Black Lightning: The Book of Little Black Lies


I guess they really are big damn heroes…

Black Lightning: The Book of Little Black Lies opens with Jefferson training and dealing with the aftermath of the revelations about Gambi last episode. He whales away on a heavy bag, hearing things that Gambi said over and over. He ends up taking out the bag with what really looks like enhanced strength. I don’t think we’ve seen that trick from him before. After destroying innocent workout equipment, Jefferson calls Inspector Henderson and asks about what happened last episode. They talk about their differing approaches, the menace of Green Light, and the danger they’re both in. I think this scene makes Henderson a hero no matter how he feels about masked vigilantes; Henderson is clearly scared about what might happen to him, but he pushes ahead anyway, making one touching request to Black Lightning in the event of his death.

Anissa goes to see Jennifer, who is still freaking out over the discovery of her own powers last episode. Things don’t go too well, and Anissa ends up saying, and doing, a lot more than she should. Jennifer ends up freaking out and running off after a brief confrontation with her dad. Tact is clearly not Anissa’s strong suit, and both her parents are displeased with her.

Jefferson and Lynn have an intense discussion with Anissa about her recent decisions. Anissa gets very irate during it, getting actually disrespectful to her father, which I’m not sure we’ve seen from the elder daughter before. This turns into another anti-hero spiel from Lynn, although this one is a bit more reasonable than some of her past ones. They end that on jokes about grandkids before Jefferson turns more serious. He is sure Black Lightning being framed is, in part, a distraction from his anti-Green Light mission. It’s a reasonable conclusion, although viewers know he’s wrong. Anissa makes an amusingly phrased demand and they’ll be off to do research tomorrow, following in Jefferson’s father’s footsteps. Anissa is a bit surprised at Jefferson’s reaction to the idea of using Gambi’s help.

Lynn goes to check on Jennifer and try and reassure her. Jennifer makes a snarky comment about her mom being a hero too, which turns into both a joke and an interesting comment. The two characters named are Supergirl and Vixen, who are, of course, two other characters on CW shows. It doesn’t prove Black Lightning is actually in the same world as the others, an often debated point. Vixen and Supergirl are on different worlds themselves, but it’s still an interesting choice, when they could have gone with Wonder Woman, Batgirl, or any other heroines from DC.

While Jefferson and Anissa pore through court records, Gambi is doing his own investigation. He uses a syringe and black mamba venom to get what he wants. While in most shows, this scene would have ended with the reveal it was a bluff, this one stops on Gambi giving his victim an antidote, so the venom was real. Gambi is a ruthless tailor.

Jefferson and Anissa, not able to use their heroic ID’s with everything going on, improvise something closer to Anissa’s first look. Between her smarts and some creative use of Jefferson’s powers, they manage to get what they wanted from the man they visited. There are a few good jokes about Jefferson’s mask.

Anissa goes to check in on Jennifer, and tells her about the Thunder/Black Lightning fight, earning some snarky comments from Jennifer. Jennifer is honest about being essentially a self-involved teen. She’s not at all interested in forming a crimefighting trio with her father and sister. The sisters then bond over Thunder’s online presence, which is a nice modern twist on the hero scene.

Gambi furthers his own investigation, showing he’s more skilled than even some really good ones on computers. The more we see, the more Gambi is seeming like an older James Bond. He is trying to trace the weapons used to frame Black Lightning. Speaking of, Henderson is off doing surveillance, seeing his boss being part of a weapons deal to provide gear to kill Black Lightning.

Gambi employs the action movie classic of creeping around in air vents to pursue his next clue. Also in hero tradition, at least on the CW, this triggers some flashbacks to many years ago when Gambi was still with the ASA, whatever that is. After all that, Anissa arranged her own meeting with Gambi, trying to feel out what’s behind the rift between the older man and her father. He tells her a little about both his background and the current danger Thunder and Black Lightning are in. Gambi also has a gift for Anissa.

Anissa tries on her new costume, which does look pretty good. If I don’t see some Thunder and Black Lightning’s at DragonCon this year, I’m going to be very disappointed. She makes a comparison between what Gambi did and how Jefferson has kept things from his kids. He disagrees, of course, but I think she makes a good point. He warns her about how dangerous what they’re about to do is, and they go off to do it.

Jennifer and Lynn have another conversation about their situation. Lynn lays down the law on a few points. I have to say, Lynn and Jefferson are really, really strict parents. Lynn explains some of their reasoning for keeping Jefferson’s secrets when the kids were younger, and, again, makes some valid points. Jennifer digs into their family history, and then comes up with a very emotional question that Lynn can’t answer.

The head bad guy finally gets a name, Proctor. He shows up at the building the heroes are staking out. We see some new toys in the costumes. There’s also a reveal of a new minor skill from Anissa. Henderson and Black Lightning confer over the phone, and the cop won’t back down even when the hero warns him off. Black Lightning even gives a grudging compliment to his young protégé.

Hendeson’s stakeout has moved to intersect with where the heroes are, and he gets there just in time to see a big dramatic heroic entrance. Most of the workers in the drug lab see the heroes coming and, wisely, flee. The heroes trash the lab, supplies, and the various guards. These men are really not a challenge for two attacking metahumans. Proctor tries a classic villain gambit to save himself, and Black Lightning literally laughs at him. The heroes get a bit of help from a non-powered source, and end up destroying the lab. Whoever is behind Green Light isn’t going to be happy. The episode wraps up with a nice scene between Jefferson and Jennifer.

What I liked: There were two scenes that really stood out for me of this show being different. One was Henderson’s talk with Black Lightning early on. It’s rare you see two black men talk about emotions honestly without it devolving into some kind of comedy bit. The honesty of Henderson’s fear was a great touch. The other was Gambi actually using venom to interrogate his target. It not being a bluff was a dark but well-done twist. It was good seeing the heroes get a clear-cut victory. While I’d like another costumed hero on the team, Jennifer’s reaction to having powers is believable. Henderson had a few good scenes in this one, too. I like that Anissa wants to make up her own mind about Gambi, and that Jefferson, as mad as he is at his mentor, is at least reasonable enough to not get upset about the costume for his daughter.

What I didn’t: Actually, not a lot. While Jennifer is being whiny, it’s believable and it works. Lynn was a lot less of a negative presence this episode. It would be nice to see one or two more cops that weren’t crooked, and even better for one of them to be white, but really no complaints from me.

This was a really good episode, with some great action and a few stand out scenes. I’m going to give this one a 4 out of 5.