The tensions between the ASA and Markovia have been getting steadily worse. Now that they’ve captured Lynn Stewart, the Markovians have also gained the attention of Black Lightning and his allies. Jefferson and company need to put a team together, try and train them to work together, or at least stop sniping at each other, and deal with a new enemy. Things aren’t off to a smooth start in “The Book of Markovia: Chapter Four: Grab the Strap.” I’m not entirely clear on what the title means, but we do get the most famous guest star so far.
Despite the urgency they were acting with last episode, this one opens with Jefferson chilling on his couch, listening to music, drinking, and ruminating on his career as Black Lightning and his relationship with Lynn. From at least one thing he said, he could have used Cisco Ramone from the Flash when he started out. Eventually, we see he’s video chatting, and he gets the wise advice to get some rest before they leave in the morning.
I commented last episode that a few scenes seemed like they were shown out of sequence. That continues here as we go from Jefferson’s night in and the implication they’re about to leave to a training session at the ASA. The team is evidently not coming together well, and Major Gray makes a few suggestions that Jefferson doesn’t take. In Markovia, Jace fusses about the quality of the equipment they’re using, and keeps trying her sociopathically clueless bonding with Lynn. Dr. Stewart isn’t in the mood and doesn’t play nice. Things take several turns as Mosin comes in with his far-from-gentle persuasion, throws his weight around, then gets put in his place by Gravedigger, some kind of super soldier being played by Wayne Brady. In the comics, Gravedigger has no connection to Black Lightning or the Outsiders, and was a skilled, but normal human, soldier in World War II. In short order, we see that Gravedigger is in charge on several levels, as he dismisses Mosin and an demonstrates his abilities on Lynn. Jace seems both familiar with him and surprised at a few things about him.
Back at the Pit, the training keeps not going well, and the team is scattered in various small groups. Khalil is trying to catch up on what he missed while under ASA control as Painkiller, and Jennifer is trying to reassure him that he’s not the bad guy. It’s a very emotional conversation that ends with her asking a favor and getting a surprising answer. In Markovia, Jace shares some of what she knows about Gravedigger, and Lynn gets very clever plotting against him.
Among the teammates not getting on are Erica, a meta we’ve seen under ASA control several times, and TC/Technocrat. She dismisses him as awkward, which is fair enough, as Anissa and Grace come into what appears to be some kind of cafeteria. The couple is sharing a moment, but Jennifer isn’t feeling forgiving. After some bickering, she stalks off, ignoring Brandon calling after her. Brandon gets attention he’d rather not from Sgt. Gardener Grayle, who seems to be going out of his way to pick a fight. They almost come to blows, but Jefferson appears from nowhere and breaks it up. This really isn’t a team, it’s a collection of factions who don’t much like each other. Jefferson goes from this chaos to someone else who’s making an exit. There’s a lot of soul-searching and reflecting on the past.
Lynn gets a visit from her new boss, and makes some demands of him. She’s sticking just close enough to the truth to kick her plan off without suspicion. Gray and Grayle brief Pierce and Gambi about the upcoming operation, and Pierce shows he has a very different background than the others. Gray also reveals a secondary objective for the mission, which Pierce isn’t happy about, but does make a certain degree of sense. Erica and TC have another odd encounter that offends one of them. Grayle, meanwhile, keeps an eye on things with some ASA toys. The team assembles with some dramatic music and slow-motion walking.
The team loads up on a chopper that is the wrong kind to get from Atlanta, Georgia to Eastern Europe. It’s not a smooth flight from the inside, as various bits of the team keep snapping at each other. There’s not a lot of trust, which isn’t good when you’re about to invade a foreign country with a very small team. Among the few good things that happen are Grayle sharing a secret with Jefferson and TC revealing some of what he’s been up to. Khalil and Jennifer do some bonding, and Brandon deals with some complications from his powers. Gambi gives Jefferson a pep talk just before they arrive.
Drs. Jace and Stewart enact their plan, which doesn’t seem all that fair to Jace. Then again, Jace has a lot to make up for. Team Lightning finally arrive, and split up to go after multiple objectives, with Gambi and TC staying behind to be tech support. Grace manages her first task well, but Black Lightning, Thunder, and Erica run into a common object that turns out to be a major complication. Lightning and Khalil go after Lynn, but Brandon takes off on his own mission, and Grayle reluctantly follows to cover him.
Black Lightning shows why he’s the leader and figures out a way past their obstacle. Aware of the attack by now, Mosin tries to take Lynn someplace safer. Instead, he falls victim to a variation on a trick Lynn pulled before. As the teams keep splitting into smaller and smaller groups, there’s a very impressive fight between Gravedigger and Khalil. I personally thought it was one of the high points of the episode. While they duke it out, Black Lightning finds an old enemy who is, as usual, insufferably smug.
Brandon almost gets what he wants, and gets stopped at the last minute which I’m sure isn’t gong to help relationships on the team. The Gravedigger/Khalil fight comes to a weirdly random end that I didn’t really follow. The big bad guy gets the drop on our titular hero, and that doesn’t go well at all. Things are looking very bad for the good guys right up to the last minute, when some unexpected twists provide some surprises for everyone. It was an unexpected ending that’s going to leave some complications for our heroes to deal with.
What I liked: Wayne Brady is always good to watch, and he was great here. The fight between Gravedigger and Khalil was very well done. Dr. Jace is amusing in her twisted way, especially when she tries to be normal. Black Lightning did the best he could to lead this team of chaos.
What I didn’t: I loathe Tobias Whale and would happily never see him, or hear him, again. The intra-team rivalries seemed exaggerated and a few came from nowhere. The helicopter as transport didn’t make a lot of sense. I’m not sure how Lynn worked her special trick again.
Despite some flaws, I thought it was a pretty damn good episode. I’ll give it a high 3.5 out of 5.