REVIEW: Black Lightning S1E13- Shadow of Death: The Book of War

Thunder gets ready for a rumble in the woods.

The family that kicks ass together, stays together. The season finale of Black Lightning, “Shadow of Death: The Book of War” managed to somehow end with both the heroes and the villains winning. With most of the pod kids unstable and dying, Martin Proctor (Greg Finley), in his desperation to find Black Lightning (Cress Williams) by any means necessary, reveals himself to be more KKK than ASA, justifying his actions in the name of “Making America Great Again.” But while Proctor pursues the Pierce family Tobias (Marvin “Krondon” Jones III) has his own agenda, and with Khalil (Jordan Calloway) and Synoide (Charbli Dean Kriek) in tow stages an attack on ASA HQ. Proctor escapes but in the end, Gambi (James Remar) is the one to take him down for good. The Freeland experiment is finally exposed to the public with Henderson (Damon Gumpton) giving credit to Black Lightning and Thunder (Nafessa Williams) for their help. However, plot wise, nothing else is really resolved: the ASA is still out there, Tobias is stronger than ever, and the pod kids are still unconscious. But it does feel as though the chessboard has been knocked over and season 2 will start with a whole new game.

“Peace ain’t always peaceful, son”

The best parts of this episode by far were the flashbacks to Jefferson’s early childhood, in which we get to see just how much his father Alvin (Keith Arthur Bolden) influenced the man Jefferson became today. I loved the choice to shoot these scenes in black and white, because, seeing as how present-day Jefferson is in a coma-like state and fighting for his life, the flashbacks seem more like dreams of key moments of his life flashing before his eyes that lead him down the path to becoming Black Lightning. Watching young Jefferson interact with his father, you can see how Alvin’s parenting style echoed in Jefferson’s relationship with his daughters and his students. We see the quote game Jefferson plays with his daughters when he’s trying to teach them a lesson, for example, is something he learned from his father as Alvin recites a Malcolm X quote to Jefferson to impress on him the value of getting an education. Even more poignantly, the Garfield High “Whose life is it?” motto Jefferson has his students recite was also instilled in him by Alvin. In the final dream sequence beautifully acted by Williams and Bolden, an adult Jefferson talks to his father and asks if he felt his death was worth it. Alvin may not have known then; however, not only did he save his son by exposing the ASA drug program 30 years ago, his strength of character is the foundation on which Jefferson has been able to save hundreds of lives of the students of Garfield High each day. Jefferson’s life began to derail when he found out Tobias was alive, but hopefully this chance to say goodbye to Alvin brought Jefferson closure and will allow him to restart his life again.

Jennifer recharges her dad.

While Jefferson’s fighting for his life, Gambi and the rest of the Pierce family have some time to bond and brace themselves for an inevitable attack from the ASA. Over the course of the season, we’ve seen Gambi and Lynn (Christine Adams) rebuild their relationship, and how he’s taken Anissa under his wing to guide like he once did Jefferson. This episode finally focused on his relationship with Jennifer (China A McClain), and what was so special about their scenes together is that Gambi seems to be the only person who treats Jennifer like an adult. When she asks about Tobias and Syonide, he tells her their backstories and how the external modifications they made to their bodies distinguishes them from metahumans like her who are born with innate abilities. He’s honest, but gentle with her about Khalil and the decisions he’s made to join Tobias. It’s refreshing. Jennifer continues to pull through in big ways, literally recharging her father with electricity so he can fight the ASA soldiers and help them escape, and later using a lightning lasso to slam Proctor into the ground. Jennifer’s quickly getting the hang of her power and it will be exciting to see how she progress next season.

Khalil rethinking his “deal with the Devil”

Finally, in addition to learning more of their backstories from Gambi, we also got to see team Devil move forward on their plans. Syonide in particular has evolved from a character who spoke no words and seemed little more than decoration into a charismatic and interesting character with a compelling backstory. I found her more interesting than Joey Toledo, so I’m glad her role has expanded. Fortunately for Khalil, Tobias was less concerned about him killing Black Lightning than he was that Khalil felt the need to apologize for it. “Never apologize.” Fully integrated onto the team, Tobias dubs Khalil “Painkiller” after the neuro-toxin Khalil’s implant produces that causes instant paralysis. Completing Tobias’s villain roster is the unwilling participant Lala (William Catlett) who, we learn, Tobias spent 1 million on a reanimation program to bring back to life, just to compel him to do Tobias’ bidding. Aside from mental slavery, the only other side affect is that Lala will continue to be haunted by everyone he’s killed as they tattoo themselves on his skin. The last we saw of Lala, he was used as a mule to smuggle a bomb into ASA HQ. The bomb went off, but we didn’t exactly see Lala die. So, in my opinion, it’s anyone’s guess as to whether the Tattoo Man also made it out alive. Also anyone’s guess is what’s in that briefcase. I can’t say that I would have been more impressed if we actually saw what Tobias was looking at, since I doubt we’d even know what it is, but if it’s big enough for Tobias to proclaim himself the new “King of Freeland” we’re in for an exciting season 2.


If Tobias has 1 million to spend on making himself a slave, you think he’d reanimate his sister too…

Jennifer’s outro voice-over parallels her reciting the intro of the first episode.

The Akils continue to incorporate Black American history in the show: young Jefferson flashback during the riots being reminiscent of the LA Riots, and the news interviews in which the citizens of Freeland reference examples of the government selling crack to Black Americans in comparison to the Green Light experiment.

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