16th Feb2018

‘Black Lightning 1×05: Aches and Pains’ Review

by Jason Brigger

Stars: Cress Williams, China Anne McClain, Nafessa Williams, Christine Adams | Developed by Salim Akil

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One of the more enjoyable aspects of the Black Lightning series is the series’ ability to balance the superhero dynamic with the characters’ personal lives and while episode five is more superhero friendly than previous episodes, it still delivers on the background on some key characters.

Cress Williams looks like he is enjoying playing the Black Lightning character and even the character appears to be having fun as he is flying around the city testing out his new hover powers, courtesy of Gambi. One of my favorite parts of this episode occurs when Black Lightning spots two police officers attempting to arrest an unknown suspect high on the drug Greenlight. Instead of Black Lightning assisting the officers, he sits back and lets the officers do their job and try to arrest the suspect. This is all for naught though as the suspect has super strength due to the drug and Black Lightning feels he needs to interfere when the suspect begins to assault the officers. Lightning’s electric bear hug takes down the suspect before an officer can use deadly force and its little things like this scene that shows that while Lightning is important to the city, so are the officers that have to deal with the fallout from Greenlight.

Gambi has an unexpected visitor to the tailor shop as Tobias Whale is shopping for a new suit…and intel on Black Lighting’s secret identity. We learn that Tobias and Jefferson were given an experimental serum, resulting in superpowers, one power which prevents Whale from ageing. Gambi is a loyal sidekick and doesn’t reveal anything to Whale but he also isn’t revealing to Jefferson that Whale is still alive.

Anissa, after moving back into her father’s house, begins researching about superpowers and stumbles across a conspiracy theorist on the internet discussing experimental serums given to nine children in Freeland. Approximately 30 years ago, Anissa’s grandfather Alvin was an investigative reporter working to expose the experiments and the missing nine children when his life was mysteriously cut short. After visiting her grandfather’s old newspaper editor and guilting him into supplying some information on Alvin’s research, Anissa hits the motherload of information at her grandfather’s old storage unit. I was surprised to see the series take this approach to why Whale and Pierce gained superpowers but based on the Tuskegee experiments, it’s a reasonable explanation and fits with the show’s story.

Speaking of family ancestors, Tori does her sisterly duty by hunting down and finding her brother’s first true enemy he never beat…their abusive father. Tori feels the only way for Whale to truly become the man he needs to be is to destroy his father, a task Whale happily agrees to. After his father’s shocked response at the meet and greet and a few questionable comments by him including “I may have beaten you but at least I stayed, unlike your mother”, Whale breaks his father’s back and lets him die a slow death. Based on the previews for upcoming episodes, it looks like this was the motivation Whale needed as it appears he has his sights on Lady Eve next.

Meanwhile Pierce is having difficulties of his own as he is pushing himself too much and passes out in front of Gambi. Gambi calls the only doctor that can help Pierce, his ex-wife Lynn and discovers an issue with the capacitor in the suit is causing Pierce to lose power and hurt himself. Despite Gambi and Lynn’s insistence of Pierce taking a night off, Pierce declines as a tip from Detective Henderson states the former right-hand man of Whale, Joey Toledo, is back in town and is pushing Greenlight.

The episode ends on a cliffhanger as Black Lightning, while beating information out of Joey Toledo, is incapacitated as his costume starts malfunctioning, allowing Toledo to do the beating to Lighting. The episode fades to black as Toledo is shown running off screen, presumably to call Whale that Black Lightning is captured.

One Good Thing!

  • Anissa has a superhero costume. The montage of Anissa shopping at a more hardcore Victoria’s Secret store was quite enjoyable as where else do you go for a superhero costume? After trying on several possibilities (didn’t the Incredibles teach you no capes?), Anissa decides on the tried and true latex outfit. The costume is fun and practical but one suggestion; maybe actually wear a mask instead of eye makeup to hide your face? Black Lightning wastes little time in throwing Anissa headfirst into being a superhero and while a slow build works for some superhero shows, Black Lightning will be better off with Anissa joining her father in the near future.

One Bad Thing!

  • Another conspiracy? While I like Anissa investigating the past and her grandfather, I am not keen on a “Big Brother” group of villains watching everyone. Yes, it leads the audience into guessing who is behind the experimental serum but a lot of the times the conclusion is never satisfying. I hope that Black Lightning changes that idea and the payoff is well done but as of now, I’m skeptical.

What We Learned:

  • Jennifer has super strength, but does she know it? Jennifer’s story arc this week is dealing with two high school bullies that are upset Jennifer beat them in a track meet. Jennifer arrives at the bowling alley with her friend but after the bullies start talking trash about Jennifer’s maybe (?) boyfriend Khalil and a few pushes, Jennifer takes the girls down and break one of their wrists. The look on Jennifer’s face is one of confidence so maybe she knows she had super strength all along but it never really is answered. Later on, Pierce is impressed and surprised with how easily Jennifer defended herself but that doesn’t stop Jennifer from being grounded for the incident. Remember kids, it’s the lie, not the action that gets you in trouble.

This Episode’s Grade: B (Good)

Black Lightning’s last two episodes has the series firing on all cylinders and has me wanting to find out what happens on the next episode. After being skeptical of Anissa becoming a superhero and joining her father, I am all in on Anissa’s story arc and looking forward to how the series will handle this development. It was also nice to get more of a backstory of Whale and his sister and the justification for why Whale has become who he is. There is no new episode next week so I’ll see you in two weeks!

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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