Sunday, February 16, 2020

Black Lightning Episode Guide: Season 3, Episode 13 - The Book of Markovia: Chapter Four: Grab The Strap

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


Jefferson and his hand-picked team head into Markovia to rescue Lynn and recover Tobias. But can this powerful yet conflicted team overcome their own traumas to strike at the heart of a hostile nation and overcome everything they have protecting their own metahuman creation program? Not if the man known as Gravedigger has anything to say about it!


The Outsiders, Men of War (character of Gravedigger) and Checkmate comics (character of Gravedigger II)


Cress Williams nails the opening monologue where a drunken Jefferson looks back on his past and talks about it, seemingly to the audience, but eventually it is revealed he is speaking to Gambi.

After just one appearance, Wayne Brady makes Gravedigger into one of the best villains in the show's history. In fact, he may be one of the best villains in the history of the Arrowverse.


The opening scene with Jefferson's monologue looking back on his past is a great one, in terms of the music balance and direction of Cress Williams' performance.

This episode has the single-best fight choreography and effects work of any Black Lightning episode to date.


The codename Gravedigger has been given to two soldier heroes in DC Comics.

The first Gravedigger was Ulysses Hazard and first appeared in Men Of War #1 in 1977. A victim of polio as a child, Ulysses was able to overcome the disease with a specialized exercise regiment and enlisted in the Army at the first opportunity. However, even at the height of WWII, the Army was segregated and Ulysses was assigned to work detail alongside other black soldiers rather than combat duty. Frustrated, Ulysses stormed the Pentagon single-handed to prove that he was being wasted . Rather than being drummed out of the service and spending the rest of his life in a military prison, Ulysses was given a special designation as a one-man-unit. Since he was currently assigned to dig graves in a military cemetery, he was given the codename Gravedigger.

 Later, he would earn the rank of Captain and became the only man apart from Sgt. Frank Rock to lead the Easy Company. He received a cross-shaped scar across his face while fighting a Nazi soldier. One story revealed that Ulysses survived to see the end of WWII. He had a son, Achilles,Hazard, who followed in his father's footsteps, though he joined the Marines rather than the Army. Ulysses' grandson, Perseus Hazard, also joined the military and became head of Project K - a special government unit designed to bring down Superman should he ever go rogue.

The second Gravedigger was Tyson Sykes, who first appeared in Checkmate #24 in 2008. An agent of the spy organization Checkmate, with the rank of Rook Alpha, Tyson gained telepathic abilities after being injected with Apocritic - a drug made from the DNA of the alien Starro the Conqueror.

The Arrowverse version of Gravedigger seems to be a combination of both versions of Gravedigger from the comics. He is said to have been around since WWII, unaging thanks to the same serum that stopped Tobias Whale from growing older and has the same cross-shaped scar on his face. Like the second Gravedigger, he is a metahuman with a telepathic ability to "push" people into doing what he tells them to do. He also has enhanced strength and reflexes.

Gravedigger is played by Wayne Brady, best known for his work on the improv comedy show Who's Line Is It Anyway?


Gravedigger's mind-control power works through auditory stimulation and effects the front lobe of those he targets.

The hyperactivity that is a side-effect of Glimmer use can override Graverider's mind-control power.

In covert operations, it is generally a no-no to exit through the same means one uses for entry in a rescue or retrieval mission.

The door to Lab A is grounded against energy attacks and resists 100 million volts. It cannot, however, resist Erica Moran charging it after being repeatedly hit by Thunder.

Erica's power is organic in nature and follows the Fibonacci sequence, with her power growing exponentially every time she is hit and holds the kinetic energy.

Due to his brain functions being run almost entirely through the Painkiller chip, Khalil is immune to Gravedigger's mind control powers.

Dialogue Triumphs

Jefferson: Black Lightning. (chuckles) Black Lightning! Never particularly cared for that name. The news... News called me that, twenty-two years ago and it stuck. Twenty-two years. Feels like a thousand and then some. (sighs) All the blood, broken bones, (laughs softly) broken hearts and death. All the death. There was Lynn, witness to it all.  We, we...we tried to balance a normal life, you know, kids, career. (chuckles) But nothing... Nothing mixes well with Black Lightning. So, we fought. We made up. Got divorced. Got back together. Just couldn't stop loving each other. I grew up around drug dealers and drug addicts. You know all that.... Man, I've seen drugs devastate people. Families. I know the depth of addiction. I also know that Black Lightning's powers are useless in that fight. (determined)  But they are not useless in the fight in front of me right now. This war for Freeland....This war for Freeland took her from me. If I have to break bones, burn skin, draw blood ...If I have to kill, I will. I'm getting her back.

(Gravedigger asks Lynn politely to make the metahuman stabelization cure so that the people Makovia has in pods can be free.)
Lynn: You think I'm stupid? You're weaponizing them!
Gravedigger: Freedom ain't free.
Lynn: Spare me the rationalization. I'm not open to persuasion.
Gravedigger:  (chuckles) It's... It's interesting that you'd say that. (Gravedigger looks at Lynn seriously, his voice deepening as he speaks next.) Make the cure as fast as you can.
(To Lynn's horror, her body begins moving despite her face showing she doesn't want to be moving, going to a different work station and starting to pour one chemical into a dish. Dr. Jace looks at this with a mixture of fascination and horror.)

Jennifer: I know the timing's really bad, but our rescue team ain't looking so good. I need to ask you a favor.
Khalil: No. No. No, the last thing I need to do is go on another kill mission again.
Jennifer: Khalil, you know I'm not asking you to kill anybody. This is to get my mom back. Please. You have more training than all of us put together.
Khalil: J, I want you to get your mother back. Really, I do. But I am more of a liability than I am an asset.
Jennifer: What are you talking about?
Khalil: He's still in my head, Jen. I can't be trusted.
Jennifer: We've both killed for the ASA. But I lied to my family about it. They've lied to me, Odell lied to you. At least you've been honest. So, as far as I'm concerned, I trust you.
Khalil: I killed my own mother, Jen.
(There is a long pause as Jen sees... truly pained Khalil is. About what happened to him but also feeling like he is failing her.)
Jennifer: Then help me save mine. Please.
Khalil: No.

(Jefferson finds Khalil in the Sanctuary, packing a bag.)
Jefferson: Really? Does Jen know you're leaving?
Khalil: No. I'm not too good with goodbyes.
Jefferson: I think you owe her more than that.
Khalil: Yeah. I do, too.
Jefferson: Where are you gonna go?
Khalil: I don't know, but I gotta get out of Freeland, for good this time.
Jefferson: Why?
Khalil: Why would I stay?
(There's a pause as Jefferson considers his next few words.)
Jefferson: I wanna apologize to you.
Khalil: You wanna apologize to me?
Jefferson: Yeah. I feel like I didn't do enough for you.
Khalil: Look, it's like I said at the hospital the night I died. You did what you could. So, apology not accepted.
Jefferson: You won't be hunted. I had your name removed from the ASA register. You'll have a chance at somewhat of a normal life, free from them.
Khalil: Thanks. That means a lot. But I'll never actually be free and clear from Painkiller. I can't even trust myself. What good would I be to anybody?
Jefferson: Well, you You'd be a lot of good to us in Markovia.
Khalil: There is enough blood on my hands, Mr. P.
Jefferson: Look, Khalil. We can't We can't undo our past mistakes. All we can do is just move forward and try to do better. Look, I just want you to know that you would be a big help. But I respect your desire to.. To take off. If you ever find yourself this way again, you'll find our door open.

Gambi: I'm proud of you, you know that?
Jefferson: I haven't done anything for you to be proud of.
Gambi: But you have. Over, and over, and over again, ever since you were 12 years old. And now you're not only a hero, you have the stature to lead other heroes. I am proud of you, and Alvin would be, too.
Jefferson: What is a hero these days?
Gambi: You are.
Jefferson: Thanks, old man.

Gravedigger: Stand down, son.
Khalil: Yeah, I'm not your son.
(Gravedigger just stands there and looks at Khalil, assessing him slowly.) 
Gravedigger: By the way you're standing, your respiration... you're not all there. Bionics, lots of them. Not enough nervous system for me to push. Not enough sense to run. Clearly, you're what they call a "millennial."
Khalil: You talk too much.
(Khalil goes for his guns but Gravdigger charges forward and knocks them out of Khalil's hands.  The two begin fighting hand-to-hand. Khalil does okay at first but Gravedigger is able to get a good hit in and knocks Khalil into the wall.)
Gravedigger: Not bad. You don't wanna do this.
Khalil: (pulling himself up and raising his fists) Like I said - you talk too much.


Jefferson first appeared as Black Lightning in 1998 - 22 years ago.

Jefferson didn't choose the name Black Lightning for himself. It was given to him by the media.

TC is running all the members of Jefferson's team through VR simulations to get them ready for the invasion.

Major Grey gives Jefferson the ASA's file on Painkiller. She also asks him to reconsider taking a team of ASA commandos with him, but Jefferson insists on sticking with his team of chosen agents.

Gravedigger is put in charge of the project to stabilize Markovia's metahumans due to the project not moving quickly enough under Mosin's command for the liking of their bosses.

Gravedigger was one of Dr. Jace's patients at one time.

Gravedigger is on the same formula as Tobias that stops him from aging.

There are 94 metahumans in cryogenic suspension in Markovia.

Jennifer asks Khalil to join the team, but he refuses, saying he's still coping with the idea that he killed his own mother. Jennifer says he can use what he was given to help her save her mother.

Jennifer is still holding a grudge against Anissa for not telling her that Khalil was alive.

Anissa, in turn, is holding a grudge against Khalil, believing he'll snap and become Painkiller again, sooner or later.

Sgt. Grayle attacks Brandon verbally, calling him the weak link of the team.

Jefferson asks Khalil to join the team, but discovers him packing up to go somewhere outside of Freeland.

Jefferson apologizes for not having done more to help Khalil and tells him he'll always have a place in Freeland if he ever decides to come back.

Lynn lies and tells Gravedigger they need a simple of his blood to speed up production on the stabilization formula. In truth, she's planning to give herself his mind-control power.

When planning their mission, Major Grey says they have to rescue Tobias as well as Lynn.

TC begins flirting with Erica Moran, eventually giving her a pair of boots to increase her speed.

Khalil joins the team at the last minute.

Gambi tells Anissa he has a way to shut Painkiller down in order to get her to stop complaining about Khalil being a danger to the mission.

Grayle tells Jefferson about the kill order he was given and Erica being programmed to kill Lynn should they prove unable to rescue her.

TC reveals that he already knew all this and that his flirting with Erica was a cover for him to get close enough to shut down the chip controlling her thoughts.

Brandon has a fear of flying. Gambi says this is a psychological side-effect of his power, which requires he be connected to the earth.

Khalil is able to knock Brandon out with a Kyushu Jitsu touch; part of his martial training rather than his superpowers.

Khalil reveals that he discovered that with the Painkiller program locked away in his mind, he can no longer use his poison-generation powers.

The final plan is that TC and Gambi will handle comms and monitor the computers at the Markovian base as two teams move in, once Grace takes over the security center by disguising herself as one of the Markovian leaders. Team 1, consisting of Jefferson, Anissa and Erica, go after Tobias. Team 2, consisting of Jennifer, Brandon, Sgt. Grayle and Khalil, go after Lynn.

Brandon runs off on his own, with Sgt. Grayle chasing after him, after he learns that Dr. Jace is in Lab B along with Tobias.

Tobias reveals that he knows Jefferson is Black Lightning.

Khalil stays behind to hold of Gravedigger, leaving Jennifer to go find her mother on her own. This happens to coincide with Lynn making her own escape attempt using her temporary mind-control power.

Sgt. Grayle stops Brandon from killing Dr. Jace.

Gravedigger fights Jefferson with an energy weapon that seems to negate his powers.

Grace retrieves Erica

Gravedigger is immune to his own power, as Lynn discovers when she tries to order him to leave her alone.

Lynn agrees to return with Gravedigger if he'll let her family go.

Jefferson shocks Gravedigger into submission and rescues Lynn.


A military base in Markovia

Untelevised Adventures

How an American soldier came to be working for the Makorvian government is unexplained and hints at one hell of a story to be told eventually.

The Bottom Line

Possibly the single-best episode of the series to date. Easily the best episode of the season.

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