Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 4, 2021)
With Black Lightning, we get the adventures of a DC superhero who originated in the 1970s. This Blu-ray set includes all of Season Three’s episodes. The plot synopses come from IMDB.
Birth of the Blackbird: “Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams) is in the hands of the ASA with his wife Jennifer (China Anne McClain), as Agent Odell (Bill Duke) tightens his grip on the Pierce family. Anissa (Nafessa Williams) secretly defies Odell in her alter ego as Blackbird with the tactical and technical support of Gambi (James Remar).”
Although Season One worked pretty well, I thought Season Two became too hung up on character melodrama. Though it occasionally sparked to life, S2 ended up as a disappointment.
I don’t know where S3 will go, but at the very least, “Birth” offers a much more engaging launch than what we found in S2. We get some real intrigue in terms of narrative themes and enough action to turn this into a winning season debut.
Maryam's Tasbih: “With Freeland under occupation, the Pierce family gets pulled in different directions. Jefferson and Lynn (Christine Adams) are at odds with each other. Jennifer feels powerless despite having powers.”
Though not quite as good as “Birth”, “Tasbih” nonetheless continues matters in a satisfying manner. It amps up the drama and tosses in enough action to succeed.
Agent Odell’s Pipe-Dream: “When Lynn learns that Jefferson brokered a deal with Agent Odell without consulting her first, it begins to put a strain on their relationship. Anissa and Grace (Chantal Thuy) have an emotional encounter.”
Though he played a definite role in prior episodes, S3 has brought Odell to the forefront, and I regard that as a good thing. Duke’s subdued but dark energy really adds to the show, and that helps turn “Pipe-Dream” into another solid program.
Lynn's Ouroboros: “Jefferson faces new challenges due to the shocking state of Freeland. Lynn finds herself under intense pressure as she desperately tries to find a solution to the continuing crisis in Freeland. Anissa continues her work at the clinic.”
The themes related to “occupied Freeland” can feel like heavy-handed social commentary, but they still add tension to the story. Throw in additional intrigue from S3’s deadly new villain – one who mutates from a character seen in earlier years – and this leaves us with an engaging episode.
Requiem for Tavon: “Jefferson struggles with the effects on his family, leading to a decision that has tragic consequences. Anissa's identity is threatened. Odell takes an important step toward winning over Jennifer.”
Is it a coincidence that a nice young man who dies for no good reason gets named “Tavon”, a moniker that reminds us a lot of Trayvon? Almost certainly not. Despite that heavy-handed symbolism, “Requiem” amplifies narrative elements and brings some good drama.
Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door: “Jefferson is torn between his loyalty to this family and his commitment to saving Freeland. Anissa's commitment to Grace deepens. Jennifer makes an interesting discovery.”
While not the most exciting episode, “Door” does enough to keep us with it. It might become a bit lackluster compared to its predecessors, but it nonetheless moves along the season’s arc pretty well.
Henderson’s Opus: “Anissa and Jefferson have a heart-to-heart and she tells him she needs Black Lightning's help in escorting meta refugees out of the perimeter. Gambi implores Lynn to help get him access to the pit. Jennifer grows closer to Brandon (Jahking Guillory).”
I have to admit that S3 has gone a bit downhill these last few episodes, as they don’t live up to the excitement of their predecessors. Though it moves along some plot information, “Opus” tends to feel a little stuck in place.
The Battle of Franklin Terrace: “Black Lightning goes up against the ASA. Tobias (Marvin Jones III) continues to manipulate Lynn.”
Much of “Battle” follows the path of the prior episodes and drags a bit. However, it gets more intense by the end, so it points us toward more action and punch to come.
Earth Crisis: “The Pierces fear for Jennifer's life.”
“Crisis” gets trippier than usual due to its involvement with parallel worlds. This leads to some interesting alternate notions but it doesn’t feel like it advances the overall narrative especially well.
Blessings and Curses Reborn: “Jefferson has to navigate the post Crisis world. Lynn's determination to save meta kids gets her in trouble. Blackbird has a new challenge. Jennifer and Brandon bond.”
Between “Crisis” and “Reborn”, Black Lightning participated in the major crossover event “Crisis on Infinite Earths”. That involved episodes of Flash, Supergirl, Batwoman, Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow.
Though Black Lightning functioned as part of that crossover, his series didn’t come with its own episode. I don’t know why, but this might’ve left Lightning viewers a bit confused as they went into “Reborn”. That said, Lightning didn’t dig into the “Infinite” framework as much as the others, so it doesn’t seem like it needs to worry about fallout in the same way.
This means “Reborn” mostly picks up from “Crisis”, and it does so in a competent manner. While not a great episode, it works well enough to move along events.
Lynn’s Addiction: “Jefferson, Anissa and Jennifer discover that the ASA is now hunting the entire Pierce family. Meanwhile, Lynn does the unthinkable.”
Given its title, I feared “Addiction” would be little more than an “intervention” that focused on Lynn’s issues. Happily, it becomes much broader than that, and it provides a good push ahead in terms of story and action.
Motherless Id: “Jefferson and Anissa join forces with the ASA to help one of their own. Lynn is forced to continue battling her demons.”
Nothing especially significant develops with “Id”, but it moves us forward nonetheless. While the episode feels a bit like a “table setter”, it accomplishes its goals.
Grab the Strap: “Black Lightning and his team descend upon Markovia on a mission to rescue Lynn, who finds herself in even more trouble when she meets a metahuman on the Markovian side.”
Across S3, we met a whole bunch of metas, and “Strap” unites them as their own superheroic team to rescue Lynn and deal with the Markovian threat. With a lot of action and character intrigue, this turns into one of the year’s better episodes.
Homecoming: “As the battle continues, old alliances are revisited and new alliances forged.”
After the dynamic “Strap”, “Homecoming” feels a little like a regrouping episode, but it still seems satisfactory. While not especially exciting in its own right, it does okay for itself, and it ends with a reveal that sets up the last two episodes nicely.
Freedom Ain’t Free: “After learning that Gravedigger (Wayne Brady) and the Markovians are coming to attack Freeland, the Pierce family prepares for war.”
With only one more show left in S3, we expect “Free” to jack up the action, and it does – mostly. The episode engages in some goopy character material, but it places us where we need to be for the climax.
Liberation: “Black Lightning faces off against Gravedigger.”
S3 finishes with the requisite bang via the exciting “Liberation”. Inevitably, it leaves some threads open for Season Four, but nonetheless the show wraps up a good year on a positive note.