This Black Lightning review contains spoilers.
Black Lightning Episode 6
I know we’ve all been busy talking about Black Panther on the big screen for the last few weeks, but let’s not forget about just how good Black Lightning is.
Of the many things that Black Lightning does well, and this is a show that has done very little wrong in its first six episodes, it gets the hunted superhero/police dynamic down really well. In fact, I’d say that in the opening of “Three Sevens: The Book of Thunder” I got more of an impression that Black Lightning was in danger from the police department than I ever did in the early seasons of Arrow, or anything we’ve gotten from say, a similar street level hero with an uncomfortable relationship with law enforcement on Daredevil. There’s a real menace in the air when the cops mobilize to track down Black Lightning, and since we’ve already seen what these guys will do to Jefferson Pierce when he’s just driving home with his daughters, well, you can only imagine how things would go if they found him in this suit.
We’re just knocking on the door of the midway point of the season, and the show is showing a little danger of spinning its wheels. The previous episode was the closest to a real misstep the series has had so far, and while “Three Sevens: The Book of Thunder” is a tremendous improvement, there’s still just a hint that maybe they’re taking things a little too easy. While this was an excellent hour of television, other than the major Anissa development, I wasn’t quite sure how much of this hour we really needed for the big picture. We know what Tobias Whale is about, and I never really felt the tension of Jefferson’s “will he/won’t he” go through with his plan to fry Tobias. Honestly, I can’t imagine anyone bought that.
But when nearly everything else makes up for it, well, it’s tough to complain. The mystery of what Gambi is actually hiding and why he’s running interference for Tobias and Lady Eve is certainly enough to keep me guessing. For the last few weeks, my impression has been that James Remar’s Gambi is such a warm, comforting presence that I’d hate to think that he really is going down this path, and hopefully he’s just waiting for the right moment to double cross them.
I might not feel that way after this week. The show has leaned into the “superheroing-as-addiction” parallel really hard, often a little too hard, and this week is no exception. But Gambi manipulating that element to his advantage with Lynn elevated it, and had the bonus of making him seem far less sympathetic. I can’t stand anyone who moralizes for their own gain, and unless there’s something waiting in the wings, that’s pretty inexcusable behavior.
What I did find interesting though was the explanation of Jefferson’s powers that we got. The mind/body connection was an interesting one, as is the rush of endorphins he experiences when using them. As a former Olympic athlete, Jefferson is certainly familiar with that kind of exercise high, and there are definitely addictive elements with that just as surely as there would be with substance abuse. But for such a street-level show, and considering how kind of scaled back Gambi’s tech has seemed compared to what we get in STAR Labs or on the Waverider, it was nice to get into the nerdier details of what makes Black Lightning himself work.
As it has in many recent episodes, I keep coming back to Anissa’s journey as the standout, and with good reason. Nafessa Williams is really terrific, and her road to superhero life has been a joy so far. “What, you thought he missed?” might be my favorite moment the show has delivered so far, and following that up with a typical superhero fight/case of mistaken identity was a nice comedown. But Anissa’s defiance about defacing the Confederate monument was even more cathartic, as was how she was finally inspired to take even more direct action after seeing a bunch of morons spouting utter bullshit about “preserving all history” and “you will not replace us.”
But Ms. Williams shines in the quieter moments as well, as when she lets Jennifer know that her conflicted feelings about her future with Khalil are natural. I do have to ask, though, is the show making it too easy on Jennifer with Khalil? Not that he’s right to blame her for anything, but in that his bitterness and the road he’s about to take with Tobias Whale make her decision too easy?
A well balanced episode, overall, although one that suffers slightly from that lack of real tension over whether Jefferson would pull the trigger on Tobias. On the other hand, with seven episodes left, he may still find a way to preserve his own soul while getting his revenge on Tobias.