‘Black Lightning’ recap: How to start a revolution
This is one intense roller coaster of an episode! We start on a bright note, with Tavon (the kid who was pulled out of class by the ASA last week) celebrating his rescue by Blackbird with a live-streamed video in the woods. I wish I could say this happy mood lasts forever, but alas…
Tavon’s rescue has ruffled some feathers. Agent Odell has had it up to here with Blackbird’s interference, and orders Khalil to put a stop to her. But before that, we get a blast of genre fun when Khalil spars with other ASA goons. After kicking them around for a bit, he literally hits one of them with the “Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique” from Kill Bill. Thanks to the venom coursing through his veins, it’s literally true. Odell stops it in time and gets the guy to the infirmary, but that kind of thing tends to leave scars.
Jennifer is in a funk, and that’s without even knowing her ex-boyfriend has been resurrected as a super-assassin. Even when she’s getting ready in the morning, she keeps fading in and out as her dad’s words blur together in her ears. She wants to stay home, but since Jefferson can’t detect a fever, he sends her to school (you know he’s that kind of dad). Jennifer continues to wig out through the day, culminating in her powers frying a computer during her coding class. Luckily no one seems to detect the real cause, except for that new student Brandon. Jefferson also has an intense day at school, thanks to a meeting with Tavon’s parents. They tell him that they had Tavon tested for the metagene and he came up negative, so there’s no justification for the ASA’s treatment of him. The father notes that law in Freeland doesn’t mean anything anymore, while the mother laments that this is all the metas’ fault. That dichotomy reminded me a lot of N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy, where the superpowered people known as orogenes are routinely blamed for their own oppression and xenophobic treatment.
Jefferson is so shaken by this meeting that he calls Anissa and tells her to get Tavon back to Freeland rather than smuggling him away. She protests, but he insists. Sure enough, it’s during her mission to bring Tavon back that she gets intercepted by Khalil. They fight, and though Blackbird is able to fend him off, Khalil lands a blow on Tavon and infects him with venom. Anissa desperately calls her dad for backup, but it’s too late. By the time Black Lightning arrives, Tavon is dying. The scene afterward where his parents identify the body is utterly heartbreaking.
Things only get worse for Jefferson from there, however. News of Tavon’s death spreads quickly at school, and the already high levels of ASA resentment turns into a boil. One kid starts yelling at the armed ASA guards at the entrance, holding up a picture of Tavon on his phone demanding that they remember his face. The fascist goons react badly to that, literally punching the kid. When Jefferson steps in to yell at them for literally assaulting a student on school property, they start savagely beating him instead. I couldn’t tell for sure since most white guys with beards look the same, but I wonder if these overreacting ASA guards included the guys mocked and beaten by Khalil at the beginning of the episode. That could explain why they’re so on edge.
Even so, that’s not a sufficient excuse for Agent Odell, who claims to have marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. in the Civil Rights Movement and therefore detests the sight of black men being beaten by cops in the street (and probably also understands the incredible propaganda potential of such sights). When Jennifer berates him for allowing his men to do that, Odell drives her to their safehouse and unleashes Lightning on the guards, who suddenly aren’t so scary when they don’t have armor and giant guns and are facing a superhero instead of students and guidance counselors. While Jennifer takes that revenge, Lynn strikes back at Tobias (who taunts her that he’s deduced Jefferson must be Black Lightning after having so much time to think in prison) by extracting his bone marrow without any anesthetic.
That’s not the end of the cathartic good news. Throughout the episode, Henderson has made it seem like he’s taking a heel turn for the ASA, even going so far as to arrest Reverend Holt. But now at the end of the episode he reveals his full hand. He didn’t take Holt and our old friend Two-Bits to imprison them; he wants everyone to gang up together and pool their anti-ASA efforts to finally free Freeland from this occupation. Tavon’s death and Jefferson’s beating were the sparks they needed. Now comes the revolution.
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