Black Lightning: Black Jesus


This looks bad, and you have no idea…

One of Jefferson Pierce’s nicknames becomes the title of the next episode of Black Lightning with “Black Jesus.” The episode starts with Jefferson at work, and hearing that someone is freaking out in the bathroom. This turns out to be very true, and the kid is so far gone Pierce has to use his powers to subdue the crazed student. It’s like he was on PCP taken to a low metahuman level. Afterward, he finds a baggie of drugs in the kid’s pocket.

Anissa gets her own surprise when she’s out driving around. She sees two girls from the school starting a drug deal, and pulls over. Heroism runs in the Pierce blood, and she gets involved, to the point that one of the dealers flashes a gun at her.

Jefferson and Gambi confer about drugs in the city. Jefferson is worried that the city is under attack and that they are losing, while Gambi is concerned that Jefferson is focusing his attentions in the wrong place to take down the 100. That night, Black Lightning hits the streets, looking for info and beating on drug dealers until he gets a name or a place.

Tobias Whale isn’t having a great night himself. He’s reporting to Lady Eve, who is doing something truly disturbing as she relates the story of how some in Africa believe albinos like Tobias are magical, and they grind them up into powder. She also lectures him that his reputation was built on killing Black Lightning, and that since the hero is back, people are questioning Whale in general. As she talks about the shooting at the march, Tobias continues his habit of tearing down people he doesn’t like or finds inconvenient. The scene ends with Eve giving him some fairly direct instructions.

At Garfield High, Principal Pierce has a meeting with Brendan, the kid from the first scene, and his father. Brendan was on course to get into college, and his dad is worried that the mandatory expulsion for drug use (and destroying a bathroom) will screw all that up. Kara Fowdy, his vice principal, is a lot less certain than Jefferson about some of his promises. After some back and forth, Pierce gets the name of Brendan’s dealer. After debating with Fowdy about some of what he said, Pierce talks to Gambi about what he’s learned. Gambi comes back with bad news for Pierce about the new lead.

After a very rough scene of Khalil in rehab from his injuries, and Jennifer dealing with his nurses, we see Tobias at work. He’s following up on where he got the bad information about Black Lightning’s supposed demise, and he is his usual forgiving self. Then Jennifer gets home for another argument with her parents about not answering her phone, the time she’s spending with Khalil, and an argument with her track coach. She comes back with some surprising decisions of her own.

Then it’s time for another awkward dinner, this time with Anissa praising Black Lightning, making Inspector and Mrs. Henderson uncomfortable. After she says a few cutting things, Anissa leaves, tension in her wake as she also triggered Lynn and Jefferson’s arguments about the masked hero.

Anissa was rushing off to go confront the drug dealers from earlier. With hoodie pulled low, she goes after them and uses her power to knock them around. Then, worried she’s actually hurt them, she foolishly uses her own phone to call 911. Either that will come back to haunt her, or there’s some sloppy writing going on here. Like father, like daughter, as Anissa starts her vigilante career, Jefferson goes to visit the next dealer whose name he got. Turns out this man, too, is someone Pierce used to know (I swear he knows half the damn city). Two-bit, the dealer, is glad to see Jefferson, but not forthcoming with any answers about Green Light, the new drug.

Gambi and Pierce compare notes on Green Light, which is described as “like PCP and crack had a baby.” After discussing the tragic results the drug is having, Gambi comments that the 100 has gotten more complicated since Black Lightning returned. After some more discussion, Gambi suggests Pierce pay Two-Bit another visit in his other suit.

So, of course, the next scene is the masked hero at the taproom, complete with lights going dim and very optimistic thugs attacking him. Eventually, Black Lightning gets to Two-Bit, who is persuaded to talk and then makes a comedically weird but believable request. Black Lightning is less than amused.

Khalil and Jennifer debate the offers he’s getting from the media, and how he’s going to handle them. He also seems to be making some assumptions that Jennifer isn’t necessarily on board with. Jefferson has a meeting where he finds out the board of the school isn’t with him on all of his decisions of late, and he has a very important choice to make soon. Elsewhere, there’s a surprising family reunion that bodes ill for our hero.

Black Lightning tests out a new toy from Gambi (that tailor has some interesting skills) and is really impressed with the results. Anissa goes to see her not-quite-yet girlfriend Grace, where orientations and sharing things with parents are discussed. While Black Lightning and Gambi are reluctantly impressed with the set up the 100 has for Green Light, Anissa and Grace get an unfortunate encounter with some narrow-minded bigots (I’m trying to keep it PG ish here) that leads to Grace being injured and a more flagrant display of power from Anissa. Black Lightning gets to the scene after she’s gone, and once again, Gambi is keeping secrets.

Whale and a new ally plot what to do next, and his new advisor is damn smart, I have to say. Khalil has gotten a lot of new presents, which is good, because Jefferson and the doctors have some bad news for him. The bad news keeps on coming as later that night (does anyone ever leave that school?), Vice Principle Fowdy comes in with an ultimatum from the school board. Jefferson calls Lynn for a shoulder to lean on, but gets a cold shoulder instead. Then, Jefferson gets even more bad news which results in Black Lightning going out on another mission.

Jefferson has a sad meeting with Bernard’s father, then an emotionally complicated phone call from Lynn. While he digests all that, Khalil gets a disturbing visit from a not-so-well wisher with an agenda that’s not good for the patient or the titular hero. Things are going to get worse before they get better, I suspect.

What I liked: I like the partnership with Jefferson and Gambi (see below for more). Jefferson is a hero both in and out of costume, and you can see what it costs him. I’m intrigued by some vague references to Gambi’s past. The new gadget for the suit is pretty damn cool, and it makes sense he has these. It’s not like they need to design a power source for the gadgets. Anissa’s slowly developing hero’s journey is also catching my attention and making me curious to see how they handle it. The dinner with the Hendersons was great. Most of the heroes on tv right now have a huge support staff one way or another (Arrow, Flash, Supergirl). I like that so far, Jefferson doesn’t. It seems to fit.

What I didn’t: I’m trying, I really am, but I just don’t like Lynn. She’s annoying and comes across as selfish and/or willfully blind. The school board’s power play with Jefferson is the first cliche plot twist on the series. Jennifer really needs to grow up and find an emotion other than ‘sulk.’ I’m really worried about Gambi keeping so many secrets, and wonder what he’s up to.

Overall, the show continues to impress and entertain me. I really like what they’re doing with Black Lightning. I’m giving this episode a high 3.5 out of 5.