Red Stewart reviews the thirteenth episode of Black Lightning season 3…
In spite of my fears, Black Lightning managed to deliver another mostly solid episode following the surprisingly enjoyable “Motherless Id” from last week. That episode set-up the events of “Grab the Strap” wherein Jefferson headlines a plan to break into a Markovian facility to rescue Lynn.
To do this, he assembles a team consisting of his daughters, Grace, TC, Gambi, Grayle, Brandon, and an ASA podkid named Moran. I had hoped that things would begin with the characters dropping straight into the action, but the episode instead started with everyone dealing with the aftermath of a failed rescue op simulation. I suppose this made sense- having some sort of training session for the characters before they begin such a major initiative, but the problem is we don’t even see this simulation play out. Either because of budgetary or time constraints it’s left out of the episode, yet we’re expected to get a feel for the internal conflicts that its failure has created.
Despite some good acting it just doesn’t work. Grayle, for example, is angry at Brandon because he’s apparently the “weakest link” every time they run a scenario, but because I didn’t see how exactly Brandon messed up, I can’t get a feel for either side’s point-of-view. Jefferson, too, is finding it hard to be a leader of this ragtag group, prompting Major Grey to attempt to convince him to use ASA commandos instead, but how exactly did he fail to lead? Was it with regards to giving orders, executing a strategy? I just don’t know.
Though this is a significant narrative flaw to start out “Grab the Strap” with, the strong characterizations really alleviated their effects. Seeing TC try (and fail) to flirt with Moran, for instance, had a subtle charm to it. Having Jefferson confide in Gambi that he doesn’t know what being a hero means anymore had a solid gravitas to it. And even witnessing Moran and Jennifer having an offhand conversation in the background gave a wholesome feeling to these individuals.
Khalil is provided his own intersecting subplot within all this as well wherein he debates whether or not he should join the team or abandon Freeland altogether. Here, I have to admit I was disappointed with the direction- considering “Grab the Strap” takes place (at best) only a few days after “Motherless Id,” I felt Khalil should still be completely mentally broken from the realization that he murdered his own mother. That he talks about it with Jen as though it was simply a regrettable memory felt very off. This uneasiness over him getting over the tragedy is partially offset by Anissa’s justifiably suspicious attitude towards him. She’s seen him poison Tayvon and almost kill her, so her hostility feels very reasonable, even as it does put strain on her relationship with Jen.
The actual mission plays out pretty good. Yes, it still has the past glaring issues of a top government facility being guarded by incompetent security that are even more useless than Stormtroopers, but the writing/choreography made good use of each person’s powers as it pertained to the overall strategy. Examples include Grace using her shapeshifting to impersonate Mosin to get access to the camera room and Moran utilizing her kinetic absorption to burst down a locked door amongst others.
Wayne Brady, of course, makes his debut here as the Markovian supervillain Gravedigger. While Brady’s natural charisma prevented Gravedigger from being an intimidating figure, it did give him a unique personality that prevented him from being a generic antagonist like Commander Williams. Unfortunately, for all his tactical proficiency, the writers made the decision to have him not only get easily outsmarted by Lynn and Jace, but also lose badly to Jefferson. Given the amount of time devoted to establishing him as this formidable threat, it was especially disappointing to witness him fall so far in his first appearance. It didn’t help things either that Brady’s stunt double was very obvious to pinpoint.
His defeat and Khalil’s lack of remorse were the two facets that hurt the entertainment factor of “Grab the Strap,” but I’d be lying if I said there weren’t other highlights. From Tobias revealing to Jefferson his knowledge of his identity to having Brandon go crazy over finally meeting Dr. Jace, there was a lot to enjoy. Here’s hoping the follow-up entries maintain this level of entertainment.
Rating – 6/10