Black Lightning: The Book of Occupation: Chapter Two: Maryam’s Tasbih


Good evening, my name is Peter, I’ll be your token good white man this evening. 


Freeland is still under siege, the ASA is ruling with an iron fist, and half of the Pierce family are still in “protective custody.” Things aren’t looking great for the good guys. While I like the new, more comic book style opening graphics, they seem to be playing games with the actual episode titles. Most places, this one is just Chapter Two, but, per the opening credits, the full title is “The Book of Occupation: Chapter Two: Maryam’s Tasbih.” A tasbih, best I can tell and really simplified, is the Muslim equivalent of the Catholic rosary.

As last time, the episode opens with prisoners of the ASA going through computerized interviews. The titular Maryam is concerned about the side effects of her powers, and, I have to say, they are worrying. Elsewhere in the city, Lala the resurrecting thug has Tobias’ ASA case. He doesn’t know what it is or how to use it, but he’s damn sure it’ll bring Tobias to him, I guess so he can fail to kill the smug gangster again. Then again, the state of Tobias last time we saw him, Lala might come out on top this time. Henderson, apparently now the police chief (I wonder what happened to the last one), gives a press conference talking about a Markovian attack, ASA casualties, and new restrictions from the ASA’s martial law. What’s truly terrifying here is that, with the current administration, I could see some version of this actually happening.

In his hidden grotto, Gambi is probing the ASA shield for weaknesses. Metahumans to one side, can we talk about how impressive it is that a government agency has the technology to turn Freeland into Under the Dome? They must have their own Tony Stark/Reed Richards/Lex Luthor working for them. Gambi watches a guerilla webcast from a “Truthteller Jones,” opposing the ASA. Gambi is worried about the safety of some involved, so it seems whoever this is, it’s a new faction. Odell is pissed off about the broadcast, as are most petty dictators when challenged. His AI, Katie (everyone seems to have one now, him, Anissa, Lena Luthor) can’t trace the broadcast, and then he gets more bad news from Langley.

The elder Pierces are trying to adjust to their new living arrangements in the ASA facility. Worrying leads to short tempers are they argue about Odell’s demands on Lynn. Jefferson uses his powers to shut down the surveillance for their disagreement, prompting a quick visit from Colonel Williams. Oddly, Williams seems biased against metas, although he himself has powers. He and Jefferson don’t get on at all, and Lynn plays peacemaker. The Pierce’s get brought to better quarters, where they continue their disagreement.

Just in case things weren’t complicated and tense enough, a new military force, although in civilian clothes, sets up shop in a base and gets a rousing lecture from Colonel Mosin, a Markovian who seems to be about as anti-American as you can get. Henderson is trying to keep things together with what resources the Freeland PD have left when Williams comes in, very high-handed, and takes one of Henderson’s detectives. It may take all season, but I am so looking forward to Williams eventually getting his ass beat. Interestingly, from what isn’t said, William’s intel in this matter might be right. Blackbird, trying to shake off getting blasted through the ASA barrier, is doing her best to care for her charges and has a very tense alliance with the Perdi, a group we saw last season. Blackbird is not a diplomat. I’m also not sure how the man who reads lips is communicating with her through her mouth-covering mask.

I think the character with the most uneven portrayal has been Jennifer Pierce. Then again, she’s both a teenager and youngest child, so they can be challenging at times. At this point, she’s at home looking at pictures of Khalil when Odell pops up out of nowhere. He comes bearing a phone with a message, news about food rations, and an offer that’s awkwardly delivered. As someone theorized to me, we’ve seen Odell in some odd places, and we’ve already seen one person on this show who can teleport, which makes me wonder. I did enjoy her casually mentioning she fried the surveillance system because it was creepy. Lala makes the rounds on the streets, and learns about some of his competition. Unsurprisingly, there’s a thriving black market and general uptick in criminal activity with the curfew/quarantine in place.

Blackbird and Anaya, one of the leaders of the Perdi, continue to butt heads, and I have to admit I lost any sympathy I had for Anaya’s point of view in this scene. Perdi guards pull guns on Blackbird, and, when she defeats them, Anaya complains Blackbird hit them too hard. You lose your right to be treated with kid gloves when you point a shotgun at someone, Anaya. This is clearly not a match made in heaven. The amusing, off-beat team of Gambi and Henderson gets another outing as Gambi talks the Chief into helping him out when he gets a gadget he needs to help Anissa get back inside the ASA barrier. I think Henderson’s reactions to Gambi’s toys are my favorite ongoing bit on this show. Back in the prison, Lynn tries to work with Maryam, but her analogies aren’t really comforting, and she’s making promises she has no way of keeping. The odd couple do their act, Henderson gets to annoy Williams, and Gambi gets the needed gizmo, so everyone’s happy. With the thoroughness of the ASA’s lockdown of Freeland, I’m impressed Gambi is managing to operate and not get caught.

Out in the streets, Lala makes a move against his rival. It’s not what you’d expect, but it’s fitting for the man’s weird history on the show. The undying thug makes a big impression on his audience, and I can’t help but think this is going to be a growing problem for the ASA, especially since they have Tobias. More arguing between Blackbird and Anaya gets interrupted when first one of the refugees demonstrates a very useful ability, and then Gambi manages to make radio contact and give Blackbird some warning about more Markovian problems. This leads to several stalk and ambush scenes for Blackbird. She’s effective, but she seems to be just knocking them out, not even taking their weapons, so this is very short term at best. Whatever else she’s doing, this is apparently a sign that Col. Mosin was waiting for, as he gives an ominous order. In her medbay, Lynn does some weird testing with Jefferson and Maryam that I did not at all understand the point of. Her constantly repeating the same few lines over and over didn’t help. This was bad writing and/or directing.

While Jennifer gets some unwanted attention at school (and points to her for still going since she’s completely without supervision at the moment), Jamillah Olsen (I’m still very curious about that name) does a guerilla broadcast about the ASA from a very dumb place. One part of her report made me think: I guess while Odell knows about Black Lightning and Thunder, he hasn’t worked out that Anissa is also Blackbird? A familiar face runs through the computer questions we’ve seen before, with some new ones added, and Odell shows Williams just how cold blooded this unassuming agent in a suit can be. A few corridors away, Jefferson pays a visit and asks some questions.

Never one to miss a chance to be a creepy jerk, Odell presses Lynn for some information, and Jefferson sees this through his new “electro-vision” power, which still makes no sense to me. Sensing electricity, sure, that I get with his powerset. Clairsentience? How is this supposed to work? Lynn and Jefferson go back to their room/glorified cell, and argue more about working with/for Odell and how to handle Maryam.

Our two final scenes are the character we’ve seen before getting sent out on a test mission and passing with flying, if disheartening, colors. I suspect this is going to be a major issue for the Pierce family down the road. There’s some kind of fight at the high school, and a weird absence of teachers or staff. Jennifer steps in, gets taunted, then gets pushed too far, and kicks some asses. I guess Gambi’s been teaching her well. Jennifer is really not pleased at this turn of events. I suspect it’s going to be a bigger problem shortly, because word is going to get around, there’s going to be a note/call to the parents… who aren’t there.

What I liked: Gambi is pretty slick, and he and Henderson play off each other well. I’m really impressed with Henderson’s efforts to keep his department together under difficult circumstances, although I’m curious about his promotion. Blackbird is getting things done, although she’s not making friends. Jennifer is impressing me overall, coping with everything on her own.

What I didn’t: I didn’t like the argument between Jefferson and Lynn. They do that a lot. Maybe they need counseling? This is the second episode in a row with no actual Black Lightning in it. Odell is annoyingly smug, and Williams is worse. Anaya was just plain annoying. Lynn’s testing of Maryam didn’t make a lot of sense, nor does Jefferson’s new power. I hope we’re not doing the whole season of the ASA’s repression. It’s depressing.

This is one of the better hero shows going right now. I’ll give this episode a 3.5 out of 5. Tune in next time for our next mystery title!