Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Black Lightning Episode Guide: Season 1, Episode 13 - Shadow of Death: The Book Of War

For a summary of the episode guide layout & categories, click here.



Plot

In the wake of the battle at Garfield High, Jefferson Pierce is barely clinging to life as Tobias Whale marshals his forces to move against Martin Proctor and The ASA.


Influences

The Black Lightning comics of Tony Isabella, the Green Lantern comics of Geoff Johns (the new Tattoo Man) and The Manchurian Candidate (Whale's control of Lala through a trigger phrase.)


Goofs

So the ASA has special weapons to take down both Black Lightning and Thunder, but they don't bother taking any of the Black Lighting weapons to storm Gambi's cabin just in case it turns out he isn't dead?


Performances

Again, it has to be stated what a delight that Marvin "Krondon" Jones is in the role of Tobias Whale. Krondon has made Whale into one of those rare villains you find yourself rooting for just because he's so amusing even as he's being a total bastard.


Artistry

The opening sequence in which we see Jefferson use his powers for the first time as a child and how Gambi saved him is perfect. The black and white filming, heavy rain and music give the whole thing a Film Noir feel that's very gripping. It also makes it stand out all the stronger when the blue lightning effects kick in. The same is true of the later flashback scenes and the moment in the afterlife where Jefferson seems to talk to his father.


Trivia

The DCTVU version of Tobias Whale is said to take a special serum which has given him the strength of three men. In the classic Black Lighting comics, Whale was a large man weight close to 400 pounds and while he was described as being incredibly strong, his strength was within standard human limits.

The DCTVU version of Tobias Whale is also said to take a serum that slows his aging. This appears to be based on The 100 in the classic Superman and Black Lighting comics - a cabal of mystics who were able to gain immortality by feeding on the suffering of others. The same name was used by a gang in Metroplis' Suicide Slum district, which was overseen by Tobias Whale, who was ignorant of the power wielded by his bosses.

The DCTVU version of Syonide is said to have been found in a dumpster when she was an infant, with her umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. She was adopted by Tobias Whale at the age of eight and trained as his personal assassin. He later had carbon-fiber body armor implanted under her skin - a painful process Gambi says stripped away what little sanity she had left.

This background most closely resembles that of the second Syonide - an unnamed female assassin who was an enemy of Black Lightning and The Outsiders. Though she was not raised by Tobias Whale, she did work for him almost exclusively and took up the weapons and name of the first Syonide after the original died while working for Whale. She did not, it should be noted, have any metahuman powers or physical enhancements.

Tobias gives Khalil the codename Painkiller. This is also the name of a super-villain from the 1995 Black Lightning series, who first appeared in Black Lightning (Vol. 2) #2. In addition to having his spine healed, Painkiller has the ability to secret a neurotoxin and fire darts that paralyze a target. (Strangely enough, this is similar to the methodology of the original Syonide from the first Black Lightning comics.)

The original Painkiller was a metahuman who had the power to temporarily anesthetize any part of the human body. He could use this power to shut down his target's ability to use any of their five senses or cause a person to become unable to run as they lost all feeling in their legs. This effect was temporary, however, and did not last long. Neither did Painkiller, who was killed in Black Lightning (Vol. 2) #4.

Tobias refers to Lala as "Tattoo Man". This would seem to be the DCTVU version of the classic Green Lantern villain The Tattooed Man.

Lala most closely resembles the third version of The Tattooed Man, Mark Walters, who first appeared in Green Lantern (Vol. 4) #9 (April 2006). A former Marine who was presumed dead after his helicopter exploded, Walters emerged years later in Gotham City working as a hit man who attacked people with a series of seemingly animated tattoos. Walters claimed that his tattoos were formed from the sins of the people he had killed and that he took them upon himself through a process called sin-grafting, bringing their souls peace.

Rather than having the ability to bring his tattoos to life, Lala's tattoos of the people he killed are said to be a side effect of the reanimation process Tobias used to bring him back to life. Tobias claims that every person Lala ever killed will come back to haunt him, tattooing themselves onto his body until there's no skin left.


Technobabble

Metahumans are people whose superpowers come from within.

Tobias Whale and his team all gained their powers through artificial means.

Tobias Whale takes a super steroid serum that slows his aging and makes him stronger over time. He currently has the strength of three men. 

Gambi guesses that Khalil was given a spinal implant with a synthetic liquid metal. It braces his spine but also causes his body to produce a neurotoxin that causes instant paralysis like a snake's venom.

Thanks to a brown out, all the Stage-One subjects from The ASA's experiment are ten hours away from death without a stable DNA profile to overwrite the bad DNA. This would leave them with four Stage-Two subjects.

The ASA is able to track Jefferson by searching power company records for electrical surges following Tobias Whale's attack on Garfield High.

The ASA agents sent to Gambi's cabin are armed with guns that generate a force-field that neutralize Thunder's ability to generate sonic attacks.


Dialogue Triumphs

Gambi: Take my advice and leave this alone. Think about your son!
Alvin Pierce: I am thinking about my son. I had Jefferson take that damn vaccine and it was tainted. Do you have any idea how that makes me feel?!
Gambi: There's no reason to get yourself killed over it.
Alvin Pierce: No. There's no reason for YOU to get yourself killed! All the reason I need in the world is sitting in that car over there.

Tobias Whale: "I am unlike other men. The laws of conventional morality do not apply to me." That's Napoleon. And he was a weak ass Frenchman. You're Painkiller. Never apologize. So you killed Black Lightning when Proctor wanted him alive? I'm not mad. Martin Proctor was down with Lady Eve. I always knew sooner or later he had to go. Just gonna have to be sooner, that's all. Real soon.

Jefferson: I always wanted to tell you... I'm so sorry.
Alvin Pierce: There's nothing to be sorry for, son.
Jefferson: Black Lightning. All the violence...
Alvin Pierce: Peace ain't always peaceful, son. All the blood, broken bones, pain you suffered...? Only you'll ever know if it was all worth it.
Jefferson: Was it worth it for you? Your death?
Alvin Pierce: I don't know. What i do know is that I'm proud of you, son.

(Jefferson announces his intention to draw the fire of Proctor's men while everyone else escapes.)
Gambi: This is suicide, Jeff.
Jefferson: Light me up, old man.
(Reluctantly, Gambi slides the programming module into Jefferson's suit, powering it up.)

Jefferson: Now, you are making it a habit of saving my life, young lady.
Jennifer: (smiling weakly) Well, this is... this is what we do.

Anissa: They call us heroes, but the real heroes are you - the people, who despite their everyday struggles with life, continue to find hope - maybe even purpose - in what can be a challenging world. We've been given a gift. A blessing from God. And we intend to use it to protect this city and its people.


Dialogue Disasters

90% of Martin Proctor's dialogue. At least. The worst line of the episode? "You want to save Freeland? I want to make America great again!"


Continuity

Peter Gambi approached Alvin Pierce with the expectation of him exposing The ASA's experimentation. He did not expect him to expose the corruption of Tobias Whale that helped enable it.

The only lead the ASA has on Tobias Whale's location is Lala.

Thanks to a brown out, all the Stage-One subjects from The ASA's experiment are ten hours away from death without a stable DNA profile to overwrite the bad DNA. This would leave them with four Stage-Two subjects.

Jefferson Pierce first manifested his powers shocking two riot cops who were attempting to beat him. Later, they manifested again, after he grabbed an electrical fence which should have killed him. Instead, he reflexively absorbed the shock.

Jefferson Pierce didn't fully manifest his powers until 2003.

Lynn says that she had a cold feeling in her stomach at the same time Jefferson flat-lined.

Tobias Whale can control Lala by saying the phrase "The Devil deals the cards." He claims to have spent a million dollars on the process that brought Lala back to life.

Jefferson Pierce was once suspended for breaking the nose of a boy who was picking on him.

It is revealed that the mantra that Jefferson Pierce teaches to his students was first taught to him by his father.

Lala is used as a suicide bomber to take out Proctor, force-fed det-cord.

When Jefferson awakes from his weakened state, he says he can't feel his powers working anymore. Lynn says his vital signs are normal, but Jefferson compares himself to a battery that can no longer hold a charge.

Jennifer has a flare up of her powers as Jefferson gets ready to leave to face the ASA troops. She latches onto Jefferson until the flare-up ends. A few seconds later, Jefferson finds that his powers have been restored.

Lynn knows how to use a rifle after hunting with her father.

Jennifer is able to shoot a focused lighting blast to save Lynn from one of the ASA troops. Her lighting is yellow, in contrast to the white/blue lighting Jefferson seems to redirect. She's eventually able to make an electro-magnetic lasso and throw people around, just like her father.

It is revealed that Martin Proctor was a rogue operative working outside the purview of The ASA.

Gambi kills Martin Proctor.

The ASA's previous operation and Martin Proctor's current group are exposed to the public.

Tobias Whale is revealed to have Martin Proctor's briefcase and - thanks to his agent in the Freeland Corner's Office - the thumbs needed to open it. He says that what is inside will make him the King of Freeland.


Location

Gambi's cabin in the woods north of Freeland.


The Winnick Factor

Martin Proctor is a classic Winickian mustache-twirling villain, unable to speak without uttering a racial slur and about as subtle as the villain in a DARE anti-drug comic.


The Bottom Line

A solid episode that sets the stage for Season Two. The most annoying elements of the series have been cut loose, with the sides set for the on-going battle between Jefferson Piece and Tobias Whale. The villains have been given some much-needed definition, with Synoide starting to show signs of characterization beyond being a silent badass and Khalil reworked into a much more interesting version of Painkiller. It remains to be seen if Lala survived being turned into a suicide bomb but it would be interesting to see this new version of The Tattoo Man played out a bit longer. All in all, it's going to be a long wait for more of this series but I suspect it will be well worth it.

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