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TV Review: Black Lightning (Season 1, Episode 11)

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‘Black Jesus: The Book of Crucifixion’ was possibly the best episode Black Lightning has delivered so far.

This episode builds on last week’s revelations that the ASA is very much certain that Black Lightning is in fact Jefferson Pierce, and that his Vice Principal has been an undercover agent all along. Fowdy has therefore been tasked with ensuring Jefferson’s transport to an ASA black site, whatever the means.

From Black Lightning Episode 111 on The CW

This involves further bribing of Freeland’s corrupt cops, and law enforcement’s planting of Green Light in Jefferson’s car. The ensuing scenes in which Jefferson is arrested, processed, and jailed demonstrate the best acting we’ve seen from this show yet.  

Cress Williams carried this episode with unbelievable talent, layering indignity, pain, fear, humiliation, anger, restraint, in the face of police brutality and abuse. The sequence of scenes in which Jefferson is being processed was layered with references towards a more fundamental issue in America, of racist policing and profiling. It may not have been subtle, but then why should it be? Black Lightning has, from the very beginning, made its commentary of social issues concerning African-Americans central to its narrative, and it hasn’t stopped since. It might deal with superhero powers and outrageously advanced technology, but the show stays grounded in highlighting real-life issues of systematic racism and a biased legal system.

This episode also did something few other shows of the genre tend to do: it focused all its attention on a single storyline, the ASA attempting to frame Jefferson, and his friends and family’s attempts to clear his name and convince the ASA that he is not Black Lightning. The episode therefore put aside Lala, the One Hundred’s operations, and Tobias Whale, in favour of a focused and streamlined episode that kept a consistent tone and pace.

The rescue operation is two-fold: on one end, Gambi and Anissa work together to convince the ASA that Jefferson cannot be Black Lighting, and on the other, Henderson employs legal routes to expose the corrupt police officers in his department and clear Jefferson of his drug possession charges.

The plan Gambi concocts is fairly typical for a superhero show, having a double (in this case a hologram) impersonate the superhero in question in front of a crowd, so that their identity remains secret. Since Jefferson is in prison when ‘Black Lightning’ is spotted stopping a van, suspicions are cleared.

Though it was nice to see Anissa going in solo, more interesting to watch was Henderson work his own approach. It was great to see a superhero television series take a grounded look at police work, rather than dismissing law enforcement either as corrupt or incompetent. Ultimately it’s thanks to him that Jefferson’s name in the community is cleared, as Henderson exposes the money laundering, bribe-taking and general corruption at the heart of the police force, and gets those in question arrested for good.

This was a strong, beautifully-acted episode which viewed serious socio-political issues through the lens of a genre series. Fans of the show will rejoice to learn that Black Lightning has been renewed for a second season, and that from next week’s previews, Tobias Whale will be returning to Freeland. With only two episodes left, things are sure to get explosive.

Black Lightning is available to watch on Netflix, with new episodes arriving weekly.




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