Black Lightning Returns After a Week-Long Break
Black Lightning came back this week with a strong and well-written episode. We find our titular hero dealing with the fallout from pushing too hard last episode. Jefferson clashes with both Lynn and Peter as he continues his crusade as Black Lightning, and Anissa’s plot picks up momentum as she’s thrust closer to the center of it all.
On the darker side of things, we get hints toward a deeper conspiracy involving people across Freeland. Peter’s questionable past begins to reveal itself. We also finally see Khalil again, as he’s drawn further into Tobias Whale’s machinations.
Note: This episode doesn’t contain major spoilers for episode six.
Discourse on Race
Black Lightning hasn’t shied away from talking about racial issues or blackness, but this episode makes that discussion a key focus. From racially-charged cyberbullying to events that mirror the protest in Charlottesville last summer, the show addresses these issues with intelligence and sensitivity.
It’s hard to talk about all this without going into spoilers. Instead, I’ll say that the episode makes the smart move to use different characters to illustrate different aspects of these issues. It uses Anissa to explore these issues on a societal level, while using Jennifer to explore them on a personal level. Moreover, their interactions with Jefferson provide an arena for discourse while further developing their relationships.
Furthermore, the episode approaches these issues in an accessible way. One feels the weight and importance of them even without firsthand experience. These can be uncomfortable things to talk about. Black Lightning does an exemplary job of keeping the viewer invested in the conversation while getting its point across.
Caring for Each Other
If this episode has a theme, it’s the concern characters have for one another. This is on display in the conflict between the bold activism of Anissa and the tempered caution of Jefferson. Early in the episode, Anissa is arrested for leading a protest that involved defacing a Confederate statue with paint-filled squirt guns. Anissa is concerned with justice and making change for the better. Jefferson is more concerned with her safety, worrying that a black woman with a gun (albeit a squirt gun) would give the wrong police officer enough reason to use lethal force. The show smartly presents the dilemma between seeking justice and preserving safety, treating both sides with respect.
The irony of this conflict, of course, is that Jefferson is out most nights as Black Lightning, putting his own safety on the line while pursuing justice. Lynn worries about Jefferson’s physical well-being after patching him up. It’s nothing new for Lynn to disapprove of her ex-husband’s vigilante activities. However, she discovers new evidence that solidifies her belief that Jefferson is addicted to using his powers. The show will likely explore this idea in future episodes.
Moreover, Jefferson’s quest for justice takes a turn toward vengeance. This concerns Peter for the psychological well-being of his friend. Peter questions Black Lightning’s activities for the first time, even enlisting Lynn to keep Jefferson from going too far. Putting all of these characters in positions of both conflict and concern for each other really enhances their relationships, and provides intriguing tension moving forward.
This episode was very well-written, maintaining a strong structural form that was absent in the episode before it. The cast overall continues to portray these characters believably and caringly. Christine Adams as Lynn is still a bit stiff at times but seems to be getting more comfortable. All things considered, this episode is a prime example of why Black Lightning is such an engaging new show.
Black Lightning airs Tuesdays at 9 PM on the CW.