The new comic book style openings are really working for Black Lightning. They make the long, drawn-out titles make a lot more sense. The current story is grim, and there are a lot of things lined up against our heroes, but it’s still very well-done television. The title actually says a good bit about what’s going on: Black Lightning: The Book of Occupation: Chapter Three: Agent Odell’s Pipe-Dream.”
They really seem to enjoy the computer interview opening this season. For this one, it’s Painkiller talking about, and demonstrating, the various martial arts he’s studied. The man is very, very dangerous even without his powers. Even the computer thinks he’s going a bit too far, and seems troubled by his chosen source to quote. Anissa gets back to her place and has a very entertaining role reversal with Jennifer.
At the facility with cages we’ve seen before, Henderson, in a full body clean suit, pays a visit on his incarcerated Detective. She’s a bit snappish, and he has a few harsh words for her as well. She asks Henderson to do her a favor that seems to indicate she wasn’t exactly on the up and up before she falls victim to the problem du jour. In their luxury prison kitchen, the Pierces share breakfast and get a neat demonstration of the smart tech in their room. Odell comes calling, explaining about what we just saw, and acknowledges some of their accusations in that cold way of his. Odell knows exactly which buttons to press to get Lynn’s agreement to help. Out on the streets, Blackbird dodges ASA patrols and fights back, costing them some heavy weapons and impressing the hell out of an onlooking Jamillah Olsen.
Trying to live a normal life in the midst of all this, Jennifer gets assigned to show a new kid around at school. Poor Brandon has no idea what he’s about to get into. Not content with getting Lynn working on one of their problems, Odell presses his luck and sets about recruiting Jefferson. Odell gives him a really cool new toy and a chance to help with an important mission. Again, I’ll say Odell is good at what he does, and persuades the hero to help out. The irksome ASA agent also offers a big carrot for doing as he asked. Elsewhere, Anissa and Henderson deal with some of the unpleasant realities of life under the ASA, where you pretty much have the right to what they say you do, and nothing else.
Deep in the ASA cells, Tobias Whale is just as cooperative a patient as you’d expect. Odell comes by to ask and threaten about the missing case. Even as sick as he clearly is, Tobias has an indomitable will. Odell ups the ante, and reminds us there’s not much he won’t do for what he sees as a good cause. He also seems to enjoy his work a bit too much. Brandon and Jennifer argue over MLK quotes, and she gives a very unique tour of Garfield High. Odell interrupts Painkiller’s workout to give him a new mission and banter about ways to kill someone.
Walking the streets of Freeland, Henderson and his wife talk about his future. It sounds like jumping from deputy chief to chief wasn’t enough, and they’re envisioning a bigger future for him. Their plans get interrupted when they meet a citizen with some harsh words, and worse, for the chief. Odell tries a softer touch with Tobias, which also doesn’t go anywhere. I can’t stand the character, but you have to admire his determination. Hard at work, Lynn makes some progress, and some demands of Odell. She, too, is very determined. Henderson runs a questionable errand in a less than smart way, and the man he deals with is even dumber.
Furthering his own web of complicated schemes, Odell pays a housecall on Jennifer, who I guess now isn’t at Anissa’s? Odell mixes truth and lies expertly, and manipulates the powerful young meta into doing something for him. I suspect her parents wouldn’t approve. Just outside town, we finally get to see Black Lightning in costume and in action as he plays attack dog for Odell. Almost as soon as he arrives on scene, he begins to realize he wasn’t given all the facts. There’s some great action, although the stealth parts might work easier without the glowing costume. The hero also seems just fine with ASA troops killing people. They overcome all resistance, but don’t secure their objective.
Coming home after a long day (all her days are probably long, given her double-life and two hard jobs), Anissa gets a reunion she’s been hoping for since last season. They have a talk and Anissa handles it fairly well, although she seems to be ignoring the parts where this person has killed folks in ugly ways recently. Although I guess most of the heroes seem to think it’s open season on the ASA and Markovians both. On the heels of this, Anissa meets up with Jamillah and has a very mature discussion that goes well and is devoid of needless drama. In other words, there’s good writing of two adult characters. The Supergirl writers should take note. Our heroine finally gets home and crawls into bed.
The next two scenes are clearly connected, but I’m not quite sure how. Jennifer dusts off her Lightning costume and goes into action for Odell, overcoming all resistance with teen annoyance and truly impressive power. As she hits her target, Painkiller gets sent in somewhere else for a hit that doesn’t make any immediate sense and seems like a waste of his formidable talents. He is damn good at what he does, whyever he was doing it. Hopefully, this will make sense with future revelations. That or I missed something.
Shockingly, Odell thanks the Pierces for their service and actually lives up to his word. They get to go home for a realistic, if anticlimactic, family reunion that fizzles. Bemused, Jefferson takes care of a small detail and goes to bed, possibly wondering why he fought so hard to get back here. In his cell, the ailing Tobias has some kind of strange encounter. I’m not sure if he’s hallucinating, was drugged, or they’re using high tech to gaslight him. Tobias does get out an amusing insult in the midst of whatever that was, and ends the episode.
What I liked: Jefferson’s new toy is cool, although I wouldn’t trust it, given the source. Painkiller has been manipulated into a psychotic killing machine, but he’s adept at it. Jennifer is very powerful and much more in control of her powers than the last time we saw her use them. The action scenes were all really well done. Anissa and Jamillah’s scene was very well written and acted.
What I didn’t: It seems like Gambi’s status as “family” comes and goes. Jefferson gets out after being in ASA custody for months, if not longer, and Gambi doesn’t get to come say hi? I’m really unclear about what Odell had Lightning and Painkiller doing. They don’t seem to quite have a plan for Henderson, and it was a bit out of character for him to do that errand for his captive detective. I really hope Jefferson has Gambi go over his new toy ASAP. I’m really not sure what to make of Anissa’s reunion.
A few odd notes to one side, it was a good, solid episode. I’ll give it a 3.5 out of 5.