Previously on Black Lightning, the Markovian threat intensified as troops descended on the outskirts of Freeland, Gambi and Anissa spotted a shape-shifting Grace after she attacked a man while in her leopard form, Anissa hooked up with James and Kelly Olsen’s relative (okay, this is only headcanon but I stand by it), Jamillah Olsen, and the artist formerly known as Khalil killed his mother.
The episode opens with a montage of Painkiller demonstrating some of the 23 different martial arts forms that he’s mastered, in case we had forgotten that his body is a literal weapon. I’ve mentioned before how the fight scenes on this show are some of the best I’ve seen on the CW, but can we talk for a second about Jordan Calloway here? How many of his stunts is he doing himself?! I’m both worried and in awe. Until last week, if you had asked me if I’d be excited for a Khalil storyline, I would have laughed in your face. But the performance that Jordan is bringing as a completely unaffected character with no memory of his former self is mesmerizing. I maintain that it’s bullshirt that we’ve gotten way more Khalil than Grace, but if this is the way they’re going with his character, I’m here for it.
There is so much good Pierce sister content in this episode, both together and solo, and it starts off with Jennifer giving her sister the full parental treatment when Anissa tries to sneak into the loft after spending the night with Jamillah. Anissa gives Jen shit for acting like their father before the two go right back to their playful sibling banter. It’s cute and fun and reminded me just how much I missed those lighter moments of this show. THE PIERCE SISTERS ARE VERY IMPORTANT TO ME DOT TUMBLR DOT COM!
Meanwhile at one of the ASA detention centers, Henderson is visiting the officer who was arrested for being a meta, and discovers that the metas are being quarantined because of a virus making its way through the camp. Detective King tells Henderson that there’s money in a false bottom she installed in her locker and she wants Henderson to bring the cash to her husband so her family will be set when she’s gone. Henderson looks reluctant what with being the chief of police, but before he can say much, King starts seizing and her skin starts peeling off.
The tension between the Pierce parents is still pretty high, but when Agent Odell comes to tell them about the virus running rampant through the facilities, the two stand more united than we’ve seen them so far. Odell needs Lynn’s help to figure out what this virus is, why it’s only affecting metas, and how they can cure it. I would say that Jefferson sees right through Odell’s bullshirt, but Odell is actually very upfront about the fact that yes, the only reason he wants to find a cure is that it benefits him to have healthy metas. But what remains true, is the fact that even though they disagree, they ultimately want the same thing: to save the metas. It’s a fact that Jefferson cannot refute, especially considering 3/4 of his family could potentially be affected by this virus. Odell knows this, and continues to use it to his advantage.
Remember that time Jennifer chewed Anissa out about staying safe and letting her know when she’ll be home so Jen doesn’t have to worry? WELP! Blackbird is at it again and is being pursued by ASA helicopters after they organization found out she helped that busload of metas escape. The whole pursuit is captured by Jamillah and Clap Back News (still gets me every time), save for the moment Blackbird ducks around a corner to text Jen that she’s going to be late. At least she listened but damn girl, understatement of the century much?! Blackbird eventually throws what looks like a tank at the helicopter and gets away.
Jennifer is really giving us Peak Jen this episode and I, for one, am LIVING for it. She’s back at Garfield when a new student named Brandon approaches her for a tour of the school because apparently the front desk told him to find Jennifer Pierce. Like Jen, I am skeptical at best about this dude and his motives. Considering the fact that there are soldiers with whole ass guns walking around the school, wouldn’t the front office, I don’t know, page Jennifer to meet Brandon there rather than having him ask every girl he sees if she’s Jennifer Pierce??? This show got me fucked up re: trust issues, y’all.
Later, as the two walk through the halls, they talk about race relations in this country. Jennifer believes that every single thing is related to race, while Brandon thinks that things have gotten better and that people should be judged by the content of their character, per MLK. Here is where I would typically reference the way the show is highlighting what race relations are like in the real world right now but honestly, I’m exhausted just thinking about it, so forgive me for just saying…art mimics reality. I will say though, I have missed this Jennifer so much. Yes, she’s clapping back at people who have no sense, but she also somehow manages to do it with intelligent snark and I. Want. More.
Agent Odell the Manipulator is back at it, but this time he goes to see just Jeff without his wife. Did the CW sign a deal with a watch company or something because there are so many watches in the Arrowverse this year. What is happening?? Odell gives Jeff what appears to be just a watch but nay! After shocking it with his powers, Jeff realizes that the watch actually contains a new suit that appears on his body very similarly to the way Kara’s new (PANTS) suit materializes when she removes her glasses. I guess all it took was some new gadgets for Jeff to forget that he didn’t trust Agent Odell, because Black Lightning is back and ready to follow Odell’s orders.
In another area of The Pit, Tobias is being treated for his old age when Odell comes to him demanding information about the briefcase. Obviously Tobias isn’t about to give in that easily, so Odell tortures him by shining super concentrated UV light on him that causes his un-melanated skin to start blistering. Later, Odell goes to apologize to Tobias and offers to release him in exchange for information, and Tobias turns him down yet again.
We also get a scene where Painkiller is training to hunt the Markovians and I honestly only wanted to talk about this because he looks so good?! Why do I hate this when it’s Archie, but here I’m super into it? I don’t know, it’s a confusing emotion.
Henderson’s having a rough go right now, and it gets worse when he and his wife are confronted by an Auntie (not an actual aunt, but one in the way POC say it) who tears into him about how she thought having a Black police chief would make everything better, when in actuality things are worse than when white folks ran Freeland. She slaps him, and walks away with a wag of her finger and a look of disappointment.
Back at the lab, Lynn’s figured out that the virus was man made, and based on some science things I don’t understand, the only person who could have done it is Dr. Jace…who is currently fully aiding the Markovians. Awesome.
Odell is intent on using the Pierces to further his ends, so he manipulates both Jennifer and Jeff into doing his bidding. First, he tells Jennifer (after just showing up at the house unannounced) that the Markovians were the ones who killed Khalil’s mother (in case you forgot, Odell gave that order for Painkiller to do it) and that the only person who can help eliminate the Markovian threat is her. It’s classic emotional manipulation and it’s gross.
Manipulation part deux comes when Black Lightning goes to free commandos who were apparently kidnapped by the Markovians, but the lead commando (who I am OBSESSED with and who I hope comes back) tells Black Lightning that getting taken was part of the plan so they could smoke out Dr. Jace. They fight a bunch of Markovians before discovering Jace had already fled. Not too long after, we see Jennifer above the data farm about to destroy it when a blue streak whizzes by her and she has no idea it’s her father. She goes through with destroying the data farm, and I’m really interested to see what’s going to happen when she realizes it was Black Lightning who flew by.
And now, the part that I’ve been dreading writing. My initial reaction upon seeing Grace sitting on that bench waiting for Anissa was to literally yell out loud, “GRAAAAAAAAAAACE!!!!!!!!” It was so nice to see her after only getting a handful of mentions since last season. Grace was waiting for Anissa because she knew she’d walk by that spot and she missed her. Much like us, Anissa hasn’t forgotten the way Grace just peaced out without a word. Despite all of that though, Anissa is in love with Grace and still wants to be with her. Grace shapeshifts and explains that she doesn’t understand how Anissa can love her when Grace doesn’t even know who she is. Anissa insists that what Grace can do is a gift and that if she needs help, they can get it for her. All Grace needs to do is stop running so they can be together.
I’m a firm believer in holding the shows and creators you love accountable when they can take more care with a story; especially one as important as this one is to so many people. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Black Lightning is doing incredible things for people of color. We haven’t had a mainstream superhero show that completely leans into its Blackness like this and I love to see it. We have a canon bisexual Asian woman and a canon bulletproof Black lesbian. It’s unheard of! And there’s so much happening on this show so I understand that relationship dynamics cannot always be at the center of the story. What is so incredibly frustrating though, is that you have two actors who are all in on their characters’ sexualities and want to tell their stories in a respectful way, but then the writing is just lazy (sorry about it). I get the sense that they feel like they have to do something, so they give us rushed conversations and interactions that on many other shows, couples have over the course of an entire season rather than in a single scene.
What’s the deal with Grace’s powers? What was it like for her growing up like this? Where has she been? If this story is important to the overall show, then it deserves to be treated as such. Grace is in the comics. Her story is there, so why aren’t we getting more?
AND. ANOTHER. THING. Anissa, girl. You have had every opportunity to tell Grace about your powers. She’s been struggling with this for so long and how amazing would it be for her to see the woman she loves embracing her gift so fully? How comforting could it be for her to know that she’s not alone in having her body taken over by something she has zero control over?
I said before that I’m a fan of this Khalil/Painkiller storyline, but the fact still remains that they’ve brought back the straight love interest over and over and over again, but the queer relationship is being treated as an afterthought. I want to believe it’s going to get better, but it’s getting harder and harder.
All of that said, I was thrilled to see Grace, and frankly thrilled at the mature conversation Jamillah and Anissa had at the bar. Jamillah’s solid; they had a good time, she’s not a wreck over sleeping with Anissa and then Grace coming back; and she’s fine with being friends.
We do get a really sweet scene of Anissa coming home, Grace in her bed, and snuggling up to her. Show, please please prove me wrong about this because these two are so stinking cute it hurts.
Odell lets Jeff and Lynn leave and they’re joyfully reunited with their girls.
The episode ends with Tobias dreaming about Black Lightning taunting him. Tobias vows, yet again, to kill the “ghetto glow worm” (LOLOL).
What did y’all think of this episode? I’d love to hear your thoughts, especially around Thundergrace. Hit up the comments below!
Black Lightning airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on The CW and is available Wednesdays on Netflix in Canada.
Nic is a Digital Product Manager who lives in Queens, NY. She spends way too much time thinking about queer fictional characters, Tessa Thompson, and Janelle Monae. When she's not busy consuming every form of fiction, you can find her cosplaying as Valkyrie. You can find Nic on Twitter and Instagram.