the corner outside of the mattress store, across from the Applebees. He specialized in radio mixes, plain cotton sweats and tees, along with off brand Jordans and sparkly hair clips. In Florida, my friend’s bootleg man used to sell infant formula out of the trunk of his car, along with cigarettes and candy bars for the kids. My bootleg man may not be yours, but if you grew up in a predominately black neighborhood, chances are that you got one.
Freeland’s bootleg man is a dreadlocked, hoodie wearing guy who goes by Two Bits. While wrapping up his nightly sale, Two Bits spies a tween buying some Green Light on the street from some dude named Ray-Ray. One inhale and she lights up into a literal fire, kind of like our very own Jennifer Pierce, and before we can even deal with that new bit of information, she’s whisked away by two ASA agents into a van in the middle of the night. Two Bits screams after van, but it’s two late. Another black girl gone missing.
That same night, Jennifer is doing a little Thunder exploration into Gambi’s story from last week. Gambi had seen the dead bodies of the abducted super powered black kids from 30 years ago. He implored Anissa to tell Jefferson so he could investigate, but she’s decided to handle the matter on her own instead. She now realizes that the bodies being kept in these liquid filled pods are not dead at all — they have a pulse!! They’ve been left in stasis! She’s horrified! All of these vulnerable black bodies, left alone for 30 years, being experimented on. It’s awful. Her first instinct is to Thunder quake open the pods, but she worries that it will only make the situation worse. Instead she goes home to recruit extra help.
Throughout the opening sequence, Mick Jenkins croons over a sparse beat in the background, “I Can’t Breathe.” I’ve discussed earlier in these recaps that one of my favorite pieces of Black Lightning lore is that Anissa Pierce, a black lesbian superhero and established Black Lives Matter activist, triggers her power by controlling her breath. Anissa’s first deep breath connected me to the death of Eric Garner, who died begging that he couldn’t breathe. Her Thunder theme song, premiered last week, name checked Eric’s daughter, Erica, a Black Lives Matter activist who died just this winter. Once again, with this music choice, Black Lightning centers itself on this theme. The air surrounding our little superhero tale is thick, heavy with the cruelty of America — No, we can’t breathe.
Anissa gets Jefferson to go back to the lab with her, but by the time they get there the bodies have already been moved. It becomes clear that they’ve walked into an ASA trap, and they work together to get out alive. As an aside, ANISSA CAN WALK THROUGH BRICK WALLS NOW. I love her.
Meanwhile, Zombie Lala is hanging out in nightclubs reading Egyptian Book of the Dead by E.A. Wallis Budge and talking ‘bout how “ain’t no such thing as death”. He’s speaking to the figment of his imagination once known as beanpole drug dealer Will, a man who Lala definitely already killed early in the series. All I’m saying is, if there’s no such thing as death, then the first person I want back is Lady Eve. Budge is a controversial historical figure. He was considered an expert on ancient Egyptian religion, but history has revealed him to be the kind of white colonist who stole artifacts and became rich off of Africa’s resources (Spoiler Alert: They all did that). He specialized in Egyptian beliefs of the afterlife, spirits, and hauntings — which is why I assume he’s piqued Lala’s interest.
Lala’s crew is thoroughly freaked out by his zombie state and his new propensity for talking to himself. One of them accuse Zombie Lala of slipping, so he rips out that dude’s ear off clear from his head and then shoots him to death! So, I guess we won’t be having problems like that anymore.
Also, Zombie Lala puts his own mother’s life on the line as collateral so that he can a buy a Costco bulk amount of cocaine and marijuana to sell on the streets. I know he’s already dead, but damn I am so ready for him to die again. How do you kill a zombie? Let a sista know in the comments.
Two Bits goes to Jefferson to talk about the young girl we saw abducted in the opening sequence. He realized that the girl was one of Jefferson’s students because “she was wearing one of those ugly ass uniforms y’all be making them wear” — sounds legit to me. Two Bits has done a lot of illegal activity he’s not necessarily proud of, but there’s a line between wrong and wrong. Abducting little girls in the middle of the night is on the other side of that moral code.
Jefferson’s worried. If super powered black teenagers are being picked up off the streets again, then Jennifer needs to stay home from school.
In a parallel plot line, Neema (the girl who was abducted)’s best friend has been pounding pavement, putting up Missing Posters and asking local business owners for help. She runs in to Gambi, who much like Jefferson, realizes it’s starting all over again. Green Light is turning kids into meta humans, just like the vaccine he pushed all those years ago. It’s purposeful. The ASA are rounding them up to fill out their own sinister agenda.
Anissa and Jennifer go at it for another round at home. It’s the ugliest fight I have ever seen from the Pierce Sisters thus far. Anissa still wants Jennifer to think of her powers as a blessing; she can’t fathom why her little sister sees them only as a burden. I love Anissa so much, but she’s really pushing it. It’s great that she went 100% in on this superhero thing, but it’s also ok that Jennifer needs more time to come to terms with it. This is an abrupt life change of magnificent proportion. She doesn’t need to have Anissa’s priorities. Anyway, Jennifer is still a kid. She has a right to the future life that she wants to live.
Anissa reaches for the low blow and tells Jennifer that she quit on Khalil. It’s a lie, and Kahlil is working with Tobias on #TeamVillain now anyway, but when confronted on it Anissa doubles down. It’s awful. Jennifer loses control of her emotions and her entire body — clothes and all— go into electric flames!
It’s really freaking cool, but understandably the Pierce Sisters don’t see it that way. They take Jennifer to Lynn’s lab for testing. Lynn discovers that Jennifer’s powers differ from Jefferson’s in an important way; while Jefferson’s body functions like a battery — absorbing energy — Jennifer’s functions as a generator. She creates energy within herself. Her every cell is, quite literally, lit. This makes her more powerful than Jefferson, and I think most powerful of all three Pierces.
Oh man, she’s really going to hate this.
Black Lightning pays a visit to Two Bits to help track down the pods with the missing super powered kids in them. Like any good hustler, there isn’t a delivery truck coming in or out of Freeland that Two Bits isn’t keeping track of. Black Lightning busts him on a little light weed smoking, which seems a little unfair if you ask me, but uses it for leverage to find out about the trucks. In the middle of the interrogation, a microwave comes sailing through the air! Then a television! There’s a huge reward for capturing Black Lightning, and the block is H-O-T.
The ASA comes to pay Gambi a visit, but he’s ready for them. He has two guns blazing. It’s not enough. He ends up getting tortured and water boarded until he’s willing to confess who is Black Lightning. Of course, he won’t give it up.
I am not heartless. I’m sad Gambi got so brutally tortured, I really am, but I don’t see myself being empathetic to him anytime soon. Torture sucks, but he also tried to exterminate an entire generation of black people in this country. Sooooo, shrug emoji. Anyway, Jefferson saves him and ends up outing himself as Black Lightning in the process. It was all for nothing.
With the ASA on their collective trail, and the streets willing to trade his body for a reward, Jefferson decides to put his family officially into hiding. He takes them to Graddaddy Pierce’s old house. You know — the one he was murdered in. It’s for sure haunted. Jennifer sums it up best, “This place smells like neglect. The dust is older than I am.” Times, they are bleak.
And guess who’s now in charge of eliminating Black Lightning? Who has been feeding the ASA with all this new information about super powered children? Jefferson’s Vice Principal from the high school!
GASP! The Judas!!!! It’s always the quiet ones.
That’s it for us this week loves. I miss Grace Choi every single day, but I am happy that we are getting to experience this one-of-a-kind show together! Speaking of one-of-a-kind shows, if you haven’t seen it yet, can I recommend taking some time this week to stream One Day at a Time on Netflix? You obviously don’t have to, but it’s sweet and feminist and funny. It just got renewed for a third season and I’m still not over it! Best news of the week, and I want us to celebrate together!
What I loved:
1) Thunder and Black Lightning tandem fighting sequence. They’re really in tune to one another. And who knew Thunder had the ability to use Jefferson’s lightning as a springboard. I need some explanation.
2) Jennifer going supernova paired with learning that she is a generator. This excites me the most! This means she can supercharge Jefferson. This also means while Jennifer may be more powerful than Jefferson, her power is probably going to have the potential to be the most unstable. Her and Jefferson’s ability to control their power is connected to the ability to conrol their emotions. She’s a teenager going through alot stuff so theirs going be times she’s triggered. So I would love a scene where she’s going nucluear and Jefferson has to bear hug her to absorb her power.
3) 2bits is a funny yet grounded character. In the wrong hands, he could turn into a caricature.
4) Never get tired of Jefferson and Lynn flirting
5) I’m liking the Lala direction. They’re not making the Luke Cage mistake of killing a compelling midlevel villian too soon.
WhatI didn’t like:
1) Anissa pushing Jennifer like that. It was unfair and wrong.
Jennifer being able to supercharge Jefferson was one of my first thoughts, too! There’s a lot of exciting potential there. I *hadn’t* thought about the fact that both Jennifer and Jefferson’s powers seem to be tied to their emotions. You’re right, for Jennifer – or any teenager, really – that is going to be a challenge.
I also like Lala more as a zombie reboot. The Luke Cage comparison is a good one, I’d agree that Black Lightning seems to be sidestepping LC’s mistakes (though I still miss Lady Eve! Sorry! I will probably never get over it.)
There better be a big payoff to the Lala storyline because if it is not satisfying this time could have went to Anissa and Grace! By satisfying I mean we get Lady Eve back through his storyline!!!
Okay tell me I was the only one to think that Anissa was gonna find Grace suspended in one of those pods because that is the ONLY reasonable excuse for us not seeing here this long! (Especially after that call Anissa made!) But maybe only my mind works that way ? Well if I can’t see it on screen I might as well write a fanfic about it, right? Lol
Great recap as always!!!
I want you to know that I am already SO COMMITTED to the “Grace Choi is in one of the pods” theory. I had never considered it, but now I’m obsessed!!! 100%
It would make such sense to the story! And it would be easy to explain how a nightclub bartender stumbled onto some Green Light. Then she took it, she got her super powers (which I think have to show up at some point anyway), and got abducted. It explains why they showed us Anissa calling her, but not Grace responding. It would also give their relationship a lot of interesting dynamics moving forward.
You should definitely write for Black Lightning!
1. Honestly, I throughly enjoyed this episode because you got to see that sibling rivalry and while others may not agree with the way Anissa confronted her sister, I do. Sometimes your siblings can be that extra kick in the butt with their honesty. Jennifer is young and she needs to create her own path but she needs someone to be real with her, because quitting things just because they get isn’t the answer and it’s never going to solve any her problems in the adult world. Not to mention, her parents fell short on that.
2. Grace Choi, I’ve been waiting for this storyline to develop for weeks now but sadly it hasn’t to my dismay. Also, I’m bit of comic book nerd so I was hoping the character would have been similar to the comic with her being super strong and this fierce Amazon but this Gace Choi is cute too.
Hi Alex!! *waves*
That’s a good point about the sibling fight. Someone has to be the one that pushes you. I just worry that sometimes Anissa doesn’t leave room for Jennifer’s feelings/ POV (thought, to be fair, that’s an honest depiction of most older siblings). And, if Anissa hadn’t pushed, we wouldn’t have found out the true depths of Jennifer’s powers! So ultimately, good came out of it.
Shea suggested that maybe Grace Choi is in one the pods! It’s probably a stretch, but that would be so fascinating to me! It would give an explanation for her powers and they could explore it in season two. I’m going to keep my fingers crossed that they wrap her back in the show. Chantal Thuy (the actress who plays her) is still incredibly interactive with BL fans online.
Hey Carmen!! ??????
I do agree with you there, Anissa should leave room for Jennifer’s feelings but she’s been on this emotional roller coaster from the start of the show and she’s never put her feelings in check; her parents kind of coddle her sometimes instead of being real with her and telling sometimes things don’t go your way in life but it’s up to you how you respond and control your feelings. It’s just too much teenage angst for me and not enough maturity for someone who thinks their grown in some of these episodes.
And as for Grace Choi, the Akil’s have to give me something good because blacking our Anissa’s love to watch La La rise from the dead and continue destroying the black community with drugs and violence and talking to ghost is a little boring. I mean honestly, she better be in a pod or whisked off to Themyscira or somewhere to come back as some bas ass Amazon warrior…one can only hope.
I love this show and I love your recaps.
@shygemini and I have determined that each episode needs to be two hours long. One hour can stay the same, moving the overall story forward. The second hour can be devoted to Anissa & Grace’s plot, maybe some more Pierce sisters moments, and bringing back Lady Eve from the impermanent grasp of death.
I watch this with my dad every week. It kind of started with me forcing him to watch (I took over the TV) and now he texts me on Tuesday mornings saying “You know what today is?” It’s pretty great.
@bethmaczko I love that! Yay dad!
Definitely we need our two hours of this show!!!!
And YES! GO DAD!! ?
BETH THIS IS SO GREAT!!! *Hi Dad!!!*
So…all these folks have to die, right? Hollis Doyle, who, frankly, I thought they’d killed last week, and the vice principal both know Black Lightning’s real identity so, for the sake of the character, they have to die, right?
(The fact that they were so quickly able to deduce that Jefferson was Black Lightning from the fact that the lights went out, instead of assuming that Black Lightning followed the kidnappers to the hideout, was a bit of a leap for me, but whatever.)
I was a little bothered by the Jefferson/Lynn flirtatious banter this episode…particularly in this moment, I do not want to hear about a man who can undress women with his eyes (literally). They could’ve just kept that little tidbit to themselves.
You see, I didn’t mind the mom/dad flirtation seen as much (I assumed that he was consensually undressing her with his eyes, though now I can see how that was an assumption on my part) BUT it made it painfully obvious to me that we haven’t seen Anissa in a love scene in over a month and a half. And that got right under my skin! It felt a little double standard-y?
OK I FORGOT TO INCLUDE THIS IN MY RECAP BUT YES WASN’T HOLLIS DOYLE DEAD???? I thought Inspector Henderson killed him last week? Why are there so many undead zombies walking around? And why are none of them Lady Eve???
I have said it already, Grace isn’t appearing again this season. Just look at everything going on, they obviously don’t have time for relationship drama.
Next week it is time to save Jefferson. So she will definitely not appear. In episode 12, Tobias returns, so I don’t see how she will have screen time. That leaves only the finale, and well, if she didn’t appear in all these episodes, she is definitely not appearing in the finale.
Plus, let’s look at it, with the way they have written Anissa, she isn’t the type who is interested in relationships. She is too obsessed and invested in saving the world that being in a relationship will feel out of place right now. Plus we have no reason yet to see why she will be interested in exploring/spending time with Grace. She wasn’t a superhero yet and barely gave herself time with Chenoa. So now that she’s a superhero, there is really no time at all and I think the writers have discovered that. The only thing we can hope for is that Grace becomes more integral in season 2 and we can have our female queer romance on the show.
The only thing pissing me off more than Grace’s absence though is that Lala is having so much screen time. Like wtf? Stop it. All those scenes they gave him were totally unnecessary.