NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Black Lightning” are present in this review
The ASA’s occupation of Freeland is finally about to hit its limit for the city’s population, as Black Lightning’s overlong and rather underwhelming ‘Book of Occupation’ story pod mercifully comes to a close with Season Three’s fifth episode. “The Book of Occupation: Chapter Five: Requiem for Tavon” has Jefferson and Anissa caught up in a mission to smuggle a wrongfully-accused metahuman back into Freeland, while Jennifer finds herself struggling even more to hide her powers at Garfield High. Meanwhile, Lynn also finds a surprising lead in her mission to cure the dangerous metahuman virus that’s swept Freeland, at the cost of having to ally with an especially unlikely former foe!
True to the recent output from the ‘Book of Occupation’ story pod, “The Book of Occupation: Chapter Five: Requiem for Tavon” is a pretty uneven episode for Black Lightning, balancing some great story ideas with some really contrived ones. Once again, it feels like the whole ASA occupation of Freeland was a better idea in concept than in execution, with a mission to take back the city eventually taking form, albeit at the cost of having to be forced by some pretty unlikely circumstances. Fortunately, this at least allows us to move on from the same old ASA oppression, which Freeland seemingly has to just sit there and take, with no honest hope of truly fixing. For now, we still have more episodes about undeterred ASA oppression in Freeland left to get through, but hopefully the show can at least move on to better storylines in the next story pod.
The best storyline in this episode seems to be Lynn’s, which involves Lynn discovering that Dr. Jace has hidden a metahuman-stabilizing genetic code in the virus that’s infecting Freeland’s citizens. I guess desperate times call for desperate measures, but even by the standards of a DC show, this is pretty ridiculous. Regardless, Lynn finally has a serious shot at creating a metahuman-stabilizing vaccine (if only she could consult The Flash’s Cisco Ramon, eh?), though in order to put it together, she needs to filter it through the genes of one ‘Patient 49′. It turns out that this is the only known ASA serum survivor as well, none other than Tobias Whale! Lynn having to restore Tobias’ youth and power in order to save the rest of Freeland is actually a really smart and unexpected way for Lynn to be the instrument through which Tobias yet again cheats death, even if Tobias nonetheless remains in ASA custody for now. Even better is that Tobias seems to have figured out Lynn’s family’s superhero identities to boot, meaning that if he gets out of The Pit, he won’t be pulling any punches with the Pierce’s!
I also have to admit that the final turn of the episode is pretty good, even if it has to take a bit of a roundabout route to deliver this worthy conclusion. This begins with Henderson having to enforce the ASA’s agenda very publicly, specifically their metahuman identification and capture mission, resulting in predictable anger from Freeland’s citizens. Seemingly left with no other choice but to stay in line with the ASA, Henderson thus finds himself rapidly losing public support. Despite this however, Henderson just seems to keep doubling down, even arresting Two-Bits and Reverend Holt later in the episode! As it turns out though, this is a mere ploy, with Henderson actually serving as the catalyst behind a growing resistance effort, which is beginning to circulate around Freeland. Recruiting Two-Bits and Reverend Holt to join the cause during the final moments of the episode, Henderson thus uses a particular ASA atrocity to spur a rebellion effort within Freeland, thus establishing Henderson as a double agent that’s actually out to unseat the ASA. This is a great turn for Henderson’s character, who hasn’t had many worthwhile storylines so far this season, though hopefully that will be remedied with this brewing resistance effort.
Like I said though, in order to get that maximized impact from the twist of Henderson being about to head up his own rebellion against the ASA, we need to get a spark for that revolution, and it’s mainly here that the episode starts to stumble. Things begin interestingly enough on this note, with the parents of Tavon, the student that was pulled from class at Garfield High recently, begging Jefferson to get their son back. Since these people don’t know that Jefferson is Black Lightning, I’m not sure how they think he’s going to do this, but oh well. Still, these two did ironically come to the right person in their desperation. Thus, as a result of this petition by Tavon’s parents, Jefferson asks Anissa to bring Tavon back through the ASA barrier, and return him to Freeland proper. Unbeknownst to Anissa however, Odell has decided to take out Blackbird at the same time, and primes Khalil to do so, resulting in a pretty awesome Anissa/Khalil duel, even if some quick thinking by Anissa allows her to get away with Tavon. Unfortunately though, Anissa doesn’t successfully prevent Tavon, or herself, from being poisoned by Khalil’s enhanced Painkiller venom in the process.
Tavon’s lethal poisoning at the ASA’s hands, albeit indirectly, is more or less the straw that broke the camel’s back with Freeland’s citizens, and that’s fair enough in theory, but the execution of this otherwise promising turn is a little clumsy. The jig is almost rumbled when Odell comes poking around Anissa’s apartment for example, but this quickly ends up being pointless, since Grace just shapeshifts into Anissa, and Gambi stays in hiding. Sure, this throws Odell off the scent of Anissa being Blackbird, but this feels moot anyway, since Odell already knows that Anissa is Thunder, and will likely soon put together the other end of Anissa’s triple life anyway. Moreover, Khalil poisoning Tavon, despite not being under orders to do so, feels too dramatically inconvenient, especially when Tavon dies soon afterward, and this particular case suddenly has the entirety of Freeland ready to riot. I guess that the losses among the city’s people have been mounting, but what exactly makes Tavon so special? Sure, it’s another transparent allegory for stuff like the Rodney King beatings, but a reference is not enough to single-handedly hold up a story device, Black Lightning! I guess the show just needed an excuse to spark the inevitable resistance to the ASA though, and I guess this is as good an excuse as any.
The Lynn/Tobias interactions, and Henderson being revealed as a new resistance leader in Freeland, manage to elevate a Black Lightning episode that nonetheless feels like a filler offering, transitioning from a clunky story pod into what’s hopefully a better one. One last clunky note for this episode as well is that Jennifer causes a bunch of damage around Garfield High, while glowing (!), and yet somehow, this doesn’t arouse suspicion from anyone, nor does it accomplish much beyond starting another unrealistic ASA fight on the school grounds. Jennifer does discover that Brandon is a metahuman though, after he manages to absorb her out-of-control powers, and that’s at least a decent twist, one that possibly explains why Tavon was falsely identified as a metahuman in Brandon’s place. This turn also fails to fully justify everyone in Freeland all of a sudden deciding to fight the ASA in unison though. Again, I understand the people of Freeland getting fed up with the ASA after so much oppression and so many deaths, especially with Markovia still nowhere in sight, but this all feels like too much of a heel-turn for Freeland’s citizens. “The Book of Occupation: Chapter Five: Requiem for Tavon” may at least do well enough at moving the pieces into place for the show’s next story pod, but despite some of the cooler moments in this episode, it also feels like Black Lightning is still being weighed down by an overall story arc that isn’t truly working that well. Let’s hope that Henderson has a pretty good resistance plan then, because I’m about as sick of ASA rule as anyone actually living in Freeland at this point.
- Cool Blackbird/Khalil confrontation
- Lynn having to work with Tobias to stabilize the metahuman gene
- Henderson masterminding a rebellion against the ASA
- Tavon being a sudden rebellion catalyst is pretty contrived
- Jennifer's powers weirdly not being noticed at Garfield High
- Odell being thrown off Anissa's scent is bound not to last long