• Television 

    Five Thoughts on Black Lightning‘s “Black Jesus”

    By | February 7th, 2018
    Posted in Television | % Comments

    A powerful new drug hits the streets and into Jefferson’s school this week, as the principal found his student Bernard in the bathroom being driven into a berserker rage, and was forced to shock him twice to get him to calm down. Meanwhile, Anissa confronted the street dealers in her own way, Khalil and Jennifer came to terms with his injury, and Tobias Whale was tasked with finding out how Black Lightning survived their final battle all those years ago.

    1. Drugs

    As Jefferson sought to stop Bernard from being expelled, Black Lightning went around town demanding information on the new substance, known as Green Light, while Anissa, still figuring out what do with her powers, assaulted two dealers selling the drug to Jennifer’s classmates. The two-pronged storyline demonstrated an understanding of the many ways drugs affect a community, from the way the school board would rather punish an addict, to the way minorities can become complicit in structural inequality, to the fear everyone has of snitching lest they become ostracized from the criminal world they feel they will inevitably become a part of.

    By the way, did Green Light remind anyone of M.G.H. (mutant growth hormone) from Brian Bendis and David Mack’s “Daredevil” run?

    2. Lady Eve

    We got another moment with Lady Eve, who astutely pointed out to Whale his rise to power was based on the notion he put down Black Lightning, which is evidently not true, all while calmly extracting drugs from a stitched-up mule. It was a creepily composed and unnerving scene for a CW superhero show, with the quiet implication being that Whale could wind up like her “courier.”

    3. Sports

    Sports was another strong theme in the episode, with Khalil finding his aspects as an Olympian dashed, and Jennifer deciding to drop her sports class to assist his rehabilitation. Sports, whether it’s running, baseball, or basketball, is a common way for many African-Americans to excel in society. Jefferson’s own past as an Olympic athlete was also raised (guess daughters really do date guys who remind them of their father), as he comes across his childhood friend 2 Bits over the course of his investigation.

    2 Bits describes Jefferson as being “bougie,” which is short for bourgeois, and I couldn’t help but wonder what part Pierce’s background may have had in shaping his success, while his friend went down the path of a life of crime. Yesterday, Mathew Knowles, the father of Beyoncé and Solange, acknowledged the role colorism may have played in getting his daughters noticed on the path to music stardom, and one wonders if Pierce may have similarly benefited from those unconscious biases to get the support he received, unlike his darker-skinned friend.

    4. Disability

    We don’t see many black disabled characters in fiction, so I’m watching Khalil’s arc with interest. He must feel absolutely worthless after learning he will never walk again, and Tobias Whale’s attempt at winning him to his side seems to embody the nihilism he must be experiencing. Whale’s own path is similarly borne out of self-loathing for his condition, and hopefully Khalil’s story will seem him reject that internalized hatred to embrace who he is: a future Paralympian!

    5. Pacing

    This episode was quite open-ended, as the issue of Green Light, and Anissa’s path to heroism, remain unresolved. As a result, the resolution to Bernard’s story at the end felt somewhat intrusive and rushed, as if the writers realized they needed an exciting climax, when they could have also left that until next week. Still, that fight in the drug house had some strong imagery to send us off: Black Lightning carrying Bernard recalled the Pietà, and the whole scene brought to mind the climax of Taxi Driver.

    Bonus thoughts:
    – Anissa calling 911 was a thoughtful touch.
    – The selfie: God bless 2 Bits.
    – That point-of-view shot of Tobias punching the mortician – pow indeed.
    – Welcome Tori, I’m keen to see what else you’re cooking up.

    //TAGS | Black Lightning

    Christopher Chiu-Tabet

    Chris is a writer from London on the autistic spectrum, who enjoys tweeting and blogging on Medium about his favourite films, TV shows, books, music, games as well as history and religion. He is Lebanese/Chinese, although he can't speak Cantonese or Arabic. He also writes for Nerdy POC.


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