Black Lightning’s third season has been a grim one so far, with the ASA infesting the streets of Freeland like a conquering army. There are times I’m starting to wonder if Agent Odell is either completely making up, or at least greatly exaggerating, the Markovian threat. If it wasn’t for the one scene with them we’ve seen so far, I’d wonder a lot more. Things don’t look much better, especially for a particular character, with “The Book of Occupation: Chapter Five: A Requiem for Tavon.”
Said Tavon opens the show, recording a message to his parents. While he likes some things about his new location, he’d clearly rather be home. He also has some interesting thoughts for the future which I strongly suspect we’ll see again. Back in Occupied Freeland, Odell is devoting some time and resources to some troubling speculation, and gets an interesting lead. In another part of the building, Painkiller gets a scene showing off his skill, arrogance, and utter lack of empathy. Odell arrives, is less than thrilled, and gives the young metahuman killer a new assignment.
Lynn has a remarkably detailed and unpleasant dream which, when she wakes up, leads her to a breakthrough in her work. She has a conversation with a sleep-befuddled Jefferson and then leaves, letting us see an indication of how far Odell has his hooks in her as she goes. Jefferson is concerned, and would be a lot more if he could see what we do. Anissa is wandering in her closet/armory when the internet rebel Truthteller pops up again, correcting some of the reports about the recent attack on the police precinct. Anissa is pleased to hear Blackbird getting some credit for her good deeds. Where Grace is during this is unexplained.
The morning brings some classic lack of communication in the Pierce household. Jennifer is having some issues, but either doesn’t or quite possibly can’t articulate them to her father. Jefferson, while he’s trying to do something nice for her, is bouncing back and forth between lecturing her about their powers and giving a history/political speech. Neither one is quite listening to the other. In her lab, Lynn goes over her new results with Odell, explaining her breakthrough in various kinds of techno-babble. She needs a particular individual with the right genetic reaction to the serums to make her cure work, and Odell looks mildly surprised.
Stuck with a truly thankless job placing him in a no-win situation, Chief Henderson (we never did find out what happened to the previous chief) holds a press conference and delivers some unwelcome news. In addition to being wanted by the police and the ASA, Blackbird now has a price on her head. The crowd isn’t happy with this news, notable hecklers including small time thug Two-Bits and the Reverend Holt. Tavon’s desperate parents meet with Jefferson, wanting answers about their son. There’s a lot of misinformation going around, including that Jefferson can do anything about it. If his secret identity is still intact, it seems like an odd choice that the parents are going to a recently demoted teacher for help. He agrees to do what he can.
Anissa and Grace have some entertaining conversations that range from vaccines to AI Rights and the history of words. Grace is having enough problems that Anissa doesn’t want to leave her alone while she’s out Blackbird-ing, so she has Gambi come over to make dinner and watch over her. Why the supposedly dead Gambi wandering the streets and grocery stores is a good idea, I’m not clear. Oddly, Shonda, Anissa’s smart home AI, tells Anissa she has a visitor but never identifies him. After Anissa leaves, Gambi and Grace bond over some things Anissa would probably be just as happy had they not come up.
Jennifer’s not having a great day herself. Her class on coding gets interrupted when her powers flare, first making her borrow Brandon’s jacket to cover her arms, then frying the computers and eventually blowing out the power in the school. Maybe Jefferson should have let her stay home after all. Lynn gets her special prisoner, but isn’t at all happy when she actually sees him. Tobias Whale is back in her life, just as smug as ever despite looking like he’s about to keel over.
At Two-Bits’ bar, Henderson stops by and runs everyone out with a “warning” about something coming. Two-Bits isn’t happy, and is less so when Henderson sees some evidence of what the hood has been up to. Two-Bits does at least get a free ride and some temporary jewelry. Blackbird goes to church, at least long enough to deliver some vaccine to Reverend Holt. The holy man is happy to see her, and glad to get some help keeping his charges safe. Shonda the house elf AI routes a call to Blackbird—it’s Jefferson with a dubious request. I get where they’re both coming from, but I’m with Blackbird on this one: it’s a bad idea.
Continuing her rounds with the new favor added, Blackbird drops in on the Perdi, who are just as fractious as ever. Blackbird and Anaya argue a bit before Blackbird drops off more medicine, and has a chat with Tavon. Over coms, Odell and Painkiller exchange some information, and we see that things aren’t looking great for our former Robbin’ Hoodie. Deep in the ASA, Lynn goes ahead with her work despite some more smacktalk/general annoyance from Tobias. Maybe she can stitch his mouth closed. They’re both getting something they want out of the deal.
The boredom of a night in is broken when Gambi and Grace hear radio chatter about Blackbird being spotted. As they worry, Blackbird has her first fight with a real skilled, powered foe. It doesn’t go wonderfully well for her. Blackbird is good but she could use some more training. The good guys manage to get away, but not unharmed. Odell makes a spot check that doesn’t go the way he expected, mostly because he doesn’t know the abilities of all the players involved. He makes some vague threats and then leaves, narrowly avoiding discovering the hiding Gambi. Blackbird calls in for help, and Grace encourages the older man to go. Reverend Holt becomes the next person Henderson arrests, although why a chief would be making his own arrests isn’t clear. Yet. Tobias keeps snarking and threatening, dangerously close to discovering some secrets. He does manage to annoy Lynn out of her bedside manner.
Down in the tunnels below the city (seriously, who built this place? The Scooby-Doo set designers? Hidden doors, rooms, and tunnels everywhere), Black Lightning and Gambi meet up with Blackbird just in time to witness a tragedy. The aftermath is heartbreaking. Very much displeased with his rambling threats, Lynn discusses Tobias’ future with Odell.
Events start gaining momentum when things start getting out of hand at Garfield High. The rumor mill is working overtime about the recent tragedy (that was ridiculously fast) and the students get stirred up. They start a protest, only to be brutally confronted by ASA troops/thugs. True to the pattern of the show, the worst offenders are white males. Jefferson, of course, won’t stand for his students being abused, and things get worse for him. Jennifer looks on, tries to intervene, gets pulled back by Brandon, and we see there’s more to the new kid than meets the eye.
The last few scenes stir up some interesting things, and, I suspect, will echo for a while. An enraged Jennifer meets with Odell, and vents her displeasure about what she saw happen to her father. Odell gives a pretty, political, and dubious speech in answer. Presumably guided by her “mentor,” Lightning pays a call on the abusive ASA agents. Two-Bits and Holt find out they’ve been wrong about several things, and get a few surprises as groups come together. It’s a good place to end, especially considering the name of the next section of episodes.
What I liked: Anissa and Grace are good together. I like their time with each other, and Gambi was an amusing addition to the domestic scene. I hate almost everything Odell’s doing but you have to grant he’s good at what he does. I’m petty but honest enough to admit I derived some satisfaction from Tobias’ suffering. I’m even more curious about Brandon now.
What I didn’t: The tragedy in this episode could have been avoided and was largely Jefferson’s fault. Painkiller needs a beating almost as badly as Tobias. Gambi out running errands makes no sense as mentioned above. I’m very tired of Anaya’s attitude.
I am very much looking forward to the next installment of Freeland’s adventures. I’ll give this a low 4 out of 5.