Realism Is What It’s All About
In just six episodes, Black Lightning has become a series that Arrow tried to be but really hasn’t fully achieved in its six seasons. The opening moments of this week’s episode truly felt real in that any moment the cops could get Jefferson as he struggled with his power issues and sirens filled the air. There was a real menace as these cops are partly paid off and we’ve seen what most of them will do to a person of color over the last few episodes. While Green Arrow has to deal with cop issues, it never felt all that much of a threat. Gambi might have ended up saving Jefferson just in time, but the threat of law enforcement catching him and finishing the hero off still weighs heavily on the show. Which proves just how grounded this show is despite having people with powers running around.
Alongside this was the storyline of Jennifer dealing with being bullied as well as dealing with the fact that she’s young and isn’t sure what to do with her relationship with Khalil now that he’s paralyzed. This was also kept very real, as of course someone so young would be conflicted about spending her life alongside a guy she had barely even started dating. Jefferson’s talk with her about this and about the bullying really struck many cords that lots of people of color are familiar with, others within the same group claiming that you’re not fitting some unspoken guidelines of what it means to be part of that group. Not black enough in this case, because she’s able to get ahead and is from a successful family.
Heroism, It Runs In The Family
Jefferson’s journey as a hero has taken some turns, some good and some just meh lately, but the journey of Anissa as a growing hero is actually pretty interesting. To go along with keeping it real mentioned above, her part in protests and the counter-protests of white nationalists is of course pretty much ripped right from the headlines of our current world. Youth speaking out that we should not be glorifying men of the past that did terrible things and people that want to cling to that unenlightened past striking back out. While I get where the show was coming from, her actions in her hero costume to rectify things felt like a misstep for both the character and the show. Sure she’s still getting used to her powers but walking up to the statue where people are gathered to mourn the loss of one of her fellow protestors run over by the white nationalists and then just stomping to destroy it felt so apart from the normally composed and smart Anissa. It felt sloppy, like amateur hour. Technically she is a rookie amateur but it still felt off.
Another misstep in a way was the whole Jefferson seeking to murder Tobias Whale thing because even with all the dramatic music and Lynn having to call to talk him out of it didn’t make it feel like a realistic possibility. After five episodes we’ve gotten to know Jefferson and despite what he lost he’s not going to kill anyone. It’s not like Arrow where we know that Oliver does struggle at times with killing or not because he’s actually done the killing before. Black Lightning and Jefferson Pierce are just too good and care too much about helping and fixing things to believably be that close to murdering someone.
All of this was made up for by the revelation at last of Anissa’s powers to her parents, just not the way expected. That father and daughter unknowing fight was pretty brutal, showcasing just how powerful both of them are. Now that they know one another are heroes, things are seemingly going to get very interesting in their quest to bring down Tobias Whale and the 100.
Secrets, Mysteries, and Silly Villain Plans
What the heck is up with Gambi? At first, it seemed like father figure Alfred like role included some lies to just protect Jefferson from himself but now we’re finding out how deep it goes. He’s been deep into things and has ties to Tobias, Lady Eve and probably even more things. I’m still really hoping that it’s not just revealed that he’s betrayed Jefferson or had anything to do with the loss of his father or something. It would be too cliche and would rob us of the wonderful dynamic that James Remar and Cress Williams have as the father/son type relationship.
Tobias Whale continues to be a frustrating villain. There are moments where he shines or gets to do treat things like show how powerful he is, like taking down Lala with no remorse or dealing with his abusive father at last, but then there are other moments where he just falls flat. He goes off on his henchmen about being lazy and not finishing off Black Lightning, but what the heck has he done to deal with the hero since his return? Very little. His going to Khalil to get the kid to dislike Black Lightning to smear the hero through press has seemingly gone nowhere. But now it looks like he might be promising to give Khalil powers and use him that way, which of course is going to backfire somehow. Even with her few appearances, Lady Eve is still proving to be a more threatening feeling villain. Tobias needs to follow her lead more.
Every show is bound to have episodes that sort of muddle through things a bit, and after a bunch of really solid episodes, this is the first of this season to reach that level. It’s not bad but the few missteps definitely stand out and there doesn’t feel to be very much progress on any front other than Jefferson & Anissa’s secrets revealed. Hopefully, based on the preview next week picks up the pace on the overall plotlines.
Score: 8.5 out of 10