"The Book of Occupation: Chapter One: Birth of Blackbird" – Black Lightning S03E01 Review

The new CS season is rolling in this week, and what does that mean? New CW episodes! I already reviewed the Supergirl premiere yesterday, and the Supernatural premiere rolls out this Thursday. Unfortunately, three reviews a week (plus Titans, plus American Horror Story, plus maybe Watchmen and Castle Rock, plus whatever the heck else I stumble across) is about all I have time for. Batwoman is pretty good, if you want to check it out.

Since Black Lightning is a show I started reviewing last year, and I still have time in my weekly reviewing schedule to watch and review it, here we are. With the season premiere, "The Book of Occupation: Chapter One: Birth of Blackbird". The season premiere catches us up on everything that happened at the end of last season. To wit:

Cress Williams, Black Lightning S03E01

Jeff (Cress Williams) is in the meta government containment facility.

Lynn (Christine Adams) is there as the head scientist for the government's meta/Green Light Babies program.

Tobias' (Marvin "Krondon" Jones III) powers have been negated, meaning his real age is catching up to him. And he's imprisoned at the same facility as Jeff and Lynn.

Anissa (Nafessa Williams) is hitting bars and picking up women, while looking for Grace. And has ditched her Thunder costume to become Blackbird.

Jennifer (China Anne McClain) is being all teenage rebellious, and wearing a hologrammatic facial disguise.

Gambi (James Remar) is prowling through the woods and acting all Batman/James Bond-like. And occasionally looks like he's wondering why he doesn't get to play an electricity-based type like he did in the movie Mortal Kombat II.

Damon Gupton, Black Lightning S03E01

Inspector Bill (Damon Gupton) is whining and getting pushed around.

No sign of Khalil (a credited Jordan Calloway).

The city of Freeland is under martial law thanks to the ASA, and is being run by Agent Odell (Bill Duke). And Commander Carson Williams, himself a meta. And played by Warren Snipe, who played a different role last year.

There are several confusing scenes. Early on, Anissa, Reverand Holt (Clifton Powell), and two women we've never seen before are touring the facility. A meta calling himself Cyclotronic attacks the facility and Carson kills him after duplicating Cyclotronic's meta powers. There's also reference to a Markovian strike team that tried and failed to break in. And I'm not sure if the budget is too low or the creative team wants us to think the Markovian threat is just something the U.S. government dreamed up to clamp down.

Since we don't know who the other two women are, and the nature of Carson's meta power isn't very clear, the sequence is confusing. On the way home, one of the women, who we find out is a nurse at the clinic, protests the enslavement of children, and has Holt let her out. Anissa goes with her.

Nafessa Williams, Black Lightning S03E01

A reporter, Jamilah Olsen (cute last name), is reporting on the whole thing. Anissa picks her up later at a bar after learning Grace is on the loose and killing cops. Since they couldn't get Chantai Thuy back to play Grace, they brought in the older actor who played her shapeshifted form from last season. This makes for another confusing sequence since all we see is the older guy after he attacks two cops.

Odell reunited Jeff and Lynn, and Lynn immediately jumps Jeff's bones, because she forgets Jeff's cell is being monitored 24/7, or just figures it isn't. Odell shows up to tell them they're going to be staying in "protective custody" for the immediate future.

Anissa has taken on the identify of Blackbird, and frees some metas from a government transport. Apparently, the ASA has put a giant force field up around Freeland, because they're just that good. Gambi has found a way through it, and Blackbird leads the metas through but gets blasted through by a soldier with a grenade launcher. The breach is resealed in the process.

Carson puts the smackdown on Inspector Bill, telling him to cooperate with the ASA or else. Bill folds like a cheap suit and is soon giving press conferences about Freeland's new martial law.

China Anne McClain, Nafessa Williams, Black Lightning S03E01

Jennifer puts on a hologrammatic facial disguise and goes out, both because she has cabin fever, and because she has to release her powers occasionally or hurt herself. Anissa finds her, reads her the riot act, and they hug because they're sisters. Have I mentioned the family element between Jennifer and Anissa is one of the strengths of Black Lightning? It was, and it still is.

Odell has Issa (Myles Truitt) use his truth-telling powers on the aging Tobias to reveal where the briefcase is. Tobias tells Issa, Proctor from season 1 did the whole thing on POTUS orders, and Odell is following along. Odell then poisons Issa, because Odell is a big ole bag of dicks. To actor Bill Duke's credit, he has Odell convey some regret about killing Issa. Odell also lets Lynn see Issa's body before they ship it to Issa's family. So hopefully, they're going to make Odell a more rounded character than he was last year.

So we end the night with Freeland under martial law, Jeff, Lynn, and Tobias still imprisoned, Anissa trapped outside the citywide force field, Gambi telling Jennifer to go home and wait.

Nafessa Williams, Black Lightning S03E01

Overall, I liked "Birth of Blackbird", even if the title isn't very accurate. Blackbird has been around for awhile and the citizens know about her. If you thought mutants had it tough on The Gifted, you ain't seen nothing yet. The ASA has very thoroughly locked down Freeland, and may or may not be using the threat of the so-far-unseen Markovians to justify their actions.

Since it's 2019 and The CW, we get lesbians, and slavery comparisons, and a Muslim meta (Zoe Renee) who the government has imprisoned after she was dosed with Green Light by her "friends" as a prank. Supposedly, The CW is going to bring Black Lightning into the multiverse with the other CW shows later this season, so I'm looking forward to seeing the dueling social justice platforms of Black Lightning and Supergirl. If the creative teams bother to match them up.

My bet would be on Black Lightning as the winner. We see actual minorities getting oppressed, as opposed to Kara Danvers doing her "I am a white woman, hear me roar!" act. That, and outer-space aliens being oppressed, which raises a lot of questions about the political climate on Supergirl that they're typically too busy with punch outs and soap opera angst to explore. Last year, I often wondered why all the aliens came to Earth. And how the government handled an alien shapeshifter becoming President and the subsequent revelation of it.

Confining the ASA and the American government's involvement in Green Light to one city helps Black Lightning stay a bit more... realistic. U.S. Government = bad, mix in some modern day minority treatment, and the creative team doesn't have to explore all the political and social ramifications.

Even the opening artwork undergoes a stylistic change, looking more... comic bookish.

Overall, I'm looking forward to seeing how the new season of Black Lightning goes. There's nothing bad in the season 3 premiere, other than a few plot-holes. Granted, we're a long way from Jeff = Superhero Becoming Principal and then Coming Out of Retirement. But that plot-line had pretty much played its course anyway. I'm also curious to see how the creative team integrates Black Lightning into the CWverse. Probably, they'll keep it to once-a-year-visits like they do with Supergirl. I'd like to see them compare the anti-meta attitude of the Black Lightning verse with the more relaxed "metas are our heroes" attitude of The Flash. I doubt if we'll get that, but it'd be nice. Imagine Barry in the hands of the ASA.

But that's just my opinion, I could be wrong. What do you think?

Written by Gislef on Oct 8, 2019

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