Sunday, March 21, 2021

Black Lightning Episode Guide: Season 4, Episode 6 - The Book of Ruin: Chapter Two: Theseus’s Ship

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


Jennifer's life has been saved, but her appearance is completely different after her body solidifies! As Jefferson struggles to cope with another change he blames himself for and Tobias Whale's announcement that he's running for mayor, the rest of the family rally to support Jen as she copes with her own identity crisis. Meanwhile, a new assassin is in town and Lala is in his crosshairs.


The 1942 film Cat People (Jennifer and Anissa watch it), Big,13 Going on 30, Freaky Friday, Being John Malkovich,  Face/Off (all movies involving being in a strange body), Star Wars (Ishmael is essentially Boba Fett even before we see the "frozen" Lala) and the March 13, 2020 shooting of Breonna Taylor.


While the title-card for the episode gives its name as Theseus's Ship, it would be more grammatically correct  for it to be Theseus' Ship, without the extra s.

Why does Gambi tell Jennifer not to tell her parents who made her temporary costume for them when she's specifically going to save Jefferson, who is smart enough to figure it out when his daughter suddenly has a new costume.


Laura Kariuki has a fantastic first turn as the new Jennifer, getting a scene with each character to show that she's the same Jen but in a new body. It's frightening how well she's replicated some of China McClaine's mannerisms.


The Breona Taylor flashforward scene is a powerful moment.


The episode title comes from a classic thought problem from Ancient Greece, regarding the ship of the hero Theseus and the nature of identity. The idea behind the riddle of Theseus' ship is whether a thing is defined by physicality or thought. If you replace all the rotten wood in the ship of Theseus, is it still the ship of Theseus once all the wood has been replaced? If you take that rotten wood and could somehow cure it and used it to build another ship identical to the first, would that also be the Ship of Theseus? 

Coincidentally, a few weeks before this episode of Black Lightning aired, the question of Theseus' Ship achieved prominence on-line due to it figuring into the season finale of Wandavision, when two versions of the robotic hero Vision contemplated which of them was the true Vision - a copy born of the memories of the original Vision or the one born of his body, which had no memories belonging to the original?

This episode contained the first Post-Crisis reference to the League of Assassins on Earth-Prime. It was suggested, in the final episodes of Arrow, that Thea Queen and Talia Al Ghul were reforming what remained of the League into a heroic organization. It's possible the League of Assassins group Ishmael mentions is a new group evoking the name of the original League.

Ishmael is a relatively new introduction to the DC Comics Universe, who first appeared in Batman and the Outsiders Vol. 3 #1, in July 2019. Ishmael was a member of the League of Assassins who gained metahuman powers and immortality as a result of experiments Ra's Al Ghul conducted with the waters of the Lazarus Pits. In addition to being immortal and having a heightened healing factor, Ishmael had the power to neutralize the powers of any metahumans he came in contact with. He also had superhuman strength and durability and could amplify the powers of other metahumans. This made him an ideal assassin for superhero targets.

The Arrowverse version of Ishmael does not seem to be a metahuman, but is incredibly skilled in combat. He is currently auditioning for the League of Assassins and must kill 100 metahumans to earn a place among them.


Something in the transmutation process caused the genes responsible for determining Jennifer's appearance to express themselves in a new way. Gambi explains that Jennifer's new looks obey the same logic as identical twins; she has the same genes, but the genes are presenting themselves in a new sequence.

Before looking at the ballistic reports for Mayor Black's death, Gambi determines that he was shot from an elevated position, given that he grabbed the top of his head when he was shot. The problem is that the only building tall enough to match the angle of the shot was 4 miles away - nearly twice the distance of the longest sniper shot ever recorded. 

Lauren still cannot get her energy field emitter to cover an area larger than 500 feet.

Gambi theorizes the problem with the energy emitter is that they are using the wrong power source, which would explain the problems with the voltage regulator. He suggests Promethium might be able to solve the problem, but they'd need a lot more than is known to exist.

The pieces inside the Go board that Gambi gives Lauren conceal a retina scanner, which lets him get the pattern of her eyes.

Lynn modified the meta-booster formula so it will only work on ordinary humans, so as to prevent another super-meta like Gravediggger.

Dialogue Triumphs

(Grace finds Jennifer in the corner of the Sanctum, looking at her costume mannequin.) 
It's strange, isn't it? I remember the first time I shifted. It's not easy changing faces.
Jennifer: Perenna warned me this might happen. She said if I wasn't careful, I'd explode. Grace, what am I gonna do? What about my friends? What about school?
Grace: Hey, don't worry about that right now. We'll figure it out.
Jennifer: Yeah, well, you're lucky. You can change back whenever you want.
Grace: Okay, sure. I mean, now. But there's been plenty of times when I couldn't.
Jennifer: So what did you do? How did you get through it?
Grace: I focused on what was important. Not this. (gesturing at Jen's reflection in the glass case) This. (poking her arm) It's not who you are on the outside that matters. It's who you are inside. And deep down, you are still the same strong Jen we know and love. Nothing's gonna change that.
Jennifer: I certainly don't feel like it.
Grace: You will, trust me. Now, come on, your family's waiting.

(Black Lightning emerges from the shadows out behind the FPD building. He regards Detective Hasan cautiously.)
Detective Hasan:
Black Lightning.
Black Lightning: Detective. Or should I say... Head of the New Meta Task Force? I don't know what side you're on, man. 
Detective Hasan: (chuckles) Don't get your drawers in a bunch. It wasn't my decision.
Black Lightning: Oh? Sounds like something a traitor would say.
Detective Hasan: Oh, yeah? Would a traitor get you the ballistics from the mayor's killing, like you asked?
(Detective Hasan passes Black Lightning a plastic evidence bag containing an unspent bullet.)
Detective Hasan: Notice anything unusual?
Black Lightning: Yeah, it's still in the casing.
Detective Hasan: That's right. It was never fired.
Black Lightning: If it was never fired, then how...
Detective Hasan: Let go.
Black Lightning: What?
Detective Hasan: Trust me. Just let go.
(Black Lightning does so. The bag suddenly goes flying and sticks to a nearby metal container.)
Black Lightning: What the hell?! It's been magnetized.
Detective Hasan: How do you fire a bullet without a gun? Magnetic powers.
Black Lightning: (nodding as the pieces click together) So a meta did it? Yeah, that would explain the distance of the shot... (shaking his head) You need to know, Lightning had nothing to do with this. And she's not to blame for Lydell Jackson either.
Detective Hasan: I know. Not that it's going to matter much. The chief is on a warpath. After what happened with Lala gettin' away, she's planning raids on half the damn Eastside. She's already approved a dozen affidavits for no-knock warrants.
Black Lightning: No-knock warrants? She lost her damn mind? Most people in this city are packing.
Detective Hasan: That's right. Which is why I'm telling you... Freeland needs Black Lightning. Or are you gonna disappear on us again?
Black Lightning: No, I'm back... for good this time.

(Anissa and Jennifer are watching an old movie together. It's the 1942 version of Cat People.)
Actor Tom Conway: Women, who, in jealousy or anger, or out of their own corrupt passions, can change into great cats, like panthers!
Jennifer: Really, Anissa?
Anissa: Wait, what?
Jennifer: All the movies you could've picked, and you just had to choose one that reminds me of being trapped in this body?
Anissa: You right, my bad. What would you like to watch instead? (laughing a bit as Jennifer starts to laugh too) Let's see, we got 13 Going on 30. Big. Let's see, Being John Malkovich. Ooh... Freaky Friday.
Jennifer: Oh, my God, Freaky Friday? Can you imagine?
Anissa: No.
Jennifer: What if I switched places with Mom? I'd be all like (impersonating Lynn) "Go get our baby."
Anissa: (laughing) Ooh, that was good. That's good, but it could be worse. You could be Nicolas Cage in Face/Off.
Both: (in unison, mimicking Nicholas Cage) "I'd like to take his face... off."
Anissa: Oh, man. It's really not all that bad, though. I promise. Now, I wasn't gonna say anything, but, girl, your skin... Jen, your skin, it looks amazing now.
Jennifer: Really?
Anissa: Yeah.
Jennifer: You think so? I do kinda like the dark chocolate look.
Anissa: I ain't worried about you. You be fine. You just gotta... just make sure you look at all the positives. Okay? (pauses) Like the fact that you could be playin' in the WNBA.
Jennifer: Shut up.
Anissa: Okay, I'm just sayin'! I'm sayin'

(TC and Jennifer hear on the coms that Black Lightning is going to stop the police's random raids.)
TC: You should go. He may need backup.
Jennifer: No, I shouldn't. My mom told me not use my powers.
(TC stares at Jennifer in disbelief.)
TC: Don't get mad when I say this, but, uh... who the hell are you?!

(Jennifer enters the Sanctum and approaches the case with her costume. Gambi comes from around the corner.)
You're late.
Jennifer: Uncle Gambi, you scared me!
Gambi: (calmly) That suit's not gonna fit you anymore. You're a lot taller now. I am working on a new nanotech model for you. But in the meantime... I've got something that should do the trick. Just don't tell your parents.
Jennifer: I won't. Thank you.
Gambi: I'll go grab it for you.
Jennifer: Wait, Uncle Gambi? How did you know I'd be here?
Gambi: (smiling softly) Because that's what Jen would do.


The new Jennifer has the same DNA as she did before, despite her changed appearance. 

According to Grace, Jen smells exactly the same as she did before, despite her changed appearance.

Grace claims that it took her time to master her shape-shifting powers and that she eventually learned control by focusing on her inner self.

Jefferson leaves the Sanctum before he can talk to Jennifer.

Jennifer claims to feel fine, but is told not to use her powers.

Jennifer starts using JJ as an alias and claims to be Lynn's niece.

The full name of Tobias Whale's lawyer Val is Val Seong. She is also revealed to be the ALS patient he wanted Lynn to help. 

Val notices how strange Lynn and JJ act around her, having not thought of a cover story before then.

The police are publicly blaming Lala and The 100 for Mayor Black's death.

Lala is still on the run following the events of 405.

Jeff says he's uncomfortable with Jennifer's new appearance because her energy feels different. Gambi insists that it's impossible for her to be an alternate dimension doppelganger when Jefferson points out he's traveled to other dimensions and fought with Superman, in reference to the Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Gambi is unable to hack the Freeland PD computers to get the ballistic reports regarding Mayor Black's death. He is able to figure out that Lala wasn't involved, as he and his men were on the ground and whoever shot Mayor Black did some from an elevated position, four miles away from the scene of the crime.

Gambi is able to get a shot of a hooded man from a security camera placing him on the roof at that moment. 

Tobias personally purchases a next-gen DEG for every cop in Freeland and announces that he is running for mayor in the new election to replace Mayor Black.

Detective Hasan is able to give Black Lightning the ballistic tests report on Mayor Black's death, as well as the bullet. Jefferson notices the bullet is still in the case and hadn't been fired. Detective Hasan points out another oddity: the bullets appear to be magnetically charged, suggesting the bullets were thrown by a metahuman with magnetic powers.

Black Lightning tells Detevtive Hasan that Lightning had nothing to do with Mayor Black's death or the death of Lydell Jackson. Detective Hasan says he knows, but it doesn't matter because the chief is on the warpath. 

Detective Hasan warns Black Lighting that Chief Lopez is planning a series of no-knock raids across the East Side of Freeland in an effort to smoke out Lala.

Lauren reveals that Promethium the rare metal that is the power source of the DEGs and that Monovista International has a sizeable stockpile of it.

Anissa and Jennifer watch the movie Cat People together.

Anissa tells Jennifer about her and Grace's secret wedding.

Jennifer tells Anissa to take Grace on a honeymoon ASAP.

Lala tries to attack Destiny as she's picking up protection money, but she's protected by a masked man wielding two swords who calls himself Ishmael. 

Ishmael kills Lala and then drops him in a freshly poured bed of concrete before pouring more wet cement over him.

Gambi gives Lauren a gift: the Go board that she beat him with, with the pieces glued in her winning configuration. He can still recall it from memory. 

Lauren was the only non-Japanese player who could beat Gambi at Go. 

Lauren offers to thank Gambi privately in the secret room of their lab when they're meant to be working.

Gambi does seem to feel guilty about this, given he was trying to steal Lauren's eye-pattern.

Lynn confirms that Val has ALS and also has the metagene, but she has no idea what her power is.

Jefferson asks Lynn to make a meta-booster serum of Val's DNA so they can determine her power and see if she is Tobias' magnetic assassin. Lynn refuses. 

Val tells Tobias about JJ and how strange she and Lynn were acting. She reveals that she took a picture of JJ on her phone.

Tobias asks his AI to scan for pictures of JJ. It does not find any.

TC offers to use his powers to set Jennifer up with a new identity, complete with DL and passport.

TC was a fan of the show Good Times and says Jennifer's alias reminds him of the character of JJ Evans.

Jefferson goes to stop a no-knock warrant for Apartment 4 at 717 Garner Drive.

TC shows Jennifer several videos of people on Lightning's social media thanking her for saving them, to inspire her to go help her father.

One fan on TikTok made a Lightning Dance, which she does with her friends.

Gambi hasn't had time to build a new costume for Jennifer, but he did put together something like the Blackbird costume that should work for a night.

The police attack the wrong apartment. As predicted, the man inside the raided apartment draws his gun and tries to defend himself, thinking he's been robbed and not thinking about the police. A flash-forward shows his girlfriend dying in the crossfire, her funeral, and a string of fights breaking out across Freeland as the police and protesters clash. This then rewinds back to before the police can fire a shot as Black Lightning shows in to protect the people and knocks out the cops.

Lightning saves Black Lighting from being overpowered by police armed with the new DEGs. 

Jefferson apologies to Jennifer for being so weirded out by her new appearance and thanks her for coming to help him. She, in turn, thanks him for saving her life.

Anissa models several outfits for Grace, asking if she'd rather travel to Vail for a ski trip, New Orleans during Mardi Gras or the Akashic Valley.

Ishmael presents Destiny with a concrete-encased Lala and declares that he is his 94th Metahuman kill. He must kill 100 metahumans to earn a place in the League of Assassins.

Destiny hires Ishmael to stay in Freeland a while and kill the rest of the city's metahuman vigilantes. She gives him photos of Black Lightning, Grace (in her masked costume) Blackbird and Lynn (with her mask)

The Bottom Line

A fantastic episode that manages the near impossible trick of referencing current events and effectively introducing a new character without becoming hokey or forced.

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