Black Lightning 1x03 "LaWanda: Book of Burial"
This show just cannot strike out!!! We’re three episodes in and “LaWanda: Book of Burial” was another home run in an amazing opening season. The episode opens inside a familiar setting for me, the church, and I was pleased to hear “Mary, Don’t You Weep” by Aretha Franklin as the soundtrack for this scene. The Reverend eulogizes LaWanda with fiery passion, raising the fervor of the congregation as he calls for people to march against The 100 gang as a means of continuing LaWanda’s fight for peace.
He’s successful in his plea, much to the consternation of Inspector Henderson and Jefferson Pierce, who were not expecting Black Lightning’s return to embolden the people of Freeland as much as it has. The more present Black Lightning becomes, the more active the people become, but unfortunately they don’t have his powers and he can’t be everywhere at once.
Well, maybe some of the people do. And by some, I mean Anissa! LaWanda’s funeral was crossed with wonderful scenes of Anissa in a junkyard, trying to learn what she can and cannot do. She quickly finds herself at a loss before realizing that the key to her strange abilities in each situation has been her breathing. After focusing a bit, she’s able to kick a washing machine across the yard, and her celebration is very cute. In the way of almost all new superheroes, Anissa eventually goes to research her new abilities. She’s in the library looking into genetic mutations when she meets Grace, and, after catching Anissa checking her out, Grace is quick to invite her over to her second job for a cosplay night.
Anissa takes her up on her offer and the amazing chemistry between her and Grace that we first witnessed in the library is pushed to greater heights as the two dance together. Their attraction to each other is so palpable, in fact, that it’s the last straw for Cheona and Anissa’s relationship. Cheona is angry when she finds Anissa and Grace dancing so closely and their conversation outside of the club ends with Anissa handing back her key to Cheona’s place. Anissa isn’t alone in relationship changes, as Jennifer and Khalil decide to move to the next step in theirs: sex. They’ve formulated a plan and they plan to enact it sooner rather than later.
I have to say, I love the scene between Jennifer and her parents. I adore that Jefferson and Lynn have created an atmosphere where their children feel comfortable coming to them with most of their concerns and that they don’t immediately shut Jennifer down, but instead arrange a doctor’s appointment to make sure that she stays as safe as possible. I loved the awkwardness that ensued when Jennifer turned the tables on her parents, asking them about their own sex lives, but Jefferson had the last word in that scenario. Waiting until he could corner Khalil alone, he confronts him about his self-cleaning routine, and gives us one of the highlights of the episode: “Are you gonna give my daughter athlete’s foot in places where athletes’ feet should not be?”
Soon enough the march is on and there might have been some truth to the Reverend’s earlier comments about police corruption, because apparently only one squad car can be sacrificed to keep the crowd safe. I can’t help but wonder if the conspicuous lack of police presence is due in part to Tobias greasing a few hands at the department. In an effort to appease a new face (Jill Scott’s Lady Eve) it seems that Tobias will stop at nothing to send the lesson that Lady Eve mentions in her meeting with Tobias: “I don’t mind people believing in God, they just can’t believe they can take back these streets.”
Everyone who's anyone is present at the march, with Black Lightning monitoring from the rooftops and two of Tobias’ followers on the ground. It’s easy enough for Black Lightning to dispatch the two lackeys in the crowd, displaying an impressive new ability we hadn’t seen before (the lightning shield) and using the training that Gambi put him through earlier in the episode to pick out the gunman who’d been hiding in the crowd without harming any of the innocent citizens.
The Reverend and the crowd pick up “Amazing Grace” and this enrages Tobias, who didn’t believe that Black Lightning was really back, and probably can’t afford to fail in his mission after the recent disappointment that was LaLa. In his anger, he tells his mysterious lady companion to silence the joy. Black Lightning and his family are unharmed but the Reverend and Khalil are hit; after a tense scene, we discover they’ll both live, even though Khalil’s chances at leaving Freeland on an athletic scholarship seem to have been destroyed.
Even as this relatively light-hearted episode ends on a painful note, it seems that Tobias was not successful in his mission to drive out the hope that LaWanda brought to us in Episode 2. Even as Inspector Henderson tries to send the message that Black Lightning’s presence made things worse, those who attended the rally are still solidly behind Black Lightning. I am interested in why Gambi is keeping Tobias’ continued existence a secret from Jefferson. Is Gambi actually #TeamLightning, or does he have an ulterior motive for drawing Jefferson out of retirement?
Next week’s episode promises more of Anissa coming into her own as a super, and I can’t wait.
Black Lightning airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on The CW.