Concentration camps, Black Lightning and Nancy Drew: a book and some TV

I’ve read for years that the British introduced concentration camps in the Boer War, but ONE LONG NIGHT: A Global History of Concentration Camps by Andrea Pitzer shows it started several years earlier, in Cuba. With the population supporting the guerillas fighting Spanish colonial control, one General Weyler “concentrated” thousands of civilians in camps under Spanish control to break the back of the revolution. Targeting civilians outraged a lot of the world, but when the United States took over the Philippines from Spain, the military adopted the same tactic to put down the ungrateful Filipino resistance. Then the British used the tactic in the Boer War. When WW I began, Britain and other combatants began using camps to hold foreign nationals, which in Russia eventually mutated into the Communist gulag. And from the same ugly root we got the Nazi death camps, colonial concentration camps in Kenya and Algeria, the Japanese-American internment camps and eventually Guantanamo Bay. Pitzer does an excellent job showing how it all fits together, and how quickly efforts to treat prisoners well fall apart. Grimly informative.

BLACK LIGHTNING wrapped up its fourth and final season last month, and went out on a win. Freed from prison, Tobias (Marvin ‘Krondon’ Jones III) schemes to take over Freedland, develop a weapon that neutralizes metas and destroy the Pierce family. It’s his revenge plan that elevates the season: rather than tackle them as superheroes he destroys their civilian reputations, for example framing Jeff (Cress Williams) for embezzling from the high school he ran for so many years. Oh, and buying Jeff’s father’s house just so he can destroy it for one of his building projects.

It’s a solid season but I think the short length (three episodes less than usual, and one episode devoted to an unsuccessful back-door plot) made some elements a little rushed. The mysterious Shadow Board Tobias wants to join never gets enough of an explanation; the meta-hating police chief gets a rushed arc in which she turns herself into a meta to destroy Lightning but it doesn’t have enough time to work (plus the idea just outing the chief as a bigot will discredit her as a cop — this show doesn’t usually go for such simplistic solutions). Overall, though, a pleasure. Tobias can’t feel shame — that’s why you’ll never become the kind of man he is.”

The second season of NANCY DREW wraps up the Covid-shortened first season, then moves in new directions. Nancy (Kennedy McMann) wants to take down corrupt local bigwig Everett Hudson, despite discovering that he’s her grandfather. As Everett’s quite willing to kill in self-interest, the threat level is even higher than S1. Meanwhile George (Leah Lewis) becomes host to the spirit of a 19th century Frenchwoman, Nancy starts dating one of the Bobbsey Twins, Tom Swift (gay and black) puts in an appearance (a back-door pilot — I imagine if the Hardy Boys hadn’t had a recent series on Hulu, we’d have seen them here too). The ending of the season is the discovery Nancy’s possessed and doomed if they can’t reverse things — but doing so only unleashes a worst menace to threaten Horseshoe Bay in S3.

I really enjoyed the first season and this one works just as well. The characterization is good and there are some great lines, like Nancy referring to “a creepy nature cult I exposed when I was 11.” One delightful episode has them repeatedly having to erase their memories because of an unspeakable name they’ve learned — a Groundhog Day set-up without an actual time loop. I’m looking forward to S3. “Everett didn’t ask about the numbers, only who knew about them.”

#SFWApro. Cover by Rich Buckler, all rights remain with current holder.

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