Episode 4: Black Jesus
Directed by: Michael Schultz
Written by: Pat Charles
Black Lightning continues to buck the trend of pandering to the escapist young adult superhero drama and being a show with a genuine message, not superficially about gang violence and racism, but about the real-world plight and struggles of African Americans in a Black community, both on an individual level and as a collective whole.
This time, taking a hiatus from the fallout of the last episode, we are introduced to an encroaching drug – “green light” – in the community of Freeland. The episode also takes time to focus on the budding heroics of super-powered Jennifer Pierce (played by Nafessa Williams) and her nascent crusade for justice which she wholeheartedly embraces by the end. Conversely we see Jefferson Pierce (portrayed by Cress Williams) tackle the new drug problem both in his role as a high school principal and his electrifying alter ego. We see the advantages each persona plays and ultimately the fundamental importance of principals (and other practitioners of pedagogy) as more than just figureheads or indifferent academic cogs in changing and impacting young lives.
The episode also finds time to give attention to Jefferson’s younger daughter, Anissa Pierce (played by China Anne McClain) and her boyfriend Khalil (played by Jordan Calloway) now in physical rehab from the previous episode, and how their adolescent relationship and lives has hit an impasse. It’s not that this part is misplaced or irrelevant here, but I get a sense that if the Tobias segment was cut, it would have benefitted from the added development. Speaking of which, the weakest aspect of this episode is the brief snippets of Tobias Whale (portrayed by Marvin Krondon” Jones III) and his bid to reclaim his street cred go nowhere and accomplish little.
In the end, the strong focus of Black Lightning and Jennifer’s vigilante escapades, and the mystery of the new drug on the streets, is off-set by the other two underdeveloped side stories. Maybe they tried to do too much at once. But this is far from a complete misstep for this budding series.
Hailing from the eastern-most Caribbean island of Barbados, Fabian Wood has long since been fascinated by the power of storytelling to inspire and invoke emotions – whether in film, comics or videogames. No longer content to be just an avid comic book reader and videogamer, he’s eager to exercise his literary acumen as an aspiring writer and reviewer.