Black Lightning episode 2 review: How Lawanda: The Book of Hope showcases superhero family dynamics


In the latest episode of Black Lightning, “Lawanda: The Book of Hope” gives an honest look behind the curtain when it comes to balancing family and heroism.

Family tends to be complicated. When you add superheroes to the mix, it makes it that much harder to keep track of all the problems and emotions at play. Yet, Black Lightning makes it seems as easy as cake. Like, The Incredibles came out more than 10 years ago, and I still can’t think of another example of superhero families depicted in the media. Why makes superhero families such a difficult formula to crack?

Though we haven’t seen the extent of the Pierce family’s powers, we know it’s not just Black Lightning. Further, we also know that there’s more to Jefferson than just his electric alter ego. His relationship with his daughters and their mother is at the very core of his life and motivates everything he does.

Obviously, we have plenty of superhero TV shows and movies. But none of them are told from the father’s point of view as he struggles to balance his home life and reconcile it with the choices he must make to save innocent lives. In “LaWanda: The Book of Hope,” Black Lightning refuses to fully immerse himself back in vigilante life because of how it will affect his family. By ignoring the call, a former student of his is killed while trying to save her daughter.

After hearing the news, Black Lightning has to confront his choice, even if it means it’ll hurt his chances to reunite with his wife. As Black Lightning explores the drawbacks of being a superhero, it doesn’t sacrifice any of the compelling stories of the Pierce family first.

Most important relationship: Jefferson and Lynn

Parents don’t always stay together. It’s just one of those facts of life, and people become more and more familiar with it each passing day. But man, Jeff and Lynn are like my dream version of parents who aren’t together but still know how to effectively communicate with one another for the sake of their children.

Since she’s fully aware of his history and advocated for Black Lightning to retire, Jefferson doesn’t need to keep secrets from Lynn. When he goes out to engage Freeland, whether as Jefferson or Black Lightning, the audience can now expect Lynn to stay at home with the girls. Then, when Jefferson returns, they bring each other up to speed without any of the bickering one might expect. Although their relationship appears to be complicated and still in need of much work, it’s  fun to watch them to try and figure out Anissa’s girlfriend’s name, and I’m glad Black Lightning isn’t writing them to nag at each other or get in each other’s way.

It’s their respect for one another that makes the rest of Black Lightning work. Because of them, I can appreciate Jennifer’s recklessness more, and understand Anissa’s resilience. Plus, I can see why it would be so difficult for Jefferson to get back in the game.

Black Lightning — “LaWanda: The Book of Hope” — Image BLK102a_0168.jpg — Pictured: Cress Williams as Black Lightning — Photo: Guy D’Alema/The CW — © 2018 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

Most intriguing relationship: Anissa and her girlfriend

As promised, Black Lightning delivered on its intent to put an LGBTQ character front and center without making the entire storyline about their sexuality.

When we first see Anissa in bed with her girlfriend, it’s not in secret (Jefferson knows she’s at her girlfriend’s and says it to Henderson like it’s nothing), it’s not just a fling, and they’re not totally clothed or wearing skin-baring-but-not-too-much pajamas. More importantly, neither of them are white. While most audiences members would expect Anissa and her girlfriend to talk about Black Lightning’s reappearance or keep the conversation focused on the lead male character somehow, they instead talk about their “mind-blowing sex,” and their expectations of each other after dating for one year.

Yet, the most unexpected part didn’t happen until Anissa shared her sink-shattering experience that we saw in last week’s episode. She didn’t hesitate. She didn’t stop and think to herself, “This is weird, maybe I shouldn’t say anything.” Where Black Lightning could’ve easily written Anissa to be secretive for the sake of drama, the show let Anissa open up to her girlfriend and confide in her. And, of course, she played it down and tried to convince Anissa it was just some sort of freak accident. But what mattered more was that Anissa could talk about it anyway. In her underwear.

By the end of the episode, it’s confirmed that Anissa’s panic attacks trigger an intense superpowered reaction, so her girlfriend gave her lousy advice, but that’s not her fault anyway.

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My only problem:

What is Gambi’s deal, and why, in the words of Mean Girls, is he such a pusher? How does he have access to Freeland PD? Why doesn’t he just be his own superhero, like be Batman instead of Alfred? Also, where did he buy his glasses from? They’re cool, and I would like to know what made him decide to be the biggest Black Lightning hypeman of all time.

Actually, I guess I have a second problem:

The villain of the series of Tobias Whale, who leads the One Hundred. So far, Marvin “Krondon” Jones III’s charisma leaves much to be desired. Luke Cage’s Cottonmouth (Mahershala Ali) played a similar game, and I wasn’t overwhelmed by that either.

Black Lightning airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on The CW.