No matter how cool they might be, a superhero's really only as good as their most nefarious enemy. The 100 has proven to be a compelling threat for the city of Freeland, but Black Lightning needed a truly horrific enemy to illustrate that Jefferson Pierce might not win his war. This week, the show delivered.
Somewhere between Professor Delores Umbridge and former White House aide Omarosa lies Black Lightning's take on Lady Eve, a classic villain from DC's comics, here portrayed brilliantly by singer/songwriter/actress Jill Scott.
In the comics, Lady Eve's best known as the member of an ancient Kobra cult that works in the shadows to bring about a new age of chaos and bedlam to the world. Black Lightning's Eve is markedly different - she's the director of a funeral parlour associated with Tobias Whale and the 100 - but she's a ruthless, horrifying sociopath all the same. "Lawanda: The Book of Burial" introduces Lady Eve as a Machiavellian figure who has her hands deep into Freeland's criminal underbelly.
With both Will and Lala being offed within Black Lightning's first two episodes, it seemed as if the show was rushing headlong into propping Whale up as its ultimate big bad, but Lady Eve's presence adds a new dimension to the criminal element strangling Freeland. As the head of a funeral parlour, Lady Eve already stood to profit directly from almost any and all fatal violence that took place in the city, but establishing her as being an active contributor to the 100's gang violence has the added impact of doubling down on just how imperilled Freeland is. Lala was an unfortunate pawn and Whale a powerful, but not invulnerable knight in the 100's grand scheme to take over Freeland. But Lady Eve is a queen deftly organising the rest of the chessboard in a formation to win the game, and she's doing it while running circles around Black Lightning. And he doesn't even know it.
As the citizens of Freeland struggle to cope with the shock of Lawanda White's murder, the consequences for Jefferson's decision to bring Black Lightning out of retirement are beginning to pile up.
Every time he steps into the street as Black Lighting, Jefferson isn't just putting himself in harm's way - he's actively inspiring normal, non-superpeople to take matters into their own hands and stand up against the 100 when the police either can't or won't. In theory, that's a good thing, because a community that's actively engaged with and invested in its survival against something like the 100 has a better shot at coming out on top. In practice, though, this means that civilians are potentially putting their own lives at risk, and given how Black Lightning seems to have no qualms about killing off characters left and right, said violence is better thought of as an eventuality rather than a possibility.
Anissa understands that risk. Between her history of activism and her newfound superpowers, it isn't at all surprising that she's fast-tracking herself towards costumed vigilantism. We've all seen plenty of origin training sequences where a fledgling super-being tests out their newfound powers to get a sense of just what they can do, but the pure joy on Anissa's face when she works out how her breathing is linked to her density manipulation and super-strength was something special.
It was a little sad to see Anissa's first love interest so casually dismissed in order to move Anissa's larger arc forward, but it was more than worth it to get to Grace and the beginning of their relationship, which, judging from this episode (and the comics), holds promise. In time, Anissa will follow in her father's footsteps to become a superhero, and Black Lightning will wander into a new narrative territory that might end up being one of the more compelling elements of the season. Both Lynn and Jefferson sense that something is developing within their daughters, and one imagines that the parents (understandably) assume their girls are merely dealing with the current events of the city.
But, so far, Black Lightning hasn't come across as the kind of show that would just get right to turning the Pierces into a family team of vigilantes. Both Thunder and Lightning are on their way to Freeland, but when they finally arrive, the skies look like they're only going to get stormier over the Pierce household.
- What time of day is this church service supposed to be taking place? It's definitely daytime judging from the shots within the church, but Anissa seemingly snuck off to the junkyard at night.
- The cinematography in this episode is something else.
- I've talked before about how black a show Black Lightning is, but watching detective Henderson go in on the church pastor for having a $25,000 watch and a silk handkerchief took. Me. Out. Not only is he in bed with the 100, you know he's probably been "borrowing" from the collection plate.
- JILL SCOTT IS DELICIOUSLY UNHINGED. MORE LADY EVE, PLEASE.
- Anissa's got mad game and her picking Grace up was quite smooth, but can we talk about how bad an idea it is for her to watch that video of herself using her powers in a bookstore? That's how you get caught and shipped off for weird experiments.
- Jennifer's psyching her parents out about wanting to have sex was pitch perfect for the sort of teenager Black Lighting's making her out to be. The show's entire approach to millennial high school students is surprisingly nuanced and well balanced.
- Tobias Whale has yet to wow me, but you have to tip your hat to a criminal who stabs a lackey and then chastises them for bleeding out.