REVIEW: Black Lightning S1E5- And Then the Devil Brought the Plague: Book of Green Light

Gambi is not happy to see Tobias in his shop.

Secrets of a long buried past come to light for several characters in this week’s episode of Black Lightning, “And Then the Devil Brought the Plague: Book of Green Light.” Anissa (Nafessa Williams), looking to learn more about the origin of her special abilities, stumbles upon a conspiracy video about an expose on missing kids with special powers her grandfather, Alvin Pierce, was set to publish before his murder. As Anissa seeks to connect the dots between the missing kids and her grandfather’s death, Gambi (James Remar), who’s gone through a great deal of effort to conceal his past, is confronted with it in a major way when Tobias Whale (Marvin “Krondon” Jones III) pays him a visit. Tobias reveals Gambi’s connection to a mysterious organization called the ASA, and comes to Gambi as more of a “friend” than a foe, looking for the identity of Black Lightning (Cress Williams). Gambi doesn’t divulge Jefferson’s secret, but his struggle to keep Tobias and Jefferson away from each other becomes even more complicated when Jefferson discovers that Joey Toledo (Eric Mendenhall), Tobias’ right hand man, is back in Freeland.

The two major themes of this episode revolve around the sins of omission and the sins of the past. When Jennifer Pierce (China A McClaine) – whose storylines, unfortunately, seem to be stalled the most until her powers manifest – gets into a fight with two jealous girls at a skating rink, she neglects to tell her parents about it, which means Jefferson and Lynn (Christine Adams) get blindsided when the angry moms of the girl whose wrist Jennifer broke pay them a visit. Jefferson quotes Viktor Frankel in response to Jennifer’s confusion with her punishment: “The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me.” Jennifer’s not as good as her sister at the “name that quote” game, incorrectly guessing MLK, but the message of learning to regulate her emotions and walk away from a fight is something she takes to heart.

If only her father could take his own advice. Jefferson commits his own “sin of omission” when he neglects to tell Gambi about some painful lightning migraines he’s experiencing while in his suit. These migraines seem to be connected to his emotions, and flare up whenever Jefferson loses his temper. Upon finding out Joey Toledo runs the Green Light chemical warehouse, Jefferson gets so angry with Gambi that his migraine causes him to pass out. However, rather than take Gambi and Lynn’s advice to rest or his own advice to not let other people regulate his emotions, Jefferson, with Detective Henderson’s (Damon Gumpton) help, tracks down Toledo himself, confronting him outside a club. The song choice for this scene, “The Big Payback” by James Brown, was excellent; however at a critical moment Jefferson’s migraine returns, and he literally runs out of juice before he can get his payback and Toledo escapes. If Jefferson can’t learn to regulate his emotions and get his migraines under control, he’s going to be in trouble when Tobias finally decides to make his presence known.

We’ll call this look “The Monica.”

In a contrast to the weariness that colors Jefferson’s superhero arc, it’s refreshing to watch the joy and enthusiasm Anissa has as she shapes her own superhero identity. As safer as I think it would be for Anissa to confide in her parents, I must admit I am enjoying this particular “sin of omission” because we get scenes of Anissa testing the logistics of using her leather catsuit as her super suit. When said catsuit splits because it can’t handle “all this ass,” we get a montage of ‘Monica’ trying out various colorful get-ups and wigs at a lingerie store, before settling on her first prototype supersuit.  It’s kind of fitting that the first mission she takes on is bringing justice for her grandfather and the kids he wanted to write about. Anissa’s storyline, while continuing to progress her superhero journey, proved to be the most interesting part of the episode to me because her digging into her grandfather’s expose on an organization experimenting on kids, compiled with the fact that both Tobias and Jefferson have history with Gambi (who also seems to be connected to Lady Eve) is beginning to shine light on a major mystery of the season surrounding Gambi’s possible involvement in Alvin’s death. I’m also strongly considering the possibility that both Jefferson and Tobias were some of the missing kids that were experimented on. In his conversation with Tobias we learned Gambi and the ASA were responsible for injecting Tobias and his sister with a serum that keeps them from aging, and Tobias suggests the connection with the ASA as the reason why Gambi may know the identity of Black Lightning. All these things seem to be connected and Anissa may be pulling on the one string that could unravel the entire mystery.

Tobias and Tori get revenge on their father.

Lastly, Tobias and his sister Tori (Edwina Findley Dickerson) confront their own past demons when they pay their abusive father Eldridge (Terrence T.C. Combs) a visit. I’ve wondered in previous reviews if the show would touch on the root of Tobias’ complex regarding his skin, and it’s revealed in this episode through a creative flashback in which an adult Tobias relives the verbal and physical abuse he and his sister suffered at the hands of their father. Tori reasons that Tobias’ rash of recent bad decision making stems from a deeper problem: not dealing with his first and worst enemy, their father – and that it’s only through confronting his past that Tobias will be able to move forward with taking on Black Lightning. Although the impromptu family therapy session ended rather violently, with Tobias breaking his father’ back and leaving him for dead, the scene served to add another layer of complexity to the Whale siblings that makes them compelling villains.