This Black Lightning review contains spoilers.
Black Lightning Season 3, Episode 3
If there was ever a question as to whether Agent Odell was doing The Utmost, it is very clear now that he is. It feels like he opens every conversation with a reminder that we are “at war” and that Markovians are an immediate threat. I felt he was being earnest at the start of the season, but now I’m starting to feel like he’s being hyperbolic. The Markovians are in Freeland and they are doing something, but what that is, I’m not sure. And now that I think about it, the only thing we know about the Markovians and their intentions is what Odell has said. They are a threat, but to whom and for what reason, I can’t say.
Last episode, one of Chief Henderson’s officers was arrested for being a Greenlight user and suspected meta. When he visits her at a meta detention facility in this episode, she is visibly sick. They talk, and she asks him to give her husband money from a safe deposit box she’s been pilfering money into. He reluctantly agrees, then she doubles over in pain and begins to seize. It turns out that a deadly virus is going around the meta detention facility. Odell tasks Lynn with finding a cure.
Lynn studies the virus and discovers it’s man-made by Dr. Jace, who she’d worked with, non harmoniously in the past. Odell thinks Jace may have been coerced to help the Markovians, but we know she’s all too happy to take lives in pursuit of her science. Lynn believes Cyclotronic infected other metas during his earlier attack on the facilities, and was deliberately used as a biological weapon. That is an effective plan for killing metas, but I’m not sure how it makes sense if the Markovians are trying to acquire them.
When Odell gets out of pocket, talking to Lynn any ol’ kind of way, Lynn tells him who tf she is, reminding him “I don’t work for you.” And while I love that she asserts herself and continuously proves and reinforces her importance to the A.S.A., I think she believes she has more power than she has. Yes, her work is invaluable, and she has a knowledge and skill set very few, if any others, have. But her perceived autonomy is nothing more than a courtesy. If ever she becomes oppositional toward Odell and the A.S.A. they will dispense with the niceties. He’s already killed a boy (Issa, whose power was forcing people to tell the truth) and sent Khalil to kill his own mother. There are no lines he will not cross.
He’s not just playing Lynn, either. Odell offers Jefferson “freedom” if he assists with rescuing captured A.S.A. agents from the Markovians, who “pose an imminent threat.” He gives Jefferson a watch which, when activated by Black Lightning’s powers, produces a full-body ensemble (and I assume, does other things). I am going to put aside that it doesn’t make sense to me and skip right to the fact that Jefferson really put that watch on all willy-nilly knowing full well Odell is not to be trusted. I would assume, at the very minimum, the watch has a tracker, and can monitor and record his vitals. I would also assume it has some way to disarm him or dampen his powers. Because I am a skeptic and the A.S.A. is Extremely Not Sh*t.
Odell says the reason he’s been keeping Jefferson there and experimenting on him was to create tech so “metas can live better.” Which, is probably true insofar as their lives being better means they are in prime condition to be used in whatever way the A.S.A. deems necessary. But I digress. Jefferson agrees to do the op, so he can go home. When he eventually gets to the mission, he’s told by the A.S.A. agent on the ground that it’s not a rescue, that they’re actually after Dr. Jace. Odell gave him the ol’ okey-doke, but he does what he has to do because he wants to get home to his kids.
At the facility, Odell pays Tobias a visit. Mans is aging badly, but he refuses all the meds he’s being offered to manage his old-people ailments. Odell asks Tobias about the briefcase, and when Tobias refuses to give him information, Odell turns on UV lights, which is painful for Tobias. Odell says, quote, “if only you were more melanated.” This is reverse racism. /s When Odell returns later, Tobias — burned, bruised, and bitter AF — refuses Odell’s offer for freedom and control over his old territory in return for the case. When Tobias dreams or hallucinates(?) Black Lightning taunting him at the end of the episode, he declares, “you ghetto blow worm. I’m gonna kill your black, monkey ass.” Actual racism.
On the outside, Jennifer shows a new kid around school and expresses to him how wild Garfield is by telling him some of the recent attacks that have happened there. When she gets home, Odell is waiting for her. He tells her that Markovians killed Khalil’s mom, Nichelle. The lie detector test has determined, that is a lie. We know he sent Painkiller to do the deed, and we know he was successful. He asks her to use her powers to find and destroy a Markovian data farm, and she agrees. He wanted to give Jennifer personal stakes in this so-called war and by making Markovians responsible for the death of yet another person she cares about, he succeeds in doing so.
At this point, Odell has influence on everybody but Anissa. I think he knows she’s Thunder, but doesn’t know Thunder is Blackbird. Blackbird is a major problem for the A.S.A. and even though he gives some passes, I doubt he would allow Anissa continue to disrupt them unchecked, especially when he has such powerful leverage, her family. He works very hard to maintain the illusion that he respects and ultimately wants to protect the Pierce family, but that will be tested when he becomes aware of Anissa’s activities. Maybe he’ll come for her, then Lynn and Jefferson we’ll see what he’s really about.
Odell had Painkiller and Lightning working in concert, with neither of them the wiser — assuming Khalil would even be conscious of who she is if he did know. Jennifer found and destroyed the Markovian data farm, giving Odell their location. Then Painkiller went to their hideout, guns-a-blazin, and did what he had to do (murder). Jefferson and Lynn were allowed to go home, but she was somewhat pressed that he made a deal with Odell without letting her know. Anissa freed some metas and evaded the A.S.A. for the upteenth time and reconnected with her missing lover and fellow meta, Grace. All is right with the world except everything isn’t, but that’s a tomorrow problem.
I really dropped the ball in my review of the first episode by not mentioning Anissa’s dalliance with Black girl reporter Jamillah Olsen (any relation to James?). Seeing two deep-brown complected women kiss and love on one another is unfortunately very rare. I loved seeing them together, even though I ship Anissa and Grace hard. I would’ve continued to stan, but I was elated to see Grace reemerge in this episode. And I was happy Anissa welcomed her back with open arms. Relationships don’t have to be complicated to make for worthwhile stories and healthy relationships aren’t boring.
Officers are being asked to register and test for the meta gene, like everyone else in Freeland. It’s becoming increasingly evident how little control Chief Henderson has in the city now. A woman asks Chief Henderson when this (the occupation) is going to stop. She lays into him about everything that’s wrong and says, “we finally got a black man in charge of the police and things are worse than when white folks ran it.” Ouch! Then she slaps him! And I like her energy, I really do, but she seems to fundamentally misunderstand martial law. Look at me, sis, the A.S.A. is the captain now.
Also, with this brain chip, Painkiller has mastered 23(!) fighting styles and apparently knows how to kill someone with a single blow. He is obedient and efficient and a perfect tool and proof-of-concept for the A.S.A. Also, unrelated, he is Very Goddam Fine. I want to be mad that he’s always training — and that he effectively has no autonomy, smh — but I very much enjoy the visual. He doesn’t like shirts, and that’s his prerogative. We all have our vices.