Bob MahoneyThe CW
Christian Holub
March 13, 2018 AT 10:00 PM EDT

Black Lightning

TV Show
CW Superheroes
run date
Mara Brock-Akil, Salim Akil
Cress Williams
Greg Berlanti
The CW
Current Status
In Season

We gave it a B+

We begin in the security of the Black Lightning Cave, or whatever you want to call the high-tech operation located in the basement of Gambi’s tailor shop. There, Jefferson Pierce is walking his daughter Anissa through some basic superhero training — teaching her both how to look out for threats and how to discount the ones that aren’t actually dangerous. Outside the cave, though, things aren’t going as well for Black Lightning. The corrupt white police chief has announced his intention to use all available manpower to hunt the vigilante in the wake of Lady Eve’s death, but even Freeland citizens are starting to turn on their hero. Violence and murder don’t make many friends, even (or perhaps, especially) when you’re framed.

Framing a community-beholden black activist for violence is nothing new for the U.S. government, of course. The Black Panther Party, for example, was consistently smeared by the actions of FBI informants and agents provocateur who infiltrated the organization and did their best to spur the Panthers toward violence that would discredit them in the public eye. And make no mistake, state repression is at work in Black Lightning’s framing as well. We see as much when Gambi meets with a superior, a suited man from a government organization known as the ASA. Despite Gambi’s pleas, this man is very forward about wanting to kill Black Lightning as soon as possible — not out of love for Lady Eve or a general distaste for violence, but simply because “I don’t like power I don’t control.” As if that ideology wasn’t naked enough for you, Mr. Evil Suit White Guy immediately starts spewing a racist screed about Freeland’s citizens and culture. He literally says both “the only thing the people here are good for is experimentation” and “we’re doing God’s work.” Scientific racism, religious hatred, and state repression all bundled up into one nice man! Black Lightning is a very smart show. I will return to this point.

As part of their attempt to clear Black Lightning’s name, Jefferson and Anissa break into the morgue to examine Lady Eve’s body. With Gambi’s help, they detect that her burns could only have been caused by a high-voltage nuclear weapon. Since Black Lightning doesn’t actually kill anyone, the coroner had no sample with which to compare the burns.

Before moving on to the next page, I feel obliged to mention this episode’s biggest twist: Jennifer Pierce has powers too! While putting up posters at school with her friend, Jennifer freaks out when her friend almost falls off a tall ladder. That freakout manifests in the form of crackling orange energy that lights up Jennifer’s eyes and burns her phone. Things certainly aren’t getting easier for the Pierce family! (Recap continues on page 2)

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