The second episode of Black Lightning, “Lawanda: The Book of Hope,” starts off with a major contrast going on. On the news, a commentator wonders why Black Lightning is back, and seems both happy and mistrustful about the hero’s return. On the bed, Jefferson Pierce is groaning, in major pain, in the aftermath of his return to action. It’s not just his muscles that aren’t doing what they’re supposed to: small discharges of his power run all over him, and it doesn’t look like it feels good. Lynn hears the disturbance, and comments that Black Lightning is getting too old for the streets. He agrees with her, and then Lynn goes back to her anti-hero stance from last episode. She’s worried about him, and Jefferson assures her that Black Lightning is NOT back. He persuades her to stay by offering to take the couch.
After more news commentary about the 100 winning the fight for the city, Jefferson speaks at his school. He’s very eloquent, but a lot of the parents are worried about their kids in light of recent events. Pierce quotes Martin Luther King, Jr, and one of the parents counters that they shot King. Another woman complains that her daughter was taken by the 100, and Pierce gets some very unwelcome news about the Seahorse Motel. She goes on to say that he likes using quotes, so she has one for him: Until all of us are free, none of us will be free. The crowd murmurs approval and Jefferson looks uncertain.
Villain Tobias Whale isn’t happy, and complains that someone must know who this “bootleg Black Lightning” is. He orders some measures which aren’t going to be popular with anyone, and even draws some surprised comments from his henchman. Tobias uses his usual calm management style, and remarks that they can’t let the people think that Black Lightning will protect them.
Jefferson talks to the woman that spoke up about her daughter, the titular Lawanda, and we hear family tragedy in her story. Her daughter, Shiquonda, fell apart after losing her father. Pierce asks how he can help, and she surprises him with her response. The lady certainly has a high opinion of Jefferson.
Pierce has a talk with Henderson, the face of the police for the entire city. As usual, Henderson is defensive and explains why the cops are essentially helpless about the latest developments. William, the thug who kidnapped the Pierce girls, is missing, and Henderson hopes to find him, then turn him against Whale. Pierce isn’t happy about any of this, and is understandably worried about his daughters.
Jennifer gets an unwelcome surprise at home, which shows the guards watching over the Pierce household aren’t the answer. Jefferson goes to find Lala, and interrupts a street performance by some thugs on ATVs, which is an ongoing problem in some cities these days. Peirce’s visit doesn’t go well, and he barely manages to keep his power under control before finally leaving. Later, he goes back to Gambi’s shop and they debate Black Lightning’s future. Pierce grudgingly agrees that Black Lightning has at least one more job to do.
In a scene that I’m sure is going to generate complaints, we learn that Anissa is gay and very involved with someone. They have a few ongoing problems in the relationship, and it’s just the same kind of things a lot of couples deal with, which was a nice touch. Anissa tries to explain her strange experience the other night, but her concerns are dismissed.
Henderson is apparently not only the only cop who rates a name, but also one of Pierce’s neighbors. They talk about the protection on the house, and Henderson ribs Jefferson about Lynn still being there. Henderson offers reassurances about getting William and Lala, then mentions Lawanda’s current problematic choice.
Lala cleans up a loose end in a surprising way, and then we see exactly what Lawanda is up to. She’s down at the Seahorse, shooting video and recording license plates. Jefferson finds her and tries to talk her out of this very dangerous new pursuit, but she’s determined. He asks her to give him some time, and they come to an agreement.
Jennifer gets a sweet visit from a friend, and we see she’s continuing to make bad choices. They have a good scene together, while Lynn updates Jefferson on what’s going on as he gets home. Amusingly, nether of them can remember Anissa’s girlfriend’s name. Jefferson and Lynn kiss, and we learn she’s a neuroscientist.
Lawanda breaks her deal with Jefferson almost at once, and things go spectacularly badly, although there’s a sliver of hope for later. Henderson gives Jefferson the bad news, and the lights start flickering on Pierce’s desk. He really doesn’t seem to be handling his powers well when he’s upset. Jefferson argues with Lynn about his heroic career, and she has a really odd theory about his powers that wasn’t mentioned last time and seems really weird to me. Their discussion/argument doesn’t go calmly.
Jefferson goes back to work, and I’m fairly sure his assistant has more than just professional interest in him. Then, Gambi calls. He has managed to find William where the entire police force has failed, because apparently he’s not just a tailor and superhero costume designer, he’s a super-hacker (can’t have a hero show without one these days). Jefferson passes on the latest bad news to Gambi.
Jennifer and a friend are being exceptionally stupid at school. Jennifer then ditches her girl to go find her boyfriend, and he, at least, calls her on her behavior. He seems like a good guy, and I hope he both sticks to his guns and gets through to her. He does offer her reassurance in addition to telling her she’s doing the wrong thing.
Not content with working on Jefferson to end the return of the city’s only hero, Lynn pays a call on Gambi. I get the feeling those two don’t like each other very much, and they don’t pull their punches. Gambi isn’t mean, but he stands his ground and isn’t afraid to disagree with her. He makes a very good point, and I think she comes off hard to like in this scene, and episode for that matter.
Jefferson gets a call from Gambi with a location for Lala, and it’s time for Black Lightning to take some steps. There’s an amusing few scenes with the older men in the neighborhood being happy to see him, and the thugs working for Lala going down one after the other. After some banter with the elevator operator (do they still have those?), Black Lighting fights his was up the stairs to get to Lala’s penthouse. Black Lightning’s mission is almost anti-climactic. Let’s face it, gangbangers as a rule aren’t going to be able to stand up to an angry metahuman. The hero gets a surprise at the end, but it doesn’t slow him down as he leaves.
The cops end up with Lala, and Henderson lays out for him how bad his situation is. Lala doesn’t utter a word. Pierce gets home and has another argument with Lynn. It’s seeming like she’s going to force him to chose between helping people or having her around, and that comes across to me as remarkably selfish.
Anissa has a rough night’s sleep and goes for a walk. She ends up following in her father’s footsteps in a few ways while she’s out. Jefferson is clearly upset about Lynn and her latest decision. Tobias goes to the police station, gets let in by yet another corrupt (white) cop, and takes steps to ensure Lala isn’t going to say something he shouldn’t. The scene hints that Whale might be a bit more than human, but it’s unclear.
What I liked: Jefferson Pierce is a good man and a hero. Gambi is a good friend and supportive sidekick/partner. I understand Lawnada’s desperation driving her to make such bad choices. I really liked that they didn’t make a big deal about Anissa being gay, and her walk was interesting. The older men’s support of Black Lighting was nicely done. Jennifer’s boyfriend got in some great scenes. I was surprised at what they did with both William and Lala.
What I didn’t: Jennifer is making one bad decision after another, and if her recent kidnapping didn’t shake her out of it, I don’t know what will. I’m trying hard to see Lynn’s point of view, but I just don’t. Her weird theory about Jefferson’s powers seems to come from nowhere. Again, the only bad cops are white and Henderson is the only one that earns a name.
Despite a few reservations, it was another really good episode. I’ll give it a high 3.5 out of 5.