The entirety of the Pierce family comes to terms with Jennifer’s new appearance in “The Book of Ruin: Chapter Two.”
Jennifer Pierce is officially back and has a new look. This episode picks up where “The Book of Ruin: Chapter One” left off and makes the recast official, with Laura Kariuki officially taking over the role from China Anne McClain. The episode puts a lot of effort into confirming that this is the real Jennifer, including matching DNA tests, Grace’s (Chantal Thuy) leopard senses confirming Jennifer’s scent, and Gambi’s (James Remar) explanation that Jennifer’s genes manifested into a new appearance during the particle reconstruction process.
It’s amusing to see Jennifer freak out at her new appearance and the episode does a good job of working this recasting into the plot. While the recasting was necessitated by McClain’s exit from Black Lightning, the decision to acknowledge the recasting as part of the plot opens up some interesting aspects to the story. While McClain has done a great job playing Jennifer over the years, Kariuki does a great job stepping into the role. She manages to capture Jennifer’s personality and mannerisms while bringing her own stamp to the role.
The episode develops Jennifer’s relationship with each member of the Pierce family and solidifies that the dynamics between this new Jennifer and the rest of the cast will remain largely the same. Jennifer spends much of this episode struggling with her new appearance and the assurances from her family help her realize she is still the same Jennifer.
Grace uses her experience as a shapeshifter to tell Jennifer that her core is not her appearance, but her heart. This is a great bonding moment between the two and it’s great to see Grace get the opportunity to interact with the rest of the family outside of Anissa. Later, Jennifer and Anissa share a fun moment of sisterly bonding where they make jokes about Jennifer’s shift and Anissa tells Jennifer about her and Grace’s recent wedding. It’s a sweet moment between the two sisters and watching the two support each other is always great to see.
Jennifer suggests that Anissa and Grace go on a much-deserved honeymoon. This leads to a cute moment between Anissa and Grace and Anissa’s promise that she will tell her parents about their marriage when they return. This is a much-needed development for Anissa and Grace’s relationship and it’s great to see a couple of moments of joy between the two.
Jennifer and Lynn (Christine Adams) also reminisce as Lynn scans Jennifer’s vitals. The moment is cut short as Lynn’s new patient, sent by Tobias (Marvin ‘Krondon’ Jones III), arrives and the two lie that Jennifer is Lynn’s niece named JJ. The patient, Val (Helen Joo Lee), reports this to Tobias, who is determined to find out who this new Pierce is after his facial recognition software fails to find a match on the new Jennifer’s photo.
The only one in the Pierce family that remains skeptical about this new Jennifer is Jefferson (Cress Williams), who wants the old Jennifer back and questions if this Jennifer is from an alternate universe. Despite everyone’s insistence that it’s the same Jennifer, he spends much of the episode avoiding Jennifer as he processes the change. While it’s understandable that he and the rest of the Pierce family would freak out at Jennifer’s change in appearance, it’s sad to see Jefferson struggling with it.
The friendship between TC (Christopher Ammanuel) and Jennifer remains strong as he encourages her to help Jefferson in his fight by showing her videos of people on social media thanking Lightning for her heroic efforts and reminding her that Jennifer wouldn’t listen to her mother and sit on the sidelines when the people of Freeland need help. Gambi then finds Jennifer looking at her suit and provides her with a temporary suit while he creates a new suit that will accommodate the new Jennifer’s taller appearance. The moment between the two is touching, especially as Gambi admits he knew Jennifer would be there.
Thankfully, Jefferson and Jennifer reunite by the end of the episode, with Lightning helping Black Lightning in a fight against the police. The team-up is an exciting moment of action in the episode and the two share a heartfelt moment on the roof by Jennifer’s window where they reconcile. It’s been a while since the audience has seen one of these rooftop conversations, and it’s a satisfying resolution to their conflict in the episode.
Outside of Jennifer, this episode featured some interesting storylines. The Direct Energy Guns are introduced to the police as Tobias declares his intention to run for mayor. Tobias continues to remain a threat to the Pierce family and Freeland, and it will be interesting to see where this storyline goes. Detective Shakur (Wallace Smith) meets with Black Lightning, welcomes him back, and provides information that proves Lala’s (William Catlett) innocence in the mayor’s assassination.
Armed with the knowledge that the mayor was killed by a metahuman with magnetic abilities and Lynn’s revelation that her new patient is connected to Tobias and has the meta gene, Jefferson is determined to prove Tobias was behind the mayor’s assassination. He asks Lynn to take a meta booster to help reveal the nature of Val’s powers, but Lynn points out that she’s trying to fight her addiction. Jefferson gets angry at her and Lynn accuses him of not caring about her sobriety. While Jefferson’s determination to bring down Tobias is understandable, his hypocrisy in regard to Lynn’s addiction is frustrating.
Lala confronts Destiny (Teesha Renee) about setting him up in the previous episode. She responds with her new hired assassin, Ishmael (Rico Ball), who kills Lala and traps him in concrete so he can’t escape. The dispatching of Lala is creative and evokes imagery of Han Solo in carbonite. It remains to be seen if this is the last the audience sees of Lala or if he will be resurrected once more before the end of the series. After putting the concrete block in her hideout, Destiny offers Ishmael a chance to stay and rack up his kill count by taking care of the metahumans of Freeland. The addition of a new assassin will be another interesting obstacle for the Pierce family to overcome.
The main conflict of this episode involves the police searching Freeland homes with no-knock warrants. The show plays out the details of Breonna Taylor’s murder with a Freeland couple. The episode demonstrates the impact of this incident by showing footage of the ensuing protests. However, the episode rewinds to before the police start shooting and Black Lightning steps in to prevent her death. This commentary on the real-world issue is powerful and one of the things that Black Lightning does best. The rewriting of the moment to have Black Lightning saving the woman shows that in this world, superheroes like Black Lightning have the ability to protect people from such senseless violence.
This episode was one of the strongest of the season to date and features some heartfelt moments between Jennifer and each member of the Pierce family. While the show takes a brief hiatus until April, the next episode is the backdoor pilot for the proposed Painkiller spinoff featuring Jordan Calloway’s Khalil.
Author: Jessica Wolff
Jessica Wolff is a graduate of Drexel University with a BS in Film/Video. She has a passion for entertainment and representation in entertainment. She currently resides outside of Washington, DC.
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