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Review-Black Lightning S3:EP2 / The Book of Occupation (Chapter Two) – Maryam’s Tasbih

Black Lightning -- "The Book of Occupation: Chapter Two" -Photo: Quantrell Colbert/The CW - © 2019 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

Black Lightning S3:EP2 / The Book of Occupation (Chapter Two) – Maryam’s Tasbih

Directed By: Oz Scott

Written By: Charles D Holland

As the title of this week’s episode suggests, camouflaging metahuman and Black Muslim Maryam Luqman (Zoe Renee) acts as a subtle foreshadowing of where things are heading if not coarse-corrected by our heroes. This continues to be the show’s strength, showing the personal turmoil of these Green Light babies and Pod-kids in an intimidating world and circumstance far beyond their control with no hope.

On a larger scope, the heavily isolationist “occupation” of Freeland is not too dissimilar from the controversial US military occupations in the Middle East. Whether deliberately implied or merely coincidental, it is unknown if this was the actual intent of Charles Holland’s script during those scenes. Alternatively, if that was too real for you, current events could be likened to the conditions of the Batman-less Gotham City during “The Dark Knight Rises” with the takeover by Bane and its effects on the societal (re)construction of the city and its citizens.

With Freeland under martial law, and a redundant/powerless police force, the lockdown – along with the absence of both Tobias and Black Lightning – has made the conditions primed for exploitation by the most unscrupulous of Freeland’s residents. Not to be left out, the seemingly immortal Tattoo Man/Lala (William Catlett) plots his phoenix-like rise back to power with the debunked 100 gang. Of course, like any great dictator, he preys on the people’s need for a leader and his Robin Hood-esque speeches can easily win Freeland’s downtrodden over.

Meanwhile, a schism emerges between Dr Stewart and Jefferson Pierce as Lynn seems to be deceiving herself with Odell’s lie, and Jefferson vehemently challenging his jailer’s intentions. It is also left ambiguous if Dr Stewart is merely providing a ruse, or is genuinely beguiled by all Odell has to offer in terms of her coveted meta-human research.

The Markovians make a brief appearance here, but only serve as inconsequential fodder for the temporarily exiled Blackbird/Anissa Pierce. Her caravan of freed metas are now among the reserved Perdis from last season as refugees – again there are geo-political allegories here. A clear distinction is made and lines are drawn between the two seemingly mutual factions as Anissa values the metahuman lives of those under her protection over any inconvenience or burden she has thrusted upon the otherwise quite hospitable Perdis. This seems to be another growing trend in the show of African-American meta-humans becoming a pariah sub-class within the predominantly Black community of Freeland.

Overall, Maryam’s Tasbih just reinforces the status quo from last week’s episode, driving home the toll current events have had on the city and the weight of it all on the heroes. It emphasizes the argument that people need a hopeful hero (or heroes) in these scenarios, factually or symbolically, or something darker may fill the void. I’m not so sure how much longer “Black Lightning” can continue without its titular hero and hampered sidekick – or Tobias Whale’s intrusive interventions for that matter.

Regrettably, this is a fairly talkative episode, and as such can come off as a bit dull. Even the brief team-up of Chief Henderson (Damon Gupton) and Gambi (James Remar) couldn’t save this episode’s drudgery. The saving graces are the emotional scenes with Maryam herself, and the repurposing of Khalil Payne/Painkiller (Jordan Calloway) by the nefarious Odell which goes very dark very fast.

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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.

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