Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Black Lightning: Lawanda: The Book of Hope - Review and **SPOILERS**


Written By: Oz Scott

Directed By: Salim Akil & Charles Holland


First Aired: January 23, 2018

Last week was the premiere of the extremely promising Black Lightning (BL), the story of Jefferson Pierce and his efforts to save his community and keep his family safe.  Episode one was not the traditional hero origin story, we didn't learn how Jefferson became BL in the same way we learned how Ollie became The Arrow, or how Barry Allen became an asshole. This story picks up almost a decade after Jefferson retired the BL uniform and decided to change things from within the system as the principal of Garfield High.

Throughout the episode there were hints of a connection between BL and Tobias Whale, who made the most of his brief appearances, showing the kind of ruthless menace that will be a worthy foe for our hero. 

The local gang, the 100, pulls Jefferson out of retirement when they kidnap his daughters causing him to don the horrendous BL costume one more time. 

The premiere was fucking splendid, they did a fantastic job with world building and character development, the only issue I had was with the action scenes, they were Adam West Batman level bad, but I was willing to over look it because of how great everything else was. You can read the full recap of last week's episode here.

Caught up?  Good, let's get to last night's episode.

Explain It:


This week starts off off with Jefferson, the Pierce family and the town of Freeland (as shown through the talking head on the television) dealing with the return of BL and all that entails. 

Jefferson is riddled with post BL pain and flare ups, his ex-wife Lynn tends to him and thus starts a bonding that may be the initial sparks that rekindle this marriage. After all Jefferson did become BL one more time to save their daughters at the behest of Lynn. Jefferson, for his part, still seems to think it was a one time deal, but the fact that there is a TV show titled Black Lightning and we are all watching it shows that he is lying to everyone, himself included.

Back at Garfield High we see a community that is at its breaking point, parents are at a loss for how to deal with the threat of the 100, it seems like a plight that is beyond their reach and even that of the Freeland police.  Lawanda, a former student of Jefferson, informs him that the Seahorse hotel is back in business and the 100 are once again using the rooms to run girls. Her daughter is one of those girls. She wonders out loud why BL only came back to save Jefferson's family which weighs heavy on his soul.  The only thing this man cares about more than his family, is the people of Freeland. The scene really drives home how this community is suffering and how little respite there seems to be from the system. 


Lala is once again summoned to Tobias' office and after a some what racist diatribe about how he hates black people*, Tobias demands that Lala utilize his resources to find out who this BL imposter is, little does he know, it is Jefferson "FUCKING " Pierce. 

*Tobias Whale hates black people more than Donald Trump. 

Back at La Casa de Pierce, Jennifer, who is not yet back at school, is hanging out on the front porch with Lynn. Inspector Henderson has arranged for 24 hour police surveillance. Jennifer is lost in her phone, facetiming with her friend Khalil and talking about how post kidnapping the school is locked the fuck down.  Suddenly, the little dude from last week that was hemmed up by Lala for being late and playing on his phone shows up with a message for Jennifer from Lala and wets her up with a water gun loaded with red dye.  I guess because he is just some chubby little kid the police guard didn't notice him or maybe they just didn't care

Jefferson is fucking pissed,  he rolls up on Lala who appears to be in the middle of a Ruff Ryders video shoot and confronts him about this bullshit.  Lala talks some shit and then one of his henchmen pistol whips Jefferson in a motion that can best be described as "West Side Story-ish". It seems like everything and everyone is trying to push Jefferson towards once again becoming BL.

Anissa is staying with her girlfriend Chenoa who appears to be a bit frustrated with the pace of their relationship, they have been together a year and Anissa has yet to meet her family.  Anissa gets all defensive the way people tend to when they are not super interested in getting to attached but overstay their welcome because the bedroom game is tight.  Instead of just saying it Anissa uses work as a fucking excuse*.  

*Chenoa, gimme a sec girl, you need to check your priorities because this girl is not serious.  If you want something more you might want to move on, especially since she is about to start tapping into her super powers and join her dad in fighting Tobias Whale and the 100.  This only ends up in heartbreak love and she doesn't see you as anything more than a distraction. 

Turns out Henderson lives right next door to the Pierce's place.  Jefferson and Henderson bond a bit over Lynn being back in the fold. On his way out, Henderson he drops a gem on Jefferson about Lawanda who is camped out outside the seahorse.

We find Lala waiting in a warehouse district in his sweet as fuck Impala when another car pulls up.  It is his henchmen and they pull Will out of the trunk.  Lala makes short work of Will and puts one in his melon. Lala's soldiers put Will back in the car and break out. 

Back at the Seahorse, Lawanda is shining the light on the 100 and all of their going ons.  Not only is she filming them, but she has brought out the Freeland media elite.  Jefferson, working on the information that Henderson provided, shows up and asks Lawanda to give him 48 hours to get her daughter out.  Lawanda agrees, but says she is going to stay and stake the joint out to make sure they don't to relocate her daughter under the cover of dark.  Jefferson promises again and swears he won't let her down

Meanwhile, Jennifer is huffing Ls on the roof, when Khalil shows up to kick it.  Khalil says that when she was kidnapped he realized how important she was to him and asks her to go steady, Jennifer is high as shit, but agrees.  Khalil breaks her off with a sweat chain he picked up at a jewelry kiosk at the mall and uses the opportunity to plant a sweet kiss on her.  We are all gushing with joy.  


Downstairs Jefferson and Lynn find some romance of their own as they continue to bond and mend the relationship that was broken by his BL lifestyle.  They both have a good laugh at how unimportant Anissa's girlfriend is to the point that they both agree that they can't be bothered to remember her name. It is fucking Chenoa and she might be too fucking good for you and your family.  To bad Chenoa can't see this because it is information that will help her break away from Anissa and find herself a good woman who appreciates her. After mocking Chenoa, Jefferson and Lynn find themselves all heated up, and start getting physical. Just as the action gets going, Lynn pulls back and says she needs to take it slow.

After killing Will, Lala goes to the Seahorse to unwind with some high school prostitutes but not before Lawanda confronts and grabs his injured arm. Lala doesn't take kindly to this and puts a quick six into Lawanda killing her dead on the spot.  His poor henchmen, who I am sure would much rather be in the dinner theater production of Wicked, are forced to dump another body. Seems like a shit gig to me. Lawanda, in her death, did the community a service.  Before approaching Lala, she propped her cell phone up on her dashboard and filmed the whole thing. 

Henderson calls Jefferson from the scene of Lawanda's murder to let him know that Lala killed Lawanda, which seems like bad police protocol, but what the fuck do I know. If the wall between Jefferson and BL was crumbling before, Lawanda's murder that brought the whole thing down. Any and all the good will that Jefferson built with Lynn is also trashed as Jefferson informs her that he plans to end the facade of being normal. BLACK MUTHAFUCKING LIGHTNING IS BACK BITCHES!

The next day at school, Jefferson's second in command Carol, who like any shark worth a damn smells the blood in the relationship water, and is pushing up again. Jefferson is either obtuse or just giving her enough to keep her around as a back up option, because if he can't how bad she wants that D he might be the worst superhero detective in history. 

Carol leaves and Gamby calls, he hacked into Will's phone and tracked his body down to a dumpster on skid row and he plans to take it back to the lab to find out if it has any information on Lala's whereabouts. 


Back at Garfield Jennifer and her trashy friend from last week who first dragged her ass out and started all this mess with the 100 are drinking champagne in the gym and saying YOLO over and over again.  It really let's you know that the writers had their ear to the street back in 2013.  And Jennifer what the fuck man, you gotta ditch that dead weight that girl will bring you down crabs in a barrel style.  Jennifer is bent as fuck when she notices Khalil working out. She pushes up on him, says YOLO a few more times (FUCKING KILLER DIALOGUE) and is straight brown bagging champagne on school grounds. Khalil for his part is having none of this bullshit and calls her out on her wanna be baller lifestyle.  He tells her how it is, and that he wants her to move forward with him. He seems a little too angry about this whole thing and quite honestly, at this point I am not sure if he is a good influence or an potential abusive boyfriend. 

Lynn steps to Gamby about Jefferson, but Gamby isn't gonna let her paint him with the blame brush. They have an ideological battle, Lynn thinks Jefferson is addicted to his powers and Gamby thinks Jefferson is addicted to Lynn, but ultimately, he says it is Jefferson's choice not theirs.  Lynn seems to be resigned to this as well and breaks the fuck out. 

Gamby managed to break into Will's phone and hits Jefferson at the office with Lala's address. We are about to get some hot as fuck BL action bruh!

In a weird directing choice, BL shows up at Lala's building and the show suddenly turns from poignant crime drama to to a campy blacksploitation spoof, it is like a scene out of I'm Gonna Git You Sucker, right down to the wicky wah wah guitars. BL fights his way up the stairs all the way to Lala's penthouse and boy oh boy does the action still suck.  Right as BL is about to put the deathblow on Lala Henderson and the boys in blue show up, BL breaks the fuck out and just like that the show turns back to our normal crime drama.

Back at the crib, Jefferson tells Lynn that he got Lala, shut down the Seahorse and that it was all over.  She asks if he plans to continue on as BL, he hints that he plans to and she bounces.  

Anissa is still camped out at Chenoa's pad and can't sleep, she decides to step out and hit the local 24 hour CVS for some sleep aids. Conveniently the CVS is also being robbed by what appears to be a meth dad.  Meth dad puts hands on Anissa, and she uses her newly revealed super powers to fuck homeboy up tossing him into the pantyhose display.  Instead of freaking the fuck out like I would, this seems to calm Anissa who realizes that she is not powerless and bounces without the Tylenol pm.  


Finally Tobias Whale shows up again, this time at the precinct with his right hand girl Syonide. The cops, who are obviously on his payroll, just let him walk right into Lala's cell.  Tobias lectures Lala about not having a code and then crushes his throat with what I am guessing is some sort of super strength that will expose itself throughout the season. And then, just as cool as he walked in, he strolls right the fuck out, but this time in super slow motion.

Pros: China Anne McClain, the actor who plays Jennifer is the star of this show.  She knocks every scene out of the park and really plays the internal conflict of her character to perfection.  She was the actor I was most worried about, because she used to be on a Disney show my daughter watched called ANT farm and while talented, her acting chops seemed Disney-esque at best. but she really is a revelation. 

Tobias Wolf is fucking unreal good. Anissa and Chenoa's dynamic is interesting and hopefully will be explored further. Inspector Henderson also became a more flushed out and realized character as opposed to the bureaucrat he was portrayed as in week 1. 

Cons: I am realizing Cress Williams might not be the best actor, he is not very convincing when he plays angry, but other times he is great.  He can do subtle really well, he can't do big for shit.  Lala is dead which sucks because he was a really interesting character and my fear is now that he is out of the way we are going to fall into the Arrow-verse villain of the week model.  The action is really fucking bad. I don't know if it is intentional but I hope it is, otherwise there is no excuse. Arrow, Flash and LOT have amazing action and if they just let it slide here that would be a major disappointment.  That said, the rest of the show is infinitely better than all of those shows, though it is unfair to compare it with LOT since LOT is a lot less serious and played for fun and goofs. Finally, can we talk about how bad a name Seahorse is for a hotel?  I mean was it built by meth running bikers or some shit?  What the fuck man. 

8/10
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