Good things come to those who wait. After two episodes of setup, Black Lightning and his team finally drop in on the Markovians for a super-powered battle that doesn’t skimp on special effects or fight choreography. The rescue mission doesn’t go quite as planned, but it doesn’t disappoint, either. And we get a pretty great special guest to boot. Spoilers follow for Black Lightning Season 3, Episode 13, “Book of Markovia Chapter Four: Grab the Strap”
“Grab the Strap”
When shows are getting ready for a big episode, they’ll often surround it with a low-key episode with lots of talking inside indoor sets. We had two somewhat frustrating episodes of setup that were leading up toward something big and, indeed, Black Lightning made good on its promise.
The episode starts with Jeff having a drink as he talks about his past as Black Lightning. It’s clear he’s talking to someone, and that there’s a recording device present, but it’s not clear at first who he’s talking with. He talks about how he didn’t pick the title Black Lightning; the press gave it to him. It’s clear that Jeff wears the Black Lightning mantle heavily. He’s talking to Gambi, who has acted as his father figure for most of his life.
The team, which includes Jeff, Gambi, Jennifer, Anissa, Grace, TC, Brandon, the ASA defector, Major Gray, and the ASA-approved metahuman Erica, is struggling to prepare for the infiltration mission. Team members are arguing and clashing; they don’t know each other well and have perfectly good reasons to distrust other members of the team. Jennifer approaches Khalil about joining them, but he’s adamant that getting onto the battlefield again is a bad idea.
Meanwhile, in Markovia, the general is pushing Lynn Stewart to work faster on her metahuman stabilization serum, but his shock device doesn’t seem to have an effect on her mental resistance.
Enter Wayne Brady.
What?! That’s right. Wayne Brady of Whose Line is it Anyway? plays the villain this week in the form of Gravedigger, a powerful metahuman who not only has superhuman strength and speed, but he can control people with his voice. He uses his ability to force Lynn to work, and we see how it remains in effect long after she’s gone. Eventually, she figures out that her addiction is the key: she takes some Green Light and that puts her brain into overdrive, letting her resist Gravedigger’s voice command long enough to trick him into giving her access to his own blood.
Jeff’s team is getting ready to head over, but first, we have a few moments meant to sow a little doubt into the team. TC is starting to get weird; he approaches Erica and touches her hair without her permission, which seems creepy. While he’s doing that, ASA Sargeant Grayle is watching them from his phone.
On the plane, though, we discover that not only does TC know that Grayle was watching, but that he deactivated the chip in Erica’s neck that would’ve made her kill Lynn. This is a nice little bit of redirection that the show lets linger just long enough to get us doubting.
On the way out of the ASA building, Khalil also joined the team, because there’s no way he wasn’t going to.
This is where it gets good
The team touches down, starting with Black Lightning smashing down with an explosive lighting blast, and this is where the show starts to get good. The initial infiltration goes well, with Grace beating up a couple of Markovian guards while shifted into the Markovian General’s form.
Jeff, Anissa, and Erica run into a roadblock in the form of a door that’s thick enough to resist Anissa’s strength and wired to dissipate Jeff’s lightning. Erica’s ability is a bit like T’Challa’s suit in Black Panther, though, allowing her to absorb energy and output it all at once. And so Jeff has Anissa throw a bunch of full-strength punches into the girl, which she then uses to blast the door. I always enjoy it when superhero stories mix and match superhero powers. Anime is good at this; superhero shows less so.
Brandon gets to use his earth-quaking power, and we find out that Lynn has borrowed and temporarily borrowed Gravedigger’s power. She uses it to take control of the Markovian general Mosin and gives him the shock collar he’d put on her.
Fists of Fury
While that’s happening, Khalil comes up against Gravedigger. The latter’s powers don’t work because Khalil is so full of cybernetics that his nervous-system-controlling power can’t take effect.
The fight between these two is fast, acrobatic, and exciting. Dare I say it’s on par with Arrow‘s awesomely choreographed fight sequences. The scene cuts a lot to let stuntmen do the work, but we get enough close-up shots of Khalil fighting to remind us that Jordan Calloway has a knack for stunt work.
I know who you are
Black Lightning is forced to rescue his arch-enemy and the man who killed his father, Tobias Whale, who takes no small pleasure in taunting the hero, having figured out earlier year who Black Lightning is. I do like that Tobias figured out Black Lightning’s identity simply by being observant and by Jefferson being careless. It would’ve been easy to have someone betray Jeff or to do some computer-hacky thing.
This way, though, it shows that Tobias is as intelligent as he is mean, and it doesn’t introduce some wacky drama or deus tech machina into the story. It’s just a smart, dangerous villain doing what he does best.
While that’s happening, Brandon tries to kill Jace in a scene that would read as hackneyed if it wasn’t a teenager trying to get revenge for his mom’s death. Of course he says some cringe-y stuff. Sargeant Grayle stops him, though. We’re given a split second here to think Grayle finally betrayed the team, but instead, we find Jace handcuffed on the helicopter.
By the skin of their teeth
Everyone but Anissa and Jeff make it back with time to spare. Jeff ended up downed by Gravedigger’s energy gun, but manages to stumble his way out at the last second and pump Gravedigger full of lightning. I desperately hope Gravedigger isn’t dead, because I want to see more of Wayne Brady as a villain, please.
This episode ended up being worth the wait. We have multiple awesome fight sequences, some fun special effects, and lots of tense moments before the team escapes intact. Next week appears to be another banger as the Markovian army descends on Freeland, forcing Black Lightning to protect the city once again.
Even with the last two episodes being pretty down, Black Lightning season 3 continues to be my favorite Arrowverse show this year, and this episode is a great reminder why.