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Black Lightning Takes You to Church in “LaWanda: The Book of Burial”

Black Lightning


This episode of Black Lightning takes place in a space foreign to me—the black church. I went to Catholic school as a kid, even though I am not Catholic myself, and growing up my parents were not super religious so the dynamics of “black church” that I see on modern black sitcoms is not part of my personal blackness. Yet, it shows up so often, even on this show, that it is impossible to ignore that in the black community faith, God, and the church play a powerful role in identity. I mean we even get a new character named Grace.

We are introduced to Reverand Holt, who is leading the church in mourning for LaWanda, who was murdered in the previous episode. He uses her death as a way to spur the congregation into action. He wants to take 100 parishioners and march in protest to The One Hundred Gang.

This is not a great plan.

We’ve already been shown that The One Hundred don’t have respect for the community: they use children as drug pushers, sex traffic young girls, and have zero issue with snatching kids out of schools. Yet, I’m not surprised that this is the solution Holt comes to. This is the role the black church has often played in fighting for a sense of community, bringing people together in peaceful protest against injustice.

What I am glad to see is that Black Lightning‘s exploration into black faith doesn’t whitewash the complexity of the church itself. Henderson brings up that Reverand Holt is wearing a $25,000 watch and wipes his head with a silk handkerchief.  Even during the march, Holt is easily the best dressed. We are introduced properly to Jill Scott’s Lady Eve, who looks amazing, but also states that “the Good Book keeps people in line.” God and the church can be used for multiple purposes: to inspire, to instill obedience, or to cash in on. Everyone uses it differently.

Lady Eve

Jill Scott as Lady Eve

The march itself is kinda…dull. The protesters softly chant “Freedom” holding red candles, but it looks so small and inconsequential that it seems almost comical that Tobias and Lady Eve saw it as a threat to begin with. I mean yes, it could be the spark that will light the fire that will burn the First Order—wait, wrong hope franchise. While we did get to see Jefferson’s training paying off with him creating both an electric shield and doing a more streamlined lightning attack, I couldn’t really find myself being moved when they start singing Amazing Grace to Black Lightning. I get the intention of it, but I found myself agreeing with Uncle Ruckus-Tobias when he went “Are they singing? They are singing!”

Plus, Jefferson may have been called “Black Jesus” at one point. It just seems a little like idolatry to be singing that song to someone who’s not actually God/Jesus, but I’m a heathen so what do I know?

Holt gets shot by Tobias’ henchwoman and the bullet, somehow, manages to also hit Jennifer’s boyfriend Khalil. Jefferson is forced to flee as the police approach.


Grace and Anissa at a cosplay party

The most interesting turn of events happens in the last few minutes with Gambi deleting security footage from the march of Tobias as he says “sorry Jefferson.” It seems that our father-figure and mentor may have dual loyalties when it comes to this fight against The One Hundred.

Anissa’s storyline is a little messy this episode, though we are treated to an excellent Spider-Man moment of her starting to understand her powers and visits a junkyard to learn how to access her super strength. She then goes to a bookstore and meets her new love interest, Grace, who works at the store, but is also a comic-book-loving bartender. Win-win-win. However, this does mean that Anissa’s girlfriend gets unceremoniously dumped in order to make way for Grace.  I wasn’t a fan of this, not only because it has her ex make a bigot-ass comment towards Grace for being Asian, but it just doesn’t really gel with what we’ve seen of them so far. Anissa said they weren’t working, but they seemed okay. I am sad to see them introduce a black lesbian couple just to toss it aside so easily, especially when Anissa could have just been single from the start.

My fave, Jennifer, doesn’t really get much to do plot-wise, but her role as youngest Pierce daughter brings some family issues to the surface. She is ready to have sex and talks to her parents like a mature young lady, but they, of course, freak out, because that is what parents do on these shows. Jennifer is basically the bridge between Jefferson and Lynn at this point so any signs pointing towards her independence force her parents to recognize how much they mean to each other. What I did think was kind of weak is that all tension about Jennifer’s loss of virginity is put on hold when Khalil is shot, and Jennifer reveals that he may never walk again.

For a moment I thought maybe they should talk to Felicity about it, but then I remembered that this is a different universe. It was a very melodramatic way of handling the issue and unless this is going to spur Jennifer towards her own hero/power/unveiling, it just rings false.


  • “The Outsiders” is an actual DC comic series with an original lineup of  Batman, Metamorpho, Geo-Force, Katana, Halo and, gasp, Black Lightning.
  • While Jefferson’s intimidation technique about “athlete’s foot” with Khalil was funny, I was more concerned that he just uses soap to clean himself. You telling me this boy doesn’t use a wash rag?
  • It is weird seeing Samantha’s worst ex, Richard, being a father figure on this show. Every time I see Gambi I want to throw a martini in his face for kicks.
  • I was really touched by the Lynn/Anissa scene. It is great to see a black lesbian character be treated with such love and care. Not to mention she’s basically bulletproof!

What did you guys think of  “LaWanda: The Book of Burial” and what exactly is Gambi up to?

(image: The CW)

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Princess (she/her-bisexual) is a Brooklyn born Megan Fox truther, who loves Sailor Moon, mythology, and diversity within sci-fi/fantasy. Still lives in Brooklyn with her over 500 Pokémon that she has Eevee trained into a mighty army. Team Zutara forever.