“Black Lightning” Episode 202 Recap: Anissa Pierce is Looking Very Shane Today

The best part of having superhero powers, according to the Pierce Sisters?

Saying goodbye to your period cramps.

Where do I sign up?

Anissa’s trying to help Jennifer find her way out of her depression with a little exercise. (For the record, I hate exercise, even though I know it’s good for my mental health. But, if Nafessa Williams showed up at my doorstep in those spandex leggings, I wouldn’t turn her away. Just saying.)

Worth It.

Jennifer’s happy to say goodbye to period pain, but the real pain she’s concerned about is her pain-in-the-ass older sister. When is Anissa going to get back into her vibrant dating life?


Turns out that “when” is NOW. Right this moment. After an Eleven Episode Dry Spell (how did we ever make it through?!?!?), tonight is the night that Anissa Pierce is getting back in the saddle. And let me tell you, that woman doesn’t play around.

Anissa finds herself at a lounge bar with a perfect outfit, perfect smokey eye, and perfect glass of wine. She catches eyes with Zoe B, the sweet songbird playing acoustic guitar, and never lets go. She knows exactly what she’s doing; sleek, quite, powerful. She pulls the woman in. One step, then another.

She goes to up Zoe, biting her lip, fluttering her lashes, lowering her voice in that way that always makes me blush and look away from the TV. She asks, “So, what happens when we finish staring at each other?… I say we sit, talk, get to know each other for a bit. I watch you say goodnight to your last guests. Then, you sing me a song. Naked. In heels, of course.”

I believe this is what the kids call “a thirst trap”

You see, it’s called a “trap” because this poor girl has no idea what’s coming to her.

Just like that, Anissa Pierce is back in the game.

That entire scene left me a mush of my former self, so I don’t know how Zoe B pulls it together. Somehow she does and the next morning, after a presumed sex filled night, they find themselves swimming in bikinis at her private rooftop pool. Did you hear me say private rooftop pool? That’s right. Anissa sure knows how to pick ‘em.

This is exactly how I dreamed of all my pool parties going when I was 13.

Too bad Anissa has to get to class before it’s too late, and no amount of promised heels and pouty lips can make her stay.

She does, however, come back later. For a private party that Zoe’s hosting. They look amazing together, making out underneath some really spectacular lighting.

Which is, obviously, the absolute worst time for Grace Choi to walk back in all of our lives.

“And they lived happily ever..”


Grace is working as a waitress for the catered event (side note: how much money does this Zoe girl have? Is that what acoustic guitar pays these days?). She turns her head before its too late, but Anissa catches her anyway. She works that awkward half wave of “Oh Shit! My old boo seeing me with my new boo!”. Grace escapes to the patio.

Outside, Anissa stumbles her way into a weak apology.

“Ummm, How have you been?”

“Just peachy.”

[… the withering silence of an ex-girlfriend planning how she’s going to burn all of your prized possessions like she’s Angela Bassett and the entire world is the set of Waiting to Exhale…]

“Ummm, look, I’m sorry I haven’t called in a minute. Things have been real crazy.”

“I can tell.”

And with that, Grace pushes past Anissa and back out of her life.

Putting Grace’s sad puppy face breaking my heart aside for the moment – this is not the tone I expected for the long promised return to Anissa’s love life. At all.

Anissa’s major love story last year involved grappling with the moral responsibility of her super powers while protecting Grace from homophobic bigots – heavy themes that were more traditionally in line with the series. It was an avenue of exploration that I absolutely adored. Comparatively, last night’s arc full of rooftop pools, private jets, and catered parties felt cookie cutter-ed out of Gossip Girl and dropped in the middle of Freeland. At my most generous, it was jarring and out of place with the narrative structure Black Lightning has constructed thus far.

It was also a damn good time. For a show with “light” in its title, Black Lightning’s most comfortable wrestling with darkness. Some of last night’s rollout was awkward, but it also infused levity into a show that takes itself incredibly seriously. Last week’s season premiere opened with the death of a young black boy and on-screen mentions of the abuse of enslaved black women. This week, Anissa made out with a hot singer and wore a bikini in the middle of the day. I’ll take my gasps of fresh air where I can find them. If I can get them while also deep belly laughing at Anissa’s hickie, so large it could be seen from Mars? Even better.

Zoe B’s introduction also provides an opportunity to re-consider what little we know of Anissa’s love life.

We know that she dated Chenoa, her girlfriend at the start of the series, with whom she shared a groundbreaking scene of television, for months without ever introducing her to her parents. Perhaps that’s not strange for some romances, but we also know that Anissa is incredibly close with her family. Still, her parents couldn’t even remember Chenoa’s name. Chenoa and Anissa break up after Chenoa finds Anissa on a date with Grace! Literally catching them mid bumb-n-grind on the dance floor! At the time I was willing to sidestep all the drama because I love Anissa so much, but stay with me, because I’m building a case.

Grace and Anissa date for a few episodes, getting close enough that Anissa saves her life, and then… they fizzle out? At least once after their final on-screen appearance, we see Anissa flex some of her mighty strong game over the phone, leaving one of those “Hey Baby” voicemails  that had me weak at the knees. Ahem. Sorry. Back to matters at hand. Last night we found out that they haven’t spoken in months. No official break up or anything. Anissa just straight up ghosted ol’ girl.

Now, Anissa is dating again. Rather than rekindle her romance with Grace, she starts up a new fling with Zoe B!  I don’t think Zoe’s going to be around for a long time. Something about that jet-setting, private party, lifestyle doesn’t scream the “life long committed partner ready to take on the struggle” that Anissa needs.

Your honor I present this dossier of evidence to ask you: What if Anissa Pierce has been a Shane McCutcheon this whole time?

LE GASP! Could it be? In each of the three relationships we’ve seen thus far, Anissa runs the same game. She’s hot, she grabs attention, she pursues, she deflects, she holds up walls and then… she bolts. There’s a pattern emerging, and it’s one in which my beloved social justice warrior Anissa Pierce is the exact kind of good-for-nuthin’ player you wouldn’t want your best friend dating. I’m sorry, but it’s true.

I also still love her and, given the chance, I would 100% shoot my shot like it’s the first act of Hamilton. That’s the thing about a Shane, you always know they’re bad for you, and still you can’t turn away. (Ask Carmen de la Pica Morales. She knows what I’m talking about.)

These are breadcrumbs! Maybe I’m reading the stars all wrong. Maybe Grace is going to help Anissa grow out of her commitment-phobia. Who knows where our journey will lead? One thing is for certain, Nafessa Williams promises that this year Anissa “is a little bit more interested in the romantic side of her life.” I can’t wait to watch more of this cat-and-mouse game, already in progress.

Do you know who is less excited about Anissa dipping back into the deep end? Her father. It starts when Thunder joins Black Lightning on a mission to find Wendy Hernandez, a so-called “Green Light Baby” who was freed from the ASA’s pods during a violent incident involving the death of another ASA captive. Thunder and Black Lightning team up with Gambi to bring Wendy in safely, before the police can do greater harm. Oh, and that cutaway to dynamic duo putting on superhero uniforms for the first time this year? PERFECTION.


80s Baby

Gambi’s research reveals that Wendy was one of the original participants in the same Freeland Experiment that gave Jefferson his powers, meaning that she’s been held in captivity for over 30 years! It’s horrifying. She’s alone. She has no one. The last time she was walking this earth, Boy George and The Culture Club had a #1 record.

Wendy packs more wind power than Tyra Banks working the hair fans on a Victoria’s Secret runway. Out of fear, she’s wreaking havoc all across Freeland. Unfortunately the first time Black Lightning and Thunder arrive on the scene, she’s already long gone. They clean up her mess while bystanders cheer. Anissa grandstands a bit for the crowd, taking bows on top of police cars and slapping High Fives. Jefferson’s more than a bit annoyed at Anissa’s “smile for the cameras” approach to superhero-ing. I get that; he spent most of his life as Black Lighting on the run from the law. He’s always been more of a vigilante Batman than government approved Superman, you know? The hero we need, but not the hero we deserve.

In case you wondering, SHE’S the hero we both need and deserve.

What happens next is when I think he crossed the line. Black Lightning eventually does find Wendy, convincing her to return to the pods under Lynn’s care. Thunder missed out, because Anissa was busy making out. Jefferson gets one good look at Anissa’s hickie and hits the roof! She’s being reckless, he worries. Posing for pictures, skipping superhero duty to get hot and heavy under her clothes – it’s the start of bad news! Supposedly. (I don’t think kissing girls instead of spending another crime-fighting night on the town with Pops is going to be the reason Anissa ends up in harms way, but we’ll see). He warns Anissa, this is how you end up dead.

Anissa’s biting response? Pick a new song, Dad.

I have a feeling that this is the beginning of a new chapter for Thunder and Black Lightning. One in which they have to find a way to work as equals, or they won’t work together at all.

Elsewhere in “where do I fit in” news, Lynn’s having trouble finding her footing at the ASA. She made a deal with the duplicitous government agency so she could try to change the system from the inside, and now she’s realizing how dirty that system really is. Issa Williams – dubbed “bodybag boy” by ASA Agent O’Dell (black Hollywood legendary director/actor Bill Duke), because sometimes we really don’t know how to love ourselves – is turned over to Lynn for observation. Issa’s family has turned their back on him, so Lynn brings him home to have dinner with the Pierces.

LeBron James is the greatest athlete of our time.

Woooow, you pronounced “Serena Williams” real funny just now.

Turns out, Issa’s super secret superpower is that he can make anyone tell the truth, as long as he looks them in the eyes. It doesn’t take long for the Pierce’s Huxtable family dinner to turn into an episode Keeping Up With the Khardasians. Luckily Jefferson figures out the real deal before it’s too late, though the background reaction shot of Jennifer and Anissa realizing how close they came to spilling their Lightning family secrets is hilarious. Jennifer befriends Issa with a little rooftop hang and some light teenage marijuana smoking; she knows what it’s like to be out of control.

Lynn’s left to give Issa awful news. His powers were formed artificially from Green Light, he was not born with them, and that means that his cells won’t stabilize. Eventually, they will break down. His only choice is certain death, or to be held in suspension inside of the ASA’s pods. He chooses the former – a short life reunited with his family instead of a long life alone in fear. It’s a choice no one should ever have to make.

Oh! And Tobias Whale is still up to no good! He’s killing off anyone who ever knew him and planning to turn the Green Light Babies into an army of super soldiers that he can sell in an international arms race. Yeah, because that doesn’t sound like slavery AT ALL. Khalil wants to get back with Jennifer, but she doesn’t forgive him for nearly killing her dad. Will things work out for those two crazy kids? *shrug emoji* Do I care about any of this more than I care about whose bed Anissa will land in next?

No, I do not.

Ok! That’s it for me! We’re 19 days away from the midterm elections! Grab a few friends and set a voting plan! Friends who vote together, stay together! (Have two free hours this weekend? Here’s how to find a volunteer shift for a campaign at your nearest swing district!)

Until next week!

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Carmen Phillips

Carmen is Autostraddle's Editor-in-Chief 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 700 articles for us.


  1. It’s like they used the light from inside my heart to illuminate Anissa this week! She was breathtaking in every scene!

    Also your Serena punchline made me do an IRL air-punch.

  2. A coworker of mine once told me she mistook a kidney stone for her period cramps. I think immunity to cramps would be a super power all on its own.


    I found the scene in the auditorium where the students called out Principle Pierce’s mantra so powerful. That, and the scene last season where the students tried to block the police from arresting him, show just how much respect the students of Garfield High have for him.

    • UGH! That scene meant so much to me!

      “Whose life is this?”


      “And what am I going to do with it”


      *cue tears*

  3. Is Anissa really back into the dating/relationship game or is this just another random plot they run for two episodes and close the chapter till next season? This show doesn’t do romance. But if they are gonna do it, i hope they know what they are doing and do it well. Like you said Carmen, the whole thing just felt weird and out of place in this episode. But i wouldn’t hold my breath.

    Seriously, better not to bring Grace back at all than bring her back only for no development at all and we not even learning anything new about her.

    We’ll see where this goes. But i have no expectations at all.

  4. Anissa is definitely a commitment-phobe and a player. But I think that’ll make it much more meaningful when she pulls her head out of her butt and realizes she actually wants to commit to Grace. I’m very much down for a slow burn.

    • I don’t think Anissa is a commitment-phobe. I just think her family, community activism, and personal goals (medical school/teaching) come before a romantic relationship. I mean while Jen has a close female friend, they haven’t even shone Anissa to have a close friend in her life.

  5. I didn’t think Anissa and Grace were dating last season. I would not put her in Shane territory. It seemed like Anissa met Grace the same time her powers manifested and she decided to get comfortable with her powers over pursuing something with Grace, even though they had a connection.

  6. I appreciate that the writers threw in a reference to Anissa going to class because I was really starting to get worried. If she’s in 1M (her first year), that’s basically a full-time gig of studying and going to 8 hours of class a day. I know it’s a superhero show, we’re not going for realism, but between being Thunder, making out with hot babes, and community activism, I don’t know where she gets the time for studying. I wonder if she’s going to fail out of med school and that’ll be a plot point.

  7. Yeah, I think they are definetely hinting that Anissa tends towards emotional isolationism – throwing herself into the deep end of personal projects (med shool, superheroing) but keeping girlfriends an (emotional) armslength away (‘I’m too busy to be vulnerable’).

    • “emotional isolationism” is such a good, loaded phrase. And one I wouldn’t have thought to use! I’m really vibing it. Thanks!

  8. Aside from the dinner scene, which was hilarious, I didn’t like this episode at all. I appreciate that the writers were sensitive to criticism from the first season about Anissa’s non-existent love life but this felt like a drastic and unbelievable swing in the other direction.

    I may not have been a fan of how it turned out but the one thing I give The Bold Type credit for this season is that they treated Kat’s lack of reflection over her blackness in Season One as an actual thing that happened. The writers made a mistake — they recognized that they made a mistake — and they wrote a story in Season Two that tried to make Season One make sense. On Black Lightning, they just seemed to pretend like last season didn’t happen and overcompensated with these meaningless scenes of Anissa as a walking thirst trap.

    (No shade. I love a good thirst trap.)

    I didn’t recognize the Anissa that approached Zoe like that — when she met Grace, she was clearly checking her out at the bookstore but was way more smooth about it — or the Anissa/Thunder who fought the bad guys in search of adulation from the public. That’s never been who this character was…and I’m hoping it’s just a momentary blip rather than a permanent personality transplant.

    • I know I’m in the minority here but I do not think the actress who places Anissa is a good actress…I tend to find myself cringing a bit during the scenes where she’s trying to display swagger or be a player. And while Zoe was singing, was it me or was Anissa moving to a completely different beat?? It was a slow song but she was moving like it was more upbeat. I love a good lesbian storyline and I enjoy sexy women..I love Grace and the actress who played her…I hope they include her more in Anissa’s storyline so she can help improve those scenes.

      • @lilturbo Yes, girl! The entire audience was bopping along like they were playing Beyonce and not like there was some girl there playing an acoustic guitar. It was such a jarring moment.

        We’ll have to agree to disagree about Nafessa though…I think she’s talented but even she can’t turn “sh*t into sugar.”

    • I’m with you on the dinner scene being hilarious, Natalie! I also did really enjoy the student response to Jefferson stepping down at the end, the sister scene with Anissa and Jen talking about their cramps, and the scene between Jennifer and Issa on the roof. This episode, more than any other for me, felt really disjointed and sort of tonally uneven. In my head, it feels like we were handed like four episodes in the space of one, and so nobody really got the time they deserved. Full disclosure: I’m Nafessa Williams trash through and through, so like 7 on-point outfit changes and hairstyles carried me through this with little complaint.

      On the focus on Anissa, I think what doesn’t work for me is the show’s clear expectation that they laid enough groundwork in S1 that we still feel invested in Grace as an individual or a romantic option for Anissa. Had this chain of events (Anissa meeting and romancing a random hot lady then running into Grace with apologies) happened mid-season, hopefully after showing us at least a couple more scenes suggesting that Anissa tried to pursue the friendship and bolted when Grace seemed to want more, then I’d be more inclined to accept this whole big pimpin’ thing they’re trying out. As is, it just feels equal parts rushed and unearned.

      Chantal Thuy and Nafessa Williams both deserved a little more time and material together in which to show us a friendship blossoming into more, especially if we’re gonna get a nice slowburn romance, and I hope the team shows more consideration moving forward.

  9. Zoe B is played by Andy Allo. I’ve been a fan of hers years (who after her debut album in 2009, really came on stronger in the music industry with Prince two years later) – long before her appearance in Black Lightning.

    If anyone else is interested in the music of the talented, and stunning Andy Allo, then you can find her here:
    – Website: http://www.andyallo.com/
    – Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/andyallo/
    – Facebook: hwww.facebook.com/andyallo

  10. No show, not even Black Lightning, is going to make me actually enjoy a soft-acoustic performance in a wide open space while people dance nod off beat and sway and pretend to enjoy it. I’m sure Andy Allo is uber talented IRL, but scenes like that make me cringe so hard. Beyond the beautiful lighting and the lovely, multicultural crowd of hotties, and the probably fine song, my whole body was in danger of collapsing in on itself watching and also listening to that.

    Phew. I just needed to externalize that.

    This was a really strange episode for me in that I liked a handful of parts but also thought a lot of things were oddly mismanaged.To avoid writing 17 paragraphs as I am wont to do, I’m gonna bullet point it.

    -Anissa and Jennifer having sister time/talking about menstrual cramps and gossiping about their parents.
    -Issa joining in on a Pierce family dinner and everybody scattering when his power was revealed
    -That BL and Thunder suiting up mini montage
    -The students showing Jefferson what he means to them, regardless of his role at Garfield
    -Every Anissa look, esp that bomber jacket and the swimsuit. I live a life led by thirst and I’m glad they know
    -Jen and Issa talking. Look, I know we get exactly 2 friends tops in this fam at once, and that Keisha and Henderson are tentatively holding it down, but can Jen have a meta friend? A friend her age who knows more or less what she’s feeling, someone who she can talk to about her powers so that I can say with absolute certainty she won’t seek ol’ boy Khalil out out of sheer isolation? And also Issa’s friends have probably run as fast as his fam, so give him a friend 2k18 please.

    Not so goods:
    -Tobias’ killing spree and his slap-happy tantrum with Khalil. I get that he’s devolving and all out of people to care about or whatever, but every time a scene cut to him, it felt like changing a channel
    -The whole Wendy c-plot. Girl needed more time, like 20 minutes worth of scenes with Jeff connecting to her and Lynn convincing her to go back in a pod, and enough time before either of those things happened to remind us that she was a scared child being accosted by police. Idk anything about psychotic breaks, but that seemed like an unnecessary added layer to showcase Jeff’s powers when it would’ve made perfect sense to have a disoriented, lost 80s teen raising hell in an unfamiliar world.
    -Issa going back to his family. His sister genuinely, truthfully said she hopes he dies again, and that she doesn’t want to care for him. I’m not even skeptical that someone could feel or say that, but then having the kid go home to that felt too easy and neat
    -Anissa becoming Shane out of nowhere and having ghosted Grace at some point i guess? Would’ve been nice to see
    -The tension between Jeff and Anissa, specifically because I think I see where it’s coming from, with Anissa really feeling herself rn (esp after successfully robin hooding around Freeland) and Jeff knowing that, even when they’re doing good for the city, they’re still black vigilantes who could easily be captured or killed on the job if they aren’t careful, but haven’t had enough time to see Anissa being reckless in a way that skirts the danger line
    -Khalil sharing his sob story now that he gets smacked around at work like he didn’t have warnings before deciding to become a killer. That boy was so sweet in S1, and I really do hate seeing him now even if jumping onto the roof was cool af

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