First, a quick summary of what happened last episode, during the holiday week: Black Lightning joined Freeland’s anti-ASA resistance! It took quite a bit of work, though. The long, deep conversation between Jefferson and Henderson in the Pierce home was one of my favorite scenes of this season. It keyed into important debates the show has been having since literally the first episode (is violence an acceptable method of bringing about change? Is it better to work within the established system or outside of it?) while also building on the character development between Jefferson and Henderson, both their long-standing friendship and their history of hiding things. As great as Jefferson is, we all know he loves to equivocate, but the rhetorical methods that win debates with his daughters aren’t going to sway a grown chief of police. Jefferson refused to endorse Henderson’s “methods” (the fake bomb really pissed him off), but when the ASA directly attacked the refugees Rev. Holt’s church was protecting, Black Lightning stepped into protect them and injure Major Sara Grey.
Grey was acting as the ASA’s temporary replacement for the recovering Agent Odell, but it didn’t take much to knock her out of action. This week, she herself has been replaced by Carson Williams, the ASA soldier with the ability to mimic other metas’ powers, whom we met back at the beginning of the season. I was wondering when we would see Williams again, and here he is: ratcheting up the military aspect of the ASA’s martial law. Jefferson is informed of this by Henderson, who comes back to the house for another good conversation. Their differences from the first debate are not brushed aside, but whatever Jefferson’s concerns with violence, he’s clearly taken a side against the ASA now. So Henderson asks him for help: The ASA has made its new headquarters at the Franklin Terrace apartments, where Jefferson used to live as a younger man. The problem is, one older woman named Mary Louise Shepard (Jefferson and Henderson’s old elementary school teacher) is refusing to leave. So it’s time for Black Lightning to become an anti-eviction activist.
Black Lightning has dealt with several real social issues over the course of its run so far, from the history of government experimentation on black people to the institutional oppression of majority-black areas. I love that it’s added housing activism to its resume with this episode. The sequence of Ms. Shepard showing Jefferson around her apartment, pointing out the location where she and fellow activists held a sit-in decades ago to desegregate Freeland, or the place where she met President Barack Obama, is a beautiful depiction of how houses shouldn’t just be treated as investments or numbers on paper, but an essential record of people’s lives. No wonder Black Lightning bursts out the door, lighting blazing, after talking to her.
We saw at the end of last week’s episode that Khalil had been assigned to target Black Lightning, but that confrontation doesn’t happen yet. Instead, Khalil runs up against Thunder, who wants revenge for their last encounter. Anissa kicks his ass! Way to go, girl. But just before knocking him out of the building, she sees him unmasked, which takes the number of people who know Khalil’s been resurrected to three: her, Lynn, and Gambi.
I can’t help but enjoy the look on Carson Williams’ face when he hears the news that “the asset” has been defeated. He decides to take matters into his own hands, but unfortunately I think this episode wilts a little at the end. After a lot of good character moments and plot developments (did we mention that Lynn is going to free Tobias from the Pit?), the action falls a little flat in the climax. Williams mimicks Black Lightning’s powers and at first it looks like they’re gonna have a big fight, countering each other’s energy blasts like a Kamehameha/Galick Gun contest between Goku and Vegeta on Dragon Ball Z, but then Williams just faints when he realizes his body can’t process the electricity the way Black Lightning’s suit does. So much for that supposed badass!
Anissa, Gambi, and Jamillah also manage to break through the ASA’s media barrier and send footage of what’s been going on to the outside world. The revolution is well underway in Freeland, it seems. Next week, it’s time for Crisis on Infinite Earths!