Black Lightning: This War is Hard Enough Without Infighting

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In last week’s premiere of Black Lightning, we got our first look at what Freeland looks like as a police state and it was bleak. Henderson announced a curfew for the city, children suspected of being metas were rounded up and shipped off to detention facilities, the ASA locked up Jefferson, Lynn, and tons of other metahumans in The Pit, and Anissa did her best to shepherd metas across the barrier while she masqueraded as Blackbird.

As if that all wasn’t dark enough, we open this week with Maryam, a young Muslim woman whose metahuman powers were slowly beginning to kill her. She looks way worse than last we saw her and has the addition of bleeding from the eyes!

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Lala’s in his motel room trying to crack Tobias’s briefcase with less luck than I have trying to win the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Broadway lottery (that’s negative luck, folks). He’s hopeful that Tobias will somehow find his way to him though.

Oh hey, remember that police state I mentioned? Well, good old Henderson gives another press conference this week and this time he’s blaming the media for the alleged Markovian attack on the detention facility because obviously the Markovians heard about the facilities from the media. So now in addition to food rations and curfews, there’s now a media blackout in Freeland. Cool, supes normal things happening, nothing to worry about here.

Now, we’re taken to one of the central conflicts of this episode, and potentially a fair part of the season. Jefferson and Lynn are both worried about their daughters and express as much, before diving into conversation about the data Odell gave Lynn access to. Throughout this entire episode, Jefferson has a major chip on this shoulder regarding Odell and Lynn and he thinks Odell is playing Lynn. Meanwhile, Lynn is trying to figure out how she can help the Pod Kids and Green Light babies while she has this access from Odell.

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The two can’t agree on the ASA’s main motivations and Jefferson goes so far as to suggest that the Markovian threat is nothing more than a red herring being used to distract from the ASA’s true mission, whatever that might be. What makes this conflict between Jefferson and Lynn so compelling is the fact that the show isn’t telling us who’s right. We know the ASA is evil; they are using their resources to fight and train metas as weapons no matter what the collateral damage. But we also know (thanks to a scene that serves only this purpose) that the Markovian threat is very real and those men are out for American blood (have they maybe considered vampirism?).

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Personally I think this episode does an incredible job of showing the gray areas that appear when there is a war for humanity and there’s evil on both sides. Who can you trust? Is the enemy of my enemy my friend? Or should we all put differences aside to fight the common enemy? Does it depend on what those differences are? I don’t have the answers to these questions, but I’m looking forward to how the show starts to unravel the web that it’s woven so far.

That web contains even more twisted strands (this analogy is falling apart literally as I type this) when it comes to Anissa and her deal with the Perdi (remember them?!). The last we saw Anissa, she got literally exploded across the Freeland perimeter but don’t worry! She’s okay and she’s brought another group of metas to the Perdi farm which is being run by Anaya and her father. All is not well over in Perdiville though, because Anaya is worried that each new group of people that’s brought there, the danger to their way of life will increase. Anissa is quick to remind them that they’re the ones who asked for her help, plus Anissa saved the Perdi from the Sanjay, AND she’s the one footing the bill for the food so probably Anaya should just chill.

But Anaya wants to set some limits, and tbh, I don’t blame her. Boundaries are important, girl. I love Anissa with my whole heart. One of the things I love most about her is how focused she is on her cause and on helping people. The downside of that hyper focus is that sometimes she loses sight of the potential cost associated with fulfilling that purpose and in this case, that cost is the effect on the Perdis. All Anissa can see is that she needs to save these people (yes! This is a good thing!), but she ends up literally fighting with the very people who are giving her shelter. It’s not until Anaya and her father see that one of the metas can literally grow plants with her power, that they start to come around.

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Twice in this episode, characters liken the behavior of another to that of a common enemy. Lynn accuses Jefferson of sounding as ready to hurt innocent children as Odell does, and here, Anaya says that Anissa is almost as bad as the Sanjay she liberated them from. It’s such an interesting choice to make twice, and perfectly aligns with the idea that the inherent goodness of each side is in flux.

Gambi and Henderson are my favorite unexpected tag team in this episode. It starts with Gambi rolling up to Henderson using his cloaking device to make himself look like one of the ASA soldiers. He tries to guilt trip Henderson into helping him get Anissa back inside the perimeter, and I guess it worked because the next thing we see is Henderson being dragged into ASA facilities yelling about how Commander Williams needs to release the officer he arrested under suspicion of Green Light use. That soldier who dragged Henderson in? IT WAS GAMBI! If it wasn’t for the eyes darting around to case the scene, I would have been fooled. Gambi used his disguise to get into the server room and contact Anissa.

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Thanks to Gambi’s guidance, Anissa is able to take out several units that have been surveying the perimeter, but one of the units she takes out is actually made up of Markovians. Big Yike because then we find out thanks to her attack, the Markovians are initiating Phase Two. (Aside: The fight scenes on this show are truly some of the best I’ve seen on the CW.)

Lala’s back on the streets and he’s looking for a way to push product again and make some money. When he hooks up with some member of the 100, they tell him that there’s a new leader and his name is Sinzell Johnson. Despite the fact that Sinzell has a large group of people ready to take down anyone who crosses him, Lala is confident that he can take him thanks to the power his tattoos have given him.

Later, Lala rolls up to where the 100 is pushing their new product: food. They’re gouging Freeland residents over the food they need to survive. As soon as Lala mouths off about it, Sinzell pulls up and shoots Lala point blank. He goes down hard, but to the surprise of everyone around, he gets back up and shakes the bullets out of himself. That’s enough to send Sinzell running and for the 100 to immediately switch their allegiance.

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Back at The Pit, Lynn and Jefferson are working with Maryam to test her powers by having her camouflage into each scene that Jefferson makes appear. It’s all pretty cool looking, at least until Maryam collapses. Later, Jeff goes to check on her and during their conversation he finds out that he was right; the ASA was in fact having the metas fight each other (see, they are evil!). When he shares this information with Lynn, she’s angry that Jeff pumped a sick teen for information just to prove a point. The two fight again, Jeff accuses Lynn of sucking up to Odell so she can play in the lab, and that’s when Lynn loses it. She tells Jeff that she sees right through Odell and that thanks to Jeff’s energy spikes, Odell knows exactly when Jeff is using his powers. I won’t lie, I trust Lynn on this one. She’s always been able to get one over on Odell and I think she has a plan here.

Guess who’s back! It’s Khalil. Scratch that. It’s Painkiller. Because all trace of Khalil has been completely wiped and replaced with a brain chip that has turned him into a biological weapon system…with a knowledge of literature, philosophy, and math. And who turned him into that weapon? ‘Twas Agent Odell. Painkiller’s first test is to take out a target with zero prejudice: Khalil’s mother. Commander Williams is wary about this, but Odell reminds him that whether or not Painkiller kills Nichelle Payne, it will give them an answer about the effectiveness of the chip. Now, I watch a lot of TV, and I don’t remember the last time a scene gave me the chills like the one where Painkiller kills Ms. Payne. His eyes were so dead, it was terrifying. He left her in a heap on the floor, with green filling her veins.

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Speaking of Khalil, Jennifer spent much of this episode moping. She swiped through photos of the two of them together, and even thumbed through an old portfolio of his at school. Jennifer’s having a rough go right now. Both of her parents are on lock down, her sister is the current symbol of the resistance, her boyfriend was dead but is now a weapon, and her house is under surveillance by Odell and the ASA. The little time NOT taken up by those things is spent at school and even there she feels like a prisoner. The episode closes with another incredible fight scene, this one of Jenn taking down two male bullies at school who decided to fight her seemingly just for funsies.

This episode was a lot and kind of disjointed since we got a look at so many characters (EXCEPT GRACE, WHERE YOU AT, GIRL?!), but I think it served to deepen the conflicts that we’ll see play out this season.


What did you think of this episode? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Black Lightning airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on The CW and is available Wednesdays on Netflix in Canada.