This week’s Black Lightning was a blast from the past, with a long-dead character making his return, demanding answers from Jefferson. Plus: Lynn’s at odds with Odell, Anissa’s search for Grace turns up something rotten, and Jennifer’s testing out her suit.
1. Holy hell, look who it is everyone
Lala’s back! He’s been gone for so long I’d given up any expectation of seeing him again. He shows at Garfield after school hours with a pistol, demanding answers from Jefferson (who is grading papers) about someone named Earl. Earl Clifford, to give his name from the comics, was a straight-A student and close friend of Lala, but he also got caught up in drug dealing and was murdered after Jefferson advised him to go to the police. After a tense stand-off, Lala regains his memories and Earl’s death was ultimately his fault: Earl’s spirit then adds himself to the collection of voices in Lala’s head.
I’ll be honest, after the initial comeback got me excited, I started to find Lala’s conflict with his mental images of LaWanda and Will a bit tedious, and that the resolution to his dilemma came a little too soon. We return to Lala by the end of the episode, with an icky extended flashback of how he reconstituted himself this time (a mad scientist/voodoo doctor scooped up his remains), but I would’ve much preferred if this had been a bottle episode with more than one flashback to the circumstances around Earl’s death. I get there’s so much going on in this show, and the producers seemed more interested in the other storylines, but Earl’s murder was meant to be the inciting incident for Jefferson becoming Black Lightning in the comics, and it felt like they blew this opportunity to really delve into this “original sin.”
2. Grace the Werewolf
We learned this week that Grace is a shapeshifter, after Anissa tracks her down to her new apartment, where she’s posing as an old man. Anissa returns as Thunder after her initial unsuccessful attempt to enter the apartment, where she discovers a dead donkey (gosh this episode is gross) and then gets into a fight into Old Man Grace, who flees. We also hear Grace making a lot of growling sounds, which together with the dead donkey, implies she lives an incredibly feral existence when not in human form – I imagine she would’ve, having fled human traffickers, but Anissa is still none the wiser. Later she tells her parents she’s starting to wonder if finding Grace is worth it, which is unsurprising, given how slow this pursuit has been.
3. Odell the Weapons Maker
Lynn’s working relationship with Agent Odell reached breaking point with him locking her out of the endurance tests they were performing with Wendy Hernandez (the one “pod person” Whale didn’t kidnap). Odell revealed his intention was to train her to become an asset for the US government, likening her to an attack dog. It’s a dehumanizing phrase, and a strong reminder of how Lynn’s been taken advantage of trying to help the vaccine victims. I imagine much will be written on the imagery of black men like Odell and his bodyguards are essentially helping the government enslave people, while a black woman like Lynn looks on helplessly as he does the establishment’s work.
4. Moonwalk Cringe
Gambi and Jennifer had a lot of fun making her superhero suit (the quip about Jefferson’s original suit looking like a George Clinton outfit was particularly great). However, I had to cringe when Jennifer started doing the moonwalk while testing out the undersuit’s capabilities in that big lightbulb of theirs, given Leaving Neverland aired on HBO this week. After looking into it, it appears the moonwalk predated Jackson, so perhaps it’s a good thing to start reclaiming it from him, but still, it did make me wince.
5. Walls Closing In
Henderson finds out Todd’s dead, so either Whale’s successfully closed off a lead, or Cutter’s made a huge mistake. However, Whale’s also got to contend with Lala, who’s resolved to get revenge on his old boss for all the suffering he’s inflicted on him and Earl, so it’s not like he’ll be off the hook regardless.
However, the big reveal setting up the season finale is that Odell has had Lynn’s family under surveillance (I must say, it was a bit weird he apparently let her go home after their big dust-up). He knows the Pierces’ true identities, and somewhat predictably, kills those keeping tabs on them for him so no one can tell her. All I can say is – yikes.
Next week: time to finally cast off this “Book of Secrets” for the “Book of the Apocalypse.”