Black Lightning: America’s Injustice System

Title: Black Lightning Season 1 Episode 11: “Black Jesus: The Book of Crucifixion”
Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama, Science Fiction, Superhero
Platform: TV – CW
Director: Michael Schultz
Writer: Melora Rivera
Rating: TV-14
Release: April 3, 2018
Cast: Cress Williams, Nafessa Williams, China Anne McClain, Christine Adams
Feature image: Source


“Protecting people is in your blood. There are certain things no one can train you for. Everything you need is already inside you.” Peter Gambi – Black Lightning

Kara Fowdy (Skye P. Marshall) walks into the new facility where the stasis pods are being kept with a lab tech (Josh Henry). Because of the recent move, one of the subjects from 30 years ago isn’t doing well. He hopes they will stabilize. Kara can’t afford to lose one, it will mean she’ll have to replace them. [What a heart.]  It appears that Jefferson Pierce/Black Lightning (Cress Williams) and Anissa/Thunder (Nafessa Williams) are breaking into the facility to liberate the test subjects. Peter Gambi (James Remar) is on coms guiding them. It turns out they aren’t in that facility, but in an A.S.A. armory stocked with the latest pulse weapons to kill Black Lightning. Jefferson is upset Gambi led them to the wrong location. Gambi tries to explain that the A.S.A. are masking their satellite coverage, so he’ll have to find another way to find the pods. Not to waste their trip, Black Lightning destroys the weapons.

The A.S.A. contacts Kara, they want her to take care of Jefferson. Kara: “Sir, I’ve known Jefferson Pierce for years. There’s no way he is Black Lightning.” They don’t care about her opinion and order her to get it done. Anissa walks into headquarters and is concerned about how Gambi looks after his beating. She gives a medical term for the bruises on his face. Gambi: “It’s good to know you’re paying attention in med school.” He’s dealt with bruises like this before, so he isn’t worried about himself. His concern is for Jefferson. He wants Anissa to look after her father. She isn’t quite sure how to do it. Gambi: “Protecting people is in your blood. There are certain things no one can train you for. Everything you need is already inside you.” Deputy Chief Cayman (Anthony Reynolds) and another crooked cop Detective Glennon (Faron Salisbury) are called to a clandestine meeting in an alley. They think this could be a setup and are ready to bolt when a shadowy figure [Kara] tells them to check the garbage. The red dots from sniper rifles make the detectives more compliant. They find Green Light in the can. The shadowy figure wants them to get warrants and plant the drugs. “Who’s the target?” Cayman asks. “Jefferson Pierce,” she answers. Back at home Anissa asks Jefferson about Gambi’s beating. He explains how the A.S.A. is involved. Anissa points out how distant Jefferson is with Gambi. Jefferson still feels he can’t really trust Gambi even though they are working together again. Anissa: “I don’t know, shouldn’t we all just get along. Jefferson: “Can we all just get along.” Jefferson explains the origin of the saying. [Anissa is young.] The Lab Tech discovers that the subject died.

“I am not resisting. I am complying.” Jefferson Pierce – Black Lightning

A new school day has arrived and Jefferson is in a good mood greeting his students. Jefferson: “All right another day to make magic. All these young smiling faces, young minds to be molded.” Anissa and Jennifer (China Anne McClain) arrive good naturedly arguing about letting Jennifer drive next time. Jefferson is meeting with a group of students when Tavon (Jasun Jabbar Wardlaw Jr.) goes to the window. A squadron of patrol cars drive on the campus. They immediately head towards Jefferson’s car to plant Green Light in it. Tavon: “Damn Mr. P, that’s your car.” Jefferson: “Tavon, language.” Tavon: “I mean dang Mr. P. It’s still your car.” The police are in Jefferson’s office tearing it apart. What do you know, Detective Glennon finds a small bag of Green Light in Jefferson’s desk. They arrest Jefferson for being a Green Light dealer. Jefferson strenuously objects to this. Cayman [pointing his gun at Jefferson]: “Are you resisting?” Jefferson: “I am not resisting. I am complying.” They parade Jefferson down the hallway in handcuffs. Jennifer sees her dad and gets upset, possibly unleashing her powers. Jefferson attempts to calm her down. Jefferson: “I need you to be calm. Really calm.” Jennifer unclenches her fist. He tells her to look after her mother. A group of students led by Tavon block the cops exist. Jefferson has to calm down Tavon and the rest of the students so that the police don’t arrest and hurt them. He succeeds in doing it. When they get outside Anissa rushes over and she is prepared to throw down. Jefferson once again has to calm someone down. [While doing this in handcuffs.] Jefferson: “Anissa get back in the school and take care of everyone.” His daughter complies. Vice-Principal Fowdy watches from a window while her principal is driven away.

“Good, I’d hate to see anything happen to you.”  Deputy Chief Cayman – Black Lightning

The police escort Jefferson into the police station. Inspector Bill Henderson (Damon Gupton) knows that this is fishy. Henderson: “I wanna see the search warrant.” He and Cayman go into his office to look the warrant over. He reminds Cayman that, “Jefferson Pierce is one of the most distinguished members of this community.” Cayman tells Henderson to not let his personal feelings about Jefferson cloud his vision. Henderson: “My eyes are wide open.” Cayman: “Good, I’d hate to see anything happen to you.”  Henderson: “You gotta bring ass to get ass.” After sufficiently threatening each other, Cayman leaves. Back at school, Kara sends a message by encrypted link telling her supervisor that they are going to pick up Jefferson from the police station and take him to a black site. Two officers escort Jefferson down the hall and the white cop decides to punch Jefferson in the stomach. Jefferson eyes light up but he is able to retain his composure. Jefferson is taken to processing for some more humiliation. The officer processing Jefferson orders him to take his clothes off. Jefferson slowly complies. Processing police officer: “Assume the position. Cough twice.” Jefferson does.

Lynn Pierce (Christine Adams) arrives at the police station to see Jefferson. The desk sergeant won’t allow her to see Jefferson since they are divorced. Lynn speaks to Henderson; he fills her in on what is going on. Anissa goes to headquarters to get her suit, she is going to break her father out. Gambi talks her out of it by reminding her it would only put Jennifer and Lynn in danger too. He tells her the arrest isn’t the main problem. Gambi: “They’ll throw him in a black site and confirm that he’s Black Lightning.” Anissa: “And then what?” Gambi: “They’ll kill him.” Their goal isn’t to break Jefferson out. Gambi: “We have to prove to the A.S.A. that Jefferson Pierce isn’t Black Lightning.” Henderson goes into the interrogation room to ‘interrogate’ Jefferson. While loosening his handcuffs he whispers to Jefferson that they are being watched and recorded. Henderson asks him about his dealings with noted drug pusher Lala. Jefferson explains how Lala was one of his students when he was a young teacher, but that Lala joined the One Hundred gang and rose through the ranks. He used his connection with Lala to make Garfield a free zone from the gangs. Henderson asks why the One Hundred grabbed his daughters off campus, he asks was it a drug deal gone wrong. Jefferson: “Henderson I’m being set up.” Henderson: “Why would anyone want to set you up? Jefferson: “I don’t know.” Cayman walks in with a National Security Directive issued for Jefferson. Jefferson is being transferred.

“It’s okay to be strong and scared at the same time. It’s called having sense.” Lynn Pierce – Black Lightning

On the news, the community is reacting to Jefferson’s arrest. One black man thinks it is a setup to remove a prominent black leader. An elderly white woman had heard he made his students call him ‘Black Jesus’ and she asks what kind of man would do that. A black woman who has a daughter who attended Garfield praises him for his efforts in getting her daughter into college. Henderson calls Lynn to tell her about the National Security Directive issued for Jefferson. Gambi is showing Anissa the device he made to prove Jefferson isn’t Black Lightning. He warns her it hasn’t been tested yet, but Anissa reminds him they don’t have time. She asks him to instruct her on what to do. Jennifer is with Lynn. Jennifer: “Why can’t he Black Lightning his way out?” Lynn: “You’re going to have to learn you can’t punch or superpower your way out of everything.” Jennifer tells her mother how her father calmed her down and told her to look after her. Lynn: “It’s okay to be strong and scared at the same time. It’s called having sense.” Jennifer wonders if Jefferson will ever come home again and begins to cry. Her mother comforts her. Henderson goes into Jefferson’s cell to find out what is really going on. Jefferson feints ignorance. Henderson knows Jefferson isn’t being straight with him but he is still going to continue to help him. He calls Glennon into his office and tells him he’s discovered that Glennon’s son bought his house with cash. Henderson threatens to inform the IRS. He won’t because he isn’t interested in Glennon, but in Cayman.

Gambi’s secret device can create a holographic image of Black Lightning. Thunder is to catch everyone’s attention walking down the street. Then she and the hologram of Black Lightning are to chase Gambi’s self-driving van down the street. She has to make sure nothing comes between her and the hologram because people will notice it’s a hologram. Gambi makes the street lights flicker like Black Lightning does and off to the races goes Thunder and Black Lightning. The TV stations show it on TV. Kara sees it and believes it is real. She sends a message through the encrypted link telling her bosses that Jefferson isn’t the target. They tell her to just do her job. What actually saves Jefferson is Henderson. Because he was able to get Glennon to talk, Jefferson is cleared of the charges against him, and Henderson is able to arrest Cayman for the frame-up.

“This is a new day in Freeland.” Deputy Chief Henderson – Black Lightning

Jefferson arrives home to his relieved family. Gambi shows up with a bottle of wine. He and Jefferson talk. Gambi: “Did she tell you about the self-driving van, I’m really proud about the self-driving van.” The two men begin a serious discussion on their relationship. Gambi: “I don’t expect you to forgive me.” Jefferson: “I might not be able to… But I can’t forget what you’ve done for me. I want to find a new balance somehow.” He asks Gambi to help him find those missing kids. The news reports that Jefferson is exonerated. They switch to a police news conference. Henderson: “This is a new day in Freeland. For years, good folk have suffered from over or under-policing, from police brutality instead of public safety, from corruption rather than professionalism…With the support of the Police Chief, I embrace my new role as Deputy Chief. And I promise the people of Freeland, a better police department.” Since Gambi is the oldest, Jefferson asks him to say grace. He gives thanks for them being together.

The A.S.A. implements their plan to bring down Black Lightning. Kara uses the cops to frame Jefferson for being a Green Light dealer and arrest him. From there, the A.S.A. would have him transferred to a black site so they could confirm if Jefferson is Black Lightning and kill him. They didn’t count on Inspector Bill Henderson. Henderson knows that his department is dirty and knows that his friend isn’t. He’s able to prove the frame-up and exonerate his friend. By doing this he is able to get some dirty cops off the department and get his nemesis’ old job. Congratulations Deputy Chief Henderson! Gambi being the wizard he is, creates a holographic device that projects a hologram of Black Lightning while Jefferson is in jail. So now the A.S.A. thinks he isn’t Black Lightning. They were going to still let him be taken to the black site, what a bunch of swell fellows. Kara is despicable, but at least her crush on Jefferson made her try to help him [a little]. Jefferson being released allowed him and Gambi to come to a new understanding. Jefferson hasn’t completely forgiven him for all the terrible things he has done, but he can’t deny all that Gambi has done for him and his family. Gambi really cares for Jefferson, and Jefferson really cares for Gambi, so they will work on creating a new balance. Maybe they can still be family again.

One of the strong points about Black Lightning has been its examination of a black superhero in a black community. We have a strong family dealing with many of the issues that face the black community. Even though Jefferson is a good man, someone who is educated, well-to-do, and respected in the community, when he has to deal with the legal system, he’s just another black man. Aside from the frame itself, his treatment by the Freeland PD was disrespectful, and that came from both black and white officers. If he didn’t have a friend in the department in Henderson, he would have been screwed. Most of us don’t have a friend in the department. We don’t have a Gambi creating devices to help us. We have to rely on a system that is set up to oppress black people. I appreciate the show looking at the justice system in such a realistic way. That’s something you don’t expect to see on a CW show. Special credit has to be given to Cress Williams. He has been good the entire series, but if he submits an episode for an Emmy nomination, this should be the one. He covered the whole spectrum, from his happiness at the beginning of the school day, until his despair in lockup. I was taken by Jefferson spending the time to take care of his students while handcuffed. Mr. Williams gave one of the best performances I’ve seen this year.

The music this episode was another character in the story. Every song fit the mood of its scene. It did it without the songs being too on point. Let’s Take it to the People by Funkadelic kicked things off when Black Lightning and Thunder broke into the armory. A funky version of This Land is Your Land covered by Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings played when the police arrived at Garfield High. In Jefferson’s darkest moment being booked in jail, Sun is Shining by Bob Marley highlighted the injustice of the moment. Struggle Sounds by Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 played while Thunder and the Black Lightning hologram ran down the streets of Freeland. Finally when things looked up, with Jefferson back home with his family and newly appointed Deputy Chief Gambi spoke at the news conference, Wave by St. Paul & the Broken Bones played.


Grade: A






Anthony (Kbear!) Nichols | Editor-in-Chief
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