6:00 pm EST, February 11, 2020

‘Black Lightning’ season 3, episode 13 review: The team-up episode of my dreams

Black Lightning season 3, episode 13 absolutely delivered, giving us great fight scenes, emotional character moments and a brand new fantastic villain.

The Justice League…WHO? The Avengers…WHAT? The X-Men…HUH?

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Believe me when I say that I do not even care about any of those superhero teams right now; I only care about the Black Lightning team-up from this episode.

Because what an episode this was! I mentioned in my review for last week’s Black Lightning that the writers of this show are so good that they even managed to elevate a table-setting episode, which is what last week clearly was.

Given how good that table-setting episode was, I was both excited and anxious to see this week’s episode. Excited because I was sure it would be absolutely insane in the best way possible, but anxious to see if it could live up to not only the great writing, directing and acting of last week’s episode, but the hype that it instilled in me about this episode.

Well, reader, I should not have been worried at all. The Black Lightning writers absolutely delivered, with “Grab the Strap” being one of my favorite — if not just favorite — episodes of the entire season, and maybe even the entire series (so far).

The shaky writing, erratic pace and frustrating character choices from just a few episodes are nowhere to be found here, leaving us with an episode that shows us Black Lightning at its absolute finest. Every character has their moment to shine in this episode — whether that be in a kick-ass action scene or in an emotional character moment, the writing is tightly focused — and the acting is just divine.

This episode made me cheer out loud multiple times, let loose a few expletives in excitement, and reminded me all over again why Black Lightning is truly the superior DCCW show.

Black Lightning season 3, episode 13 review

Tobias Whale

First off, for someone who loves a great villain as much as I love a great villain, this episode was a veritable buffet for me. And not one of those subpar buffets with only one or two types of food, but the kind that has a sushi bar, a bbq station and a chocolate fountain in addition to an exorbitant amount of food.

First off in this episode, you have Dr. Jace, who is certifiably insane, but is an absolute and total hoot now that she’s a relatively de-fanged prisoner here forced to work opposite to Lynn. Lynn having the upper hand in Markovia completely changes the dynamic between these two women in a way that makes Dr. Jace feel like a goofy wine aunt rather than a worrisome antagonist she’s been in the past. And look, I know…I KNOW Dr. Jace is truly a sociopath. But she just makes me laugh so much, so I do hope she sticks around, even if Brandon has justifiable hate against her.

Then, you also have a little bit Tobias Whale sprinkled in. Not enough, which is my only minor nitpick, but even a little is enough seasoning to make this episode extra delicious.

Although Jefferson is all about getting Lynn back, the ASA tells him it can’t exclusively be about Lynn — they also need Tobias in order to stabilize and save the Freeland metahumans. Jefferson initially balks at this, but he’s a softy and a pragmatist who isn’t just going to let a bunch of kids die, so while the rest of the team goes off to get Lynn, Jefferson makes sure to rescue Tobias.

As you know (or should know) from my previous reviews, I love me some Tobias Whale. I think he’s such a fantastic and interesting antagonist, and I really enjoy his charisma and dynamic with basically everyone he’s ever interacted with. The earlier part of this season gave us a lot of A+ amusing and fun interactions between he and Lynn, and while this episode gives us none of that, it does give us the Tobias and Jefferson reunion I have been waiting for season episode one.

Tobias, of course, wastes no time at all letting Jefferson know that he now knows Black Lightning’s ‘secret’ identity and in antagonizing him to the fullest extent. These two bantered like the mismatched partners at the beginning of a buddy cop movie and I loved every single moment of it. We don’t get too much, as Jefferson does have to actually fight everyone and get them both to safety, but I am positively salivating at the thought of these two being forced to team-up for an episode in the near future to fight against the ASA and/or the Markovians. Or both! I’m not picky.

Gravedigger in Black Lightning

However, as great as both Dr. Jace and Tobias Whale were in this episode, they paled in comparison to Wayne Brady’s Gravedigger.

I’m not all that familiar with Black Lightning’s comic history or rogues gallery, so I had no real feelings about Wayne Brady being cast as Gravedigger except for a vague feeling of curiosity given that I only know Wayne Brady from his many hilarious appearances on the improv show Whose Line Is It Anyway?.

Now that I’ve seen Wayne Brady as Gravedigger, I just want to say that I would like him to play this character forever and for always and also — oh my God, I did not think Wayne Brady had this in him. While I would’ve expected a comedian of Wayne Brady’s caliber to throw in a little camp into his performance, his Gravedigger is all cold charm and steely intimidation, with the relentless confidence of a villain who always knows what he wants and gets it.

Yes, he kind of randomly appears out of nowhere, and it’s strange that we have never heard of him before this episode. But, Gravedigger is so cool and so menacing that I can forgive the show for just dropping him in an episode. Gravedigger is not only super strong and super competent, he also has the metahuman power to compel people with his voice, which is quite a trifecta of abilities. He is an impressive force in his Black Lightning debut, and I could easily see him as the actual big bad for the season — or a recurring big bad throughout the run of the show.

I feel like he might be the first supervillain of the show to match up with all of the members of team Black Lightning, whether that be in terms of strength, intellect or superhuman powers. In fact, he’s such a great and competent villain that he very nearly wins it all in this episode, and I was so impressed with his powers and abilities that I had no problem believing that he could.

However, you know what they say: A supervillain is only as good as the hero they’re up against (no one says this — it’s actually the other way around).

And lucky for us and Lynn, the supersquad that’s assembled to come to her rescue is a formidable force. As is the case with all superhero team-up storylines, the start of the team-up is riddled with petty fights, rising tension and substantial doubts about the prognosticated success of the said team-up.

Luckily, Black Lightning doesn’t spend too much time on this part of the arc, giving us just enough to know that things didn’t come together easily but not lingering on the conflict because it knows what we’re all there to see — everyone together and kicking ass.

And what a joyful sequence of kicking ass it is! Like I said earlier in this review, everyone gets their time to shine — Grace shapeshifts, Erica (the ASA funded metahuman) uses her kinetic power to blast down a door, Brandon makes an earthquake happen — but its the stars of the show who really get the spotlight and rightfully so.

Anissa gets to whoop ass using her powers and hand to hand combat skills, Jefferson gets to beat down Markovian soldiers with glee and Jen gets to light people up with her powers and toss them aside as if they were ragdolls.

But the real crowning achievement of action in this episode had to be Khalil’s fight with Gravedigger, which is just a beautifully choreographed fight scene that could stand toe to toe with any Netflix Marvel show I SAID WHAT I SAID.

We’ve watched Khalil as Painkiller beat down almost everyone this season, so to see him get his ass so handily beat really hammers how just how skilled of a fighter Gravedigger is.

After beating down Khalil, we also watch him best Black Lightning with a stun gun and appear in the episode’s final moments to demand that Lynn remain in Markovia. Like I said, he very nearly wins it all — until Jefferson fly-stumbles in and promptly zaps him into unconsciousness. Gravedigger may be a powerful villain, but Jefferson is just as powerful of a superhero and he has love supercharging him into victory.

I freaking love this show so much.

Stray thoughts and lingering questions

  • The first five minutes or so of the episode focus on Jefferson reflecting on his relationship with Lynn, what she means to him and the sadness of her addiction. In such a frenetic and fast paced episode filled with fight scenes, I was glad that it started out on such a quiet and emotional note. This is the reflection and emotion that I’ve been missing from Jefferson about Lynn specifically these last few episodes.
  • I absolutely loved the look Khalil gave to Jen after she easily used her powers to disarm those Markovian soldiers and I am ready for them to be a battle couple together. I know I was on the Brandon and Jen train for a little bit, but I’m fully back on S.S. Jen x Khalil.
  • TC doesn’t get much to do except for being endearingly awkward, and I’m all about it. Yet, every day I’m more and more sure of the fact that the show is grooming him to replace Gambi…
  • Anissa doesn’t trust Khalil which is, you know, fair, but she also wants Jen to forgive her, like right now, for keeping it a secret that Khalil was alive — which is, you know, not fair.
  • Everyone is back home next week and ready to fight for Freeland. I cannot wait!!

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