After and in-between every storm, when the heat, the chill, and the clapping thunder have finished their intermingling, a pleasant quiet subsumes the atmosphere. We were caught up in Black Lightning's torrent of confessions, new sins, and conspiratorial intrigue last week so it only makes sense to expect a more dialed-down episode. And aside from a few impassioned dialogue segments within the Pierce family, the "Book of Little Black Lives" sits in a nebulous space, rummaging through the wreckage of last week's revelations while setting the table for some of the show's lingering mysteries.
Everyone starts off big mad though. Jefferson destroys a punching bag in the opening, still clearly in his feels over Gambi's decade-long betrayal; Jennifer is the odd woman out of the Pierce family's superhero secret; and Lynn's blood pressure rises by the episode with all the new heroes popping up in her family. Once the bastion for a refreshing honesty shared between them, the Pierce family looks a bit more fragmented in the early-goings this week as Jennifer learns that her parents have lied to her for most of her life. But trust seems pretty hard to come by these days between the show's major players.
The episode opens with a pissed-off Jefferson hashing and re-hashing Gambi's confessions from last week. Gambi took up the surrogate father role out of guilt for indirectly causing his father's murder and it's naturally shaken Jefferson's trust. But Jefferson still needs help clearing his name and solidifying not only his innocence but his friendship with Detective Henderson. Black Lightning sternly enlists Henderson's help in gathering evidence against dirty cops buying superpowered weapons on the black market; later, he comes in the clutch as Black Lightning and Thunder (who debuts a new wall-phasing ability this week!) put the squeeze on a lab run by A.S.A. Henderson has proven to be a valuable asset to Jefferson during the Green Light investigation despite some of his misgivings on vigilantism.
Speaking on misgivings, Jennifer really isn't here for the whole superhero shtick... especially if it means keeping secrets. The youngest of the Pierce clan is naturally overwhelmed. After blowing up her own phone last week (shout-out to phone insurance, she already has a replacement!) and learning her dad is Black Lightning, Jennifer is livid. "You've been lying to me my whole life," is not simply a teenage thing; her hurt carries weight because the Pierce family have been portrayed as a very forthcoming family.
China Anne McClain's face is this week's MVP. McClain oscillates from disgust, to terror, to protective with deft ease, showcasing the mercurial psychology of a teen thrust into the truth of the world. "This is who you are," Lynn tells her in a show-stealing scene. Conversations like these echo between Black parents and their children who are just coming to understand the implications of their skin color.
But Black Lightning does a fantastic job of setting these characters apart from one another in ways that feel authentic. Lynn admits to Jenn that she and Jefferson got divorced because of Black Lightning. The heartbreak of this secret both on Anissa's face in previous episodes and now Jennifer's face speak to the separation as an open wound. But even more exquisite is Jenn's diverging from her righteous family: "Mom, I'm not Anissa," she cries, "I don't wanna save the world, I wanna go to prom, go to college, get married and have babies," and then the killer, "Can I even have kids?"
In another resounding scene, the frustration Jefferson has been feeling as a wanted man is starting to come to a head. This week he harangues both Henderson and Anissa, expressing his dissatisfaction with a world that refuses to see Black Lightning as more than a criminal. Cress Williams' voice hits the same helplessly angry tenor as the parking ticket scene in the first episode. While there was no way, in that instance, to prove to a racist cop that he's innocent, this time he can actually do something about it. So with Thunder and Henderson flanking, the lab goes up in smoke, basically declaring war against the A.S.A and Green Light.
Up until that point, the action on Black Lightning remained in the Pierce home, where some of the most generative dialogue of the season takes place. Opting for explosive conversations over action sequences draws us back into the Pierce family hub and centers us for the war that's undoubtedly about to pop off.