Big Plots and Personal Stories in This Week’s Black Lightning
Black Lightning has been somewhat of a slow buildup so far. This week’s episode changed that, moving toward a central conflict larger than simply a vigilante cleaning up street crime. Through all that, the show keeps things on a personal level, with its characters providing context for viewers to relate to this world.
Note: This review doesn’t contain major spoilers for episode four, but openly discusses events from previous episodes. Time to catch up if you haven’t already.
Drugs and Vendettas
This episode introduces a new drug called Green Light to the streets of Freeland. Jefferson Pierce comes into startlingly close contact with it when one of his students overdoses and goes into a frenzy in the bathroom. Pierce is forced to shock him twice to in order to subdue him. Peter Gambi later notes that the drug is highly addictive and extremely dangerous, pointing at a high number of overdoses and deaths related to the drug.
Pierce and Gambi start pursuing the leads they have, giving us more time with Pierce suited up as Black Lightning than in previous episodes. They discover that Green Light might be part of a larger plot that goes beyond anything as simple as the 100 Gang dealing to make some extra money.
This brings me to Tobias Whale, who gets more development in this episode. Whale was already interesting and threatening, but he wasn’t very well-rounded before now. We see more of his relationship with the mysterious and ruthless Lady Eve. She notes that Whale’s entire criminal career was built around killing Black Lightning many years ago. Black Lightning is still alive, giving Whale a much more personal reason to hate and target our protagonist. This makes the conflict between the two notably deeper than a simple clash between a crime fighter and a criminal.
Whale starts to execute a plan to turn public opinion against Black Lightning. Controversy over the role of a vigilante isn’t exactly new ground. However, it’s interesting to see the gears begin to move as Whale starts taking action to ruin our hero. Having more time with our villain was a smart choice for this episode, and I hope this becomes a trend.
Personal Stories: The Good and the Bad
In addition to a smaller plot centered around Whale’s vendetta, this episode also spends a lot of time with the stories surround Khalil and Anissa. The former is a strong example of the solid writing this show offers, while the latter has some problems.
Khalil, who was shot in the last episode at the march against the 100 Gang, spends all of his time in a hospital this week. Though this can seem like a touch of melodrama, it winds up being a solid illustration of the collateral damage that a vigilante risks. Pierce’s family and friends begin to shape their opinions on Black Lightning around this event. On one hand, there’s Anissa, who supports Black Lightning and thinks sacrifice is inevitable and necessary. On the other hand, there’s Inspector Henderson, who thinks Black Lightning is causing more problems than he solves. Moreover, it gives Whale an opening to begin his plot against his nemesis. Weaving Khalil’s story through the main plot and multiple character arcs is smart and well-executed.
Anissa explores her powers some more, which is exactly what she did last week. She begins to take action against some gang members that were threatening her and some men who assaulted her friend. However, it seems like they started building Anissa’s powers and story of self-discovery a bit early. It feels artificial when they keep her development at a snail’s pace. Had the show revealed her powers later in the season rather than in the first episode, this would likely feel more natural.
Overall, Black Lightning is still a show well worth your time. It seems to have found a balance of being a familiar superhero show while keeping things different and intriguing.
Black Lightning airs Tuesdays at 9 PM on the CW.