Black Lightning 1x06 "Three Sevens: The Book of Thunder"
I am well aware that Black Panther has been the talk of the town since its February 16th premiere, but we can’t forget about the latest Black superhero to appear on the small screen. Black Lightning is proving just as strong for The CW as Black Panther has for Marvel, and I think that speaks both to how much minority representation was needed and how well this show and that movie handle the content they’re portraying.
Black Lightning does so much well, but one of the things that I’d love to focus on in this particular review is how well it handles the police vs. superhero dynamic. “Three Sevens: The Book of Thunder” really hunkered down on the menace that we initially felt from the police department in the second episode of the season. Black Lightning was indeed being hunted down, and the weaponry and tactical meeting that the officers had in the opening minutes of the episode only enforce how much of a threat the police are to him. In fact, it almost feels like Black Lightning is in more danger from the police force of Freeland than he ever has been from the various enemies he’s dealt with this season, especially when one factors in what we’ve already seen these same officers do to Jefferson when he’s simply driving home in his station wagon with his daughters.
We’re pretty much at the halfway point for this first season (the premiere season only has 13 episodes and we’re already at Episode 6), and thus far Black Lightning has done an excellent job maintaining its rhythm. With that being said, I did feel a bit of a drag in this episode. Overall while the episode was great, well directed, filmed, and acted, it does feel like we’re rehashing quite a bit of the plot. We’ve already established Tobias as the big bad, and we already know that Jefferson is being face with the moral dilemma of killing Tobias (and thus becoming him) or taking the high road and being a true hero. The only really new movement on this front is Anissa’s coming into her own as a superhero.
Another high point for this episode was the continuing mystery of Gambi. Why does he have connections to Tobias (and now Lady Eve?), what is he hiding, and why is he now running interference between Tobias and Lady Eve? I’m still solidly on team “Gambi is a good guy and is eventually going to double cross The 100 gang”, but this episode almost pushed me out of that circle. We’ve seen a lot of the conflict that Lynn has with Jefferson, insisting that his use of his powers is the equivalent of an addict using their drug of choice. Up until this episode, we’ve had no proof of that, but today we were shown a brain scan of both Jefferson and a Green Light addict and they look remarkably similar.
This makes Gambi’s continuing to push Jefferson to fighting crime (especially knowing that he started mentoring Jefferson in this vein when he was just a preteen) crueler, because it does appear that he does know the effects of Jefferson using his powers and is using them for his own gain. I did enjoy the bit of scientific explanation we got about Jefferson’s powers, especially with us looking at Anissa’s developing powers and her own investigation into the biology (and heredity) of metahumans.
Now let’s get to the real star of this episode (as she has been in so many): Nafessa Williams’ Anissa! Anissa’s journey to superhero has been amazing to watch this season, and it’s really interesting to see the way they constantly parallel Anissa’s journey to Jefferson’s. I was a huge fan of the way Lynn works as a focal point for both of these two characters, and the way in which they choose to share or hide things from her.
This episode, Anissa struggled a bit with the reality that even having superpowers doesn’t make you completely invincible, and that having the ability to deflect bullets (which is another huge point for Black Lightning—a bulletproof lesbian is huge, especially on the CW given the huge pouring of outrage the network was faced with after Lexa’s death on the network’s The 100) doesn’t necessarily make you invulnerable to emotional pain. One of Anissa’s fellow protesters is run down on the show this episode, in a scene snatched right out of this summer’s news reports, and Anissa uses her powers to completely destroy the Confederate monument in a moment of grief. But when she realizes that the act didn’t help her, she calls her mother and is immediately ready to open up to her about her powers.
On the opposite side of that coin, you have Jefferson, who is channeling all of his grief—over the loss of his father, his relationship with Lynn, and possibly more—into rage, setting out to kill Tobias at what seems to be the same time Anissa takes down the statue. This time it’s Gambi who reaches out to Lynn and patches her in, but Jefferson’s rage is so complete that he’s unwilling to listen to Lynn’s calm reason, even as she mentions his daughters and discusses her real feeling about his superhero antics. It’s not until Jefferson hears the sound of glass breaking, the actual reality that someone he cares about is in danger, that he is able to drop the rage, even temporarily.
With both Thunder and Black Lightning racing to the scene, for two different reasons, we finally got the reveal I’ve been waiting for since Anissa developed her abilities in Episode 1. Just as it was no surprise that Lynn recognized her daughter right away (mostly because Anissa’s mask consists of a large rectangle of gold eyeshadow), because a mother’s intuition is almost always right, I wasn’t surprised that Jefferson didn’t recognize Anissa right away. Unfortunately, Jefferson is very reactionary. He rarely takes time out to actually think about what he’s doing, and so managed to injure Anissa in their fight. I imagine that next week’s family dinner is going to have some really interesting conversations (and I’m also wondering if Anissa’s research into genetic mutations might bring Jennifer into the power threshold—I want Lynn to begin researching both of her daughters’ genes).
Now that I’ve mentioned Jennifer, it seems like China Anne McClain’s character is oft overlooked, because she’s not a superpowered individual. But her story of struggling to navigate high school, with the advent of cyberbullying and a seriously injured boyfriend, has been compelling. I do wonder if things might be kicking into high gear for her soon, now that it seems that she and Khalil are on the outs and he’s hooking up with Tobias. I can’t help but think that Jennifer might be pulled into Khalil’s darkening world (against her will) which might just activate the powers of the last metahuman in the family.
Overall “Three Sevens: Book of Thunder” is a balanced episode that has one minor flaw, but with seven episodes remaining in the Season, I have lots of faith in Black Lightning’s ability to continue on as they’ve begun.
Black Lightning airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on The CW.