The war with the Markovians has been building for some time now. As the season hits its end, the battle kicks into high gear on the streets of Freeland. At the risk of using a cliché, things really will never be the same for the show after this episode. In “The Book of War: Chapter Three: Liberation” there are a lot of surprising developments, changes, and character deaths. As this is a season finale, there will be spoilers in this review.
Last episode ended with the beginning of a major confrontation between our hero and the big villain, Gravedigger, and that’s where we pick up. It’s an ugly fight, one convinced he’s right, one enraged after finding his daughter out cold. Gravedigger figures out the relation and dubs her “Baby Lighting” before he has his troops take her away while he fights Black Lighting. Black Lightning tries to talk him down, bringing up the family relationship, but Gravedigger doesn’t care and gives a gloating speech when it seems he’s about to beat down the hero of Freeland. Finally, realizing he’s outmatched, Black Lightning pulls a few tricks I don’t think we’ve seen before and then retreats.
Gambi sees what’s going on and relays a warning to Grayle and Erika to start evacuating the metas from the current hiding spot. At the ASA safehouse, Odell gives orders to Gray and Williams that the soldiers don’t agree with, and Odell accepts their concerns with his usual calm acknowledgement of other views. Gambi’s apparent reopening of his shop gets interrupted by Black Lightning’s frantic call for help. The tailor/spy gets TC working on tracing Jennifer’s unique energy signature. Speaking of, the missing Pierce daughter wakes up in a special cage that dampens her powers. Finding she can’t blast her way out, she debates a very smug Gravedigger about what he’s doing, why, and various important figures in Black History. While a frustrated Gravedigger walks away from his snarky prisoner, Painkiller makes a supply raid on some convenient Markovians.
Lady Eve, not done with her various self-serving deals, meets up with Major Gray for some information exchange. Gray gets what she wants, and Eve figures out what’s in store for Freeland, which turns the meeting into a gunfight that no one walks away from unharmed. Eve gets in a last-minute warning to Lala about the doom on the horizon. Covering the chaos on the streets, Jamillah Olsen files her final report of the Markovian invasion. Elsewhere, Tobias Whale pays a house call, which never goes well for whoever he’s dropping in on. TC, Gambi, and Black Lightning pool their resources to figure out where Jen is, and hothead Brandon comes back to help. His other concern, Dr. Jace, becomes no longer his problem when Major Williams finds her and takes Odell’s “clean it up” order to heart.
Henderson (remember him?) helps get some people to safety when the Markovians show up. The police are outmanned and outgunned, and just as things are looking grim, Lala and his thugs show up with the battle cry of “Get off my block!” and blindside the invaders. Lala and Henderson exchange a grudging nod of mutual respect before the gangster and the police chief part ways. Lightning’s rescue is almost anticlimactic, as Brandon and Black Lighting execute a well-planned quick raid. The earth-shaker admires the sight as the Pierces fly off to rejoin the larger fight. Lynn is frantically working to find a way to counter Gravedigger’s extra powers, and gets interrupted by Williams. She tries to reason with him, but is prepared when he’s not willing to listen, and she takes him by surprise and drops him. Gravedigger indulges in some petty theft before getting a report he’s been waiting for and flying off to his major objective.
As they soar through the skies, Black Lightning and Lightning confer with Lynn about the status of her special surprise for Gravedigger. They almost get a nasty surprise of their own as Painkiller attempts to finish the last mission he was given. This leads to another Khalil versus Painkiller battle inside his head, but in a different imagined location. There are some odd special effects choices that make it harder to see what should have been an impressive showdown. Henderson complains about being out of his element in the woods, and gets some intel from Gambi. Hearing an ambush being planned, Henderson takes his own steps to safeguard his best friend. Gravedigger’s assault on the last meta stronghold runs into (and through) the resistance as led by Grayle, Erika, and a few other familiar faces. Once inside, he encounters Thunder and Grace. Not in the mood for more trash talk, he uses his abilities to turn the lovers on each other. Black Lightning and Lightning arrive in the wake of Gravedigger’s attack, nearly get sniped, and are saved at the last minute, but at a very high cost as another familiar face gets a last scene.
Thunder reluctantly subdues Grace, and pleads with Gambi for help. Her uncle gives her some cold, rational advice she doesn’t like but follows. TC uses his powers to help track down Odell, while Black Lightning and Lynn make a plan to defeat the big bad. She clearly doesn’t want to talk about what happened before with Williams. Gravedigger’s day doesn’t get any better when Lightning and Brandon combine their abilities and almost manage to take him out. Considering how powerful Gravedigger is, that’s really impressive, but, at the end of the day, the show isn’t called “Lightning and Geo-Force.” One of the powers Gravedigger uses in this fight looks a lot like heat vision, which leaves me with many questions. Finally, it’s round two for Black Lightning and Gravedigger, with a sneaky assist from Lynn. I never really doubted the good guys would win, but this scene didn’t work, or rather, the next part didn’t.
Odell sees how things are going, and issues the self-destruct command for the Pit, where this battle is taking place. Gambi, alerted via hacking I presume, gives Jefferson and Lynn a warning that they have one minute to get out. They waste a few precious seconds arguing about saving Gravedigger, then fly off without him, barely making it out before the impressive explosion behind them. Great, but, last we knew, Lightning, Brandon/Geo-Force, Grace, and Thunder were all in there, along with some other potential allies, and Williams if Lynn didn’t outright kill him. I’m sure there’s an explanation that maybe ended up on the cutting room floor, but it really looks like the elder Pierces ran for their lives and abandoned their daughters, friends, and allies, not to mention several others, to a fiery death.
Having won his internal conflict, Khalil goes on to settle one of his major external ones as well. Despite Black Lightning’s pleas, the tragic young man settles a score with Odell via the direct, heavy caliber method. Some remaining ASA troops, led by Major Gray, stage a raid on Gambi’s shop, getting as far as the Grotto itself. Gambi shows his ruthless side, stages an ugly ambush, and takes out almost everyone else who knows Black Lightning’s secret, aided by TC in a slightly different role than he’s used to.
The episode and season wrap up with a few scenes. The news covers the political fallout between the United States and Markovia, which really should get mentioned on at least one of the other CW shows now that they’re supposedly all on the same Earth. Lynn delivers some bad news to Anissa. Tobias Whale shows he’s still out there and has plans that bode ill for one of our characters’ future. Lynn Stewart, Black Lightning, Thunder, and Lighting are all called to testify about what happened. Among the judges hearing their evidence are Tony Isabella and Trevor Von Eeden, original creators of Black Lightning in the comics. They even turn over the ASA case to the government to aid in the prosecution. We hear that Odell is in custody somewhere, that the ASA will be disbanded the following day, and that Lynn’s going to establish a special school for metas, which sounds familiar somehow. I wonder if it will be in Westchester, New York? In a very not subtle scene, Black Lightning, Lynn, Thunder, and Lightning all walk out of the hearing together. Someone else slips out of the hearing, showing the heroes have more problems to worry about next season.
What I liked: There was a lot of action, and the characters stayed true to themselves, even when that worked against them or wasn’t exactly heroic. Gravedigger truly believed in what he was doing, which is the most dangerous kind of villain. Gambi is a practical man and former intelligence operative, not a superhero, and some of his actions really played that up. Lala finally doing something useful was handled well.
What I didn’t: That scene around the explosion I mentioned really didn’t work. I can see a few ways things could have happened, but I shouldn’t be creating/explaining the story, they should. At least one of the people surviving what they did really needs to get explained. I will miss some of the ones that got killed. I don’t like how they left things with at least one of the couples.
I’ll give the episode a 3.5 out of 5, which would have been higher if it wasn’t for that explosion bit. I’ll go 4 out of 5 for the season.
Next Season has been confirmed, although when it will happen is open to debate between Black Lightning’s shorter seasons and the coronavirus that, as I write this, is wreaking havoc with shooting schedules throughout the entertainment industry (and everywhere else). So come back and join us for Lynn Stewart’s School For Gifted Youngsters/Season 4.
More definitive spoilers below, so stop reading now if that bothers you:
Bill Henderson, police chief and friend
Helga Jace, psychotic scientist
Williams, self-hating super soldier
Jamillah Olsen, intrepid reporter
Lots of Markovians and ASA troops
Sara Grey, ASA backup commander
Lady Eve, former agent turned gangster