This Black Lightning review contains spoilers.
Black Lightning Episode 11
“I need you to be calm.”
Restraint. For being the most powerful person in any room, Jefferson has to have a lot of restraint. He could shock someone to death if he wanted but he doesn’t. He only uses his power for good, that’s what makes him a hero.
This week however he’s put to the test. While throughout the series he’s faced intolerance of all kinds it’s here where Jefferson faces his biggest challenge. Having to keep his anger in. This isn’t just getting stopped on the street (as horrible as that is.) Getting accused for possessing Green Light could end his career. His life.
He knows he didn’t do it. He knows he’s being set up. It makes him angry. You see it in his eyes. Hear it in his voice.
He knows he could use his powers to get out of this… but he doesn’t. He restrains himself. He’s the most powerful man in the room and he chooses to do nothing. Why? Because Jefferson knows he has to be better. He can’t give into anger or hate, despite having every reason to.
The scene where he’s forced to strip down and cough is one of the series’ most powerful, which says a lot since damn near every episode has had a powerful moment in it. Cress Williams portrays Jefferson’s restraint with every layer of acting imaginable. The indignity. The pain. The fear. The anger. The restraint. Award shows take note of this man. He’s doing some of the most brilliant work on TV.
Of course this being Black Lighting Jefferson’s family is in on all this as well. Jennifer and Anissa have to learn the lessons their father learned a long time ago, to have restraint in the face of injustice. It’s not fair, and Lynn perfectly sums this up in her advice to Jennifer.
“It’s okay to be strong and scared at the same time. It’s called having sense.”
That’s exactly what Jefferson is doing. He’s scared of what could happen but in not giving into his anger he’s standing strong. He’s ultimately rewarded for this and, in a deliciously triumphant moment, Henderson takes down the crooked cops who got Jefferson into this in the first place.
The plan Gambi employs to make that happen is not new for superhero shows. It feels like every series that involves a secret identity has this plot. They concoct a plan to have a double impersonate them in front of a large group so their identity can remain hidden. Arrow employed it way back in season one.
It’s effective enough here but I wish there had been a bit more to it. The plan had little to no complications but honestly when the rest of the episode was so chock full of good moments I can mostly let it slide.
One particular scene of note is the news broadcast where people react to Jefferson’s arrest. It’s telling that only one person has anything bad to say while everyone else is positive but the newscaster says all the comments were “divisive.” Especially with everything that’s been popping up in the real world news about Sinclair broadcasting stations this is incredibly timely (although nothing new.)
Another thread running through the episode is “Can we all get along?” This is specifically referring to Jefferson and Gambi and how the ending scene addressed it was pitch perfect. Not everything is wrapped up in a neat bow. Gambi did too much for that to happen and he knows it.
“I don’t expect you to forgive me.”
Then Jefferson hits him some real words of wisdom.
“I might not be able to… But I can’t forget what you’ve done for me.”
Jefferson won’t forget the bad things but he can’t disregard the good either. Gambi is trying and that means a hell of a lot to Jefferson, especially after what he went through with the police.
We’re beyond lucky to have a show like Black Lightning. It’s not just a damn good superhero series; it’s an amazing drama. The commentary, the character work, the subtle moments, all the actors giving it their all, this show is special.
Shamus Kelley is a pop culture/television writer and official Power Rangers expert. Follow him on Twitter!