Black Lighting Episode 4 Review: Black Jesus
Jefferson Pierce continues to deal with the limits of his power as a dangerous new drug enters his community.
This week on Jefferson Pierce Tries Desperately to Save the People of His Neighborhood, there’s a new drug in town, Green Light, and it’s starting to infiltrate Garfield High. When one of Jeff’s students, Bernard, takes his first hit, he Hulks out in the school bathroom, forcing Jeff to use his Black Lighting powers to stop him.
It’s just the latest of the seemingly neverending battles that are piling up on Jefferson Pierce’s plate, and he’s tired. Tired of fighting in quicksand, and tired of the collateral damage that keeps piling up as a result. As Anissa is starting to realize with her burgeoning vigilantism, violence always comes at a cost. Beating someone up doesn’t just traumatize the victim; it has an affect on the perpertrator, too.
Unless you’re an apparent sociopath like Lady Eve, that is. We learn more about the villainess as she is digging around in someone’s insides and threatening to turn Tobias into bone dust if he doesn’t kill the Black Lightning once and for all. She speaks of her partners’ unhappiness, implying that she isn’t the only villain at the top of this food chain.
The threats work on Tobias, who bring in reinforcements in the form of his sister Tori. The two concoct a plan not to kill Black Lightning themselves, but to use the people of Freeland to do it. This community cares, and that caring is powerful. Right now, that caring is focused on Khalil, who is still in the hospital following his shooting at last week’s protest. When Whale starts buying Khalil nice things and covering his medical bills, it’s not out of the goodness of his heart. He wants to turn Khalil against Black Lightning, and the rest of Freeland with him.
While Tobias’ methods, i.e. showing up in a dark hospital room to have a chat with Khalil, seem a bit too over-the-top to work, Khalil is in a dark, vulnerable place. He has put everything into getting a track scholarship so he can go to college and have a future for himself. Now, he can’t even walk. In a particularly affecting scene, Khalil’s mom brings Jeff in to tell Khalil that he will never walk again. It’s what feels like another unbearable example of collateral damage for Jeff, who is not only heartbroken for Khalil, but is seriously worried about how this is affecting Jennifer.
While Jennifer may be trying to hold everything together for Khalil, she’s already starting to lose herself to the situation. She falls apart in the hospital hallway minutes after leaving Khalil’s room. When she quits track to be able to spend more time with him, Khalil doesn’t seem to notice that she seems genuinely upset about it. She’s a kid trying to be everything to her heartbroken boyfriend, but she can’t save him from pain. Like her father and her sister, she’s learning there are limits to what you can do to alleviate someone else’s pain and problems. You can be there for them, you can support them, you can offer them your help, but you can’t reach inside of them and take their pain away—you can’t fix their problems.
Meanwhile, Anissa continues to keep her distance from her family as she tries to come to terms with her powers—how they define her and how she wants to use them. We get some clues in Anissa’s conversation with Inspector Henderson during a, um, friendly family dinner. Anissa defends Black Lightning’s actions to the inspector, who continues to see the vigilante as doing more harm than good. To Anissa, he is a hero. Black Lightning guides her own actions, even if he doesn’t know it.
Anissa may not be confiding in her family, but she is confiding in Grace. She wonders aloud to her friend (and maybe more?) about what responsibility she has to tell her parents about the big, latest development in her life. Grace gives some good advice: it isn’t about responsibility; it’s about having the gift of the opportunity to ask for her parents advice. It’s something Grace herself mentions she doesn’t have.
The conversation is temporarily put on hold when Grace and Anissa are attacked by some men who have a problem with the lesbian bar Grace bartends at. They knock Grace out, and Anissa puts her powers to good use, taking them all out with a power stomp that literally cracks the pavement underfoot. It’s enough to attract Jefferson’s attention. He abandons his Black Lightning mission to follow the Green Light trucks, and checks out the “explosion” instead.
While Anissa may no longer be there when Jeff arrives (and boy am I dying to see the eventual meetup when the father and daughter realize they are spending their nights in similar manners), but evidence of her power is. Gambi tells Jeff to return to his mission, but the sidekick gathers his own evidence, seemingly keeping clues as to the mysterious new vigilante’s identity to himself.
This is the second week in a row Gambi has withheld information from Jeff, calling into question the man’s motivations and master plan. I believe that Gambi has Jeff’s interests in mind, but I doubt Jeff is going to see it that when if he eventually finds out what Gambi has been keeping from him—especially if it has to do with his own daughter.
It might take awhile before Jeff notices, however. The man has a lot on his plate. In the aftermath of Bernard’s on-campus, drug-induced freakout, the school board wants to expel him. Bernard’s desperate father begs Jeff to do what he can for Bernard, who already has some college acceptances and just needs to get through senior year. Jeff sacrifices his decision-making power on student expulsions to the board in exchange for Bernard not getting expelled. Like Tobias, Jeff has his own group of mostly faceless power players to answer to.
The sacrifice is tinged by Bernard’s Green Light relapse. A frustrated Jeff suits up as Black Lightning to bust the drug house Bernard is currently high in. “You only lose if you stop fighting… but you can’t save everyone, Jeff,” Gambi tells Jeff earlier in the episode. Jefferson isn’t going to be able to save every kid, but, by god, he’s going to save this one.
Additional thoughts & quotes.
“It’s like you lied on your resume.” Lady Eve on Tobias supposedly having killed Black Lightning.
“I’m the vice principal, not your secretary, so if you want the board to know something, you should tell them yourself.” I still can’t remember the vice principal’s name, but she gets substantially more to do in this episode.
Fist punch shot!
As part of Jeff’s attempts to find out who is selling Green Light, he talks to his old classmate 2-Bits. It is a mostly unhelpful chat as 2-Bits alludes to selling the drugs (because he needs to provide for his family), but won’t actually give Jeff any real information. In an example of how Black Lightning can be affective in ways that Jefferson Pierce cannot, Black Lightning manages to get the information out of 2-Bits…who then asks for a selfie.
“I’m gonna be alright.” “Yeah, I know. I know you will.” Khalil and Jennifer’s definitions of alright may be very different. For Khalil, it means being able to walk again. For Jennifer, it means having any future whatsoever.
Lynn continues to struggle with the return of Black Lightning, mentioning it during family dinner with the Hendersons and blowing Jefferson off when he calls in one of his most frustrated moments. I hope we get more time to see this from Lynn’s perspective in future episodes.
This show continues to give me Friday Night Lights vibes, which is the highest of compliments, as far as I’m concerned.