One thing I’ll give the DC/CW shows credit for is doing some impressive research. I was familiar with Gravedigger from the World War II era comics. What I didn’t actually know is that there have been three characters using that codename in DC’s books, and this version, played by the immensely talented Wayne Brady, sort of combines the first and third. We get a part of his origin, plus a good bit more, in “The Book of War: Chapter One: Homecoming.”
The episode begins with a tense scene between Gambi and Jace. We learn a bit more of the shared history they have. After some posturing and threats, they strike an uneasy truce. Agreeing they share a common enemy, they talk about Gravedigger and his chilling goals. While Gambi handles that, Jefferson has his own difficult meeting with Odell and Grey. They bicker a bit, and Jefferson tells Odell exactly what he can expect from Black Lightning and company (they really need to start using the Outsiders name, since so many of the characters have come from that team). Rounding out our opening, Anissa helps Jenn recover from the beating she took in Markovia, with Jenn envious of Thunder’s healing abilities. They also bicker about the Khalil/Painkiller situation.
Independent of the machinations of the heroes and villains, the underworld of Freeland has their own murky business to attend to. Lady Eve makes her payment to Delonte, Lala’s right hand man. Of course, Eve has her own plans in motion, and turns things against the very large thug. Down in the Grotto, TC gives Khalil a checkup for his firewall, and then Gambi makes some suggestions for therapy, which also let us see that the tailor shop isn’t solely a convenient cover for the ex-secret agent. At home, Jefferson and Lynn work on dinner, complicated by some of Lynn’s symptoms as she battles her Greenlight/Glimmer problem. It’s not a pretty scene, but it’s a decent depiction of some of the problems of addiction. She also acknowledges that some of how she’s been treating Jefferson isn’t fair before fleeing upstairs as things get worse for her.
Elsewhere, Brandon is pacing and edgy as Jennifer tries to talk him out of killing Dr. Jace. Jennifer considers his request as Eve goes over what she’s learned from Delonte. Back at the Pierce home, Anissa checks in with Lynn, and doesn’t exactly get a grateful and warm reception. To her credit, Lynn manages to get herself under control and apologize for her behavior. Anissa leaves her alone, and Lynn shows some of the addict behavior she’s engaging in.
Next up is something we haven’t seen for a while now: a Pierce family dinner. They discuss the upcoming defense of Freeland, and decide they need a clean slate and to share secrets. I think this is a great idea, and a lot of the casts of various hero shows could benefit from something like this. Among the topics that get discussed are love, assassination, the death of worlds, and addiction. Despite the tense topics, everyone remains calm, which is a nice note of maturity and a lack of soap opera style drama that I really appreciate. In a much less friendly setting, Lala and Eve meet face to face, and once again Lala has no idea what’s coming. I don’t really like the man, but I feel sorry for him at times like this. He’s out maneuvered and used as a tool once again. Eve does make him an intriguing offer.
In Anissa’s loft, she and Grace share a few moments of domestic togetherness and concern about Jennifer’s choices. Grace offers some decent insight, since she has more objectivity in the matter than Anissa does. Their talk gets interrupted when Shonda the AI relays a distress call: the Markovians have found the Perdi camp, and Anaya is in a lot of trouble. Showing she’s learned at least a bit, Anissa tells Grace to suit up (the CW catchphrase on most of the shows) as she puts in a call to Black Lightning for help. In a truly questionable move, Jennifer brings Brandon to Dr. Jace. A lot more than words are exchanged, and we learn more about Brandon’s history, largely through a few cryptic comments from the not-so-good doctor. We also see the special meaning behind some of Brandon’s jewelry.
Apparently, the Perdi have no idea how to fight, as the Markovians drive them back and gun down a lot of them. Black Lightning, Thunder, and Grace arrive to turn the tide and save the survivors, with some decent teamwork and showing that Grace has an interesting fighting style. The Markovians managed to capture Anaya before the heroes arrived, and they content themselves with helping the remaining free Perdi. Gambi isn’t always the friendly foster-father/uncle we see with the Pierces a lot, and he’s particularly brutal in his next scene. After some extensive persuasion and leaving his mark, Gambi convinces one of Eve’s thugs to take a message to her.
Youth carries a special arrogance and belief it can handle anything, and we really see that in the next scene. Brandon, Jennifer, TC, and Khalil are all in the Grotto together, which really made me think they needed some adult supervision before things starting going downhill. While Brandon asks TC for a favor, Jennifer talks with Khalil. Their playful banter gets interrupted when he just freezes in place, concerning the others. While Khalil has an internal struggle, it has some outward manifestations. We don’t see a lot of what happened, but it ends up with Khalil doing some serious damage to his relationship with Jennifer, illustrating Anissa’s point about him from earlier. She uses her power in a new and interesting way to help with the aftereffects of the fight. Later, on her perch outside her bedroom window, she and Khalil have a very emotional scene that doesn’t go real well.
Gambi is getting a lot more screen time than he has in a while, and I’m enjoying it. His next encounter is a showdown with Lady Eve. They talk about their shared pasts, and she brings a special gift to the conversation. After some negotiating and explanation, she leaves and Gambi has acquired something that’s been floating around in the background for at least two seasons now: the infamous ASA briefcase. Gambi brings his new acquisition to the Grotto and enlists TC’s help in getting it open. The poor kid is becoming tech support/electronic lockpick for the group. Finally having this resource at his disposal, Gambi calls Jefferson and Lynn to come see what all the fuss is about.
Considering how old the case has been hinted to be, I’m surprised at some of its capabilities. Gambi rattles off some of the technical specs, which are impressive enough, but then goes in to why he brought them over. The case also has a database, and it contains, among other things, Gravedigger’s origin. As Gambi narrates, we see a lot of it play out. The story has elements of the Tuskegee Airmen, Captain America’s origin, and a hint of Captain Atom’s past as well. It’s an interesting story, well-acted by Wayne Brady. I can certainly understand Gravedigger not having any love for the US at this point. The final scene shows some developments in Markovia, in part made possible by another oversight of Lynn’s, that doesn’t bode well for the coming clash.
What I liked: There weren’t a lot of big events this episode, but they did some nice character building and background explorations. I’m completely fine with that. I liked Gambi’s expanded role, and am intrigued by Gravedigger’s back story. I’m also interested in what Jace revealed about Brandon’s past. The distinct fighting style they gave Grace was a nice touch. Wayne Brady is a great addition to just about anything. They’re showing addiction at least reasonably accurately, and while it can be frustrating to watch, it makes sense the Pierce family aren’t suddenly instant experts on it.
What I didn’t: Jennifer bringing Brandon to Jace was dumb. He kept saying he wanted to talk to her, maybe use a phone? Facetime? Something? She was also very overconfident about dealing with Khalil, which came back on her hard. As I said earlier, I surprised myself by feeling at least a bit bad for Lala. Khali’s having a rough time of it, too.
This was a good episode, with some well-done characterization and set up for later events. I enjoyed it. I’ll give it a high 3.5 out of 5.