Recap: Black Lightning Season 1 Episode 4 – “Black Jesus”
“You Can’t Save Everyone.”
This is what Gambi (James Remar) told Jefferson Pierce/Black Lightning (Cress Williams), but when your alter ego is Black Lightning, you will fight to save everyone you can by any means necessary. It all started with an electrifying opening as one of Jefferson’s students, Bernard (Michael King), doped up on the street drug “Greenlight”, attacked him in the bathroom at Freeland High. Jefferson had to blast him twice before subduing him.
This prompted Black Lightning to find out who gave his student this super drug. We got to see the vigilante side of Black Lightning on full power as he lit up a thug to get the dealers name… “Frank 2-Bits (Jason Louder).” Jefferson and Frank 2-Bits grew up together.
The ensuing bar scene encounter had the right amount of levity. First, Jefferson tried reasoning with 2-Bits. When that went south, he returned as Black Lightning. Watching cats scramble when Black Lightning came through the door was great. The highlight was watching 2-Bit try to negotiate no prison time, then request a selfie with B.L. This was a “Laugh-Out-Moment” for me. As preposterous as this might seem, it actually fits right into our present-day digital dispensation. A criminal wanting a selfie with a hero is a sign of the times. Depending on how many likes he would have received, 2-Bits could have become an internet star.
The episode title “Black Jesus” is what Reverend Holt called Black Lightning in episode 3. He believed Black Lightning to be an answer to prayer and the savior of Freeland. Jefferson/Black Lightning has taken this “nom de guerre” to heart. There was a great moment in the principal office when Jefferson forgave Bernard and protected him from being suspended to the chagrin of Vice-Principal, Ms. Fowdy (Skye P. Marshall). Jefferson was willing to take on the school board to save this student. I liked watching Bernard’s father (Derrick LeMont) and Jefferson work together for the sake of Bernard. It takes a village to raise a child these days. Jefferson even pushed Bernard to forgive himself by quoting their mantra;
Jefferson: Where’s the future?
Bernard: Right here
Jefferson: Whose life is this?
Jefferson: What are you going to do with it?
Bernard: Live it by any means necessary.
Great stuff. Didn’t Jesus do the same thing when He forgave Peter for betraying him? Such a wonderful moment and befitting of the episode title. Alas, if only more principals were like Mr. Jefferson Pierce.
One of the many strengths of this show is the strong family dynamics. They do normal everyday things which makes them relatable. Tonight we had a hearty after dinner debate about vigilantism. Detective Henderson (Damon Gupta) strongly considers Black Lightning to be a vigilante. While Anissa (Nafessa Williams), believes him to be the ultimate hero. It was a great tennis match between them. If only we could all take a lesson and agree to disagree. Detective Henderson went on to say that Reverend Holt, Khalil, and Lawanda White were casualties of Black Lightning… ouch! A staunch reminder of Black Lightning’s failures over the last few episodes. Jefferson and Lynn (the wonderful, Christine Adams) quietly sipped wine because they were the only two people at the table that knew Jefferson is Black Lightning. Lynn covertly got her point across when she mentioned how tough all of this must be on Black Lightning’s family, Anissa retorted, they probably support him because what he’s doing is good. A slight smile crossed Jefferson’s face. There was no smile on Lynn’s face. That truly makes their relationship dynamics and approach to co-parenting healthy and refreshing. Jefferson and Lynn may not always agree, but they are in agreement that their daughters come first.
What wasn’t refreshing, on many levels, was watching Lady Eve (Jill Scott) embalming a possibly live person while emasculating Tobias Whale (the marvelous Marvin “Krondon” Jones III). Lady Eve’s, fable about tribal Africans kidnapping albino’s, grinding them to dust and selling it as a magic powder was a great story, BUT her whispered tones lessened the impact. The scene lacked the intimidation factor. I didn’t fear her this week. I wanted to, I tried to but didn’t. Tobias reminded Lady Eve, that he made her millions. She replied that his claim to fame of killing Black Lightning was a sham and so was he. His mounting (yet controlled) frustration at being dressed down by her made the scene interesting. On a good note, we did get some great reveals from this scene. Tobias Whale, politician… WHAT? I suspect he won by a landslide because folks were probably scared not to vote for him. His campaign slogan was probably “Vote for me or I break a knee.” Heck, I’d fear-vote for this cat. And Lady Eve is a mortician…. Okay. In the comic books, Lady Eve was part of an international terrorist group. Hopefully, that will unfold in upcoming episodes.
Lady Eve seemed upset that Tobias shot Reverend Holt and paralyzed Olympic hopeful, Khalil. I guess even cold-blooded killers have standards. It was actually Tobias’ henchwoman, Syonide, (strangely absent from this episode) who did the shooting. So, it appears my question from last week was answered, Reverend Holt was Tobias’ target. I still find it odd that he didn’t try to take out Black Lightning while he had the chance.
Watching Tobias and his “other” henchman pound a lackey at a mortuary for falsely reporting the death of Black Lightning should have happened earlier in my opinion. I would have thought someone like Tobias would have made sure Black Lightning was dead, himself. I look forward to that flashback and the actual reunion between them.
How apropos that Tobias would feed rats to his pet Piranha. I never thought I would use the words “pet” and “Piranha” in the same sentence…., but why not? This is Tobias Whale we’re talking about. What I found odd, is that he called his sister Tori (Edwina Findley) to help him take out Black Lightning. I hope there will be a payoff for adding this character. Possibly the two will take down Lady Eve’s empire? I do hope so. Ultimately, Tobias needs to be the main big bad. This guy is nobody’s henchman, employee or lackey.
Anissa kicked some major butt tonight. I loved her confidence when she intervened on some thugs coercing two of her female students. It was great hearing the girls say, “Oh no, it’s Harriet Tubman”, a great throwback to the pilot episode. When these two thugs called Anissa a “B****” I thought she was going to flatten them, instead, she gave them a slight smirk and walked off. It seemed like they got off easy… NOT. Later a hooded, Anissa found the same two thugs and flung them around like rag-dolls. What was a great character moment for her, is that she realized she really hurt one of them and called an ambulance. This is true to who Anissa “Harriet Tubman” Pierce really is.
Who she did not call an ambulance for, was the group of hellions that roughed up her new girlfriend, Grace (Chantal Thuy) outside her bar. Anissa took a breath and knocked out one dude, then pulled her hood on and took care of the rest. She stomped on the ground, cracked the concrete and made a thunderclap that caught the attention of her dad, Black Lightning, who was doing some surveillance on a 100-gang warehouse. By the time he got there, all that was left was the aftermath… smashed up cars, cracked concrete, and unconscious assailants. WOW! Anissa is figuring out who she is and I am fully onboard for that journey. Can you hear it? Thunder is coming Y’all and it’s going to be glorious.
Black Lightning asked Gambi to check surveillance cameras about the aftermath. Gambi saw the hooded figure (Anissa) beat those men to a pulp. He even checked out the scene, with gun-in-hand. He took photos of the footprint at the epicenter of the cracked concrete and yet again said nothing to Black Lightning. My guess is Gambi thinks this was Tobias Whale related. He kept Tobias’ appearance at episode 3’s march quiet as well. At some point, Black Lightning is going to find out that Gambi is keeping secrets and he won’t be pleased.
I was digging the electro (x-ray) vision abilities that Gambi built into Black Lightning’s suit. Gambi is a wonderful amalgamation of “Q”, “Lucius Fox” and “Alfred.” He is a friend, confident and the foundation that keeps Black Lightning relevant. Gambi even has flat jokes. While discussing the drug dealer 2-Bits with Jefferson, Gambi asks “Is that like Huggy Bear?” C’mon, who doesn’t love a good Starsky & Hutch nod? The internet probably blew up with millennials googling “Who is Huggy Bear?” I enjoy the procedural side of the relationship as they systematically come up with ways to take down the 100-gang.
After failing to save LaWanda White, Reverend Holt, and Khalil, Black Lightning was determined to save Bernard. He went into that drug house like a tsunami and rescued the strung-out Bernard, fulfilling his purpose as the Black Jesus of episode 4.
Jennifer (China Anne McClain) is showing more selflessness as she stands beside her boyfriend, Khalil (Jordan Calloway). She’s trying to be strong for him and to support his recovery. It’s wonderful to see her fight for what she believes in. But also with her newfound conviction, comes the fact that she is young and in-over-her-head a bit. We see her vacillate when Khalil calls her his “ride-or-die.” Khalil’s diagnosis of permanent paralysis was a powerful moment. I knew it was coming because he was watching track-and-field in every hospital scene. But I still felt the gut-punch when Jefferson delivered the news. It wasn’t over-the-top, it wasn’t drawn out, it was to the point. Also, it was great seeing Khalil’s mom (Yolanda T. Ross). I would have had a major issue if she wasn’t there for this moment.
Who chose to capitalize on this unfortunate moment was none other than Tobias Whale. First, he surrounded Khalil with anonymous gifts (fattening the lamb) and then showed up in Khalil’s hospital room one evening, sitting in the shadows ready to strike. This scene reminded me of the serpent manipulating Eve in the garden of Eden. Tobias spewed venomous words to manipulate Khalil into blaming Black Lightning for his paralysis. Seeing the most innocent and most villainous characters in a scene together was fantastic.
Did Tobias turn Khalil? Who was that person Lady Eve was embalming? What other secrets does Gambi have? Has anyone seen Syonide?
I have mucho questions and I look forward to finding out the answers. That’s what makes a GREAT cliffhanger on a GREAT show.
Let me know your thoughts.