Black Lightning: 1:02 Lawanda: The Book of Hope
YES! YES! YES! That’s how you continue a great show, and further develop attributes from the pilot that depict the story and character progression. It was never going to be an easy task to begin a superhero show and put the heroic aspect on the back burner; in this instance, it’s as if the origin of Black Lightning is being told in reverse. The process may be slow to get to the “POW POW” moments, but the intertwining characters are just as interesting to watch. My only concern is the shortness of the series (13 episodes); if it continues at this pace then it might struggle to fit everything in.
Lawanda: The Book of Hope picks up after The Resurrection showing Jefferson in pain, clearly struggling to cope with some characteristic of his powers. A blue neon “lightning” floods through his veins as he has what appears to be severe muscle cramps. Comforted by his ex-wife Lynn he assures her that “Black Lightning is not back” and stating “the girls are safe”. Later at an assembly, Jefferson, Henderson and other members of the community attempt to reassure parents their children are safe from the 100 gang. Enter Lawanda, a former student and parent whose daughter has been taken by the 100 to a suspected motel, where she’s likely being used against her will. Speaking with Jefferson she asks “why’d Black Lightning rescue your girls and nobody else’s?” Not only did this moment make me chuckle and mutter “and you still can’t figure out who he is”, it was powerful and portrayed superhero bias, which clearly Jefferson feels remorse and regret over.
Jefferson fighting his conscience was the recurring focus in this episode as he attempts to determine the best way to serve his community. If he does what clearly the city needs and permanently returns as Black Lightning, he risks losing the potential reconciliation with his ex-wife, whereas if he continues the fight as the high school principle and dad, he doesn’t have enough power. Additionally, if he were to return as Black Lightning there could be further repercussions, as several occasions in this episode, Gambi, Lynn and Jefferson speak of his powers as an addiction, making us believe that perhaps when used too much, control is lost. If nothing else this is an interesting and thought provoking point.
As it appears nobody cares about her daughter, Lawanda decides to find her herself, parking outside the motel she believes her to be in and recording all movement. She soon confronts the “leader” Lala who, after encounters with Tobias Whale (crime lord), has had enough and shoots her in cold blood; little did he know her phone was recording, capturing the murder. Hearing the news was enough to infuriate Jefferson to make the decision to permanently bring back Black Lightning, regardless of the consequences. This was yet another powerful scene with him and his ex as she walks out after hearing his decision; his attitude was admirable making me think of Spock’s famous line from The Wrath of Khan “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”
Black Lightning locates Lala, leading to a standard yet excellent action sequence. After he beats Lala and his goons, the police enter and arrest Lala, holding him accountable for the death of Lawanda. In prison is a superb scene in which Tobias enters, guided through by police officers into Lala’s cell, stating that he’s had enough and no longer trusts his silence, shooting him in front of everyone with no hesitation. This small sequence served to show just how important and feared Tobias Whale is and the influence he has running through the city.
The episode once again ends showing Anissa discovering more of her powers. Mentioning to her girlfriend earlier how she broke the bathroom sink (even through this is the only reference), she’s clearly concerned with what’s happening to her body. At the drug store she witnesses a robbery and appears to be having a panic attack but after the robber grabs her she portrays brute strength in throwing him across the store. These little snippets of her powers currently work alongside the narrative, but hopefully this progression picks up in future episodes.
Lawanda: The Book of Hope is a fantastic continuation, developing characters and allowing us to embrace each individual rather than focus on one or two main characters. The story element is outstanding; I continue to be amazed by the sheer amount of content crammed into 45 minutes without feeling exhausted (believe it or not I’ve barely addressed half of the story elements). I love how the show is grounded in reality rather than a comic book style cliché superhero series. It tackles real life problems rather than meta-human foes and robots. Racism, cultural segregation, gang violence and brutality are just some of the villains they face. If you thought Arrow was the darkest CW show then think again. Oliver may murder faceless pawns but Black Lightning gives you reason to care for those being murdered. In this episode alone, three people were shot and killed, all of whom played important roles, bringing weight to the violence.
If you’re not yet watching and are able to I implore you to start, even if superheroes are not your cup of tea, this show (only two episodes in) is deep and highly entertaining. Bring on episode three.