Black Lightning Packs an Episode with Surprisingly Exciting Setup

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We’re now firmly in the stage where Black Lightning has established itself as a superhero show, and needs to get the rest of this season’s story moving. It’s a tough job for any new show, and there might not be a right way to handle it. Sometimes, no matter how good your show is, you’re going to end up with an episode like this. An episode that has way too much to get done before the next episode. Black Lightning does its best, and ends up with an engaging episode even still. Yes, they probably tried to cram too many plot dumps into 44 minutes (approximately), but they were all exciting stories. As far as set up episodes go, this one does a remarkable job. It spent its time furiously placing all the pieces, and now I’m just excited to watch them go. You know, in a couple weeks or so.

Black Lightning is unquestionably back to being a superhero. He’s even practicing a few new tricks. The episode opens with shades of Iron Man as Black Lightning tests out his new gadget. He can now focus his lightning through his hands and fly around the city. He clearly thinks its just as cool as we do. The celebration doesn’t last long, though. He sees some cops being attacked by a kid, who Hulks out the same way Jefferson’s student did last week. It’s green light. Before anyone can get hurt, Black Lightning swoops down and knocks out the kid. The show doesn’t just let the confrontation end there, though. One of the nice things about this show is that it doesn’t let anyone off the hook. The cops were about to kill that kid. Black Lightning makes it clear to them that it doesn’t matter what the kid looked like to them. Lethal force shouldn’t be the first option. After making sure the kid gets an ambulance, Black Lightning keeps patrolling. Meanwhile, Gambi gets a visitor. Tobias is pretty sure Gambi knows who Black Lightning is. Gambi keeps quiet, but Tobias doesn’t buy it. He’s losing his grip on the city and he’s getting aggressive.

James Remar as Gambi (Photo: Richard Ducree/The CW)

Back at home, it looks like Anissa isn’t the only one of Jefferson’s daughters showing signs of special abilities. While Anissa searches the internet for an explanation of her powers, Jennifer goes rollerskating with some friends. At the party, Khalil’s ex tries to start a fight with Jennifer. Even on roller skates, Jennifer wins the fight easily. She even breaks one of the girls’ wrists. Superpowers do run in this family. Anissa is finding out just how far back they run too. Her internet search leads her to a video where a conspiracy theorist, who’s dug up some information on people with super powers, and traced them back to one man: Anissa’s grandfather. Her attempts to get some more information on what exactly her grandfather was researching is met with resistance at first. The editor at the newspaper he worked at gives her his old files, along with a warning. If she finds out two much, “they” will kill her. We don’t know who “they” are at this point, but we have a minor mystery to look out for in the rest of the season.

Anissa’s story might be my favorite part of this show. Since Black Lightning is the main character, and he’s been at this superhero game before, the show can take its time with Thunder’s origin story. We already have plenty of (consistently fantastic looking) superhero action. We don’t need to rush through the origin of a young hero like other superhero TV shows do. The show has taken its time to get to where it is in Anissa’s story, and it’s better for it. The scene where she joyfully picks out her superhero outfit (with the help of an adorably enthusiastic fetish shop clerk) is fun, hilarious and exactly the kind of scene other superhero shows don’t have time to give their characters.

Christine Adams as Lynn, Cress Williams as Jefferson Pierce and China Anne McClain as Jennifer Pierce (Photo: Bob Mahoney/The CW)

I really liked how the two main stories of this episode mirrored each other early on. As Anissa learns that her superpowered family history goes back at least two generations, Jefferson is also finding connections to his father. While investigating a storage locker where chemicals to make green light are stored, he hears that a man named Joey Toledo. is dealing the drug. That’s the name of the man who killed his father. And if Toledo is back, that means Tobias Whale is back too. Now, we knew that, and Gambi knew that, but for some reason, he’s been keeping that information from Jefferson. Before he can deal with that, though, Jefferson passes out. His recent heavy use of lighting powers is having a negative effect on his body, giving him electrical headaches. And they just got a lot worse.

We also learn a bit about Tobias. His sister Tori is here to help him regain the respect he so desperately craves. Unlike him, she isn’t blinded by anger. She sees exactly what Tobias’ problem is. And it’s not Black Lightning. He had an enemy long before he met the electric superhero. Raised by an angry, abusive father, Tobias grew up being told he was nothing. Worse yet, Tobias had to watch his sister be physically hurt as well. Though it doesn’t excuse the awful person he became, you can see how he got that way. We can sympathize with him, at least a little bit. That makes for a real interesting villain. The show doesn’t let us feel too much sympathy, though. They go visit their father, now an old man. They’re there so Tobias can defeat his oldest enemy. He breaks his father’s back and leaves him on the floor to die slowly. That’s cold. Eldritch was a bastard, but I don’t know if he deserved that. This scene is certainly effective, though. No matter how sorry I feel for Tobias, he’s still scary as hell after that.

Christine Adams as Lynn and Cress Williams as Jefferson Pierce (Photo: Bob Mahoney/The CW)

Back at the Pierce household, word makes its way back to Jefferson and Lynn about the fight Jennifer had. They both have the same shocked reaction you’d expect from parents whose daughter just injured another kid. Until Jennifer gets home. Then, they hear the whole story. That there were two girls, and Jennifer easily fought both of them off with the self-defense techniques her father taught her. Lynn is still the disciplinarian, grounding Jennifer and asking Jefferson to teach her about not solving problems with fists. A lesson she clearly thinks both of them could stand to learn. Jefferson is just impressed that his youngest daughter fought off two bullies. No matter how tough a parent he tries to be, he can’t hide the pride in his eyes. Even as he knows he should punish her for not being honest, he can’t be too hard on her.

That night, despite Gambi’s protests, Black Lighting goes out looking for Toledo. At this point, you just know that these two stories are about to come together. Just not in this episode. Though it moved the story along at a satisfying clip, this week’s story was almost entirely set-up. That would be frustrating, but it made up for it with an exciting, unpredictable story. Black Lighting dropped some major plot on us this week, and that mostly makes up for an episode that’s lighter on the action. I say mostly because this episode bordered on trying to do too much. It had much more story to get through than a broadcast hour would allow, and got  a little lost in the weeds as a result. It’s all forgivable though, as each plot point set up some exciting places for future expisodes to explore.

Black Lightning tracks down Toledo through his girlfriend and gives him the flashiest beat down. Before he can find out about Tobias’ location though, his headaches come back at the worst possible time. They even hinder his ability to shoot electricity out of his fists. What’s Black Lightning without the lightning?Things look bad for Black Lightning, and that’s where the episode ends. It’s the classic superhero show cliffhanger. I can’t be too mad at it, I just wish we got more action before it happened. I want more from the CW DC shows than a teenage wrist-break and a fight cut short by headache. Still, these final moments do a great job of getting us excited for next time. While Black Lightning succumbs to his headache, his daughter is nearby. She’s found some information on her grandfather, along with a mysterious vial of white powder. You just know it won’t be long before we see some daddy-daughter crimefighting. Whether they know it or not. I just hope we actually see it, at least a little bit, when Black Lightning comes back in two weeks.

 

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