‘Black Lightning’ Season 3 Premiere Recap: Fascism Comes to Freeland

Bill Duke as Agent Odell. (Photo Credit: Quantrell Colbert / The CW)

New season, new visual style. If this comic page title card is the new way Black Lightning is going to introduce each episode, I might be sold on this season already.

The visuals remain strong once the episode gets going, too. We’re dropped in the middle of an eerily sterile detention center. People are sat at a table and asked the same questions. What are their abilities and when did they start using Green Light. Even if they never used it and came by their powers naturally, or if they don’t have any to begin with, the computer doesn’t accept their answers. A board sketching out the personal data frames the scenes, and it makes for a striking dystopia.

Myles Truitt as Issa Williams. (Photo Credit: Quantrell Colbert / The CW)

Things get more interesting when the third prisoner is revealed: It’s Jefferson. He’s been taken, too. We cut through multiple days of questioning and torturous conditions. At the end of it, the computer tells him to go somewhere for emancipation. The word choice is way on the nose. It is still that show. A news report catches us up to what’s going on. Freeland’s had a rough summer. In the wake of Agent Odell’s news of the coming Markovian war, the ASA put a quarantine on Freeland. They’re arresting people on the street, detaining them in secret facilities and separating children from their families. Yeah, this season’s going there.

It’s not just those facilities, the ASA has turned the whole town into a dystopian police state. Deputy Chief Henderson tries to resist, but the commander in charge of the ASA’s military branch puts a gun in his face, and that’s the end of that argument. Anissa Pierce and a few other nurses from the free clinic are providing healthcare to the detained metahumans when a Markovian meta (we’re told) attacks the facility. The commander has metahuman powers of his own and defeats the attacker handily. Still, the attack provides cover for Odell to keep Jefferson and Lynn Pierce locked up.

Peter Gambi and Anissa Pierce are running a secret operation to weaken the ASA’s hold over Freeland. Their current mission: free the metahumans and sneak them through the ASA’s quarantine. It also turns out that Peter Gambi has the power to copy the ability of any metahuman he comes in contact with. However, his ability comes with a sickness he needs to manage with medication. Peter Gambi calls it a metahuman sickle cell. Because of course he does, this is Black Lightning.

China Anne McClain as Jennifer Pierce and Nafessa Williams as Anissa Pierce. (Photo Credit: Erika Doss / The CW)

If it seems like this show is packing a lot of metaphor and history parallels into one episode…that’s because it is. On the one hand, the show has always been this way and its throw-everything-at-the-wall approach to  politically and historically charged imagery is part of the show’s charm.

There’s a lot going on in general with this episode. It’s the premiere of a new season, so I get it. It has to set up all of the ongoing storylines to be picked up later on. It’s not an easy task, but some of the stuff we care most about only gets lip-service here.

Peter Gambi and Anissa Pierce find audio of Grace Choi turning into a leopard and eating an ASA soldier, and that’s all we get of that story. Meanwhile, Lala [Latavious Johnson] wakes up right at the end of the episode to remind us that he still exists. Where any of these stories are going is impossible to tell. The show just wants to assure us it hasn’t forgotten them.

Myles Truitt as Issa Williams. (Photo Credit: Quantrell Colbert / The CW)

That’s probably the most exciting question this season will grapple with. How much of the Markovian threat is real and how much is the ASA just using it as a cover for their weapons program? By the end of the episode, it appears they’re here in at least some capacity. As Anissa Pierce leads the metahumans through the ASA’s quarantine wall, they’re attacked by a group of Markovian soldiers (we’re told, anyway). Finally, we get some action.

With Black Lightning locked up, this episode was pretty low on superhero fight scenes, but Thunder makes up for it with a fast-paced battle. This show has always had a flair for action, and even without lightning flying across the screen, this group fight scene was just as dynamic and exciting as we’ve come to expect from this show. Unfortunately, Anissa Pierce takes a bullet at the end and falls unconscious to the ground. Now we know the show isn’t going to just kill off Thunder, but it’s still one hell of a cliffhanger to leave us with.

Black Lightning airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on The CW.

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