“Black Lightning” Episode 111 Recap: This Land Is Made For You and Me

Jefferson’s Vice Principal has a real problem on her hands. The pods of the superhuman black people are starting to fail due to all the moving around they’ve been going through lately in the ASA’s chess match with Thunder and Black Lightning. The people in the pods are stating to die.

Rather than care about the well being of her fellow black folk, the Vice President is only worried about what these deaths will mean for her standing with the ASA. She tells her lab technicians that she can’t afford another loss. I guess it’s true — to quote my fellow Autostraddle writer Natalie, “Not all skin folk are kinfolk.” The Vice Principal has apparently been taking her lessons in community care from Omarosa. And like Omarosa, I will throw a victory parade when she inevitably falls apart.

Girl, bye.

Vice Principal Omarosa feels bad about having to frame Jefferson, but the ASA believes he is Black Lightning and she has marching orders to follow. She calls Freeland’s dirty cops to a dark alley in the middle of the night. She’s left them a “how to frame a community leader” kit in the trash. Jefferson Pierce will be taken down, one way or another.

The next day, the Pierce sisters find some time for their patented snark across the school parking lot. Jennifer, fresh with her new driver’s license, would give anything to get behind the wheel. Anissa would rather that they both live to see another day. Jefferson’s hanging out the school’s stairs, doling out encouraging words and clichés about success to his students as they enter the building. Yep, just another crisp early morning for our Supercharged Huxtables. Nothing to see here.

Maybe if we keep smiling like this, today will be the day Grace Choi comes back.

That is, until during Jefferson’s morning mentorship circle with his students (which featured a well earned shout out to the hard working men and women of public transportation who get kids to school on time everyday!). Police sirens are going off outside of the building. Tayvon, one of the students in Jefferson’s circle, shouts out “5-0!” to his classmates. From the perch of their geometry class, Keisha confirms to Jennifer that its her dad’s car that Freeland’s dirtiest are after.

Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings’ cover of “This Land is your Land” plays over the next harrowing montage, as the cops illegally place Green Light in the back of Jefferson’s trunk and his desk drawer. Of all the phenomenal ways that Black Lightning has used music over the course of its first season, perhaps none have been more moving than hearing the jazz singer soulfully, but still heartbreakingly ironically, croon “this land is made for you and me” while the cops pull multiple guns on Jefferson inside of his own school. His young students watch on in horror. Jefferson knows that the drugs are not his, but it’s never what you know — it’s what you can prove. And corrupt cops in power can prove whatever the hell they want, especially when their target is a black man. They will say they thought your cellphone was a gun, they will say they saw a knife and place it at the scene after the fact, and they will most certainly say they found drugs that were never in your possession to begin with. For many communities of color, it’s a tale as old as time.

Jefferson’s students, lead by Tayvon, link arms and block the front door. They will not let Jefferson be taken from the safety of their school community, not after everything he has done for them. Their loyalty to Jefferson and their brave defiance is enough to pound against your chest. No child should be forced to see their hero dragged away for a crime he didn’t commit. Jefferson looks young Tayvon in the eye and begs him to stand down. No one needs another black man in handcuffs today, he tells his young mentee. Jefferson implores Tayvon to let him go with police in peace, and then step up to look after his fellow students. That’s the best he can do. When Tayvon answers with a small nod, Jefferson won’t let go until the young man speaks up, a lionhearted “Yes, Sir!” coming from his lips. It’s devastating. Even in this moment, Jefferson is still putting the young people of Freeland first.

Jefferson has two young people in particular to be accountable for — his daughters. First is Jennifer, who’s barreling down the staircase, Keisha hot on her heels, as her father is being escorted across the school lobby. She wants to know what’s going on, her fingers clenched in fists and glowing orange. You know those scenes in The Avengers movies where Thor or Black Widow help The Incredible Hulk find control of his emotions again at the end of a big fight? They speak in low voices and say, “Hey big guy, the sun’s getting real low” while reaching out the palm of their hand. Jefferson has one of those moments with his youngest daughter right there in the school hallway. He sees her hands and then trains his eyes on her face. He tells her that she has to do something important for him, she has to stay calm. Really calm. The most calm she has ever been in her entire life — because her entire life depends on it.

Outside of the school, Anissa comes flying around a corner. She’s not afraid of cops, not ever. She bangs her way right through the human barricade surrounding her father. When the cops push back against her, she takes a big Thunder inhale. Before she can let go, Jefferson stops her. In that brief moment, he most certainly saved a cop’s life. Like Black Panther told Ulysses Klaw, “every breath you take is mercy from me.”

The songs chorus picks back up as Jefferson is driven away in the back of a squad car — in front of his daughters, his students, almost everyone he has ever tried to protect. This time when Sharon Jones circles back to “this land is made for you and me,” the refrain becomes taunting. Who is free in America? Who is this land for, exactly? Black Lightning never lets us forget the real answer.

Inspector Henderson Commissioner Gordon sees Jefferson brought into custody at the police station, and immediately he knows something’s up. He pulls one of the dirty cops aside and spits out, “I wanna see the search warrant.”

It won’t matter, the entire police performance is designed to break Jefferson’s humanity. He is asked to lift his tongue and open his mouth, discard his clothes and bend over, cough twice. Each request stabs my heart more than the last. The police officer beats him in the stomach with a club. The picture painted by the show is unrelenting, and all too real. Cress Williams is pitch perfect as he channeled Jefferson’s disbelief, he defeat, and then his fear.

Tears prickled the corners of my eyes and all I could whisper at the screen was, “Keep it together. You got it. Don’t give them the satisfaction.”

Jennifer and Lynn are at Grandaddy Pierce’s safe house, but they aren’t feeling very safe. Jefferson’s last words to Jennifer was to be strong for her mother, but Lynn wants her to know that strength doesn’t have to come at the price of holding back tears. They can comfort each other.

Jennifer says the one thing that I think everyone’s afraid to say out loud: What if he doesn’t come home this time? Black people in America are thrown away without the key everyday. How can any of them be audacious enough to hope that their family will be any different? It’s a quiet scene compared to the otherwise breadth of the episode. It’s small, even. But, in the middle of superhero spy conspiracy theories and Thunder punches and Lightning bolts, this moment’s also the most honest.

Nothing about this is funny.

Anissa’s ready to suit up and Thunder her dad out of jail, but that would play right into the ASA’s hands. The arrest is a smokescreen. Their entire goal is to sniff out Jefferson as Black Lightning. If Thunder shows up at the police station to break him out, that will be all the proof they need.

The spy organization is already planning to move Jefferson from Freeland’s local holding cell to a black ops location where they can perform testing on him. If they are going to get Jefferson released, they need to do so before that drop can occur. They have to throw the ASA off the scent, convince them that Jefferson Pierce is not Black Lightning. Gambi’s got a plan, and as much as I loathe to trust him, he seems to be the Pierces’ best option right now.

Gambi has devised a Black Lightning hologram that can run in the streets with Anissa dressed as Thunder. As long as no one gets close to the hologram, or splits up Anissa and her virtual dad, then it should be enough to look like the real thing. Gambi tells Anissa to pick the busiest part of Freeland for their fake out, and tells her to bring as much attention to herself as she can. Hello? She has Nafessa Williams’ face and Thunder’s gold costume — drawing attention to herself won’t be a problem.

In which we are all that guy with his jaw open in the background.

She starts things off with a strut down a main restaurant corridor. The sparkling tree lights double as her runway. I could watch Nafessa Williams do this all day. Every day. She’s powerful and breathtaking. Once Anissa has cameras and cell phones focused on her, she breaks off into a Thunder sprint.

The energy keeps picking up until it is positively electric! With the help of Gambi’s self driving mini van serving as a cover, virtual Black Lightning appears to run with Thunder. There’s a brief moment of danger, but Anissa uses her protective instincts to save them, and the ruse goes off without a hitch. By the end of night, every local news telecast in Freeland has footage of Black Lightning in the streets — while Jefferson is still behind bars.

The face you make when you realize you’ve become a tool of white supremacy.

In a brief moment of human decency, Vice Principal Omarosa wants to know if the footage is enough to let Jefferson free. She contacts the ASA, but they are unmoved. They tell her to keep quiet and do the job they hired her to complete. I don’t feel bad for her. Unless we find out something drastic in the next two episodes, its safe to say that she made this bed. She deserves to lie in it.

But do you know who was able to save Jefferson? Inspector Henderson! Following his early hunch that Jefferson’s arrest was a set up, throughout the episode Henderson helmed a parallel investigation that followed the money involved in the ASA’s police coverup. He doesn’t know the specifics of the spy organization, but the money trail alone is enough to get one dirty cop to flip on the other. With a confession that the police planted evidence against him, Jefferson is exonerated of all charges and free to go home.

That’s not all!  Inspector Henderson has been promoted! He closes the episode in a press conference that brings home the underlying message of the episode — for far too long in this country, black people have suffered from over and under policing in their communities, from police brutality, from government corruption rather than professionalism. He hopes that his new role as Deputy Commissioner Gordon Chief Henderson signals a new day for Freeland.

Nah-Nah Nah-Nah BATMAN!

Jefferson makes it home to Grandaddy Pierce’s safe house. The end of a long, impossible day. He’s greeted by hugs from both his daughters and Lynn. Then Jennifer scooches off to find ice cream before everyone’s emotions get too mushy. Seriously, that girl — perfect teenager is perfect. Gambi shows up to the family gathering with a meek smile and bottle of wine. He and Jefferson find an uncomfortable truce. There’s no way to make OK Gambi’s compliance with the ASA’s violence. But, Jefferson is thankful for the ways that Gambi has kept the Pierces safe these last few weeks. He’s hopeful that they can find a new, careful, way to work together.

The Pierce family ends the episode together — Uncle Gambi included — enjoying each other’s company over some take out pizza and Frank’s RedHot sauce.

And let us all pray that Beyoncé brings down the house during her Coachella performance this month. Amen.

We have just two weeks left! I can’t believe it! If you haven’t heard the great news by now, Black Lightning has been renewed for season two at the CW! I’m so glad that we won’t have to say goodbye to the Pierces or our beloved black lesbian superhero anytime soon. I’m also having uncomfortable feelings that with only two weeks to go, we haven’t had time to explore Anissa’s personal life more in this last set of episodes, namely whatever happened to her love interest Grace Choi. I’m working on collecting those thoughts for a future write up, so please be on the look out for that.

For now, I’m thankful that this week’s episode touched on the violent realities that far too many black people in this country face as it relates to unjust policing. Excuse my hard pivot, but today marks the 50th Anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. I hope that if you have time this evening, you take the chance will reflect on his legacy. It’s no secret that we are not where we need to be yet as a country. In the last few years, it feels as if we have fallen farther away from our goals than we have in a long time. Still, Dr. King never gave up on the promise of America. Even when she failed to live up to it.

So yes, let us have this reprieve together and talk superheroes. But then also, let us also steel ourselves and go out and fight. Be the real superheroes that our communities need out there in the world.

Love you guys! See you next week.

Carmen is Autostraddle's Associate 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 144 articles for us.

17 Comments

  1. Wonderful recap as always Carmen.

    Firstly, to get my weekly Grace rant out of the way. Things seem a bit calm now judging by the ending of the episode. Would it be such a big ask if the writers just have Anissa and Grace together at the beginning of the next episode before Tobias and his crew returns and she has to go back into the field? Ugh. It is not that hard. We have two more episodes left. I can’t believe ThunderGrace didn’t become canon this season.
    And like you said, we actually didn’t get to explore Anissa’s personal life as well as we should have. Like it is even still so weird to me whenever they say she is in Medical school. Like what??? Where is the proof? They never showed us anything. We need some time to chill and relax. Not every situation has to be tensed and action. Anyway, rant over.

    I really loved that Henderson dude this episode. He really came through. I hope they don’t kill him off.

    Jennifer should stop making me cry. That girl is too much.

    I love Gambi.

    Anissa is the sexiest superhero. Yes, the sexiest superhero is a lesbian. What a time to be alive.
    I’m sure i’ll faint if I ever get to meet Nafessa in person.

    • I also really loved Henderson this episode!!! He’s my favorite of all the sidekicks. I wonder if he’ll ever put 2 and 2 together, realizing that his ole buddy Jefferson is actually Black Lightning. We’ll see…

      I agree with you that I think we are coming up on another opportunity for Grace. Grace Choi is such an important part of Anissa’s mythology in the comics, it’s hard for me to believe right now that she’ll be sidelined forever. It’ll be interesting to see what the show does with these last two episodes, and how they move forward next year.

  2. Vice Principal Omarosa…LOL…that might replace “Uncle John Legend” as the best nickname I’ve heard for a character on this show.

    My favorite thing about this episode was watching Jefferson, Anissa and Jennifer harness their powers under considerable pressure. I think a huge part of really becoming a superhero, learning how to control your superpowers and not having them control you, so getting that understanding–however fraught coming to that understanding was–is crucial.

    Also? Was it just me or did Tayvon know the cops were coming before it was clear that the cops were there? Like he had supersonic hearing or something.

  3. Great recap Carmen, I was honestly enjoying the music and the visuals, it was such a real episode that we see far too often in black and brown communities of corrupted cops killing our fathers, brothers and sons. But I love the fact that Jefferson kept his head high and reminded those young black boys that the world doesn’t need another dead or incarcerated black man. But what honestly caught my attention this episode was Vice Principal “Omarosa” it is definitely true that all skinfolk ain’t kinfolk, I have watch many of my brothers and sisters try and ruin someone else’s career or future endeavors because of nothing but jealousy, it honestly makes me sick every time I hear or see it. I really wanted to fight her myself personally this episode but to be real, I haven’t liked her since the incident with the kid possibly getting expelled for green light and she was siding with the board which let me know we couldn’t trust her character as far as we could throw her.

    And as I’ve been saying i’m over this la la storyline and I would for us to keep focusing on the main issues and bring back Anissa’s love life. Like don’t queer bait us into watching the show because you have an out black lesbian but drop the ball when it comes to her relationship, there has to be some epic reasoning that we get rid of the girlfriend to introduce Grace Choi to then toss her away like a rag doll; the only reason I still watch is because it’s a great show overall and I still have hope that Grace will show up.

    • Yes, I’m interested to know why they did all that stuff in the earlier episodes. Why did they have that stuff with Anissa’s former girlfriend and introduce Grace? Of what purpose was it? I don’t want to say they queerbaited us but it does seem like they just did all that to get the queer fanbase talking and hyping. Not that they really were interested in telling a queer story.

      People have been asking for Chantal Thuy who plays Grace to be promoted to series regular in season 2 but it’s just the shipping talking. Why would she be promoted to series regular when she has literally done nothing or had any effect in season 1? So I feel it was poor work on the writers part.

      Plus the showrunners and Nafessa spoke about Grace’s role in the show but all what they said about it never came to be. So I am even thinking they just tricked us. I will not say queerbait because we know for a fact that Anissa is a lesbian and nothing is changing that. But like I said, I feel they didn’t really care much at the end of the day to write a proper queer story for the season. They just did so in the first few episodes and got everyone hyped and then dropped it.

    • One of the things I am working through for myself is, how do we measure “good” representation? Anissa is one of the strongest (in terms of well rounded) LGBT characters on television right now. I think looking for good, better detailed, more realistic, integrated lesbian characters has to be about more than their romantic relationship.

      At the same time, their love lives shouldn’t be ignored. Right? Because that isn’t representation at all.

      Anyway, it’s something I’m working through. Stay posted in the future for more!

      (I completely agree about the heartbreaking, but all too real, parts of the episode re: black folks who are willing to pull each other down, and over policing in black communities, and what all of that looks like. They really did those themes justice.)

  4. Me: there are only two episodes left?! ☉_☉

    Dad: well it was renewed for another season!!

    Me: but then we’ll have to wait .·´¯`(>▂<)´¯`·.

    Dad: …yeahhhh that's a bummer.

  5. This episode was great and so triggering at the same time.

    I love the family dynamic.

    It sucks we only have 2 episodes left. Also, I’m not tripping over the Grace thing. I think it would be jumping the gun to call it queerbaiting because it will happen.

    1. Black Lightning has packed alot in 13 episodes. They simply need more episodes. This season is about understanding the characters and the landscape.

    2. You can see this show as having 3 co-leads (Jeff, Anissa, Jennifer). This isn’t the thundergrace show. Anissa is getting character development and great screen time. While we know her and Grace will become something important to each other it really isn’t the most important thing to Anissa in the larger context of what she is dealing with right now. This is also consistent with her personality.

    3. The show has no throwaway characters. So its safe to say Grace will make an appearance by the finale.

    • They fit so much into 13 episodes! There really was no “filler” content. I think that’s been on of Black Lightning’s strengths so far. Along with the Pierce family, of course!

      Yes, I definitely don’t think that we are down for the count re: Grace Choi. One of the reasons I’ve held off on writing about her disappearance yet is because, based on the sow so far, I still think she might show up again before the finale.

      I love that thus far Black Lightning has had no throw away characters, *everyone* has a purpose.

  6. I did not trust Vice Principal Omarosa the second she tried to convince Jefferson to kick out that Greenlight affected student “because what about the school board/our school’s ranking” and “well fuck that student our ranking is more important”

    I was put into special ed in the 90’s so that’s a reaction for me that’s like breathing, but now? Oh no every time I look at her she’s every person who violated my ADA rights or caused harmed from a position of assumed trust and authority.

    Like I can’t truly understand-understand how “Not all skin folk are kinfolk.” feels because there’s layers and complexity and things to it that I as a white person will never experience.

    But an educator (even an admin that might have been an agent the whole time) doing what she’s doing especially to her own people I could Hulk out I really could

    • 1. That is such an EXCELLENT gif use!!!

      2. I completely agree, that was an early sign into her true nature. Those kind of educators (ones who prioritize their own standings over students’ needs) make me want to light my hair on fire.

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