Tonight's episode of Black Lightning was a watershed moment. As Anissa (Nafessa Williams) and Grace (Chantal Thuy) began their married life together, giving the Pierce family a bit of well-deserved peace, fans got to find out what Khalil/Painkiller has been up to since leaving the series. The answer? He's set up shop out of town, and he's trying to be a better person while also struggling to deal with the reality that Painkiller murdered Khalil's mother. That makes his head a pretty dangerous place to be, with two sides more at war than most people could understand (aside from maybe The Flash's Caitlin Snow).
As Black Lightning uses its final season to set up a prospective Painkiller spinoff, though, that's far from the only thing that Khalil will be dealing with. Tonight's episode set up some new conflicts and a new setting that might take the antihero out of Freeland, should his own show go to series.
"It's been a journey," star Jordan Calloway said of his time playing Khalil and Painkiller. Khalil, originally introduced as the lovable boyfriend of Jennifer Pierce and a star high school athlete, was paralyzed by a gunshot, only to be given not just the ability to walk, but a battery of other super powers, by Tobias Whale.
While spending some time as one of the series' most deadly villains, Painkiller and Khalil became distinct personalities, and the latter worked to help keep the worst impulses of the former under control. That's going to be a driving force in the story of Painkiller going forward.
Calloway says that after everything they have been through, Khalil and Painkiller are going to go into the new town of Akashic Valley, a futuristic, anime-inspired city, looking for a fresh start.
"They're going to be a more controlled, a more focused, a more mature person," Calloway said, then paused and laughed. "Well, maybe not a more mature Painkiller."
And there's the rub: even after getting away from Freeland, Khalil is still carrying Painkiller with him. Still carrying baggage that is tied to the worst thing that has ever or, God willing, will ever happen to him in his life.
"Jefferson Pierce has always been a father figure to Khalil," Calloway said. "Freeland will always be a part of him. He's not running away from that. Jefferson Pierce will always be there, and Jen will always be there. But also there was a whole time when he was not in control of his own life, and the ultimate example of that is that Painkiller murdered Khalil's own mother with his own hands. And so now we see who he is when he's separated from his mother, but also separated from his father figure in Jefferson. He has to be his own man, and he has to deal with that trauma."
It's that influence -- Jefferson's, and Black Lightning's, that will help Khalil move forward, but for Calloway, it's a very personal mission.
"My grandfather would say 'don't let your past paralyze your future,'" Calloway said. "Playing this character, I want to see Khalil and Painkiller come to a place of peace, where they can be accepting of one another."
But he wants more than that as an actor.0comments
"In the same way that Painkiller would carry on the tradition of Black Lightning, I want for me to carry on the tradition of Salim, of Cress Williams, of China [Anne McClain] and Christine [Adams] and Marvin [Jones] and everyone who brought us to this point," Calloway said.
Black Lightning airs on Monday nights at 8 p.m. ET/PT on The CW.