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We Can Be Heroes, Er Superheroes?

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Supergirl Season 2 Reviews: Episode 10, “We Can Be Heroes”

She’s baaaack! That’s right, Livewire has returned to Supergirl and we couldn’t be more thrilled to see her. We (Gretchen and Elizabeth) think that Livewire is an excellent nemesis for our girl in blue, even if it makes us miss Cat Grant more (*sniff*). Plus we get all the space family feels. And M’gann. Our precious M’gann. And Sanvers fluff.

Awwww

Quick Recap

Training montage with Kara and Mon El (the new DEO has some sweet training facilities); yay Kara getting to be a superhero mentor! Maggie and some fellow officers find some baddies Guardian left in a trash pile, but James got shot taking them down, so Winn tells him it’s time to tell Kara. M’gann has a seizure in her cell, but when J’onn goes to check on her, she screams until the glass shatters and faints. Alex agrees to run tests and J’onn is totes not worried about her okay? Livewire is in therapy—it’s not helping. A guard frees an inmate and they both attack the therapist to get to Livewire. Alex tells J’onn that M’gann is dying psychologically and asks him to do the mind meld to save her, but he refuses. Kara complains about Livewire to James, who advises Kara against letting Mon El help her. They see Livewire attack the NCPD on one of his monitors in his office, only when Kara and Mon El arrive it turns out not to be her after all. It’s the guard and inmate. Kara tells Mon El to protect the cops, but he chooses to help her instead. Thankfully, the Guardian shows up to protect the cops. When he’s knocked out, Kara takes off his helmet to discover James underneath. Cue the awkward confessions. James explains that he was never meant to live in Superman’s shadow, but Kara wants to protect him because he’s human. James points out that Mon El put people in danger and that Kara should not get to decide who gets to be a hero. Kara says she’s going to stop him.

You’re right, Livewire. Mon El’s ‘supersuit’ was rather blah. Why did he have orange tinted glasses?

Back at the DEO, Alex reminds J’onn that M’gann helped him, but he doesn’t want to help her because he might end up forgiving her. Kara confronts Mon El about his recklessness and asks him point blank if he’s doing it because he likes her. He denies it. She goes to find Livewire, who we see in the next shot is strapped down in a chair in some basement with Lab Man. At the DEO, security footage tells them Livewire was captured, not freed, and Winn lies about knowing where she is so he and James can track her down themselves, only Mon El overhears.

J’onn attempts the mind meld with M’gann with Kara and Alex to support him. M’gann is trapped in her memory of the day she broke ranks. J’onn processes her experiences with her, forgives her, and brings her back (cue ugly sobbing). Livewire learns that Lab Man is making copies of her to turn into super soldiers. Guardian shows up to rescue her? Capture her? Mon El joins the fray. Winn calls Kara to rescue the boys, whom Lab Man had taken captive. She rescues the boys and frees Livewire. Livewire and Kara team up (!!) to take down Lab Man and Kara lets Livewire go to spare his life. J’onn threatens to fire Winn if he ever lies again, but not before complimenting him and Guardian. Kara decides she can’t support James and Winn putting themselves in danger, but she won’t stop them. M’gann tells J’onn that White Martians are coming to get her. Mon El confesses his feelings for Kara but understands she doesn’t feel the same way and wants to move on.

Best Quote: “Forgiveness isn’t something you give to somebody who’s hurt you, forgiveness is something that you give to yourself.”—Alex Danvers

Thoughts & Feelings

We’re going to start with our fave Kryptonian puppy. Tonight felt…off. Gretchen’s initial reaction was ‘out of character’. Since when does Kara tell human beings they can’t be heroes? After talking about it, it felt more clear to both of us that what she actually means is that humans can’t be superheroes, as in they are soft, squishy, and mortal. Kara’s dialogue seems to support this theory, but it is just that; we are not in the writers heads, unfortunately. But she did have an “I’m a hero, powers or no” scene last episode, for heaven’s sake. Turning right around to tell James he can’t be a hero because he’s a human didn’t make sense, especially when viewed in the context of the rest of the season.

By the end of the episode she sounds more like what we’d expect. She doesn’t see the need for James and Winn to put themselves in danger when she already saw them as heroes doing what they were doing before. Which is precisely what we’ve been saying this whole time. James’ and Winn’s decision to be superheroes flies in the face of the show’s message that “we can be heroes” without needing to be superheroes. And if James doesn’t want to be the guy behind the desk maybe he should quit Catco so someone else can give it the attention it needs.

At the same time, Kara literally just found out that her two best friends were lying to her for months. She knows what aliens and bad guys they faced. She knows they could have been hurt or killed. Of course she’s going to overreact a little and feel protective. Not to mention that she almost lost J’onn, M’gann, Mon El, and the entire alien population of National City in “Medusa”. And, you know, she lost her planet. Losing people is a sore spot for her, as is people lying to her. Remember dealing with that all of S1? Alex, her mother, J’onn, her father—none of that has gone away. Alex did try to warn James about Kara not taking lying lightly, yet he chose to keep lying anyway. But really, James shouldn’t need to be warned; it’s not like he wasn’t there when all of this was going on in season one. He remembers how Kara reacted. He shouldn’t need Alex to spell it out for him.

As if that weren’t enough emotional struggle for Kara in one day, she gets Mon El confessing his feelings for her. She’s been here before. That pained look on her face (which Elizabeth felt deep in her soul… Like same girl. Same.) was most likely her reliving what happened with Winn in S1 when he said he had feelings for her and she didn’t reciprocate. Girl can’t catch a break. Every single male her age on the show has been a romantic interest. This isn’t entirely surprising, as Kara is a warm, happy, intelligent, beautiful woman who lights up the world like sunlight. But as far as tropes go, this is yet another one that desperately needs to get its sticky fingers off our favorite show. Can we just cool it for a while with the gentlemen suitors? Please. Kara doesn’t need a romantic interest right now. Give her a break from men throwing themselves at her please. And then maybe make Supercorp happen. Or Superwire. Or Superlane. Obviously we have a slight bias here, but we mean this genuinely: we don’t care if the wlw ships never sail, we are just 200% over Kara having to beat off romantic suitors with a stick. Let her live.

Speaking of Mon El, lordy where to even start tonight. He continues to not listen to Kara like a petulant child, even after she tells him multiples times to protect the cops and leave her be. Were this a one time deal, we might be willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and say he’s ‘overcome’ with feelings. But this is a pattern with Mon El. No matter how frequently he professes to care about and for Kara, he refuses to respect her. Because part of respecting her is learning to let her ‘no’ be ‘no’ and her ‘go away’ be ‘go away. He’s not being romantic, he’s being a paternalistic asshole. Then he tries to convince her that him kissing her is all in her head. Yay gaslighting. So loving.

We were hopeful that the final scene would be him coming over to apologize and admit he wasn’t ready. But no, we get yet another scene of a young man word vomiting his feelings onto a clearly uncomfortable Kara. Hats off to Melissa Benoist for nailing that deeply uncomfortable body language; she looks ready to crawl out of her own skin just to get out of the conversation. We struggled to get through this scene the first time through because we were deeply worried it was going to end with a kiss; it was genuinely distressing to watch.

The conversation also entirely misses the point. The issue was never that he lied about kissing her (or lied about remembering, though these are both their own separate issues. Don’t think for a second we are cool with either of these things). It was his lack of respect, his failure to listen to her, his apologies and promises to do better that never amounted to any visible change in his behavior toward her. Those are the things Mon El ought to be apologizing for, in addition to lying. His monologue amounted to “sorry I lied about kissing you and didn’t listen to you, but I like you, so it’s fine. And hey, I know you don’t like me so let’s just move on. Teamwork!” At least we got an awkward high-five out of it.

More awkward that the fist bump last week.

This ‘lol he’s so awkward’ persona and goofy culture clash antics don’t make up for his selfishness, and quite frankly they are getting more grating and unbelievable by the minute. We are both 200% done with this plot that wore out its welcome six episodes ago. We desperately hope this episode is the end of it. Yet again, we dare to dream.

On to the good end of the feels spectrum: J’onn and M’gann. Gretchen has been desperate for this interaction for weeks, and it lived up to all of her expectations. There is so much potential for impact in the story of forgiving someone partly responsible for the death of your race and culture. Our only frustration is that it didn’t get more screentime over the season. Supergirl is about forgiveness and second chances.

Tonight, J’onn faced his anger and hate and it felt honest and true-to-life. His initial resistance to helping her because she’s a war criminal evolves into his reluctant admission that he doesn’t want to share his good memories with her. The mindmeld is an incredibly intimate and vulnerable act. J’onn does not want to open himself up that much with his enemy. But it’s more even than that. The vulnerability goes both ways. She would see him, but he would also see her. And he doesn’t want to see her as a person, someone with the potential for both good and evil.

“I don’t want to forgive her…hate becomes your reason for living when you’ve lost everything that you love. If I find that there was some good in their kind. If I don’t hate her…”

…Then what does he have left? That’s the unfinished sentence. He doesn’t want, or even know how, to give his hate up without losing a piece of himself.

Yet deep down, he already knows that she is not who she thinks she is. He knows that she risked uncovering her own identity to save his life. When prompted by Alex, he begrudgingly admits that he ‘suspects’ the truth of her helping his people on Mars. You’re not fooling us, space dad, you know. Which is what makes this arc so compelling; J’onn is fighting himself, his instincts, his fear, and his very reasonable hatred of the race that committed a genocide of which he is the sole survivor. His resistance is compellingly raw and very real. We’ve both felt this way at some point about people who have hurt us.

It makes his choice to help M’gann that much more moving. His tenderness in reaching out to her while she was reliving the day she broke ranks broke us. He let her be honest, be in pain, be vulnerable with him. She confessed both her greatest act of compassion—saving a Green Martian child—and another that probably causes her great inner turmoil—killing her own people. She’s baring her soul to him, and in that moment, he reaches out to her to bring her back. He could crush her, but he chooses compassion instead. Rather than let the pain and trauma win, he chooses empathy. It’s one of our favorite stories to see told, so excuse us while we go ugly sob in the corner for a while.

Can we also say how triggering it must have been for him to be there? This is literally his worst nightmare. Yet, he willingly stays in a memory that causes himself great pain to help bring her home. J’onn uses pretty classic therapy skills with her, too. He reminds her that this is a memory and they’re safe. He asks her questions and reminds her what is true. Both Sharon Leal and David Harewood act the shit out of their scenes this episode, too. M’gann has so much internalized guilt (ugggh, kill us). Protect M’gann M’orzz and give her happiness 2k17.

That brings us to the Guardian. And hoo boy do we have a lot to say. First off, James has a point about Mon El. Everything he says about Mon El not being heroic, about him being selfish and reckless is absolutely true. And we do feel bad for him that Kara overlooks the Guardian, who could actually be a good team-member for her, in favor of Mon El. Who isn’t. We don’t disagree often on Supergirl, but we do have enough of a difference of opinion on James’ arc to warrant us briefly unfusing to talk about it individually.

***

Gretchen: I’m less vociferous in my dislike of the character. I see it as wasted potential and a glaring example of remarkably poor attention to detail in the writing. There seem to be multiple aims with this arc: 1) give James a superhero journey, and 2) give him an arc that brings him into more contact with the DEO since Catco is being de-emphasized. While I am ambivalent about the first, it could have worked in theory. Maybe. I still can’t decide. There’s too much toxic masculinity wrapped up in it’s execution that I can’t distinguish that from how it could have been done otherwise. The second is a reasonable aim and one that I laud. They’re trying to keep James from being sidelined, though I could think of better ways to have done it.

However, the choice to drag out the Guardian arc to 10 episodes was poor. It dragged the season down and stole valuable time from other important arcs. If they had given us this conversation between Kara and James in episode 4, I would have been much less salty about how this played out. The other poor writing choice was to script James in such a way that he came across as vain, self-aggrandizing, and arrogant. His confession that he did this to help people rings hollow when he’s pitching articles about himself to Snapper. It was entirely in line with the James of S1, but not with his scripting this season.

And that’s why, to me, this is less about hating the character and more about being frustrated with the poor writing choices that led to the character assassination of a character I was emotionally invested in up until I saw where this arc was going. I’m disappointed and frustrated with the writers, not the character. And I do kind of see what they were going for, especially after tonight. That doesn’t make it’s execution not complete shit, though. Because it was. I see what they intended, and they utterly failed to bring it to life for me. I’m not entirely done with him though. There is window of opportunity left for me to salvage his character from it’s assassination, but it’s rapidly closing. Come on writers, do better.

***

Elizabeth: At this point I can’t stand James and I’m counting down the seconds when he’s on my screen. While everything that he says about Mon El is objectively true, the fact that it’s coming from his mouth really kneecaps the impact. Almost everything he says to Kara in this episode is blatantly, ridiculously hypocritical when viewed in the context of his actions this season. Who he is now is completely divergent from who he was last season, and that is nobody’s fault but the writers. They took the character in this direction, and I’m sorry but I have to judge his merits based upon what he does on screen, not the idealistic version of him that can be constructed from his previous season’s characterization.

Even if I give him the benefit of the doubt and go along with the idea that this is how he feels like he can best be a ‘hero’ (and this is canon, guys, he says it outright), it doesn’t change the fact that he lied to Kara every step of the way despite there being no real compelling reason for him to do so. James pushes to have his own stories run by Catco, he bullies Winn and manipulates him into helping him, and he delays telling Kara the truth for episode after episode, even after promising both Alex and Winn he would come clean. He never does come clean. He gets caught, and then still has the audacity to act like he has a leg to stand on.

I know that we don’t want to lose James for a multitude of reasons that we’ve discussed before: MOC protagonist, his season one persona was amazing, his relationship with Kara is interracial, etc. But that James is gone, guys. This James is not a good character. I am furious that they destroyed his character, but that’s what happened, and I don’t know if this can be course corrected. I am feeling that cold rage in Kara’s eyes when her and James had it out in this episode.

Even on a second viewing, I feel the same way: I could not possibly be further away from James’ side of things, and if this is the path he wants to take then I’m not on board. You want to be a hero, James? Then find a venue that doesn’t already have a literal God protecting it along with a perfectly competent police department. Go run with Sara Lance for a while or pack your bags for Gotham, because National City does not need vigilantes.

***

We’re back. Ultimately, the problem isn’t that Kara ‘gets to decide who gets to be a hero.’ Really, the problem is that both characters are using the word ‘hero’ when they actually mean ‘superhero.’ This show used to be very good about making this distinction, but it completely dropped that with this episode and with most of Guardian’s arc. Did we not spend the entire first season and a big part of this one reinforcing over and over again the idea that being a hero has nothing to do with vigilantism and superhuman feats? So why are they conflating this language now? It undermines so much of what this show has stood for for two and a half seasons, and we’d like that to end.

Winn has been a bit of a yoyo personality the last few weeks. He called out James then turned around and teamed back up with him last week. His decision to (once again) lie to Kara so that he and Guardian could take out Livewire came way out of left field, too. We found it profoundly out of character the first time through, to the point that we was wondering if we had accidentally dozed off for a few minutes and missed a major plot beat. Upon second viewing, Winn’s motivation doesn’t seem any clearer. Is there a scene missing here where Winn explains himself? Because as it stands, it makes it seem like he’s mad at Kara and is doing this out of pettiness. Not that he’s necessarily above that, but it seems… unearned and unseeded. Your mileage may vary, but we were left feeling icy cold about this turn of events.

Livewire was pretty awesome, though. Kori may have made Gretchen into a Supergirl/Livewire (Superwire) shipper over the past week (it didn’t take much tbh, the joys of being a multishipper). This episode didn’t help with that at all. We can see them seeding a potential frenemy team up where Livewire helps Kara take down a bigger baddie. Come on, Livewire already has nicknames for Kara. That’s ‘names’ plural. And did you catch Winn’s “maybe she’ll turn all her girlfriends evil again”? We’re taking that as Livewire confirmed sapphic/wlw.

We really appreciate Kara calling her Livewire instead of Leslie, in the end, too. She might not think of Livewire as she perceives herself (as a ‘god’) but she’s willing to meet her partway there and respect her desired nomenclature. She respects Livewire’s new reality, a neat little queer coded interaction that’s even more meaningful in light of Alex’s recent arc. And at least Livewire listened to Kara. Sheesh. She could teach Mon El and Guardian a thing or two about how to communicate.

We got less Sanvers tonight and guess what? That’s just fine. They’re being cute and betting on Kara’s superhero antics. They banter. They got vegan ice cream. Not every episode is going to be focused on them, because there are other characters. Would we rather have Alex’s grossed out vegan ice cream face than see Mon El be a dillweed? 1000%. Maybe next time.

Randomness

  • “Behold ye mighty and despair”, nice Ozymandias quote Winn
  • Maggie and Alex placing bets on Kara’s superheroing is everything
  • The Sanvers lean is so cute.
  • We’re not sure if Kara knows that Maggie knows her secret identity, but we dig the awkward. Please give us Kara going out of her way to keep it secret while Maggie just snerks, and Alex feels bad, but also finds it funny.
  • Is Maggie vegan?
  • Ep 10 of S1 was the episode where Winn confessed his feelings to Kara and she turned him down. Is this an intentional parallel?
  • The “nasty woman” joke made us giggle
  • We wished they had mentioned Cat, just once would have been enough.
  • Curious that Mon El didn’t have an allergic reaction to being that near Guardian’s entirely-made-of-lead suit. Perhaps it has to be in his body?
  • It was really satisfying to see Mon El and The Guardian captured. Really satisfying.
  • We love Livewire’s sass; she has some great one-liners. Chief of which: “Y’know what I love? Little boys who think they can do a better job than the woman who’s an actual superhero.” Preach it.
  • No, Mon El, you are not the other superman.

In Conclusion

Overall, the episode was fine. It had a pretty equal mix of excellent, mediocre, and frustrating things. It’s mostly a filler/set-up episode for next week’s Martian invasion anyway, so we’re not that fussed. Every show has it’s ‘fine’, even a show that’s as overall excellent as Supergirl. The reliable excellence does mean episodes like this stand out a bit more, though. And it wasn’t horrible by any means. Space family is everything. Literally, everything. We’re hoping M’gann is fully team Super now, same with Maggie, who was hanging around the DEO like she belonged there. Cute, domestic Sanvers fluff is such a breath of fresh air when we’re frustrated with the menz on the show. Give us more of Alex and Maggie placing bets on Supergirl and talking about going over to each other’s places.

But the brilliance in the space family parts, and even the little bit of Sanvers cuteness, really shines an exposing spotlight on the rougher parts of the writing. Supergirl has never been a stranger to uneven writing issues, but this episode is probably the strongest example of this dissonance. It’s not bad, but it’s not anywhere close to what the show is capable of. We expect better.

One of the main problems with the writing inconsistency sits with how much Mon El’s storyline clashes with the otherwise subversive and fresh content the rest of the show presents. It feels so odd to have this bland, boring, obnoxious white guy and his trope-filled plot standing next to the Sanvers romance, Lena Luthor’s quest to do good, the space family dynamics, and the complex drama of James’ Guardian plotline. We keep asking ourselves: What is Mon El doing here? What meaningful content does he contribute to the plot and/or the characters that could not be done with another character, and done better?

We said last week that he is dead weight hanging off the plot’s neck, and this week is just more of the same. That ending scene in Kara’s apartment was excruciatingly long and just plain uncomfortable to watch. How many other things would we have loved to have instead of this albatross of a tropey, boring romance? Yes, Kara rejected him, but that may not stick. By God we hope it does, but we have no way of knowing; it could still develop into a real romance. And if it does, the Supergirl team is going to get some angry letters from us.

This is nothing against the actor. He plays the role well, at least. It’s more that the character is tired and bland, not that the actor is bad at playing him. We’ve given Mon El a lot of slack this season, but we are on the bleeding edge of our patience. We nearly had a heart attack when Kara lurched forward a little bit at the end of their conversation as if she might go in for a kiss. While it’s funny to see a ‘Straight Bait’ in the wild, we want it off our favorite show. We feel about as awkward around “Where’s My Hug” Mon El as Kara does. We’re halfway through the season, guys. He had his chance. We’re just over it. We’re so done. Please please please get him off our screens for a while and show us more of the characters we actually like.

Still no mention of Cadmus or the Luthors after “Medusa”. This isn’t the first time Supergirl has dropped a villain thread for a couple episodes to be taken up later (just look at Astra and Non in S1). But it would be nice to know how the Luthor ladies are doing right about now. Sneak previews tell us that the Luthors will be back with a vengeance in a couple of episodes, but of course we want it right now. Like right now. Can we have it beamed directly into our brains? We’d totally sign up for that.

Also, everyone really needs to stop having superhero conversations in public. We’re pretty sure everyone in National City knows who both The Guardian and Supergirl really are but they all pretend they don’t.


Images Courtesy of The CW

When not working on her degree or at her actual job, Elizabeth pursues her true passion of complaining at great length about pop culture on the internet. She serves as a Managing Editor for The Fandomentals. You can find her on Tumblr, Twitter and Steam @ohemgeelizabeth

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Television

Black Lightning Episode 1-5 In Review

Shahar

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Black Lightning, Anissa, and Jennifer with the phrase Get Lit

This week, Black Lightning is on a hiatus so here are some thoughts on the show so far. New episodes return next week.

As a whole, Black Lightning is one of my favorite shows on TV right now, and of the 381 (I have a list) shows I’ve watched in my 24 years. It does so many things well, and what I don’t like is situated in a very specific context. For example, I love how the show hammers home that there are consequences to everything.

Consequences and Bad Guys

Last week’s episode ended with Jefferson as Black Lightning knocked out in the water when his suit gave him problems in a fight with Joey Toledo, Tobias’ right hand man. It was a bleak moment, but highlights how everything feels grounded! From the fights between Jefferson and various baddies, the deaths we’ve seen, and to Tobias doing anything, nothing is cartoonish. There are consequences to actions.

Sure dropping a lackey into a tank of piranhas is a bit much…but Tobias is terrible and terrifying and his traumatic childhood is not used as an excuse for his current actions. Rather they situate Tobias and Tori as adults (whose ages we don’t actually know) trying to control their world. I wonder if Tori has her own crime syndicate in Miami? Oh hey, that would be a cool webseries…

The dedication to showing consequences of people’s actions does have me worried with the portrayal of Khalil’s future arc. I understand the impetus behind his arc. Unless the writers flip the script, it’ll highlight how easy it is for people like Tobias and his lackeys to prey on young men without other options.

And I do not mean to simplify the many reasons why a young man may choose to deal drugs or why there is violence across so many American cities. But Khalil’s existence now for Tobias is as a scapegoat to turn BL into the bad guy. Again, disability in DCTV is merely a plot point for villains or temporary.

On the flip side, Anissa as an out and proud activist lesbian is awesome!

Ladies Loving Ladies

Once the season ends, I’ll write a full length piece on Anissa, Chenoa, and Grace. Even with only three episodes to really pull from, the writers established a lot about Anissa and Freeland. We saw in week 2 how she had a key for Chenoa’s place, and her parents knew her name, but that’s as far as that one year relationship had gone. Their sex was mindblowing, sure (which how incredible to finally see two Black woman make love as an affirmative thing), but Anissa wasn’t committed to Chenoa. Understandably she was pissed at the Ruby Red Lipstick Bar (I love that Freeland has a lesbian bar) and said some hurtful things to Anissa.

I wish we had (or maybe we will) seen Chenoa one last time, but the moment Anissa laid eyes on Grace, it was pretty clear we were getting the slow-burn there. And this is what’s so great about the show, by five episodes both Anissa and Grace have been affirmatively labeled by the show as a lesbian and bisexual woman. No need to assume and no need for obnoxious fandom labeling conversations.

However, with Grace as a super recurring character, who knows when we’ll see Chantal Thuy next and how she’ll factor into the next portion of Anissa’s development into Thunder. And if she receives a series regular promotion, whether or not she joins the Pierce family+Gambi shenanigans.

Pierce Family Passion

I LOVE ONE FAMILY. Look, representation is not revolutionary and won’t meet any of our material needs on a global scale. Instead, representation is required and our media should look like us. But I’d be remiss to say that centering a show on a Black man who loves his family isn’t a huge freaking deal!!!

Specifically because of the racist sentiment that Black fathers aren’t around for their kids. This doesn’t consider that a) 1.5 million Black men are “missing” or b) the Black men that are fathers, they are the most involved with their children of any other group of dads!

So watching Cress Williams as Jefferson Pierce, completely in love with his ex-wife and two daughters is stunning and I am so glad the show is about the Pierce family now instead of Jefferson years ago. Their passion for their home and each other is one of the bigger successes of the show.

(Though I’d love a flashback of him first realizing his powers since it would have been in response to a very emotional moment).

Grandpa Gambi

Who is he? We know he and Alvin Pierce were super close, he’s Jefferson’s surrogate father, and from an interview that the girls think of him as a grandpa. Yet we’ve only seen him interact with JefferLynn and Tobias! And he knows Tori? I want to know everything about him and really hope the next eight episodes reveal more. As the only white guy the writers invite us to care about, Gambi is important. He’s got this amazing boutique and clearly knows his technology. (Is he making Anissa’s outfit?)

But he’s hiding more than Tobias from Jefferson, like what I assume is his understanding that Anissa was on camera in episode 3. Likely more secrets related to Alvin Pierce too. Plus just how does he afford all his tech? The show is so good with details that it seems suspect we’ve yet to see more of that aspect…

Otherwise, Gambi is a really interesting lens into the show’s statements about so many issues.

Political Statements

The show has effectively made multiple statements not just about police brutality, drugs, or violence. Even the brief mention of the Tuskeegee experiments is significant with Greenlight and its entry into Freeland. I think its usage of Gambi as BL’s greatest champion as a hero pulled out of “retirement” as compared to Anissa and soon Jennifer’s journeys is really compelling.

I honestly don’t have the expertise to write a lengthy piece on the show’s usage of Malcolm X, MLK Jr, or others like Harriet Tubman but I think Anissa’s Malcolm vs. Jefferson’s MLK Jr. vs Black Lightning’s Malcolm is clear just from the show’s dialogue.

The scene between Anissa, her parents, and the Henderson’s is a great example. Is Black Lightning a vigilante who is hurting the police attempt’s to fight the 100 gang or everything else? (How is Henderson actually feeling about his inability to stop the 100 gang long-term?) Or is he stepping in where no one else will and making a difference? Does nonviolence actually work, or nah? How do we meet the material needs of oppressed groups, here black people?

The latter questions are debated at length and I don’t think Black Lightning is trying to conclusively answer them. Though the former two are definitely at the core of the show.

The same goes for the writers’ strong use of religious imagery in implicit and explicit ways.

Book of Black Lightning

Abrahamic religion and their prophets are explicitly referenced from the episode titles to the show dialogue. Abrahamic religion is a huge part of the show. The titles all tell a story, even the non “Book of” titles like “Resurrection” and “Black Jesus” have their own. We even saw a Methodist church for Lawanda’s funeral! It makes sense because the Akils are actually Muslim. I hope we get some Black Muslims too in the show.

Jefferson is Black Jesus (resurrection), then Black Lightning is Moses (the latter was reluctant at first to lead). Obviously Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have differences in their telling of Moses’ story but it’s pretty apparent what’s happening here. Lady Eve is Pharaoh and I’m not quite sure on who Tobias is yet, but I’ll figure it out by season’s end when I’ll write a long article about everything else we get this season.

Last Thoughts

  • When will Syonide get to talk extensively? One Syonide in the comics has a girlfriend and I would love to see the show’s take on that.
  • Someone find the scripts for me because each episode feels like it’s cramming a usual script and a half’s worth of stuff into one 45 minute episode.
  • I hope this show doesn’t get 22 episodes this fall. I find it works better as a short season show.

What do y’all want answers to or have thoughts on? Next week, the show returns to Jefferson looking for Alvin’s murderer and so much more.


Image courtesy of The CW

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Rise and Fall: The Chi’s “Penetrate a Fraud” Is Joy, Heartbreak, and Fear

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Welcome back to Lena Waithe’s The Chi, where this week we see some characters start to rise from pain while others fall all the way into it.

Ronnie, never able to escape this corner.

Let’s start with Brandon, who hit a low point last week when Jerrika showed up to the block party with another guy. Then Brandon confronted Ronnie, telling him he hopes Coogie’s murder haunts him for the rest of his life before walking alone into the darkness. This week, things are looking a little better for our tender-hearted guy. A big reason for that is Sarah, his boss’s wife/all-around manager of things at the restaurant. There is a serious mutual crush happening, and in this episode she gives him an opportunity to prove himself: he’s going to be in charge of the food for a very large and fancy wedding anniversary catering gig. He pulls it off without a hitch and Sarah thanks him, saying the restaurant isn’t doing as well as everyone thinks and they really needed a good night like this one.

Side note, my parents ran a restaurant for more than 10 years, and it is so true that even popular upscale places are in a constant struggle to keep their heads above water. It is a very unforgiving industry, and this little corner of the storyline hit home for me. Plus, my mom was the Sarah, basically doing every little thing and never stopping, so I appreciate her as a character.

Anyway, the other immediate event in Brandon’s world is the revelation that his mother and Greavy got married at the courthouse without telling him. They’re planning a backyard barbecue celebration that night and were hoping he could do some of the food. Brandon is angry, still resentful of Greavy, and storms off. But Greavy goes after him and is a little softer toward him, saying that it would mean a lot to his mother if he were there, and also that he’ll do right by her.

In the end, Brandon, high off of a successful night that will likely mean a lot to his career, takes Sarah and the leftover catering food to his mom’s house. The joy Laverne feels that her son shows up is such a perfect illustration of how much mothers love their children. Brandon ends up making a really nice speech about the new couple, and it’s nice to see everyone in that string-lights-and-Heineken-filled backyard so full of smiles. Oh and then Brandon and Sarah kiss, so, that will be interesting next week.

!!!! This won’t end well but in the meantime, I’m happy for them.

Meanwhile, some other mothers are having an unexpectedly great day of their own. Ethel takes Jada to get their nails done as a thank you for patching up Ronnie’s gunshot wound/saving his life. They end up bonding and we learn that Jada has not been prioritizing dating or her sexual needs, since she has approximately 100 million other things on her plate. But after her conversation with Ethel, Jada comes home to an empty house, lights candles along the edge of the bathtub, and masturbates with the shower head. I am so here for Jada taking care of herself. Also I will always associate showerhead masturbation with that scene in The Runaways where Joan Jett—aka a still-not-publicly-out Kristin Stewart—tells her bandmate to think of Farrah Fawcett in order to get off. Iconic.

HERE FOR IT.

The reason Jada came home to an empty house is that Emmett has been extremely busy with his and Amir’s burgeoning shoe business. Amir “borrows” $5,000 from his uncle Habib, and he and Emmett follow a tip Emmett got about some rich white person who wanted to unload a shoe collection. Turns out it’s a day-drinking divorcee who wants to sell her husband’s garage full of sneakers. The two jump on it, thinking they’ve scored the shoes for half, if not less, of what they’re worth.

Emmett gets to work putting the word out to his network of sneakerheads and sets up the van full of shoes in an underpass, where he sells almost all of them. Until one guy rolls up, looks at the shoes, and tells Emmett they’re knockoffs (something to do with SKU numbers). Then he accuses Emmett of “penetrating a crime” on him and pulls a gun on him and Emmett Jr., who is in his arms. Emmett Jr. basically never stops crying; is that what real babies are like? Anyway, luckily the guy doesn’t actually shoot but Emmett is sufficiently freaked out. It remains to be seen how this will unfold with the “business partnership.”

As we continue down our path of characters’ best days to worst days, Ronnie is still halfway dead, stumbling around town bleeding through his clothes. He goes back to Common’s mosque, where he is told he’ll be welcome to come in and talk, but despite looking tempted, he doesn’t do it—yet. Ronnie is also trying to find someone who will unlock Jason’s phone. He finds Jason’s girlfriend. Ronnie didn’t know he had a girlfriend, or that she is pregnant, or that Jason knew she was pregnant and so did Tracey. Or that Tracey didn’t want Jason to see her, or that Jason wanted to quit basketball. There was a lot Ronnie didn’t know, but Jason’s girlfriend unlocked the phone for him, so now he can look through pictures.

But guess who else wants to look at the phone: Detective Cruz. He brings Ronnie in for questioning, and backhandedly proposes they help each other: Cruz won’t push too hard to pin Coogie’s murder to Ronnie, and Ronnie will give Cruz Jason’s phone. I guess so he can figure out what happened and get back in the department’s good graces before anyone exposes the fact that he’s the reason Ronnie knew about Coogie having robbed Jason’s body. Cruz doesn’t seem to find much on the phone—mostly a lot of selfies—but he sees that the last call made was to 911. So that’s interesting.

Lastly, we have the boiling-point tensions between Trice, Reg, and their crew and Q and his. Q stole Trice’s dog (the same one Coogie used to feed) and has been taunting him with her for weeks. Now, he uses her as a distraction, taunting Trice into conversation while Q’s two guys sneak into the house to see what Reg, Trice, and co. have in there. Trice tells Q to go back to Cuba, so we now know where he was before coming back to Chicago. Q points out to Trice that he never got back to him about who might have killed Jason and why. He’s clearly hung up on something with Tracey; maybe he’s Jason’s real father? I don’t know.

Regardless, Q’s guys report back on the specific kinds of military guns Reg and co. stole a lot of last week. And at the end of the episode, the three of them straight-up kill everyone in the house and steal the guns. I don’t know if Trice or Reg were there, but I’m concerned for Jake?!?!

I-miss-my-dog face.

That’s it for this week, let’s hope next week we get to see the kids and the lesbians again, because I miss them and this episode ended on an extremely dark note.


Images from The Chi Courtesy of Showtime

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Legends of Tomorrow Gets Stuck in a Time Loop

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Starting off intensely, we see Zari racing against time to get Gideon to execute some simulation program that she wants to keep a secret from the team. Things don’t go as planned because the Legends come back from a mission that involved Napoleon Bonaparte and disco clothing. While Nate and Amaya leave the bridge to discuss the fact that they just had sex during a mission, Sara gets pissed at Zari when Gideon stops working and she finds out about Z’s secret simulation.

Taking the captain position hard, Sara argues with Zari about it, despite Ray’s concern about her mood given Constantine’s warning. Zari reveals that she wanted to find loopholes in history so she could exploit them to avoid the dark future she knows as 2042. As Zari goes to fix the ship, she is hit with some neon fluid from a tube. As she tries to see if Gideon is back online, the Waverider explodes…

…and we’re back to Zari arguing with Sara.

Zari tries to figure out what’s going on, first talking to Mick, then snooping on Nate and Amaya’s post intercourse conversation, and finally Ray to no avail. In the end, the ship explodes again and we’re back to Sara, who ends up twisting Zari’s arm by accident. She ends up being taken to the med bay where she gets sedated and thus back again with the day starting over. Her next move is to try to explain the whole thing to the crew, but it still doesn’t work for multiple attempts.

Until Nate believes her and tells Zari to talk to him again and quotes “Groundhog Day,” which leaves me wondering why pop culture can’t update its timeloop references. Say “Edge of Tomorrow” or even “Happy Death Day” if we want current. Nevertheless, as soon as she wakes up again, she goes to Nate. The two theorize that the explosion comes from within the ship instead of some outside force. Some other stuff happens, but in the end, the ship explodes.


Zari’s newest attempt starts with her teaming up with Nate to go after Rory. It takes a few other attempts, but they eventually figure out that, despite his initial suspicious behavior—doing his laundry—Mick’s was only hiding his novel. They go check on Ray, who ends up revealing, rather easily, that Constantine had told him to kill Sara when Mallus takes over. The duo decide to go after Sara now, fearing that she may be possessed and exploding the ship. Ray shrinks Zari and himself in order to spy on Sara.

What they find is rather the opposite: just a flirtatious facetime conversation with Ava — to quote the poet, “This is a gays only event, go home!”. The two talk about their own experiences being bossy and how Sara has faith in Zari, but she ends up dodging one of Ava’s attempts to go over to the ship and hang out. Sadly, Sara ends up crushing Ray and Zari, as she thought they were a fly.

Once again, Zari goes to Nate, but she’s feeling quite tired. Nate suggests they have fun with it given the lack of consequences, so cue the fun montage. Eventually, the fun runs out and Zari tries to kill herself, but fails. This time though, Sara manages to believe Zari’s story and enlists the whole team to look for bombs. The Legends try the trash compactor and find Gary, the Bureau agent. Mick takes a device from his hand and destroys it, thinking it was the bomb, but instead, it was what originated the time loop: Gary had boarded the Waverider because of an alert that the ship would explode so he had created the one-hour loop which would give enough time for the time to defuse the bomb. So now, the device is broken and the team has five minutes to find the bomb before they truly die.

Using the Chekhovian move, Sara finds the bomb inside a disc play. If I understant it correctly, Napoleon had gotten his hand on a CD player with ABBA’s “Waterloo” in it, which he had used to win the war? Something campy like that, for sure. Seeing as the bomb will explode, Zari locks herself with the bomb in a force field so she can say her last words to the team which, as expected, is mostly advice she picked up from her time during the time loop.

As the timer stops, Zari finds herself in the company of humanoid!Gideon, the same one that kissed Rip Hunter that one time (I’m glad they end up finding ways to bring Amy Pemberton on board!). Gideon tells her that, in real life, Zari is healing at the med bay, but her mind is with Gideon at her matrix. Turns out Zari’s simulator had not only worked but done all the job regarding the timeloops to show that Zari needs the Legends’ help in order to find the loophole to save 2042.

As she wakes up, Zari gets Ray to confess his secret to Sara so she can prove that she indeed was inside the matrix. As Sara and Zari have a chat, it circles between their will to save people and a nice little loophole that may just give Z a chance to spare her brother’s life.

Capping off the episode, we finally meet Firestorm’s replacement after the CW confirmed it a few weeks back: Rip Hunter tracks down Wally West in China to ask him for help to save the universe.


Images Courtesy of The CW.

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