Black Lightning S3:EP7 / The Book of Resistance (Chapter Two) – Henderson’s Opus
Directed By: Oz Scott
Written By: Lynelle White
“Friction” seems to be the underlying theme of “Henderson’s Opus” as we see various characters contend with one another without ever finding any common ground – save for one example. Off the bat, the absence of Agent Odell seems to be a convenient plot device for emboldening most, if not all, our characters without his looming presence being felt in every corner of the show holding them at bay. This also allows this episode to chug through its varying threads at a brisk stride, unlike the lethargic pace of the previous book. There are a lot of competing sub-plots to follow, but this week’s episode manages to balance them out serviceably without any feeling a tad underdeveloped or favorably inflated with screen time.
Wasting no time from the revelation of the last episode, Gambi (James Remar) is hot on the trail of finding the once-thought-dead Khalil Payne, who is imprisoned and brainwashed by the ASA. He enlists the help of the reluctant Dr Stewart in cracking this caper in infiltrating their headquarters. Gambi’s gambit pays off, but maybe a bit too well, as Lynn’s discovery of Khalil and what the ASA has done to him has shaken her to her core. This may be the wake-up call she needs to distrust Agent Odell, but the hold he has already woven in her may be too strong. Furthermore, this opens the door for Gambi to perhaps discover the ASA’s other prized prisoner.
Meanwhile, Anissa (Nafessa Williams) is still reeling from her encounter with Painkiller. However, she’s not quite ready to put down her black-colored Mortal Kombat-esque “Black Bird” outfit. With things ready to heat up between the ASA soldiers and Henderson’s underground resistance, it’s decided to take Grace to safety outside Freeland. All things considered, Anissa has the most to sacrifice out of the Pierce’s at this point, so she is the most effected emotionally at the end of the episode. I am conflicted in that, while passionate, this may be a strategic move to reduce the already bloated cast of tertiary characters back to a more manageable number. The show may have already exhausted all avenues at this point with the character and her relationship, so they are merely cutting off dead weight.
Henderson (Damon Gupton) and Jefferson (Cress Williams) also come at loggerheads as their methods and actions clash, with neither willing to extend a genuine olive branch to the other. This should have been the most poignant exploration of both characters’ ethics and principles on handling the occupation – Jefferson always the idyllic fundamentalist and Henderson the pragmatic realist driven by his own indignation. There was also hints at the two characters’ similarities in addition to their differences, with faint echoes of Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X. Sadly, it felt rushed; more on that later.
What was most surprising were the vignettes with Jennifer who seems to be going off-script as it were. There seems to be an intriguing sub-plot brewing with Jennifer as she slyly, almost uncharacteristically manipulatively engages with Brandon and Maj. Sara Grey (Katy M O’Brien), and her interests in Dr. Helga Jace. It’s worth reiterating that Jennifer is the only outlier, having no ties to any of the other factions at play or connections beyond the ones she’s had with Agent Odell. Her new Maverick status has certainly piqued my interest.
Another interesting thread through this week’s episode is the question of “Does Freeland, or anyone, really need Black Lightning?”, as his virtues, values and methods seem incompatible with the new reality of this “occupation”. It’s no different to the age old question posed to the virtuous and immaculate Superman in a contemporary world of moral grays and injustices that are perpetrated by (home-grown and foreign) ideological terrorism, governmental institutes and/or corporate establishments. Gone are the simpler days of Tobias Whale and his 100 gang as a foil for our electrified avenger. This is purported by Henderson, as he’s reluctant to include the antiquated and frequently absent Jefferson in his underground coalition. But Anissa, of all people, raises the counterpoint by exclaiming “I need Black Lightning”. This makes Jefferson take a firm, definitive stance, by formally going out as Black Lightning against Major Grey and her forces on more than one occasion for their (par for the course) exaggerated violent tyranny.
The lowest points for me were with Reverent Jeremiah Holt (Clifton Powel), whom, ever the caricature, I don’t approve, regardless of circumstances, of being a pastor packing heat so flippantly. Also, the unconfident Maj. Sara Grey proves her “henchman-ness” by being an inadequate commander and an insincere threat to the show’s protagonists in the absence of her boss.
Overall, I would describe “Henderson’s Opus” as extremely lean. Salient arguments are short exchanges and feel rushed, as if the entire episode is on x2 or x4 speed. Disputes are quickly resolved or concluded, amicably or otherwise, without letting the weight of the discord sink in and develop. This robs great moments of at least some of their impact, while cheapening others, and come off a tad shallow on retrospect. But I can’t fault “Henderson’s Opus” for not making headway. It is a shame so much was accomplished by temporarily removing Agent Odell from the picture, making me shudder at the blowback narratively upon his inevitable return.
Hailing from the eastern-most Caribbean island of Barbados, Fabian Wood has long since been fascinated by the power of storytelling to inspire and invoke emotions – whether in film, comics or video games. No longer content to be just an avid comic book reader and video gamer, he’s eager to exercise his literary acumen as an aspiring writer and reviewer.