Black Lightning: Lawanda– The Book of Burial


Anissa Pierce: Making the World Safe from Appliances

After the sad events of last episode, Black Lightning moves on to “Lawanda: The Book of Burial.” With the title itself a spoiler for last time, it’s fairly obvious what happened then. Now is the aftermath, with a very emotional funeral. What I’m kind of curious about is that Lawanda was so insistent on risking her life for her daughter, supposedly under the sway of the 100, and she not only doesn’t come to the funeral, but no one mentions her. Seems kind of cold to me.

While the funeral is going on, and there’s a lot of people upset about Lawanda’s murder, Anissa is elsewhere. The scene shifts back and forth a few times between the service and Anissa trying to figure out how to make her powers work. While Anissa trains, the Reverend Holt calls for a march against the 100. Afterwards, Inspector Henderson tries to talk the Reverend out of doing this, and it’s a kind of unpleasant confrontation between them. Jefferson Pierce, our titular hero, isn’t any more effective. Both sides are very impassioned, and there’s some nasty things said on both sides. Pierce gets some surprising and unwelcome news about where Reverend Holt is drawing some of his inspiration from.

Debating all this later with Gambi, Pierce is feeling somewhat overwhelmed. Gambi understands where the Reverend is coming from, and has a few improvements on the costume for Pierce. I was amused at the contrast of Pierce struggling to master a new aspect of his powers while Gambi cheered him on, beer in hand.

Tobias Whale and his assistant (Syonide according to IMDB, although I’m not sure we’ve heard her name said out loud) pay a call and we learn that Whale is not the top of the food chain at all. He’s reporting to someone else, Lady Eve, and she’s even less happy about Black Lightning being back than Whale is. She does get a great line about Syonide being “the girl with death in her eyes.” Eve tells Whale about the upcoming march, and instructs him to handle it.

Jennifer and Khalil are up on the roof, making plans for a fairly significant event. It’s actually yet another scene I don’t have a good way to describe other than “sweet.” Jordan Calloway, who plays Khalil, is really doing a good job with the character. As Jennifer makes her plans, Anissa is doing research at the library about genetic mutation. Here, she meets Grace Choi, another name I’ll address later. There’s definitely some mutual interest here, and Grace, it appears, is a comic book geek. Grace has the unlikely dual jobs of librarian/bartender, and invites Anissa to a cosplay party later. Grace mentions both Supergirl and Looker, but whether as comic book characters or real heroes, I’m not entirely clear. She also mentions being outsiders, which is a team that in the comics both Black Lighting and later Thunder (Anissa) were part of.

The conspiracy behind the 100 is far-reaching, as we find out when Henderson gives Jefferson the unwelcome news that only one squad car is being assigned for the march, according to orders from on high that Henderson can’t even track down, let alone question. Henderson’s mood isn’t improved on hearing that Black Lightning is inspiring Reverend Holt. Later, Gambi and Jefferson try and figure out a way to keep people safe at the march.

Back on the homefront, Jefferson and Lynn are making dinner together, apparently a ritual that survived their divorce. They comment that they haven’t seen much of Anissa lately. Lynn continues her anti-Black Lightning stance, and that discussion gets interrupted by the news that Anissa’s not coming to dinner, and then Jennifer dropping a much bigger bombshell that leaves the senior Pierces speechless. Jennifer has made a lot of bad choices, but she actually has some good arguments lined up here. Later, she and Anissa exchange confidences and Anissa offers some sisterly advice.

The next day, as a moody Jefferson gazes out into the rain, Lynn comes by. It starts off well enough, both admitting they didn’t handle the family dinner well. Lynn continues to speak against Jefferson’s return to action, and then drops another surprise as tempers flare. I don’t think this reconciliation Jefferson keeps hoping for is as close as he thinks. After that, Jefferson takes out some of his bad mood on poor Khalil, in what might have been the most entertaining scene of the show.

Anissa goes to the party at the bar, which goes well at first then takes a nasty turn with a twist I have a few questions about. Gambi does some work undercover for Black Lightning to try and help keep chaos at the march to a minimum. On the other side of things, Whale is making his own arrangements for the march, which looks bad for the public in general and even for his designated henchman. Whale is not exactly a kindly, understanding boss.

As the tv news covers another tragic story, Grace and Anissa talk. First, it’s about a few personal developments for Anissa, then it’s about the concept of being a superhero. Anissa is finding the idea appealing, but Grace has apparently thought this out and brings up a few downsides. I’m not sure if that’s Grace being a comic book geek or something more. Anissa excuses herself to go attend the march with her sister.

After Jefferson and Gambi do some more plotting, the march is finally on. Black Lightning looks on from a rooftop, and sees that Lynn, Anissa, and Jennifer are all there. He also sees a kid with a big gun stalking down an alley, which isn’t a good sign. The gunman tries to carry out his orders, but Black Lightning shows that he can do more than just fire blasts, just like his comic book incarnation. Whale sees all this and gets in a monologue that sounds like the Grinch complaining about Christmas. In a confusing scene, he orders Syonide to shoot the hero, and she somehow or other manages to hit two other people instead. Lynn tends to the wounded and urges Black Lightning to flee.

Much of the rest of the episode is at the hospital. There is mixed news regarding the shooting victims, and a lot of tension. Lynn apologizes to Jefferson for her earlier outburst in his office, and they seem to make their peace. The final prognoses aren’t that great for the victims. While the Pierces worry at the hospital, Gambi does the first really questionable thing we’ve seen, and I wonder what he was up to there. The episode ends on Lynn having a talk with Anissa, and some further bad news.

What I liked: In a time where a lot of characters do some really questionable things, I have no trouble buying Jefferson Pierce as a committed hero out to help everyone. I really like the way he’s being portrayed, and Cress Williams is doing a great job. I’m intrigued by Lady Eve. The Jennifer/Khalil scene was great, as was the following bit at dinner. I like how well Gambi and Pierce work together. There were several great lines from a lot of different characters. Reverend Holt was believable as a good man pushed too far.

What I didn’t: I’m concerned about that last scene with Gambi. Lynn continues to be really hard for me to like. I hope at some point we get a more valid reason for Henderson’s dislike of Black Lightning.

I thought this was another great episode in what has been a really good first season so far. I’ll give it a 4 out of 5.

The Name Game: I’ve already covered a bit about the Pierce family and Gambi. Here are few more names of interest that have cropped up.

Inspector Henderson has been a supporting character of Superman’s since the 1940’s radio show about the character. Considering Black Lightning originally was from Metropolis, that makes a lot of sense for the show.

The only “Holt” I know of in DC Comics is the second Mr. Terrific. A version of that character, first name and orientation changed, has been part of Team Arrow for a while now. That may not mean anything, but it’s an interesting coincidence.

Syonide is a villain that has had three incarnations in DC Comics, all of them foes of Black Lightning. The last one was a female.

Grace Choi, in the comics, is a superhuman herself, and a lover and teammate of Anissa Pierce, AKA Thunder.