Black Lightning 1x04 "Black Jesus"
“You can't save everybody. In fact, there are days when I think you can't save anyone. Each person has to save himself first, then you can move in and help.”
This quote was at the forefront of my mind the entire episode, as soon as I realized that the issue with Bernard was drug related. Jefferson is trying very hard to find a way to manage being both Black Lightning and Jefferson Pierce and it seems like he might finally have found a bit of balance.
Freeland is a tough town and, as a result, it has almost all of the things one would expect to find: gangs, violence, and drugs. This week we’re focusing on the effects of a drug called “Green Light” and its introduction to the teenage population of Freeland. I don’t know about you all, but any drug that can get someone so geeked that they can rip toilets out of walls and take electric shocks with no problem is terrifying!
Of course, the main peddlers of the drug are The 100 Gang, this time led by Tobias, who is still trying to worm his way back into Lady Eve’s good graces. It turns out that a lot of Tobias’ reputation was built on Black Lightning’s murder, and now that people know Black Lightning isn’t dead, Tobias is suffering, and so is Lady Eve’s pocket. As a mortician, Eve is probably uniquely suited to bring drugs in and out of the city, so it was nice to get a glimpse into the front she presents to the world. We even got a bit more of a backstory on Tobias this week, learning he was a politician long before he was a crime boss. Does anyone else think that Jefferson’s father (the one who Tobias killed by stuffing his own newspapers down his throat) might have written an exposé on Tobias while he was in office?
The more we see of Lady Eve the more convinced I am that Tobias might not hang around for as long as I initially thought. A crime boss as apparently fierce as Lady Eve probably won’t take too kindly to failure for long.
Tobias, in an effort to take the focus off of himself, calls in a favor from his sister, Tori. It seems the family business is killing Black Lightning, because Tori comes up with a great idea immediately: turn Khalil against Black Lightning. Khalil is going to have several interviews coming up soon and if he—a kid from a bad neighborhood who was going to use running as his ticket out—publicly denounces Black Lightning, Tobias and Tori might be able to turn the city of Freeland against their hero. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if it turns out that Tobias paid off the doctor to tell Khalil he’ll never be able to work again, just to put more eggs in his basket.
Jennifer was excellent during this episode. She’s trying really hard to be supportive of Khalil, even going so far as to quit track in an effort to not remind Khalil of what he’s lost. I think she would have been better served following her parent’s advice of waiting a few days before actually committing to the decision, but Jennifer has been through a lot lately, and hasn’t really sought or received any help for it; so it’s unsurprising that she’s coping the way she is. I also can’t help but wonder if she’s not also blaming herself for Khalil’s injury, because I don’t know that he would have been at the march if she hadn’t told him about it (he wasn’t at LaWanda’s service to hear the Reverend’s initial call for the march).
Jefferson continues to live up to the “Black Jesus” moniker as principal of Garfield High, going to bat for Bernard in a big way: by giving up his right to the final decision on severe infractions to keep the teen in school and off of the streets. Unfortunately, we see that plan backfire almost immediately, as Bernard goes to find more “Green Light.” His father is brutally assaulted trying to get him out of the drug house and calls Principal Pierce to help him out.
As expected, Black Lightning shows up to the drug den (and honestly, Jefferson needs to start being a bit more discreet, because if he keeps doing this someone is going to notice sooner or later). Jefferson was able to save Bernard, but does saving that one student mean that Jefferson might not be able to save another when the time comes—maybe not even his own daughter?
I loved, loved, loved the conversation between Anissa and Inspector Henderson. Seeing Anissa root so hard for Black Lightning and the secret smile that Jefferson sent Lynn over his glass of wine as she realized that perhaps Black Lightning was doing some good for the community was gratifying, and hearing the voicemail that Lynn left Jefferson later in the episode was the icing on the cake. It did make me wish that Anissa knew who her father was, so she could understand that perhaps her secret doesn’t have to be a secret.
I did really enjoy watching Anissa handle the guys who attacked Grace and I’m pleased that Anissa doesn’t seem to be faltering in her acceptance of her abilities. She is who she is and she’s going to make the most of it: using her abilities to help save the people of Freeland, just like her father.
Just as important for me was the revelation that Grace Choi is bisexual! Of the many things that Black Lightning is doing right, I can’t praise them enough for how well they are handling LGBTQA representation on screen. It’s not often that a character’s sexuality is so explicitly named, but they’ve done it twice now (last week, clearly calling Anissa a lesbian), which helps eliminate audience confusion and mislabeling, provides necessary and indisputable representation to two severely underrepresented groups, and, most importantly, takes the stigma out of being a lesbian or bisexual. The mentions are handled well and feel normal, not shoehorned into the conversation, and I’m excited to see where they go with these characters and if they add more LGBTQA characters as the show goes on.
"Black Jesus" was another strong episode that continues to evolve and expand Black Lightning’s universe. We’re only four episodes in, but this particular DC drama is definitely one of The CW’s best shows.
Black Lightning airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on the CW.