“Black Lightning” Episode 112 Recap: A Bullet-Proof Black Lesbian On TV Is Oh So Sweet!

We open this week’s Black Lightning with a close up on an old foe — Tobias Whale. He is alive and well, thanks to the medical help of the ASA’s Head-Racist-In-Charge Martin Proctor. Proctor, always happy to live up to the nickname I gave him, greets Tobias with an off color joke about Black Lightning nearly barbecuing him alive because, haha black people love to barbecue.

I hate him.

Proctor wants Tobias to pick up dealing Green Light where Lady Eve left off. He launches into a recap of what we already know, that the ASA originally created a serum they thought would help keep black people docile, but it turned out to make some of them meta humans instead. With decades of continued experimentation, that serum turned into Green Light, which is now being pushed on the corners as the street drug de jour. The ASA wants to build an army of super charged secret spy marines. A slight new detail is that Green Light, much like its predecessor, is highly unstable. After becoming meta human, most of the test subjects die. A major exception to this is our very own Jefferson Pierce AKA Black Lightning. Which is why Proctor needs Tobias to deliver him the Great Bolted One — alive and absolutely not dead.

Guess who’s back from Erik Killmonger’s Wakandan bootcamp?

To help Tobias on his quest, Proctor gives him one final gift : Khalil Payne. Ah yes, Jennifer’s ex-first love, former Garfield High track star, and current Tobias Whale henchman, now with a fancy new metal robotic spine that means HE CAN WALK. He also somehow grew shoulder length dreadlocks in the one month he’s been away, never mind the fact that such a hairstyle would take literal years to cultivate, because what’s even the point of watching a black sci-fi show if you can’t hand wave away an inexplicable hair change for the sake of some drama?

Do you know who doesn’t have time to think about bionic teenage boys lurking in the corners? Lynn Pierce. My girl has set a sex trap for Jefferson, and I am really here for it. She’s got on a barely there pink slip dress, she poured herself a glass of red wine, and when Jefferson shows up huffing and puffing because she called him about an “emergency”, she just bats her eyes and brings him in close. So now we’ve solved one of the oldest mysteries of the season: Anissa Pierce definitely got her A game from her mama.

Jefferson holds Lynn and this supercharged thing happens under his fingertips that in turn supercharges her skin? Like there are all these little blue lighting bolts coursing through her veins? Whatever. She’s into it and I am not here to judge. You do you, Lynn. It’s been a long few months.

bom chicka wow wow

Back in charge Tobias is busy tying up loose ends around town. He has his lead assassin, Syonide, who we haven’t seen since she shot into the Freeland protest march way back in episode three, kill the henchman who saved Tobias’ life at the expense of his sister. He then calls up Lala using the creepiest secret code of all, “The Devil Deals the Cards,” and has the zombie gang leader finish off some more killing on his behalf. When Lala discovers that Tobias is the one who has been pulling his afterlife strings all along, he’s devastated.

Tobias’ biggest assignment falls to young Khalil. Tobias has to bring Black Lightning out hiding in order to capture him for Proctor, and his best course of action to do that is by attacking Garfield High. Khalil’s key to that plan. The teenager’s been walking around town as if it won’t draw attention that the city’s former All-American Track Star, last seen in a wheelchair with a severed spine, can now jump from buildings in a single hop.

First, Jefferson sees Khalil around the neighborhood, and becomes weary after realizing that his miraculous medical treatment has the ASA written all over it. Jefferson then warns Jennifer, but of course she doesn’t listen. She’s over all this superhero mumbo jumbo ruling her life. The minute Khalil texts, she bolts from Grandaddy Pierce’s safe house.

Well, someone just found out about Janelle Monáe’s new video.

She meets Khalil at their former site of their teenage puppy love, the lower roof outside of her bedroom window. Her smile when she first lays eyes on him — it’s the stuff of Disney princess movies. She hugs him close, they joke around with each other, the music swells, it’s all pure and innocent. That is until Jennifer starts asking about his new mature appearance and how exactly was he selected for this experimental medical study. Khalil turns cold on a dime. He doesn’t physically hurt Jennifer, but the quick change in his demeanor is enough to scare her.

I am not excited about Khalil’s major comeback. I enjoyed the boy-next-door earlier this season as Jennifer’s first boyfriend. My interests peaked when it was revealed about halfway through the season that Khalil decided to work for Tobias. However, by the time he returned to the narrative, I couldn’t muster any goodwill.

Watching the episode, I mostly found myself upset. How is it that every side character on Black Lightning who originally felt inconsequential — from the beanpole drug dealer Will, who originally died in the second episode only to come back as a figment of Lala’s zombie imagination, to Vice Principal Omarosa, who has moved from having less than three lines an episode to being the right hand of this season’s Big Bad — managed to come back full circle, except for Lady Eve and both of Anissa’s love interests.

Black Lightning made quick work of defining itself as the kind of intrigue drama where clues are not left at random. Characters originally thought to be dead are brought back to life, background books and set pieces become enriching supplementary evidence, even the show’s music choices have often have a higher calling. When so many small details have proven to be important, the unexplained loss of the show’s central femme fatale figure and it’s two queer women of color love interests is glaring.

Lala came back from death to serve Tobias Whale was his new master, so why did Black Lightning spend roughly half the season building up Lady Eve as the Queen of the (un)Dead via  her mortuary? Why did Martin Proctor see fit to save Tobias’ life, then cut a new deal with the kingpin about selling drug deals on Eve’s old turf, rather than just save the equally villainous — but self-empowered, independent woman — Lady Eve to begin with? How is that Jennifer’s ex-boyfriend Khalil was given a new central arc as we close the first season, but Grace Choi and Chenoa SHE DIDN’T EVEN GET A LAST NAME, Anissa’s two love interests, have not been heard from in two months?

Perhaps this disparity wouldn’t be as striking if Black Lightning hadn’t soared so high in its early episodes. Grace, Chenoa, and Lady Eve all played a dynamic role in making the show feel unique and feminist right out of the gates. A sharp breath of fresh air you rarely get on television. Chenoa and Anissa started the season off with a literal bang, becoming only the second black couple in all of network television to share a bed together. They spent a full three minutes on screen, naked from their lovemaking, sharing a kind of queer intimacy rarely caught on camera. Grace Choi’s bright smile and even brighter spirit warmed right through us. Her character’s fundamental to Anissa’s superhero development in the comic books, and losing track of her in the television series is a grave misstep — especially when the actress playing Grace, Chantal Thuy, still takes such care with the show’s fans on social media. Jill Scott’s Lady Eve was overdramatic in all of the best ways. It’s still rare on camera to see a fat woman who’s in full ownership of her body and her sexuality. Eve had the potential to be a villain that we talked about on television for years to come, but she was cut down halfway through the season and replaced with the zombie creations of lackluster men who were previously thought to be dead.

I’ve loved Black Lightning’s first season, and it’s ability to craft a well-woven Afrofuturist superhero tale. Still, the creeping double standard underlying the back half of the season cannot be ignored.

There is one episode left, and who knows? I’d love nothing more than the last hour to have Lady Eve triumphantly rise from the ground to decapitate Tobias and push a spear through that racist ass Martin Proctor. I’d love to see Anissa wrap up her superhero arc by taking a shot of tequila at Grace’s bar. Going into their already renewed second season, I remain hopeful that the show’s writers room course corrects. And fast. Thankfully, executive producer Salim Akil has promised that we can “expect to see Grace again — in a BIGGER way”. That doesn’t necessarily dampen the frustration of having her character already sidelined for this long. But, I believe that the same writers who gave us all of these incredible women characters — Grace and Eve, but also Anissa, Jennifer, and Lynn — will also come trough with stories that are worthy of them.

Ok. Back to Khalil’s assignment. He’s back on his old stomping grounds, Garfield High, turning over school buses and breaking down doors. Tobias has accessorized him with wrist-sized dart throwers that shoot tranquilizers. The students that Khalil’s randomly hunting in the hallways are not being fatally harmed. Still, it’s scary enough. I’m thankful we’re firmly in the sci-fi realm right now, but watching students be violently stalked and terrorized in their own school, given the 17 real life school shootings we have already witnessed so far this year, left me thoroughly unnerved.

That’s one way to clear a room.

Khalil’s faux massacre definitely went about five seconds longer than my comfort level could bear, I had a big sigh of relief when Thunder and Black Lightning take their superhero stroll through the school. They only have roughly five minutes to save the day before the authorities will show up ready to arrest Black Lightning, who is still technically an outlaw.

Vice Principal Omarosa is busy guiding all of the panicked students out of the school. Jennifer tries to warn Jefferson about Khalil, but he cuts her off and tells her to run for safety. For the second time in the episode, our favorite stubborn 16-year-old doesn’t listen to her father. Her family is going to need her help. She can’t leave them behind.

Anissa is canvassing the classrooms when she finds Syonide cockily holding a group of students at gunpoint. Syonide, eyes on her target, lets all the hostages leave the room as she prepares for battle. She pulls out her guns and lets it rip — clip after clip pouring out onto Anissa. I’ve said before that bullet proof black people is my favorite superhero trope, which is still true, but there is also something so sweet about a television lesbian who can’t be shot.

Yeah, about that “Bury Your Gays”? I didn’t think so.

Those bullets bounce of off Anissa like they are raindrops. She cockily looks back at Syonide as if to say, is that all you got? And then the two women have it out in what must be Black Lightning’s most stunning piece of fight choreography to date. I couldn’t believe it! The CW agreed with me, because they released the entire scene online so that we could relive it’s glory over and over again:

While Thunder and Syonide are living out all of my femme superhero fight club dreams, Black Lightning and Tobias are setting the stage for their grand rematch, roughly ten years in the making.

Tobias came prepared — he has on a “lightning proof” vest underneath his clothes, goading Jefferson into hand to hand combat instead. Despite the warnings of literally every person with common sense, Jefferson takes the bait. The two men brawl down the high school hallway, wrapped tightly in each other. Khalil appears. Gambi, via an earpiece, encourages Jefferson to take the teenager out. The risk is too great and time is running out. But, Jefferson can’t leave the kid paralyzed again. He won’t do it.

In the time it takes Jefferson to weigh the decision, Khalil launches one of his tranquilizers in Jefferson’s neck! It’s zaps away all his powers and leaves him seemingly dead. Tobias is just about to unmask him once and for all — when Thunder comes running down the staircase! She’s still dodging bullets! She Thunder claps and ground shakes! Tobias and all his henchmen scurry away!

Anissa tries to wake up her father. He won’t budge. Jennifer flies around the other corner. She cries over Jefferson’s body, begging him to breathe. He weeps and pounds her fists on his chest. That’s when it happens! Her powers spark Jefferson back to life!

We always knew that Jennifer was the most powerful Pierce, but I think this is the moment when she finally sees it for herself. Earlier in the episode Jennifer begged Lynn to find a way to take her powers away, but now she understands: her powers don’t mean something’s wrong with her. They mean that she’s fully herself.

It’s Lit.

Gambi takes the entire Pierce family to another secret safe house, this time in the woods. (The horrified look on poor teenage Jennifer’s face when he tells her to smash all their smartphones was GOLD!) And so here they are, with the ASA calling for Thunder and Black Lightning’s bodies on a stake, backs against the wall, as we go into the final episode.

Damn.

Since this week’s episode was a little light on Anissa Pierce, I wanted to share with you all that her actress, Nafessa Wiliams, has been super busy lately! If you haven’t had the chance yet, you should absolutely watch her fan panel at last weekend’s ClexaCon! Nafessa has been so committed to giving love back to the LGBT community she’s representing in this role, particularly black lesbians, bisexuals, and queer women. She’s taken playing the first black lesbian superhero seriously. So, I’m ending this week with a shout out to her (if you aren’t following Nafessa on twitter, you can find her @NafessaWilliams) and a shout out to all of you! We’ve been on such a journey together. I’ve never done a weekly recap before this year. Hell, this time last year I had never written professionally about television at all. You have all made it absolutely worth it!

I’ll cut the mushy feelings for now and save the rest for next week — when we will come back together for the BLACK LIGHTNING SEASON FINALE!!!!

Carmen is Autostraddle's Associate Editor and a black Puerto Rican femme/inist writer. She claims many past homes, but has left the largest parts of her heart in Detroit, MI, 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 at night. You can find her on twitter, @carmencitaloves.

Carmen has written 121 articles for us.

19 Comments

  1. Great Recap. I just want to point out that Tobias didn’t mistake Jefferson for dead, he was dead. Khalil’s punch stopped his heart which is why Tobias couldn’t get a pulse and Jennnifer basically served as a defibrillator.

    Also, I have 10 bucks that say Grace will show up in the finale. My spec is this: The ASA dude already said he want Thunder, alive or dead. Given their resources I think they would revisit areas of potential sightings since they have some idea that her power is related to density or strength. The first noticeable area she used her powers was outside of that lesbian bar.

    So if Grace isn’t caught up in suspension with those other kids. They will approach her trying to identify Thunder. It would be a huge misstep not to have Grace in the finale. Otherwise, they could have waited to introduce her to next season. So far the runners have been smart so I’m going to trust them for now.

    Also, note that the showrunner/writer was tightlipped about Grace but assured she had a huge role to play. Although it didn’t sound specific to the finale and seemed in general to next season.

    And I get wanting to see Lady Eve again but she’s dead. And let’s face it, why would Chenoa be chilling at a bar that her ex-gf was emotionally cheating with the bartender?

    • You’re comment really helped me edit some parts of my recap this week. I can’t thank you enough!

      I meant the reference to Chenoa being in the final episode as a joking hyperbole of sorts, but it retrospect I could see how that came across as muddled, so I went ahead and cut it. I also didn’t think Jefferson was dead dead, so I couldn’t figure out how to word it, but I think after reading your comment I found some better phrasing. Thank you again!!

      Also, if Sam Akil says Grace is coming back, then I DEFINITELY believe him! The Akils (Sam and his wife, the super brilliant Mara Bock Akil) have been nothing but good to me for my entire television loving life. I will always best my last $10 on them 🙂

  2. Another awesome recap Carmen. Can’t believe we have one more episode left. It just feels like yesterday when we watched the first episode.

    Jennifer is indeed the most powerful. And she showed that by resurrecting Jefferson. He died but was brought back. I think she will learn that her powers aren’t bad now and will tell Lynn to not bother about isolating the genes.

    Yes, this episode was light on Anissa but i expected it because we hadn’t seen Tobias and his crew for a couple of episodes. So i knew they’d take up the screen time.
    I just really hope all the screen time with Lala eventually pays off and we didn’t just waste time on him.

    The Black Lightning showrunner said Grace will return in a bigger role. Though that probably means season 2. Like I have said for weeks now, I don’t expect her to show up again during season 1.
    And it’s really sad because Nafessa and the showrunner really hyped up Grace earlier in the season in their various interviews. But you are right in that every little side character had some bigger role to play. So I wish same was about Grace.
    Anyway, we can only hope we get to see her next season and the “having a bigger role” isn’t another hype for nothing.

    Anissa and Syonide’s fight was the best.

    • I’m so glad you and @divinityrocs pointed me to the Akil interview! It definitely doesn’t change what I think was a story misstep in waiting this long to bring Grace back, but it at least leaves hope on the horizon. Grace is just too big in the comic books to ignore in this format. I have to believe she’s coming back — BIG TIME. But I also think they could have incorporated her earlier if they wanted too.

      That Anissa/Syonide fight was ERRRRRYTHING!! I rewatched it like 5x. (Shhh! Don’t tell anybody!)

  3. Also, how come the vice principal and the students didn’t find it suspicious that Jefferson was nowhere to be found when the school was under attack but Black Lightning was present?
    That’s a serious question and i’m sure the writers didn’t take that into consideration.

    • @taylordazzles, I had this same question, especially with Vice Principal Omarosa. Just last week she was trying to dissuade the ASA from believing that Jefferson was Black Lightning and Gambi was able to throw them off his trail temporarily but now? How is Jefferson’s absence going to be explained after this? Aside from not being there in the immediate aftermath of the attack when the Principal would be expected to cooperate with police and media, don’t BL’s injuries put him out of commission for days, if not weeks?

      The only storyline I could come up with is that the family’s been kidnapped by whomever attacked the school but that feels like a stretch. Anyone else have any theories?

      • I think Vice Principal Omarosa recognized Jefferson in the fight sequence, actually. There’s no proof yet — but I swore in one of the lingering camera shots I saw a lightbulb go off over her head.

        We’ll see if my hunch is right soon, I guess.

        • Plus, you’d think someone would say “Gee, Black Lightning is running around with a younger female sidekick. Doesn’t that Pierce guy we thought was Black Lightning have a daughter of that general height and build?”

  4. “How is it that every side character on Black Lightning who originally felt inconsequential — … — has managed to come back full circle, except for Lady Eve and both of Anissa’s love interests.”

    Every episode without Lady Eve and Grace is so frustrating. Thank you Carmen for articulating everything I was feeling and thinking about this season!

  5. Hey Dazzlyn (@taylordazzles), DivinityRocs (@@divinityrocs) or any other fans out there —

    if you have an article link, or even a social media link, of one of the Akils or another executive producer talking about Grace’s return I’d love to have it! I’d like to use it to update my critique in the review.

    I just did some internet sleuthing on my own, but couldn’t come up with a source.

  6. Such a great recap!

    I can’t wait to see where we end up for the finale. I have a long list of things I’d love to see (specifically Grace and Lady Eve), and I can’t wait!

  7. Honestly, despite only having read the theory in the comments on the last recap I will be pretty disappointed if Grace doesn’t turn out to be in those pods or otherwise trapped by the ASA.

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