How apropos the title “The Book of Pain.”

Whether emotionally or physically, the pain was on everyone’s menu tonight.

We open on Tobias Whale (Marvin “Krondon” Jones III) looking at himself in the mirror. His torso covered in partially healed third degree burns courtesy of his tango with Black Lightning (Cress Williams) a number of episodes ago. Tobias’ scowl could melt ice. He miraculously maintained his composure while being ridiculed by Martin Proctor (Gregg Henry). Proctor said Black Lightning really tried to barbecue you… you people. Whether that is a racial slur or a meta-human slur, if looks could kill Proctor would be dead and buried. But Proctor is Tobias’ boss and demands that he bring Black Lightning to him alive for study.

Then we had an “OH SNAP” moment when Khalil Payne (Jordan Calloway) walked in all buffed up, muscled out and dread headed in a not so fierce wig. The last time we saw Khalil, Tobias was making promises to get him on his feet again. Proctor has teamed Tobias and Khalil to bring Black Lightning in. WHAT the WHAT?

I’m sure Jefferson Pierce/Black Lightning (Cress Williams) said the same thing when he laid eyes on Khalil as he walked the streets of Freeland without a care in the world. Khalil ripped into Jefferson for abandoning him when he was disabled. When a suspicious Jefferson inquired how did Khalil regain the activity of his limbs, Khalil walked away.

I love the return of Khalil BUT openly walking the streets of Freeland felt a bit illogical. And Jefferson driving by and seeing him felt way too convenient. I believe it would have been more impactful if Khalil remained in secret and publicly shown himself when there was a definitive purpose.

Concerned about his erstwhile student, Jefferson goes to see Khalil’s mother, Nichelle Payne (Yolanda T. Ross). As far as Nichelle knew, Khalil was still in California undergoing a spine implant treatment fully sponsored by a benefactor. She was shocked to hear that Khalil was in Freeland and never contacted her.

From here, Jefferson tells his daughter, Jennifer (China Anne McClain) to stay away from Khalil if he should contact her. We all know what happens next. Khalil contacts Jennifer and without a second thought she comes out of hiding and meets him on the roof of her house. This was their meeting place before Khalil’s injury. He revealed his spinal implant, a row of metal protrusions through his skin. It was something out of Mad Max… creepy yet creepily cool. Khalil said the process was extremely painful and it certainly looks like it was. Jennifer and Khalil’s chemistry is undeniable. It’s evident they still have strong feelings for each other. Although I knew he would turn on her, Khalil’s leap off the roof was a nice preview of who he is and what is to come.

Tobias told Khalil to draw out Black Lightning and help capture him. Tobias also warned Khalil to forget about Jennifer and his old life or he’ll rip the implant out of Khalil’s back and shove it down his throat. I believe he would. Earlier Tobias thanked his associate Dwayne (Richard Marrero), for saving his life when he lost the fight against Black Lightning, then turned around and killed Dwayne for leaving his dead sister behind. Sorry, Khalil, you don’t stand a chance. Also, Tobias said this while eating dinner. In my book, threats made while eating dinner carry a high level of validity. Tobias’ henchwoman, Syonide (Charlbi Dean Kriek) silently chuckled while serving up supermodel facial expressions galore.

Gambi (James Remar) went to visit his former associate, weapon maker, Tommy Hildalgo (Morgan Brown) for some intel on Martin Proctor’s whereabouts. In a previous episode, Gambi injected Tommy with snake venom to get information on the type of weapons used to frame Black Lightning for Lady Eve’s murder. Tonight, the weapon of choice was Tommy’s own high-powered rifle. Gambi gave Tommy 48 hours to give up the intel or he’ll turn Tommy over to the people he double-crossed in the past. Can’t a thug catch a break?

Speaking of thugs, Latavius a.k.a. Lala (William Catlett) is living the thug life like a champ. He looked like he was going to kill one of his physically abusive drug-dealers. Lala tells him that only he can beat up his people. Otherwise, it reduces morale for drug-dealers. That is one of the best oxymorons I’ve heard in a long time. Then Lala received a mysterious phone call (later to be revealed as Tobias Whale). The caller said, “The devil deals the cards.” Lala went from intimidating to a wide-eyed drone and just walked away. Later, Lala showed up at Tommy Hildalgo’s workshop with one of Tommy’s weapons in hand. Obviously, the voice on the phone compelled him to kill Tommy. Poor fellas, I guess thugs don’t catch breaks… at least not tonight.

Jefferson and his on-again, off-again ex-wife, Lynn (Christine Adams) are hotter than two-red-hot-chili-peppers. They are electric together (pun intended). Lynn calls Jefferson over to her temporary residence (the family is not living in their respective homes to stay off the ASA radar) to tend to a faux spider. When Jefferson arrives, she is in lingerie and we know what happens next. The love-fest was short-lived because Jennifer told Jefferson that Lynn was looking for a cure for her powers. Jefferson blew it out of proportion, berated Lynn for thinking there was something wrong with meta-humans and walked out.

Current events took center-stage in the form of a meta-human school shooting at Garfield High. Khalil was our meta-human shooter and his bullets were wrist-mounted dart launchers filled with what looked like “Green Light.” The effect only stunned the kids. The chaos in the school was quite dynamic and gripping. Vice Principal Kara Fowdy (Skye P. Marshall), one of Proctor’s top agents played her part well. She helped with the evacuation but I’m sure she was in on the plan. Khalil really lets loose at his alma mater. He shot a plethora of students, some for personal reasons and even flung a teacher across the hallway into a trophy case. Very cool effect. Tobias’ plan was a success because it drew Black Lightning and Thunder/Anissa (Nafessa Williams) out of hiding.

Thunder found Syonide holding a classroom hostage. Their fight was an unexpected delight. The two of them traded blows but Syonide got a taste of Thunders powers which ended with Syonide unconscious after being hurled through a thick wooden door. Although Thunder won this round she had better watch out because Syonide realized the only way to beat her is to catch her between breaths and she almost did.

Tobias and Black Lightning duked it out in another hallway. Tobias wore a protective undergarment that absorbed Black Lightning’s electrical powers. I wanted a bit more of a knockdown drag out but Black Lightning prevailed. Before he could claim complete victory, Khalil shot Black Lightning with one of those darts. This short-circuited Black Lightnings powers. With the anticipated open window, Tobias held Black Lightning from behind so that Khalil could deliver the final crushing blow. The strike was meant to subdue but it was so powerful it stopped Black Lightning’s heart. Tobias wasn’t happy about that but decided to at least unmask him. Before he could, Thunder hit them both with a thunderclap. The impetus sent Tobias and Khalil flying. Syonide slid in with guns-a-blazing. Thunder used her invulnerability to protect the fallen Black Lightning from the hail of gunfire. Tobias, Khalil, and Syonide escape.

Thunder tried to revive Black Lightning to no avail. Gambi, from his remote location, noticed Black Lightning’s heart was not beating. A hysterical Jennifer runs over. Of course, Jennifer was going to shock Black Lightning’s heart into action again, but I have to admit the moment was still riveting because of the skill of both actresses. They didn’t hide their emotions, they both went there. After a couple of power bursts, Black Lightning’s heart starting beating again. Bravo!

Gambi brought the Pierce family to another safe house. Anissa carried her unconscious father inside. As a family, they worked together, first destroying their cell phones so the ASA could not track them, then they tended to the unconscious Black Lightning. Ms. Fowdy delivered the news of Black Lightning’s alleged death to a livid Martin Proctor. He ripped her a new one, demanding that she find Black Lightning’s dead body and bring it in along with Thunder. Proctor told Fowdy to burn down all of Freeland to get the job done.

You know I love me a good cliff-hanger and as usual, I was not disappointed. Syonide escorted a hooded Lala to Tobias’ office. Tobias asks Lala if he now believes in the resurrection. Lala was brought back to life under mysterious circumstances after Tobias killed him. I speculate the resurrection has something to do with Lady Eve’s work at the mortuary. Lala remembered Tobias killed him and pulled a gun on him. With equal speed, Syonide pulls one on Lala. Tobias says, “The devil deals the cards”, those same trigger words once again reduced Lala to a compliant, teary-eyed drone. Tobias told Lala to sit his ass down and then admitted that he killed Lady Eve and Proctor is next. The endgame is to take over everything with Lala at his side. Lala, very conflicted but unable to resist, complies with a “yessir.”

Everyone felt some sort of pain in this episode.

The stakes were through the roof and this is one of many reasons I keep coming back for more.

Let me know your thoughts.


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