Black Lightning: 1:06 Three Sevens: The Book of Thunder

Since the start of the season there have been superb episodes, and frankly some that were quite boring. I feel very torn with The Book of Thunder. On the one hand it has some fantastic story and character development, answering several questions that remove annoyances I’ve had so far. However it also adds additional story that was either too farfetched for my liking or just out of place and unwarranted.

Let’s start with the good. The episode begins where last we left off, with Black Lightning hurt on the ground after losing a fight with Joey Toledo. The police are tipped off about the situation and go to arrest Black Lightning but before they get there Gambi arrives to take him away. Here is where we get the first huge development. One of my biggest bugbears has been the lack of understanding around Jefferson’s powers, and in a small segment we get just that. Turns out his powers are mainly neurological (lucky his wife is a neuro-biologist I guess), he has the ability to absorb electricity and his suit keeps him from blowing up his nervous system by distributing that power to a state that his body can withstand. Additionally Gambi mentions how the addiction is merely him experiencing a rush of endorphins. It wasn’t full of technical mumbo jumbo, just to the point, clear and concise.

A lot of this episode focused on Jefferson’s feelings about Tobias and his desire to kill him after finding out he’s back in Freeland. This causes well placed dramatic tension between Gambi and Jefferson as its clear Jeff is suspicious about what his trusted friend really knows. Because of these strong emotions we (the audience) have to put up with a forced will he, won’t he scenario in terms of killing Tobias. Ok, it makes for dramatic effect but when the outcome is so obvious such a large amount of time shouldn’t be spent on the subject.

Another aspect I enjoyed was the expanded explanation about Gambi and his involvement with Tobias. As I said in the last review, there’s something strange between Tobias and Gambi, as no threats were made during their previous visit now we potentially find out why. After Lynn is attacked by the 100 for her research, Gambi pays a visit to Lady Eve and queries their agreement to leave the Pierce family alone. Through well placed dialog we get little morsels of information that may not lay the plot out in its entirety, but tantalizingly leaves a trail of breadcrumbs that’s desirable to follow.

Anissa too goes on a huge journey in this hour, both as herself and her superhero alter ego. In the beginning of the episode, she and several others surround a statue of a man who was apparently offensive to black people and deface it, causing her to get arrested. Jefferson bails her out which developed a conversation with interesting dialog. Speaking to Anissa after release, Jefferson says “you don’t have the luxury of being naïve because you’re black”. This episode really hits the race card hard and wants you to know it. This small line of dialog is extremely powerful and could be interpreted many different ways which I like to think the writers had in mind. I personally see it as: if you act like an idiot, people will treat all black people the same way.

Nafessa Williams has so far given some excellent performances as Anissa and does well to portray the emotions needed as her alter ego. Towards the end we get another element I’ve desired and that’s the meet-up between Black Lightning and Anissa as her alter ego. This happens during a standard case of mistaken identity so the two battle it out. This too I found strange, how you could not know you’re fighting your daughter let alone your father. My son had to dress up twice last week for his school and at no point did I not recognize him, Anissa’s costume doesn’t even cover her identity that well. Regardless, the fight was fine and we even got a better understanding of her powers, for example if she holds her breath she becomes bullet proof (who knows how she found that out).

Overall I found The Book of Thunder to be well balanced, for everything I disliked there was something I enjoyed. The development throughout was strong and detailed, still leaving plenty of mystery. Each character was given due attention for their respective plots, even if some didn’t work out perfectly. Jennifer’s story with Khalil and being bullied at school, although sad, was somewhat out of place in an episode hell bent on tackling race and superhero tension (or lack thereof). Nevertheless I’m intrigued to see what happens as Khalil is now working with Tobias. Additionally, as Jeff and Anissa are aware of each other, this could cause real dramatic tension if and when Jennifer discovers the truth as well.

Maybe not perfect but certainly serviceable, and with only seven episodes left I’ve no doubt the stakes will get increasingly higher.

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