The first section of Black Lightning continues its third season with “Black Lightning: The Book of Occupation: Chapter Four: Lynn’s Ouroboros.” The ASA continues their stranglehold on Freeland, and the strain is showing in many places. Odell is a duplicitous pain in the ass, but he’s very good at it, and the Pierce family seems to his major target at the moment. It’s painful to see some of what spills out of all this, and a former foe of Jefferson’s is back and actually attempting to be heroic. There are a lot of changes going on here, and few of them are for the better.
Lynn Pierce gets a fair amount of screen time this episode, and not much of it is good for her. She’s working as hard as she possibly can to cure the metas suffering from this strange new virus, and growing increasingly desperate, since Odell is playing on her fears and she’s the only non-meta in her family. She comes to a very risky decision, and you just know this isn’t going to play out well for her. Jefferson, finally released from ASA custody, gets his first view of the streets of Freeland under the Occupation, and he’s shocked by what’s happening. Already used to it, Jennifer takes all this in stride. At a checkpoint where the ASA is abusive and arrogant, there’s an attack by some kind of guerilla group, and Jennifer talks her father down from getting involved.
Later, Gambi, still playing around with his new cloaking fields, meets up with Jefferson to touch base. This happened so long ago that I admit I had pretty much forgotten it myself, but Gambi is still playing dead from the attempted assassination last season. They talk about Pierce’s amazing new suit from the ASA, the tracker they naturally slipped into it, and domestic problems past and present for both men. In what I think is one of the slimiest but most believable subplots, Odell keeps holding secret, private meetings with Jennifer. Just like terrorists seek young recruits to indoctrinate in their ideas, Odell is working on Jennifer’s perception of the ASA and Markovia, the country supposedly attacking Freeland but of whom we’ve seen remarkably little.
One of the gangs running the black market that has sprung up in Freeland is highjacking ASA trucks, although one attempt doesn’t go as smoothly as they hoped. Somehow managing to get everywhere she’s not supposed to be, and get broadcasts out of the allegedly locked down city, Jamillah Olsen creeps around the hallways of Garfield High, reporting on the mandatory meta-testing the ASA is performing on the students (I wonder where the Informed Consent papers are from these kids’ parents?). Brandon, the new student who seems much more worldly and well-traveled than everyone else here, somehow manages to avoid the testing. There’s a lot I’m starting to wonder about this kid.
Receiving more bad news about highjacked trucks, Agent Odell rages and sends Painkiller to investigate. Given what they’ve turned him into, you know he’s not going to be overly concerned with things like probable cause or the rights of the accused. In the first of many family arguments this episode, Jefferson and Jennifer have very different views of the ASA’s presence in the school. Odell’s been doing his work well with the youngest Pierce. Jefferson’s day keeps getting odder as he gets some very unexpected news from the annoying principal who replaced him, Mr. Lowry. By the end of the conversation, neither one of them is happy. Far from the high school, Painkiller is working on his mission and doesn’t care about the collateral damage.
A very frustrated Jefferson meets with Odell, disturbed and enraged about conditions in his city. The amoral Odell doesn’t care about Jefferson’s moral qualms, and delivers some threats that are perfect ways to keep Jefferson under control. While the disguised Gambi creeps around and lays some groundwork for another plan, Chief Henderson and his wife talk about the future and the necessary evils of today. That gets harder to stomach when yet another new, obnoxious ASA commander, this one a Major, shows up and takes over Henderson’s station, clearly relishing her power. What happened to the previous Commander Williams and his powers isn’t mentioned this episode. Trying to learn more about what’s going on, Jennifer gets a heavy dose of propaganda from Odell, and given what we learn later this episode, I wonder if all she got was slanted news reports.
A new guy we’ve never seen before gets introduced to personalize the meta-virus, and make Lynn feel even worse and do more questionable things. The black market punks continue squeezing their customers until Blackbird shows up to shut down the price gouging for the moment and argue with a different group who are doing things in her name and using her image. Of course, since she’s an outlaw at this point, she can’t exactly sue over the rights to her name. Shaken by what he’s learning, Jefferson goes to talk to Anissa, but things get much more awkward when he’s greeted by Grace Choi. It’s like all the other plots have suddenly ground to a screeching halt for a brief comedy of manners. Anissa finally gets home from another outing as Blackbird, and is surprised to see Jefferson there. Things devolve into a vicious argument with Anissa telling him he needs to leave her house. They both make some good points, which makes this even sadder. Before he leaves, Jefferson gets another surprise. After he goes, there’s a tender scene between Anissa and Grace.
Because his day just hasn’t been bad enough, Jefferson goes home and, instead of the serious talk he had hoped for, gets a drive-by visit from Lynn, who is clearly showing the effects of her earlier decisions, at least to us. He’s stunned when she suddenly leaves. Given some of what we saw about Lynn last season, I’m not stunned by the current development. Despite the fact that this seemed to be at night, Painkiller catches up with some ASA soldiers in brilliant daylight and puts them to the question. He’s very insistent about getting answers.
In what I guess might be a class, but seems to be some kind of student discussion group, there’s a lot of debate about the ASA’s presence, government oppression, and some odd dissenting views from Brandon. Jennifer barely manages to finish her defense of the ASA when they show up, acting like thugs, and take a student away after getting a call about him possibly being a metahuman. Lowry, despite all his other many flaws, clearly cares about his students, and tries to intervene. It doesn’t go well for him. After this, some of the students are hanging out in a co-ed bathroom (???) and debating the nature of information and what parents want for their kids. Brandon and Jennifer are the two most outspoken. Lynn’s efforts bear a very unexpected fruit as she finally makes some kind of progress on a cure, although there seems to be a high cost.
Jefferson gets news of the ASA’s latest action and goes to meet with Gambi in the Grotto. They have slightly different discussions as Gambi goes on about his current plan while Jefferson listens distractedly and then insists on moving forward with his own concern. Gambi, grudgingly, gives the ASA credit for improving the Black Lightning suit. Personally, I’m at a loss for how the ASA doesn’t realize the tracker’s been disabled. Gambi’s slick, but they have a bigger budget and better tech. Realizing he needs help, Jefferson is the mature one and goes to Anissa, patching things up enough at least to get Blackbird’s aid in rescuing the imprisoned Garfield High student. Anissa tells Jefferson some things he probably should have known before now, and I wonder why he’s been kept in the dark. Henderson does his best to help out some of the prisoners, but isn’t getting any sympathy from either side. Between them, Gambi, Black Lightning (why is he in costume if he’s trying to be undercover?) and Blackbird stage a raid, with a little help from a friend.
The leader of the black market gets shown exactly where he is in the pecking order when someone representing Odell’s interests comes calling and delivers a message. Blackbird guides the refugees to safety, Gambi collates some data, and Jefferson plays cat and mouse with Odell. The final few scenes involve Lynn calling in and being played, and then the viewers finding out how much she’s been taken advantage of. Odell plays more games with Jefferson’s youngest, and she gets a taste of her increased power. I suspect this is going to lead to many bad things, especially under Odell’s control.
What I liked: I really can’t stand Odell but I can appreciate his genius at what he does. He has a lot of balls in the air and is handling them all well, at least so far. I’m enjoying Gambi’s covert work. It’s nice to see Jefferson out and doing the right thing, or at least as right as he can manage. I do wonder about his suddenly seeing through walls, especially when you remember that, originally in the comics, Black Lightning was from Metropolis, where someone else also sees through walls. I’m glad Anissa is standing up for herself, but I don’t like how the friction is developing with her father. The motive for getting the Garfielder in trouble is petty but so believable.
What I didn’t: I’m really worried about both Jennifer and Lynn. I don’t like the new Major at all. I’m concerned about actually ending up liking Lowry this episode. I have a lot of questions about new kid Brandon.
It was a busy, complex episode with some great storytelling. I’ll give this a 4 out of 5.