Black Lightning begins his next “book” as they seem to be dividing up the season, with “The Book of Blood: Chapter One: Requiem.” There are a few spoilers here for the episode, but I don’t see a good way around them. So, be warned.
The show opens with Gambi enjoying Frank Sinatra, buying fruit and speaking Japanese (I think, possibly Korean), and then being attacked. His SUV is tricked out a bit like Nick Fury’s in Winter Soldier, and does him just as much good. It’s a jarring way to start a show.
Anissa, not content with playing vigilante savior, applies at Reverend Holt’s clinic, putting her medical training to work. They walk through the place, talking about the troubles the clinic is having. Holt, not being an idiot, hires her, and she agrees to start immediately. Holt tells her he is praying for her father, Jefferson, after hearing he stepped down as principal of Garfield High. Jennifer is at home, dealing with online courses (because of course her parents won’t let her slack on her “house arrest.” She gets in a few entertaining wise cracks at the computer, and has a flashback to her meeting with Khalil last time. He texts, and she shakes her head and ignores it, proving she sometimes makes good decisions.
Anissa meets Anaya and Deacon, a young couple, in her work. She’s very, very pregnant, and he’s jumpy and irritable. She does what she can for them and tries to ignore his attitude. She offers some encouragement for their parental doubts by telling a bit about her own parents. One thing I really do like on the show is there’s an actual healthy family. No one is secretly a monster, they’re not trying to kill each other or betray one another.
Khalil brings Tobias’ newest target in for a chat. Councilman Parker is not pleased about his treatment, and mocks Whale’s recent statements about being a law-abiding citizen. Whale is smug and self-satisfied, as he usually is. I think he’s my most disliked villain on the current hero shows. Whale applies pressure and we learn some of where he’s getting his current information. Parker is in a tough spot, and Whale has no issues with blackmail. Henderson comes to the Pierce home and gives Jefferson the news about the attack that opened the show, leaving Jefferson stunned.
Henderson, Anissa, and Jefferson discuss the news. I guess Lynn’s at work and Jennifer is hiding in her room. This is when Anissa finds out Henderson knows their secret, and the Deputy Chief asks them some questions and that they let him handle it. Henderson leaves, and Jefferson surprises Anissa with his next few decisions and the level of his denial.
At Pod Central, Dr. Jace is impressed with Lynn’s work on a way to cure the kids. Lynn isn’t satisfied, since she’s anticipating a high mortality rate, and wants to save them all. Jace looks impatient. Anissa goes up to Jennifer’s room and breaks the news about Gambi. It’s a very emotional scene, and they keep it at the real drama level, choosing not to write in Jennifer’s powers going wild. I don’t know if that’s a sign she’s getting better control or just a story decision, but I liked it either way.
Still stunned by the news herself, Anissa pays a call on Grace, her sorta-girlfriend. Anissa makes a pretty speech and things get very heated between the two. It’s the first time we’ve seen Grace’s arms, and she has tattoos along them like her comic book counterpart. Lynn comes home and comforts Jefferson in his grief.
Grace has some morning-after regrets, and asks Anissa some questions the young doctor/hero doesn’t have good answers for, and shares a bit of her background with Anissa and us. We also see there’s more to Grace than meets the eye. Lynn and Jennifer go to Gambi’s home, preparing things for the memorial Lynn is sure Jefferson will change his mind about soon. Jennifer is still stunned Gambi is gone.
The compromised Councilman Parker holds a press conference about the future of the clinic, praising Reverend Holt, Black Lightning, and Thunder for their efforts keeping the place open and intact. There’s a planted reporter who brings up a question to make Whale look good, and it’s a clearly staged bit of theater. The news shows a woman’s surprising reaction to the Green Light Babies and metahumans in general. Lynn and Jennifer get back from their errand, and there are surprises all around, some good, some less welcome.
In a really surprising development, Jefferson shows he’s not the perfect example some make it out to be, going to Two-Bits’ bar in his grief. He’s clearly drunk, and Two-Bits is worried. A customer gets aggressive with a waitress, and the drunken Pierce steps in, venting some grief to the point he gets pulled off the man by Two-Bits and the well-timed arrival of Henderson, who tries to talk some sense into Jefferson. The teacher/hero is consumed by grief and self-pity, and laments about his sacrifices and the city just taking and taking from him.
Tobias Whale watches the press conference, pleased at his little play. Khalil comes in, and Whale continues to blame him for Syonide’s death. I will say the show seems to actually care when people die, which puts it ahead of many of the CW DC shows, who have racked up a staggering body count with a seeming, “Oh, well,” attitude about most of the deaths. Whale is a dick to Khalil, lecturing the young man before sending him off.
Deacon, the man in the couple Anissa treated and counseled earlier, makes a surprise reappearance at the clinic, begging for her help to save their baby before dying in her arms. Clearly, they had an eventful time since they left. Dr. Jace has come up with a way to treat all the pod kids, and shows Lynn some simulations to back up her theory as they science babble at each other.
Two-Bits gets a dramatic visit from the show’s titular character, who has learned to use his powers for some nice effects. Black Lightning pushes for answers about the attack on Gambi, and doesn’t like what he learns. Two-Bits makes some good observations, and has a great line about Gambi being the only white man in Freeland aside from the police, which I’d noticed myself.
Henderson interviews Anissa about Deacon’s death, and she doesn’t have a lot useful to tell the man. They get interrupted when something freaky happens with Deacon’s body. Anissa gets a sample and follows up on her own, using the computers in Gambi’s sanctum, and thanking him quietly as she tries to trace Deacon’s movements.
Khalil pays a condolence call on Jennifer via the roof, checking on her about how she is after the news about Gambi. To his credit, that really does seem to be the only reason he’s there. Jennifer is grateful, but shoos him away, worried about getting caught. I think a visiting murderous supervillain wouldn’t go well with her parents at the moment. Jefferson goes to Gambi’s shop, touched by a memorial for the man outside, and finally has his breakdown. Anissa, downstairs, sees him on the surveillance cameras, and goes up to speak to him. Jefferson has a display of raw grief that’s hard to watch and a good acting job by Cress Williams. Anissa gently sends her father home to rest, and keeps her current project to herself.
Things don’t go as expected at Pod Central, and Lynn shows her displeasure with Jace’s manipulations in no uncertain terms. Jace doesn’t seem to get she did anything wrong, and really seems like a great candidate for being a total sociopath. Anissa tries to follow up a lead about Anaya, gets in to a bad stereotype of a situation and shows rare intelligence by fleeing.
What I liked: This show’s characters come across as some of the most real and fleshed out on any of the CW/DC shows. I like that they care about the deaths of those around them, even Whale as far as Syonide goes. This episode wasn’t really about superheroics, and they didn’t try to shoehorn any in. the writing and acting were both really good. Jace is a scary evil person, but at least consistent. Henderson’s concern for his friend was nicely done, as was Two-Bit’s.
What I didn’t: For as formidable a man as he’s been shown, Gambi went down way too easy. Whale remains two steps ahead and seemingly untouchable, aside from his recent losses. He’s an easy man to hate. While I’m intrigued by what we saw of Grace, I don’t like how things are lurching along with her and Anissa’s relationship.
I thought this was a really good episode, with a focus on drama more than powers. I’ll give it a low 4 out of 5.