Full SPOILERS follow for Black Lightning “Black Jesus.”
Tobias Whale finally gets a story worth talking about with the introduction of his sister Tori (Edwina Findley). His character was quickly becoming cartoonish and we didn’t need another slow motion strut alongside his deadly assistant. In a show that has been grounded in reality thus far, Tobias was the outlier, so it was nice to see Marvin “Krondon” Jones III smiling in a non-maniacal way upon first greeting his sister.
Lady Eve (Jill Scott) effectively brought Tobias down to Earth in a stomach-churning scene at her Blackbird Funeral Home. Using his Albino looks against him was a mighty way to get her point across concerning his recent failures. There are cases of black-on-black racism that are rarely addressed on network television and it was a pleasant surprise to see the writers tackling these issues here. Their interaction also added some much needed context surrounding Tobias’ past. Learning about his political origins explains his oratory skills and charisma as a gang leader.
Being “Black Jesus” must be a heavy burden to bear for Jefferson, but he wears it well. A powerful scene that comes to mind takes place in the student bathroom when Bernard is hulking-out after taking some greenlight. Instead of condemning Bernard for making a mistake, Jefferson tries his best to protect Bernard’s reputation so he can still go to college — just like any good savior would. There are moments when the talk of school boards and other bureaucratic dealings hurt the show’s pacing, but Jefferson’s drive to always put his students first trumps these shortcomings.
Jefferson’s continued connection to the community makes almost every interaction he has thought-provoking. Most of the so-called villains of the show seem to have a unique relationship with Jefferson from back in the day. The scene with 2-Bits, where Jefferson inquires about the drug trade, worked due to the history the two men share. Even with his silly name, 2-Bits is a fleshed-out character with a story all his own. From their short interaction, you get the sense that 2-Bits and Jefferson could have gone down similar paths. The writer’s ability to humanize most of the villains is commendable and it makes every punch, kick, and lightning bolt feel more personal. He’s not simply fighting a random group of ninjas with no identity (Ahem, Arrow!)
So what’s up with Gambi? He’s supposed to be Black Lightning’s most trusted friend but he continues to keep secrets from him. Is he afraid that if Jefferson knows about Anissa’s abilities it will drive him crazy? Henderson also didn’t mention Tobias Whale was alive after catching him on a security camera in the previous episode. So far, Gambi’s importance to the show remains unclear. Sure, he makes cool glasses that have electric vision, but he may end up doing more harm than good with all this secrecy. Another theory is that he will start training Anissa without her father knowing. After all, who’s going to make her Thunder suit?
Speaking of Anissa, it was fun to watch her put her hood up and get to work. She’s a representation of the outcry in a world that does little to stand up to injustice, so using her thunderous foot-stomp to launch criminals into the air seems like the right approach to accomplish her mission. Anissa echoes many of the frustrations found in the real world, as she expressed so eloquently at the Jefferson dinner table. After every tragedy, Twitter is alive with hashtags of thoughts and prayers, but nothing ever seems to change. If we were Anissa, would we take up the call?
Meanwhile, the youngest of the Pierce household needs more to do. Currently, Jennifer is a reactionary character who appears lost among her family’s more interesting stories. If she’s not getting drunk after school, she’s left waiting by Khalil’s bedside. While she’s most likely destined for greater things — as her comic book roots suggest — we have yet to see any spark of that potential.