REVIEW: Black Lightning S1E9 – The Book of Little Black Lies

Black Lightning deals with the fallout of two major revelations in “The Book of Little Black Lies”: Gambi’s (James Remar) confession to Jefferson (Cress Williams) about his role in Green Light and Alvin Pierce’s death, and Jennifer’s (China A McClain) realization that she has powers. As someone who has been waiting all season for Jennifer’s moment to shine, I was pleased we got to spend so much time with her point of view, and McClain was the MVP of the night. Elsewhere in the episode, Jefferson enlists help from Henderson (Damon Gumpton) to clear Black Lightning’s name, while he and Anissa (Nafessa Williams) close in on Martin Proctor (Gregg Henry) and the ASA.

When you thought there was one fake bitch in this house, but there’s two…

It may not have happened the way that I wanted it to, but Jennifer finally knows the truth. I was a little confused why the storyline with Anissa revealing the truth was a new scene rather than a continuation. Why didn’t Anissa tell her when Jennifer first mentioned her powers, and what must have happened after that scene to make Jennifer feel like maybe she was imagining things? I’m glad that Anissa actually tried to comfort Jennifer by revealing her secret and outing their father as Black Lightning because, as she says to her parents, Jennifer had a right to know. However, I kinda found myself agreeing with Lynn (Christine Adams) that the “reveal” could have been handled better. Jennifer is obviously freaking out and upset that her family has been lying to her, but, even more so, she’s scared that she won’t be able to have a normal life. What I really like about the Black Lightning writers is that they’ve been able to contrast Jennifer and Anissa as two distinct individuals with different goals and aspirations. Whereas Anissa is more a proactive “Harriet Tubman” who wants to stand out and embraced her powers immediately because she wants to save the world, Jennifer is more understated. She’s always stood out as the “Queen of Garfield High,” so for her, gaining powers was one more thing that separated her from everyone else when all she really wants to do is fit in. I loved how she pushed back against Anissa’s insistence that she could choose to see her powers as a burden or gift by pointing out they didn’t really have a choice in whether they wanted powers or not in the first place. McClain’s performance really shone in this episode, especially in the scene with Lynn in which Jennifer wonders if having powers means she wouldn’t be able to have a normal life, including marriage and kids. Finally, the sweet scene between Jefferson and Jennifer was a nice way to end the episode, and hopefully paves a path for Jennifer to be OK with their new normal.

You’re not an action hero unless you calmly walk away from an exploding building behind you.

Elsewhere, we got another solid Black Lightning and Thunder team-up with a timely assist from Detective Henderson. Jefferson and Anissa make a really good detective duo and provide some of the more light-hearted moments of the episode. Such as going to threaten a crooked lawyer in Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton masks to get the name behind Bends Court, a shadow company that tried to bribe Alvin Pierce for his silence regarding the Freeland experiment. You can tell Jefferson and Anissa really respect each other’s different approaches to crime fighting, but there’s also a friendly rivalry that sparked from their first encounter as Black Lightning and Thunder. I liked Anissa’s smugness at finding out from Jennifer that she has more fans than Jefferson, and I will bet money that new fan page dedicated to Thunder “challenging the patriarchy’s narrative of female heroes” was written by Grace Choi (Chantal Thuy). Hopefully that tiny tidbit leads to her return to the show because I really miss ThunderGrace. Father and daughter follow the money back to Martin Proctor and an ASA lab housing more than just Green Light, and we get a great new suit reveal for Anissa (thanks, Uncle Gambi!) and an action sequence that features both heroes in their element, complete with the required “saunter away from a building while it explodes behind you” action shot.

Finally, Gambi continues on his road to self-redemption by tracking down the electricity weapons used to murder Lady Eve (Jill Scott). Gambi’s methods may sometimes be questionable, but I don’t doubt that his love for the Pierce family is real. We learn that the kids Gambi did turn into the ASA are still being kept for some unknown purpose, and when Gambi presents Anissa with her suit, he confesses, in so many words, how he realizes that his actions did more harm than good and that he wants to fix that. I also liked that later Anissa pointed out to Jefferson that his hiding his secret identity to protect his daughters may not be that different from Gambi withholding the truth to protect Jefferson. It may not be an exact one-to-one comparison, but I think it leaves the door open for Gambi to redeem himself. (Plus, he can’t go anywhere until he makes Jennifer’s suit).

Miscellaneous Thoughts:

If Lady Eve mentioning the word “metahuman” wasn’t enough, tonight’s episode leaves little doubt of Black Lightning‘s connection to the Arrowverse, which leaves the door wide open for future potential crossovers. But I wonder which Earth they’re on? Jennifer’s mention of Vixen makes me think they’re on Earth 1, but Lynn mentions Supergirl, who exists on Earth 38. So is there a Vixen on that Earth as well, or are Kara’s exploits on Earth 1 well known enough that people in Freeland would have heard about her?

Also, this marks the second episode with zero Tobias (Marvin “Krondon” Jones III). His sister just died, and we have no idea where he is or what he’s doing. Does that concern anyone else?

Let me know your theories in the comments!