“Black Lightning” Episode 213 Recap: Gone Girl

Remember when Grace Choi inexplicably left her girlfriend by literally running away from her in broad daylight in a park and no one went after her like that was a completely normal thing for a person to do? Oh wait, that was just last week? Huh! This show you guys, what can I say! It’s a laugh a minute, in between all the racial justice crime fighting and thunder bolt zaps.

Anissa’s sneaking around Grace’s empty apartment and poking through her drawers. She could definitely learn better spying skills from Gambi, but that’s fine. She discovers a photo of tween Grace with two older adults who Anissa assumes are her parents or grandparents. She also finds Grace’s top secret-y “keep my super powers under control” pills. And that’s when things get really interesting.

What do you mean Bey wasn’t nominated for a solo Grammy!?!? She has to share win her with Jay-z?? I don’t care that he’s her husband! I DON’T CARE!!!

Anissa takes her findings back to the Bat Cave Gambi’s lab for testing. First of all, Gambi is in full on adorable uncle mode, which y’all know is a lot coming from me because I’ve never trusted the spy-turned-tailor. Still, it’s hard not to warm to his gushing over Anissa finally having a romantic partner that means enough to her that she’s including her in the inner circle. We all know Anissa is a commitment-phobe (Gambi knows it, too), so this is Very Big Deal.

Anissa blushes under his questioning, “You know how the old folks say, you don’t know what you’re missing until it’s gone?”

Yeah Anissa, we DO KNOW. Maybe try appreciating the hot bartender/comics geek while she’s standing right there in front of you next time, instead of asking for sympathy from the viewing audience after the fact. Ok. I promise, I promise — we aren’t going down this rant again (Black Lightning writers, do better). Moving on.

Gambi hasn’t quite cracked the case on Grace’s top secret pills just yet, but he was able to run facial recognition software on the adults in the photo. If you aren’t sitting down, now is the time because — deep breathe, exhale — Grace Choi Doesn’t Exist.

There is no record of a Grace Choi anywhere. The adults in that picture? They were the foster parents of Shay Li Wylde, who was bounced in the system quite a bit as a kid. They died. Shay Li was sold to a human trafficking ring and forced into sex work until her pimp mysteriously died. That was the last time anyone heard of Shay Li.

Until she showed up in Freeland with a fancy new fake ID.

I’m not being flippant about this. I absolutely will not make light of a young girl of color, abandoned by very systems that are supposed to protect her, ending up abused and forced into sex work. Human trafficking is on the rise in the United States. It’s the world’s fastest growing crime, with more than 70% of the victims being women and girls. Atlanta, where Black Lightning films and a majority black metropolis that is no doubt one of the inspirations for the show’s depictions of Freeland, is one of the national hubs for the sex trafficking of young girls. This is a storyline that hits close to home. If Black Lightning is really going to go there, I hope they are ready to take it seriously and with the utmost respect that it deserves. This isn’t something that can be introduced and then swept under the rug or forgotten.

It also happens to be faithful to Grace Choi’s original origin story in The Outsiders comics. In that ‘verse, Grace ran away from an abusive foster home at nine years old before being kidnapped while living on the streets. She’s sold into a child sex ring led by a villain named Tanner. Her famous tattoos? One of them is a Tanner’s branding. (I’m so glad I didn’t read this series. I know comics can get dark, but this is a lot. I’m already overwhelmed with tears just at the thought.) Grace escapes Tanner’s ring as a teenager when her superpowers finally kick in. I have a feeling that Shay Li Wylde’s transformation into Grace Choi will have a similar backstory.

Anissa’s heartbroken that Grace has lived through so much pain. She doesn’t care what Gambi says (or Jennifer, who’s apparently known that Anissa had a girlfriend this whole time? And for some reason thinks Grace just ghosted Anissa for the hell of it?), Anissa knows what it means to keep a secret because you don’t know who you can trust. If she can be there for Grace, if she can stand with her, comfort her, and tell that she doesn’t have to fight alone anymore in this fucked up world that treats women of color like disposable playthings for the rich men around them —  then that’s exactly what she’s going to do.

This is what happens when Janelle Monáe doesn’t win Album of the Year

Some other things happen while Anissa was on her quest. Jennifer is not willing to wait another second to safely devise a plan while Tobias Whale gets to walk around breathing. Hot headed and impulsive to her core, she decides to go after him herself. It’s kind of cute that the One Hundred gang leader mistakes her for Anissa (err, Blackbird) at first? Right? Until all the gang members surround her and she almost dies!  That part is… less cute.

Jefferson has decided that he’s ok with the racist white man running Garfield High afterall? That makes zero sense, but whatever. And Tobias’ new supervillain team up includes: Cutter, Dr. Jace, and new muscle in the form of Marcus Bishop. Bishop, otherwise known as Shakedown, is a former inmate from 30 years ago who was experimented on and given superpowers by Dr. Jace. Before that he was a football player by the name of Malik Wright on The Game. Remember The Game? A black sitcom legend that got cancelled in the mid-aughts by The CW because TV networks are racist? Then it was revived by BET and aired new episodes for another decade? Aww, good times, good times.

Everyone is taking sides and also THE MARKOVIANS ARE COMING!! So, yeah, lots of drama ahead when Black Lightning returns in March. Until then my sweets, I hope you all have an amazing Valentine’s Day! I’ll have a Hershey’s bar and think of you. xoxo.

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 135 articles for us.

6 Comments

  1. This was a good episode. I had to say it because Season 2 started off extremely rough. I loved Jennifer going rogue and looking for Tobias. I loved Anissa searching for Grace. But because of the lack of storytelling and proper setup for Grace and Anissa I wasn’t as affected by Anissa crying. The show cheated the viewers in the handling of Anissa and Grace’s setup so Anissa’s emotional response fell flat for me. When Anissa started crying, I literally went, “huh”. I was surprised by her crying. This is similar to the problem they had with Khalil’s death. He didn’t earn his redemption because it was rushed and his death didn’t have the emotional impact it could have had. Hopefully this season ends strong and the writer’s write for Chantal Thuy. I’m pleased they kept Grace’s backstory from the comics.

  2. I’m so upset at how disjointed and riddled with gaps Anissa and Grace’s relationship is. I want to root for them and celebrate their ship unabashedly especially since it’s a queer relationship of color but the writers have been on the verge of ruining them completely for 2 years now (and yet I’ve stuck around). Here’s hoping they turn it around.

    I’m with you Carmen. I hope they do explore human trafficking with respect especially of POC which often go uninvestigated because authorities consider POC bodies as throwaways.

  3. Very disappointed. I mean yes we finally got the Grace backstory but for that to happen, she actually wasn’t in the episode? That’s just tragic. Tbh, i’m just tired of the whole Anissa and Grace thing. Let Anissa just go back to having no time for romance and the show will be better. They are making writing a romantic plot seem like something that has never been done before.

  4. I totally agree with @divinityRocs about Anissa. When I saw her tears, I thought, “what is she even crying about?” There hasn’t been enough of their relationship shown on-screen for Anissa’s tears to carry any emotional weight.

    Gambi was kinda adorable as the doting uncle…and I loved getting more of Grace’s backstory. But, I mean…all the gadgets Gambi had to track down Jenn or to watch out for Black Lightning and Thunder when they went to the sunken place earlier this season…and he can’t figure out where Grace is? Another question: how does the show drop all that backstory for Grace and not make Chantal Thuy a regular cast member next season?

    And while I understand Jefferson’s desire to find a career that let’s him balance his responsibilities at Garfield and as Black Lightning, I did wonder…are there no other people who could do that job? Like, every other educator in the world was busy so y’all had to go with the racist white dude? C’mon.

    I’m gonna try and cut Jenn some slack because she just lost the love of her young life and I’m sure she’s all in her feelings about that…but, dang, the way she just dismissed Grace like that? She can forgive Khalil for all the heinous things he did but Grace gets written off, just like that?

    AND WHO EVEN KNEW SHE KNEW GRACE?! Just last week Anissa’s like, I want you to meet my family, now Jenn’s sounding like that already happened.

  5. Yeah.. The writers are gonna need to do a better job. Are they hiring? lol because I’m available! Everything about this relationship is so disjointed and while I definitely feel for Grace and her situation because SHEESH, I still don’t really believe them as a couple. And it’s because they’ve had so little screentime. I don’t know. I hope the writers have something better planned. We really needed to see this story play out on screen. It isn’t fair to the fans that we have to put everything together ourselves. Still waiting for them to explain how they even got to the point of “dating” because I’m still confused.

    I love Anissa, and I love Grace, but I don’t understand them together. one scene an episode isn’t doing it for me. I’m not gonna stop watching because I mean, the show is pretty good despite it’s flaws, but I want better storytelling because they’re acting is wonderful, and they have great chemistry. get it together, writers!

    Why did we need that Cutter and Tobias scene? I’m just about sick of the both of them too. And what the hell, Jeff? Maybe YOU no longer want to be principal, that doesn’t mean that white guy should keep the position!! What the hell is going on!

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