Reviews TV

The Arrowverse – Black Lightning 1×04 “Black Jesus” review

Black Lightning begins to appear more as Jefferson Pierce steps out more to try and save his community from itself.

Black Lightning 1x04

In the first episode, Black Lightning came out of retirement after almost a decade to save his daughters, and that moment has created a ripple effect that is continuing to affect the hero, his family and the community at large. Heroes tend to have this domino knocking over effect, but this series has done it in a much more realistic way compared to the other CW hero shows.

United On Ideas But Divided On Methods

One thing that this series is doing really well is proving just how much of a threat The 100 is, not even through Tobias Whale or Lady Eve. The drugs that are being peddled through the streets, including students at the school that both Jefferson and Anissa have to deal with, shows how much this gang is harming the community. It’s a systematic thing that is so deep into the community, that it’s not as easy to root out as just taking down some supervillain. Because of this, each episode shows us more and more of Jefferson using his abilities and being Black Lightning, as he is realizing more and more that he can do more as the vigilante than he can as the Principal. I respect the slow build up that the series has been doing with its title hero, not just spending all the time focused on him being a hero like the other shows have done with their heroes. Instead, the time has been spent fleshing out this world so that we truly fully understand what it is that these characters are dealing with.

That increased time as Black Lightning is having the effect of Jefferson’s two worlds colliding more and more. We saw this previously with his efforts to get back with Lynn sputtering out because of his choice to go back into heroics. Now it’s slipping into the school as he’s focused more on dealing that is happening and affecting his students. This struggle of bureaucracy and learning that he cannot save the kids as much as he thought he could as principal is being a well-crafted plot that is pushing him closer towards being Black Lightning more. Every hero takes the journey where they realize there is only so much they can do as a normal person, and Jefferson is going through it for likely the second time in life. This time it’s probably not as simple as it was the first time. Especially with the piling up collateral damage that has come from just the short period of time since his heroic return.

A Hero Is Only As Strong As Those Around Him

Jefferson Pierce is strong and the title of the show is his alter-ego, but he’s only part of the focus of this show. Strong female characters that are not just cliches are sorely needed in this day and age. For every Wonder Woman, there are numerous other women in shows and films that are still just there to really prop up the man that is at the center of a series. Jefferson’s daughters Jennifer and Anissa do not fit into that second category. Their stories are just as important as their fathers, as they are both trying to find themselves and where they fit into this world. Lynn somewhat fits into the role, but there is not a lot of time at this point spent on her outside of her family. Perhaps that will come later.

While it seems rebellious, Jennifer’s moments this week felt so very real and understandable. After all that she’s seen and experienced since the first episode it makes so much sense that she’s questioning things now and realizing that maybe just living the life her parents wanted for her is not the only way. I understand what her parents were saying about needing to spend more time with her studies and not Khalil, it’s a bit messed up to say she should stop trying to spend time with her boyfriend that was just shot and paralyzed.

Anissa’s growing realization that she needs to do more, with her powers, came out wonderfully at the dinner table as she unknowingly spent the conversation with Inspector Henderson & his wife defending her father the vigilante. Then things took such a turn as she lashed out with her abilities, not realizing her own power. I still think that building her journey towards being a rookie hero alongside the veteran status of her father as a hero was a brilliant move. It allows us the glimpse at the start of a heroes journey without it being the main character of the series like with the other shows. I really can’t wait until the moment that father and daughter find out about one another and can take this hero journey together.

The father-son dynamic with Gambi and Jefferson is very interesting, but this constant thing we’re seeing of Gambi keeping secrets from Jefferson is puzzling. First, he erased footage of Tobias Whale being there to shoot the Reverend and Khalil last week, and now he’s keeping secrets about what the cameras showed at a scene where Anissa used her powers to beat down some guys attacking her new love interest Grace. It’s hard to tell if he could see it was Anissa from the footage, but taking the gun suggests that he didn’t. And instead was just worried about some other powered person maybe. I want to believe that the revelation will be that Gambi did this all to protect Jefferson, keep him focused and not going after Whale too soon, and since I trust the writing team so far I’m certain they won’t just pull off a ridiculous betrayal storyline. There will be more to it.

Black Lightning 1x04 Eve

A Tale Is Weaved About A Whale

One critique that I had early on in the episodes was how flat a character Tobias Whale was. In the first appearance, he came off as just a typical stereotypical gangster leader, them adding a bit to him with the second episode and beyond. This week through Lady Eve we finally get a picture of who this guy is what where he came from. A former politician fallen to the other side who built his entire ascent in the world of crime on the claim that he killed Black Lightning. There are still some gaps with the characters as he’s still an angry thug, and despite many politicians being ridiculous I almost can’t believe this guy used to hold any kind of office. Then again, this city seems to be that crooked and dark that he might have perfectly fit in.

Lady Eve is still a mystery, I mean she was working on a body that seemed dead but was actually still alive, and it works. While I want to know more about Tobias to flesh him out of being a cliche, Lady Eve comes off as a threat even with her limited screen time these last two episodes. I’m sure one day we’ll get more about her but right now I’m good with what we have. She’s a far more effective overall villain to have just on the fringes of things until the time is right. It’s the women that are the real brains of the operation as Tobias’ sister shows up to help him with the Black Lightning thing and gives him the perfect idea on how to get to the hero. By convincing Khalil that his injury is the vigilante’s fault.

Final Thoughts

Nothing is getting easier as this show moves through each week, threats and damage just piling up around Jefferson & his family. Other shows need to have lighter episodes but so far this one works best by staying true and realistic with some lighthearted stuff seeded in here or there. There is a price to being a hero and this week perfectly proved that in a powerful way.

Score: 9.5 out of 10


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