On The Run. There’s a reason that Beyoncé and Jay-z use three-word phrase as the title for their tours. Just like there’s a reason that they named their debut single as a couple, “Bonnie & Clyde” (to be fair, that song is also a reference to TuPac’s 1996 single “Me and My Girlfriend”, but the original is about a handgun and I’m trying to make a point here, so let’s just move it along). The idea of a lone wolf and their “ride or die” girlfriend is supposed to be romantic. It’s one of the most indelible images in our pop culture. Two people in love, against the world. Rule-breakers who will do anything it takes to survive. United together, so that even when they’re wrong, it feels so right.
But, that only works if you care about the couple in question.
To Black Lightning’s credit, they worked really hard to get me to love Jennifer and Khalil. He calls her “babe” and she blushes in return; they smile those Season One puppy love smiles; at one point Jennifer uses her powers to protect him, and later he takes her to his aunt’s house so that he can protect her. Hell, the show even threw in a “Jennifer does Khalil’s hair” scene for good measure! And listen, nothing has me squeezing a couch pillow against my chest and shouting “Black Love IS REAL” at my television like a good hair scene! Once, over five years ago, Senator Edison Davis told Olivia Pope on Scandal “I watched you press your hair” as proof of their serious relationship, and I still quote it to this day!
Too bad, it was never going to work. For most of this season, Khalil has been emotionally manipulative (if not flat out emotionally abusive, if you really wanted to go there) towards his first love. She asked him not to pursue her, she asked him to respect her boundaries. He ignored her. He kept calling, kept texting, as if her needs mattered less than his own. Maybe I would feel less a stick in the mud about this, if it wasn’t actual behavior often perpetuated by teenage boys towards their (ex)girlfriends without ever being called out. Boys are taught that it’s romantic to keep going, even when the girl tells them “No” and that is a problem. Not respecting emotional boundaries is certainly damaging enough on its own, but it’s also the first step to not respecting physical boundaries. This is a slippery slope of messaging that Black Lightning shouldn’t have engaged in to begin with.
But they did, and so here we are, watching Jennifer and Khalil, pretending to care what happens to them – when the only thing I was rooting for was for Jennifer’s family to find her and uproot her from this mess.
The first stop on their bed decisions tour was one of Tobias’ old One Hundred spots, where Khalil is hoping to muscle his way into stealing some illegal drug money that will fund their getaway. Yeah, it doesn’t work out. Jennifer ends up using her powers just to save him. I’m happy to see our favorite teenager finally find usefulness and pride over the powers that make her so special, but damn does it have to be over this dude??
Later, she uses those same regenerative powers to help Khalil hotwire a car. All she wants to do is call her parents and let them no that she’s OK, but Khalil’s scared. He doesn’t want Tobias to find them. When Jennifer pushes some more, he raises his hand towards her! He later apologizes (and Jennifer righteously responds, squaring her jaw and looking him dead in the eyes – “If you ever snap at me again, Tobias is the last person you’ll need to worry about”), but the threat is clear. She isn’t safe.
Once safely tucked away at his aunt’s house, Khalil gives Jennifer a burner phone to call her parents. I love that she reaches out for Anissa first, only identifying herself by calling her big sister their private nickname “Harriet”. Gambi encourages Anissa to keep Jennifer on the line so they can track her call, but she proves to be more slick than that, hanging up just before the trace completes.
Anissa and Jefferson aren’t doing the best right now anyway. Each blames the other for Jennifer’s disappearance. Anissa’s right that Jefferson is far too controlling when it comes to his daughters, it’s something that’s bothered me about him stretching back to the first season. And the decision that Jefferson and Lynn made together to keep Jennifer locked up in the house like some extra flyyyy, pink lip glossed, Boo Radley figure isn’t doing anyone any favors. At the same time, Anissa probably should’ve told her parents when she found out that Khalil was still pursuing Jennifer even after she asked him not to. I understand why Anissa felt like she had the situation handled, but sometimes you think you have something under control and you just… don’t.
At least they found time to do some supreme ass-kicking as Black Lightning and Thunder while they’re looking for her. Remember when the One Hundred felt at least a tiny bit threatening? HA! Now they are essentially comic fodder for superheroes’ to throw around a pool table. Oh, how far we’ve come!
Henderson is tasked with the more serious plot this time around. Jefferson has asked him to alert all of the Freeland PD of Jennifer’s missing person case and arm them with photographs of the teen. The police turn up a body, and for a second Henderson freezes, expecting the worst. He arrives at the scene to find out that the young woman in question isn’t Jennifer, but our relief is uneasy. Tonight might not be the Pierce’s horrific nightmare becoming reality, but for some other family it is. Thousands of teenage girls go missing every day, and their stories do not often end happy, especially when those missing girls are black. Black Lightning for takes time to highlight real stakes we’re up against.
Lynn’s also not taking her daughter’s disappearance well. After some drinks (Mama Lynn is usually a wine drinker, but tonight she reached for the brown liquor at the bottom of the freezer!), she succumbs to her emotions, ripping through Jennifer’s bedroom in tears. Is she looking for clues? For a release? A bit of both, I suspect. Christine Adams’ deft navigation of Lynn’s rollercoaster of grief for a mother losing her child is probably her best performance to date. When Jefferson finds Lynn, alone in that pink bedroom, she collapses her body against his and just lets it all go. He holds her up as her every bone in her body turns liquid. It’s heart wrenching, to say the least.
Equally heartbroken is Khalil’s mother, Michelle. The next morning she shows up at Lynn’s door, her face streaked with tears of her own. She hadn’t responded to the Pierce’s frantic calls the night before because she assumed they wanted to get in touch with Khalil. Then, she saw the news. Together, Lynn and Michelle talk in Pierce’s living room. Whatever mess her son has gotten into with Tobias, Michelle doesn’t want that for Jennifer.
My favorite fan analysis of Harry Potter is that, in the end, Voldermort lost because he underestimated the power of women. More specifically, he underestimated the power of a mother’s love for their child. The first time attempt he took on Harry Potter’s life, Lily Potter cast a spell of love so powerful it broke the death curse. She didn’t need a wand, she used her heart. Seventeen years later, on the day that Voldemort is set to reclaim his thrown of power in the Wizardry World, he loses his first lieutenant, Bellatrix LeStrange, in battle against an arguably weaker witch, the homemaker Molly Weasley. Why? Because Molly, heartbroken over losing her son, is protecting her only daughter (NOT MY DAUGHTER YOU BITCH!!). And then finally, in the moment he trusts her most, Narcissa Malfoy turns on him. She gathers all her courage and lies to the Dark Lord directly in his face. Because doing so allows her to find out information about her son’s safety. Voldermort didn’t understand mothers’ strength, and that’s ultimately his downfall.
So too it was with Tobias Whale. He’d visited Michelle the night before and attempted to intimidate her, but she wouldn’t break. The next morning she willing gave Lynn the address to her sister’s place on the outskirts of town. To protect Jennifer. To protect her own son.
Tobias knew where Khalil was hiding anyway, thanks to a tracker that he had placed back of the teenager’s head, and he sends a new female knife-wielding assassin to bring him back. I don’t know the new woman’s name, but I love her whole vibe immediately, which obviously means she’s going to die soon! (#RIPLadyEve) (#Syonide) (#VPOmorosa). Thanks to Michelle’s help, Thunder and Black Lightning arrive just in time for the classic Third Act Battle. It’s not my favorite fight from the show, but I continue to be awed by their improved fight choreography and camerawork this year.
Though they save Jennifer and Khalil from near-death, the dynamic superhero duo are unable to get ahold of Jennifer before she runs off again. She helps Khalil escape out his aunt’s backdoor in chaos. Jennifer, the honor roll student Queen of Garfield High that she is, quickly realizes that the assassin found them because of the tracking device. Steading herself and quoting what’s easily my favorite mantra this year – I am the storm, so I can control the storm – she fries the tracker right out of Khalil’s head.
Now her and Khalil are back On The Run. Except this time, who’s going to be able to find them?
Oh yeah, and Tobias has finally, finally figured out what he should’ve known from the first night Black Lightning showed up at Club One Hundred to save his daughter way back in the pilot episode. Jefferson Pierce and Black Lighting are the same person!! LE GASP!! I’m sure that’s going to come into play for the midseason finale, which happens next week!
Can you believe we’re almost there? I hope everyone has a warm, festive weekend, filled with hot chocolate and comfy blankets and maybe an early Christmas cookie or two. Love you.
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