Black Lightning’s “The Book of Secrets: Chapter Four: Original Sin” could just as easily have been titled “Everyone Has A Bad Day.” I think that might have made more sense. All the Pierces have varying difficulties, some of which spill over onto the unflappable Gambi, and even Henderson gets a headache or two. At least we’re spared Tobias’ lurking, racist presence this time around.
The show opens with one of the most enigmatic recurring characters, Lala. For those who don’t remember, and it’s been a while since we’ve seen him, Lala has been killed a few times, somehow returned, and is getting tattoos of people he’s killed through really odd circumstances, as well as being haunted by ghosts. In a show that’s been about science and metahumans, he very strongly seems to be a supernatural presence of some kind. Back from the dead again (the last time we saw him, Tobias killed him in jail), Lala wanders the halls of Garfield High and finds Jefferson, working late and grading papers. Lala takes Jefferson hostage and demands details about the death of a friend of his, Earl. It’s a surprisingly civil situation, with the two of them trading literary quotes, Lala talking about the voices he hears (just what you want from the man holding a gun on you), and Lala demanding Pierce tell him about why the voices say he knows something about Earl’s death. There’s one violent moment which is largely ignored and that bit doesn’t make much sense.
In the Sanctum, Gambi is trying to come up with a suit for Jennifer, who is making critiques based more on fashion than anything practical for a superhero. Then again, the way most heroines’ costumes are, I guess she’s just following the trend. Gambi tries to bring her more down to earth, as does Lynn when she comes in. Jennifer remains stubborn, muttering about style. Gambi shows what he says is Jefferson’s original Black Lightning suit (more like the one he wore in the 90’s in the comics), and talks about how important it is to get the suits right. The daughters mock the early suit, while Lynn presses Jennifer on another bid for practicality.
Lala continues to demand answers from Jefferson about Earl’s death that Jefferson doesn’t have. Not helping his mental state any, Will and Lawanda, two of the people he previously killed, are arguing back and forth about what to do next. Jefferson tries to help, but Lala’s not exactly in the most receptive frame of mind. Jennifer goes to complain to Anissa that their mother and Gambi are driving her crazy, but Anissa is busy on her phone. Jennifer gives her some advice that is part practical and part overly-dramatic.
Having done her best to be super-suit advisor, Lynn goes to work at the ASA, where they are testing Wendy’s abilities. I think, between pod deaths and Whale’s kidnappings, Wendy might be their only test subject left. Lynn and O’Dell get into a massive argument about how to treat Wendy, Lynn arguing for a humanitarian approach, and O’Dell a lot colder and more practical (and anti-canine). Henderson goes to the Sanctum to confer with Gambi, where the two of them figure out that Todd Green is one of Tobias’ associates. Henderson and Lynn in their scenes both comment on Jefferson not returning phone calls. Ok, guys, here’s a hint: if the resident superhero, who is really big on responsibility, working at a place that’s been attacked several times, doesn’t return calls, maybe it’s worth looking into?
Lala mutters to himself while Jefferson uses his powers for some unconventional self-treatment. Jefferson tells Lala a lot of good things he remembers about Earl. Lala is convinced Jefferson is lying, and this ghost peanut gallery keeps bickering. Jefferson mentions some problems Earl was having with the 100, the root of most evil in Freeland, and Lala insists Jefferson is holding out on him. Jefferson shows him some digitized yearbooks to try and help jog Lala’s faulty memory.
Henderson gets to work, all upbeat about bringing in Todd, until his coworker gives him the bad news we saw last episode. Lynn gets some of her own bad news at work, when we see the steps O’Dell has taken to reinforce his opinions about the metas. Lynn is not at all happy. Why is O’Dell so determined to keep her working there as an expert if he keeps ignoring her advice? Especially since he’s lost Dr. Jace. Anissa goes to the last known address Gambi has on Grace’s foster brother. The man who answers the door won’t let her in, isn’t helpful, and something just plain smells wrong. After Anissa leaves, we see there is something odd going on with the brother that is a complete departure from the comics.
Jefferson gets Lala talking about Earl, who wasn’t exactly the choir boy he was made out to be earlier, but not as bad as most in his neighborhood. It turns out that, very tangentially, Jefferson does bear some minor responsibility for Earl’s death from some advice the teacher gave his student. Lala’s memory finally returns, and we learn what happened to Earl and why. Lala finally leaves, one of many on a crusade for vengeance against Tobias Whale. Lala gets stopped on the way out and has an unexpected meeting and addition to his collection.
Henderson takes the really odd precaution of closing his blinds in his office to call Gambi. Someone being on their phone is normal these days; closing their office blinds is a great way to attract attention. Henderson’s not so good at this stuff. Gambi offers some hope for a possible lead, and then gets distracted when Jennifer comes in, all bouncy and excited about her suit. She also keeps trying to get selfies with the tailor/spy/tech guy, apparently forgetting that he’s supposed to be dead (if that’s still going on). The prototype isn’t ready, she gets pushy and then clowns around, and helps cause an accident that spooks her and Gambi both.
Thunder returns to Grace’s foster brother’s apartment and kicks down the door. She gets a nasty surprise from something in there, and then finds out that Brother Choi is a damn good fighter. Even when she resorts to using her powers, he manages to go toe to toe with her before escaping, leaving behind a very confused novice superhero.
The Pierces all eventually gather at home for a family pizza night. Jennifer and Lynn both chastise Jefferson for not calling to check in. Lynn complains about her day and Agent O’Dell. Jennifer is a lot more subdued than earlier, but no one really picks up on it. Jefferson and Anissa both say they had tough days, but don’t go into details. Jefferson takes some pains to hide evidence of how his day went, but no one notices. What is disturbing is that we see someone is watching the family via hidden cameras. I wonder how many secrets they know now?
Lala goes for a drive, along with some of his arguing ghosts, and we get some weird flashbacks of his past that leave more questions than they answer. He vows again to kill Tobias Whale, despite the gangster having killed him before. Twice. The episode ends with us learning who is watching the Pierce’s, and some extreme measures being taken to keep things a secret. That person has a lot of resources and even shows they can tap into Jennifer’s selfie-happy phone.
What I liked: I like a good mystery, and there’s a lot of odd going on with Lala. I’m really intrigued to learn more about what’s happening with the haunted gangster. I’m glad Henderson has accepted Gambi’s help and superior resources. I get Jennifer being all giddy about her new suit. Anissa is not just accepting Grace’s disappearance, and is doing her best to dig in and find out what’s going on. Jefferson certainly cares about his students, current and former. I admire the dedication from both him and Lynn, their passion for their respective jobs. What we saw of Grace’s brother was an interesting development.
What I didn’t: It seems kind of foolish that no one thought to check in on Jefferson. The classrooms all have cameras, we’ve seen this, Gambi couldn’t spare a minute to take a look? I felt so bad for Henderson being disappointed at his new lead fizzling out. I’m not sure I follow Anissa’s justification for kicking in the door of the brother’s apartment, but I guess she’s not exactly completely rational on that front right now. Maybe it was the smell. Gambi should know better than to let Jennifer rush him on things. No one noticed Jefferson not taking off his jacket at dinner? Why is O’Dell insistent on Lynn staying but ignoring her advice?
It was another episode where the titular hero never showed up, but it worked. It was a good episode to build on various plots, and deepen some issues that have been going on. I’ll give it a low 4 out of 5.