Black Lightning takes a momentary break from Freeland and the Pierce family to set up a potential spin-off centered around Khalil/Painkiller.
After the events of “The Book of Ruin: Chapter Two,” Black Lightning briefly leaves Freeland and catches up with Jordan Calloway’s Khalil/Painkiller. The episode is a backdoor pilot for a proposed spin-off and sets up a new world and cast of characters. With Black Lightning in its final season, this pilot also thankfully leaves an opening for appearances from Black Lightning cast members should the series be picked up.
The episode begins as Anissa (Nafessa Williams) and Grace (Chantal Thuy) leave Freeland to go on their honeymoon. The newlywed couple ends up in a city called Akashic Valley, and the far too brief moments of them arriving in the city are fun to watch. However, their blissful vacation is cut short when Grace is abducted at a local nightclub. As Anissa fights to save Grace, she runs into Painkiller (Jordan Calloway), who attempts to kill her.
Inside Khalil’s mind, Khalil and Painkiller fight for control of their shared body. The representation of Khalil and Painkiller arguing and fighting with each other is a creative way to show Khalil’s internal struggle and allows Calloway to essentially play two different characters. Khalil ends up winning the fight and is able to save Anissa with the help of a healer, Donald (James Roch).
As Anissa heals, Khalil asks his friend and former ASA agent, Philky (Alexander Hodge) about Painkiller’s sudden resurgence and his failure to suppress him. Philky explains that seeing a member of the Pierce family reawakened Agent Odell’s (Bill Duke) order to kill the Pierce family. Anissa briefly wakes up and confronts him, causing Khalil to decide to set things right and rescue Grace. This conversation between the two helps to remind Khalil of all that the Pierce family has done for him and Anissa’s fear of losing Grace yet again is emotional.
With the help of club security footage and his allies, Khalil finds the two members involved in Grace’s kidnapping and tracks them to find out where they have taken Grace. In his search, he finds a group of unconscious kids hooked up to high-tech monitors and is able to figure out that the mysterious Maya (Sibongile Mlambo) is behind all of this. This is reminiscent of the ASA’s experiments on the children of Freeland, which helps to further connect the potential series to Black Lightning.
Internally, Khalil makes a deal with Painkiller that he will call on him when necessary. Armed with a sword, Khalil and Painkiller combine to slaughter numerous security guards in Maya’s headquarters. Khalil and Painkiller’s combined brutal fighting styles are exciting, yet tragic when coupled with remembering that Khalil is still just a kid that is not much older than Jennifer.
During this time, Grace is able to use her shapeshifting to break out of her restraints and runs into Khalil as Maya sets the building to self-destruct. It’s a relief that Grace is given some agency during her capture and isn’t merely a damsel in distress. A fully recovered Anissa’s insistence to help with the rescue and her subsequent reunion with Grace outside of the building are fantastic moments.
Back inside the building, Khalil makes a deal with Painkiller that they will work together to stop Maya at another time and escape the building that is moments away from self-destructing. The acceptance that Painkiller is a part of him, is an interesting resolution to the episode and will no doubt continue to be an interesting struggle if the series gets picked up.
After the ordeal is over, Khalil asks Anissa how Jennifer is doing and Anissa alludes to Jennifer’s recent shift in appearance while not outright telling him. Khalil then asks Anissa to not tell Jennifer where he is, as he is still worried that Painkiller will hurt her. The conversation is a touching moment between the two, and the care that Khalil has for Jennifer is still evident. It will be great to see if Jennifer and Khalil will eventually reunite and amusing to see how Khalil will react to Jennifer’s new appearance.
Down in the basement, Khalil, Donald, and Philky discuss Maya’s involvement in every aspect of the city and decide to try to stop her operations concerning the brains of the kidnapped victims. Meanwhile, Maya receives a call from her father, Agent Odell, and reports Khalil’s appearance in the city. Agent Odell was an easy to hate villain on Black Lightning and his daughter seems to be equally calculating and ruthless.
While there was some personal skepticism of whether the character of Khalil could carry a spin-off show on his own, this backdoor pilot proves that there is some potential in the series. The episode sets up an interesting arc in both Khalil’s struggle with Painkiller and his goal to stop Maya. There’s a lot to learn about the supporting characters in this world, and hopefully, the series will flesh them out more.
It would also be great to see another Black-led superhero show in the Arrowverse and hopefully, it will feature future appearances from Black Lightning characters such as Jennifer, Anissa, and Grace after the conclusion of the final season.
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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