09th Feb2018

‘Black Lightning 1×04: Black Jesus’ Review

by Jason Brigger

BL-101-1

Black Lightning’s fourth episode is a rebound episode after last week’s lackluster attempt and my love for the series returns, not that it was ever in question. The series is still doing a lot of world building but this episode seems to take a few monumental steps instead of Bill Murray’s “baby steps” from last week. Alliances are beginning to form and secrets are being kept, which never ends well.

Episode four begins with one of Jefferson Pierce’s students, Bernard, “freaking out” in the school bathroom after taking a PCP-type drug called “Green Light” that makes users feel invincible. This is usually the case unless your school principal is Black Lightning and after two shots of lightning, Bernard, is finally down for the count but not before ripping the urinal off the wall and throwing it at Pierce. What Pierce later learns is that Green Light is so powerful, it only takes one use (first one is free) for people to be hooked on the drug.

Meanwhile, Anissa, much like her dad, is contemplating how she can best serve her community with her new superpowers. Anissa decides to save one of her students from hanging out with two local Green Light drug pushers, but not before the pushers call her a derogatory name. Anissa thinks twice about using her powers in the daytime on the pushers but it doesn’t mean she can’t use her powers at night. Anissa returns that night and delivers a near fatal beating to the pushers, which sparks some empathy from her. Anissa may actually be more powerful than her father but she definitely will need someone to train her in harnessing her power. I’m looking at you Gambi.

After Pierce has a sit down with a now sober Bernard and Bernard’s father, Pierce promises Bernard will not be expelled from school. Pierce realizes an expulsion would ruin Bernard’s chances of college and Pierce’s does not give up on his students after one mistake. Black Lightning stands out from other superhero series on television because what Pierce does outside his costume is just as important as what he does in the costume. In The Flash, the work that Barry Allen does in his day job is never really shown as helping the community and is usually only served as a plot device for Allen to know who the supervillain of the week is on that episode. Black Lightning succeeds because Pierce wants his students to succeed and has worked years to install that mentality in the school and students.

Bernard’s overdose sets up a fight between Pierce and the school board as the board wants Bernard expelled but Pierce won’t allow it. The fallout from the overdose results in Bernard staying in school but Pierce no longer has final say over the punishment for serious infractions of students at the school. The character of Pierce shines through as he fights to keep his word to Bernard’s father and I like that Pierce realizes he cannot win every fight so he must sometimes lose in order win.

Pierce’s investigation into the distribution of Green Light leads him to a childhood acquaintance 2-Bits, played by the hilarious Jason Louder. Pierce visits 2-Bits at a local bar and since 2-Bits will not give up any information on the drugs he is pushing, Black Lightning visits the bar and 2-Bits has a change of heart. Black Lightning walking into a bar and watching the criminal element run was a humorous scene and same with 2-Bits asking to take a selfie with Lightning before Lightning knocks him out. The bar scene shows Black Lightning is not afraid to add a little goofiness to a show that has been serious thus far.

On the criminal side, Lady Eve advises Whale her bosses are beginning to doubt the influence Whale has on the 100 and control of the community. Whale rose to power in Lady Eve’s criminal network for gaining the reputation as the man that killed Black Lightning nine years ago, an issue since Black Lightning isn’t dead anymore. Lady Eve gives an ultimatum to Whale to take out Black Lightning once and for all, which sets the plan in place that Whale needs to start gaining some friends.

Whale, after murdering the coroner that backed up Whale’s claim of killing Black Ligtning, calls in his mysterious sister from Miami to asisst in taking down Lightning. The first part of the plan is to turn the community against Lightning which leads to Whale becoming Khalil’s benefactor. Whale starts paying for Khalil’s medical bills, rent and entertainment options (video game system, phone, etc.) in order to convince Khalil that it’s Black Lightining’s fault that Khalil will never walk again. While not a completely original idea, this gives depth to Whale as he realized guns are not the only way to take down a hero.

The episode ends with Black Lightning rescuing Bernard from a drug house and beating up some mindless thugs along the way. While the episode doesn’t have an exciting climax, it does serve up some questions. Who is running the sophiscated distribution of Green Light because it’s most likely not the 100? Why is Gambi covering up Anissa’s superpowers from Pierce? How desperate will Whale become in taking down Black Lightning?

One Good Thing!

  • Teams are forming. I enjoy thinking about the future of this series that will eventually include Black Lightning and Gambi will training and teaming up with Anissa to take down Lady Eve’s gang of criminals. I am also enjoying that Whale, his sister, his mysterious henchwoman, the 100 and possibly Khalil are becoming a stronger criminal organization and learning to apply new tricks; Gambi stated the 100 is now acting more like terrorist cells than a typical gang. The characters are slowly joining sides and it feels natural and not a typical “you are evil so join me” reasoning.

One Bad Thing!

  • What is Lady Eve doing to her prisoner? While talking to Whale, Lady Eve is sticking and pulling out a giant metal rod from an unknown victim on the table in front of her. Who is the person that she is torturing and why? The audience doesn’t know who he is and is never told anything more. Why does it make the “Bad Thing” of the week? Because it was pretty disgusting and distracting watching Lady Eve slide this rod in and out repeatedly while having a normal conversation. Dear God, make it stop!

What We Learned:

  • Jennifer is not making rational decisions. Between school, running track and visiting Khalil, Jennifer is having a hard time juggling her life so what should she do? Quit track. Her parents don’t agree with her decision but you try telling a teenager not to do something. Unfortunately, a crack in Khalil’s perfect boyfriend facade shows itself as he much rather talk about his upcoming interview on the local news than concern himself with Jennifer turning her world upside down to care for him. Between Whale’s influence and Jennifer eventually breaking up with Khalil (it’s going to happen), this is not going to end well for Khalil.
  • Anissa is looking for guidance in all the wrong places. Anissa is becoming friendlier with the bartender/part-time librarian Grace, the woman she met last week, but after a night out, the couple is accosted by a group of homophobic cavemen. Not actual cavemen but their IQ’s are suspect. Grace is knocked out which allows Anissa to pummel the cavemen into unconscious and leave her footprint, literally, in the concrete as she now has the power to make earthquake-like tremors. Anissa, after some reassurance from a now concussed Grace, determines if she is beating up bad people, her means are justified. This is probably not the best idea asking a person that just suffered a concussion advice on morality.

This Episode’s Grade: B (Good)

Black Lightning is back on track this week and has become a “must watch” each week in my household, which is good since I write the reviews. Every episode gives each character enough to do and drops just enough hints to make the audience wanting more, i.e. what is Gambi’s background and why is he a bad ass? I enjoy that Black Lightning is not playing the typical “supervillain of the week” game and is more interested in developing a story over the first season’s 13 episodes.

You can catch Jason Brigger on the geek-centric podcast, The History of Bad Ideas, as new episodes are released every week at www.nerdly.co.uk or subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher and other podcasting apps. You can listen to their latest episode right here
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