NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Black Lightning” are present in this review
Freeland is officially ready to make its stand against the ASA. After teasing the strengthening ranks of the city’s resistance, Black Lightning finally has Freeland properly fighting back, as the show approaches its final duo of episodes for 2019. “The Book of Resistance: Chapter Three: The Battle of Franklin Terrace” features Jefferson and Henderson finally uniting their causes around a common goal, after their old grade school teacher is threatened with eviction from her apartment. While that’s going on, Jennifer and Brandon continue to discuss their histories and powers, while Lynn finds herself with no choice but to work with Tobias, after the ASA prepares to weaponize more metahumans.
The inciting incident of the episode unfolds when Henderson goes to the Pierce home, to tell Jefferson that the ASA are seizing a local apartment building, to use as a barracks for their soldiers. Now that Major Grey is incapacitated, Commander Williams has taken her place as the head of the ASA’s operations, somehow making the organization even more aggressive, which really makes you wonder how the ASA is managing a media blackout this effective, especially after Anissa, Henderson and other resistance members have already snuck several people out of Freeland. I guess one has to suspend their disbelief there, but at least this episode does address this question to some extent, when Gambi and Anissa have to work to set up a signal, in order to broadcast video of what the ASA is really doing in Freeland to the outside world.
The occupation being covered up by a supposed SARS epidemic feels a little dated, especially when more timely pandemic threats like Ebola and Zika might have made more sense, but who knows, maybe SARS was a much bigger problem on Black Lightning’s Earth. In any case, that’s a nitpick, especially since I do like the idea of a media blackout preventing the outside world from knowing about the atrocities being committed by the ASA in Freeland, and Gambi working with one of the technopathic pod kids in order to get word out. Anissa, meanwhile, has to double time it between this Gambi storyline, and the core storyline with Jefferson and Henderson, but word finally reaching places outside of Freeland nonetheless provides a good way to start wrapping up the show’s ongoing occupation arc, before the Black Lightning characters presumably get thrown into The CW’s imminent Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover event.
I have to say as well that the core storyline involving Jefferson and Henderson defending the old apartment building at Franklin Terrace, which is where they choose to make their formal stand against the ASA, is pretty awesome for the most part. Jefferson re-connecting with his former grade school teacher, and motivating Henderson to rally the resistance and defend the building, is all good stuff, especially when Jefferson finally agrees to publicly suit up for the resistance as Black Lightning. Anissa even returns to her old Thunder identity for this battle, which is equally satisfying. It does however feel disappointing that both Williams and Khalil are defeated ridiculously easily though, especially after Khalil has been more or less untouchable in all of his previous appearances this season, only to be easily neutralized by Thunder here, an opponent that previously struggled to beat him, in barely a minute’s time. Likewise, Williams taking a serum that gives him Jefferson’s electricity-based powers is pretty cool, but Williams idiotically overloading himself in the same short span of time is really anti-climactic and disappointing. Why are the ASA’s heavy hitters suddenly looking so weak and incompetent?
Likewise, the Jennifer/Brandon subplot was once again fairly underwhelming here. It feels like the show doesn’t know what to do with Jennifer lately, since she’s not ready to formally take the fight to the ASA alongside her father and her sister, yet is still a powerful metahuman that constantly needs to be benched, so as not to provide an upset to the show’s other story arcs. So, Jennifer is left to once again spend an entire subplot gabbing with Brandon. This would be fair enough, but yet again, Jennifer’s and Brandon’s conversations really aren’t doing much for the show’s overall narrative at this point. Sure, we learn some new information here, namely Brandon’s reasons for wanting to hunt down and kill Dr. Jace, but this still does little more than eat up runtime in the episode, especially when a more interesting battle is going on elsewhere in Freeland.
This just leaves the Lynn subplot, which is at least a little better. After Lynn continues extracting blood from Tobias, and using it to perform metahuman stabilization research, Tobias starts poking at Lynn’s silent knowledge that the ASA will inevitably use Lynn’s research to weaponize a new wave of metahumans. Lynn initially shuts Tobias out, but eventually, she is forced to realize the truth. Tobias thus makes Lynn admit to herself that the only way to prevent more metahumans from being turned into living weapons by the ASA is to free him from The Pit. This is more or less a convenient excuse to re-install Tobias as a threat for Black Lightning’s back portion of episodes in 2020, but Lynn being the one to free Tobias, using her research to temporarily appropriate Maryam’s camouflage abilities in order to sneak him out, feels like a satisfying result, with some great dramatic potential, once Jefferson inevitably finds out. This turn finally provides a payoff to Maryam’s especially heavy featuring from earlier in the season as well, to the point where she even served as the titular character in this season’s second episode.
Black Lightning is now focusing its storyline nicely around the climactic confrontation with the ASA, even if there are still some hiccups in the storytelling. “The Book of Resistance: Chapter Three: The Battle of Franklin Terrace” provided a fitting point for Freeland to start making a proper stand against the ASA, particularly now that Black Lightning is putting aside his differences with Henderson, and proudly standing for the liberation of his city. Considering that this season has had frustratingly little Black Lightning in many of its episodes so far, it was especially awesome to see Jefferson get to earnestly light up a good portion of ASA soldiers here, even if the so-called ‘boss battles’ from Khalil and Williams ended up being disappointingly weak. Still, Lynn finally capitulating to freeing Tobias, and Gambi working with one of the pod kids to get word out about Freeland’s occupation, also rounded off the episode nicely, even if Jennifer’s subplot once again feels dull and unrewarding for the time being. Hopefully Jennifer at least gets a payoff next week though, since Black Lightning’s Earth is primed to come under threat during the Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover event that starts next week, a crossover that we already know will finally link Black Lightning to The CW’s other DC shows of past and present. On that note, wouldn’t it be so tragically ironic if Jefferson freshly saved his city, only to immediately lose his entire Earth?
- Black Lightning standing with the resistance at Franklin Terrace
- Gambi having to fight a thick media blackout
- Lynn capitulating to freeing Tobias
- Jennifer/Brandon subplot is still tedious
- Khalil and Williams go down way too easily