Sometimes ignorance is most definitely NOT bliss, and what you don’t know CAN hurt you. The Crisis on Infinite Earths has been sweeping through the multiverse. Black Lightning and company, to this point, have been unaware of all of that until now. Things get strange, then ugly, then deadly during Black Lightning’s “Earth Crisis.”
The focus of the episode is Jennifer Pierce, youngest and most powerful of the Black Lightning family. It opens with her recording a long, musing message for her sister. Jennifer has been very torn with the complications from the ASA occupation of Freeland, largely due to the manipulations of the slippery Agent Odell. She reflects on her role, and that of her family, before deciding to go see her sister.
Henderson and the Resistance leaders get some very unpleasant news when they find out what happened to their attempt to broadcast the truth outside of Freeland. Before Jen even gets out the door, she gets a teleconference on the tv in the living room from Odell, live from his hospital bed. He does a masterful job of making her doubt herself, and keeping her focused on the threat from the Markovians. In this case, everyone is looking in the wrong direction. On the way out of the Resistance meeting, Black Lightning and Blackbird argue about what to do next and how to do it. Blackbird has a less heroic but arguably more realistic view of what needs to be done. She also spreads the word of Khalil’s new incarnation, which I think Black Lightning was the last one to find out about.
While Jennifer waits for her sister to get home, we get the major clue that Crisis is coming as the skies go red and lightning fills the air. When she can’t reach Anissa, she calls Odell, who gives a garbled warning to not take to the skies. Things get weirder as Jen’s powers interact with the Crisis effects and she gets blasted into an odd kind of limbo with dopplegangers of herself. Just to make sure we don’t miss the point, one is dressed in white and the other in black, and we start to get their stories.
Jennifer White is listed as being from Earth 1 (there are a lot of problems with that I’ll get to later), and relays her history. On her world, she managed to negate the ASA’s plot in Freeland by spiking the water supply, which stripped all metas of their powers, including her father and sister, but somehow sparing her. Other differences on that world include Anissa never coming out to her parents, and Jefferson ending up as Secretary of Education (which happened in the comics under the Luthor administration). There are a few other divergences, some bad and some good, but then what’s supposed to be a family dinner turns ugly with a home invasion and a tragic turn of events.
Back on Earth BL (oddly, this Earth is the only one in the Crisis on Infinite Earths that hasn’t been given a number or letter designation), Jennifer’s condition is getting worse and Anissa is growing increasingly worried. Gambi arrives, and for once is at a complete loss. He does make an observation that hopefully they’ll be able to follow up on later. On “Earth 1,” Jen and Anissa have a tense visit that doesn’t really go well at all.
The power feedback from the Crisis continues to baffle Gambi, and, let’s face it, he’s generally the smartest man in the room. A frantic Anissa is reaching out to her family, which is when Gambi tells her about recent events with her mom. Lynn herself is not at her best, as we see in her scene. The Lynn of “Earth 1” goes to see Jenn, and they have a difficult talk. Apparently, I just don’t like Lynn in any of her incarnations. Their main Earth has Jefferson getting there, a lot of frantic speculating, and a phone call that sends a reluctant Black Lightning back out on the streets to help combat the ASA after more sniping from Lynn.
The Jennifer of Earth-2 (also a problematic designation) goes by Jinn. While for various reasons this can’t be the Earth-2 we’ve seen elsewhere in the Arrowverse, it does follow the trend of the characters there being “evil” versions of themselves. On that Earth, Jinn drops by Jefferson’s school to sarcastically slow-clap for his talk to his students. After the kids go, Jinn and Jeff argue about her work with the ASA, and she’s not inclined to listen to reason or moral appeals. She struts out in her ugly costume, which no one seems to notice, and leaves to musical accompaniment and a ghost of “our” Jen watching her. Back on Black Lightning’s homeworld, we learn the ASA also doesn’t know what’s going on with the red skies, and that Odell has further depths he can sink to which trouble even Major Grey.
Jinn’s story continues with a visit to the Pit, or that world’s version. You know it’s bad when even Odell is wondering if things have gone too far. Back on Earth-BL (for lack of a better term), Gambi starts making some connections but can’t do anything about them. Anissa tells Lynn about her recent run-in with Khalil, and learns that mom is keeping secrets. This is when Gambi intercepts a radio transmission that shows how desperate the ASA is getting. It’s a bad situation, and one of the odd loose ends of the episode: Anissa comes up with a plan to deal with it… and that’s the last we ever hear about it.
Things go from bad worse to “Earth-2” as there’s a Pierce family meeting. The rest of them try to appeal to Jinn’s better nature, but she’s not having it. It goes from words to deeds, which is really bad with multiple metas in the same room, all of whom have a temper. The sneering Jinn finishes the fight, giving a twisted version of Jefferson’s usual speech to the kids. This sets us back to the weird limbo space with the three Jennifers gathered together. The Jennifers talk, argue, and even fight. It’s a very convoluted way for Jen to come to some realizations that are long overdue.
In the end, most of what we’ve seen doesn’t end up mattering. The tie-in to Crisis gets a lot more definitive as the anti-matter wave wipes out the other Jennifers. The last scene is a series of surprises, as Jennifer’s condition gets a lot more complicated, and even Gambi is at a loss. Then, in very rapid succession, the end starts coming closer, someone disappears, and the Great White Wave makes another appearance. It was a shocking ending.
What I liked: Gambi is consistently unflappable, and is at times the only calm, steadying presence the good guys have. While I loathe the ASA, they’re very good at what they do, and their twist on the pirate broadcast was genius. Odell is slimy, but he’s talented.
What I didn’t: The Earth designations they used here can’t match up with the wider Arrowverse. There’s no way the ASA is getting away with what they do here with Earth-1’s ARGUS (and Felicity) being around, and the timing for Earth-2’s destruction is way off. I don’t know if the writers were just given some terms and not explanations, or where the disconnect was, but something really didn’t line up here.
It was a decent episode, and the first definite tie to the larger Arrowverse, although there have been hints before this. The bits that didn’t match the larger story might not seem like much to some, but to comic geeks like me, and Crisis is going to draw a lot of them, they were glaring. I’ll give this a low 3 out of 5.