“So you can trust him?” Anissa (Nafessa Williams) asked her father, Jefferson/Black Lightning (Cress Williams) in reference to Peter Gambi (James Remar). Jefferson’s response is “Maybe… I don’t know.”
Earlier, Anissa and Black Lightning engaged in a tag-team butt kick fest as they destroyed an ASA armory which contained anti-Black Lightning weapons. They were actually looking for pods which contained super-powered test-subjects kidnapped right off the streets of Freeland over the last 30 years. Back in the day, it was a vaccine, today it’s in the form of the psychotropic drug Green Light. Green Light gives the taker (mostly teenagers) strange and mysterious powers. The ASA then hunts down these individuals, throws them in pods and studies them.
The pod-kids were moved under the direction of Kara Fowdy (Skye P. Marshall), Vice-Principal of Garfield High School. The ASA knows Black Lightning is looking for them while they are simultaneously looking for Black Lightning. Throughout the season Ms. Fowdy only served the purpose of moving a scene along now we get to see who she really is. Ms. Fowdy is no joke. She is somewhat remorseful for having Deputy Chief Cayman (Anthony Reynolds) and his corrupt cops plant Green Light in Jefferson’s car and office. Although she is high-level, Martin Proctor (Gregg Henry), the director of the ASA is pulling the strings. He believes Jefferson is Black Lightning and wants to discredit him, arrest him, kill him then study his remains. So the crooked cops of Freeland arrest Principal Jefferson Pierce in front of his students at Garfield High.
Luckily for the police, Jefferson was able to calm down his super-powered daughters and non-meta-human students before all mayhem and chaos broke loose. Jennifer (China Anne McClain) was ready to power up and fry the police but Jefferson told her to “Stay calm and call her mother and be strong for her.” Jefferson also managed to calm a potential riot when some of his beloved students, lead by Tavon (Jasun Jabbar Wardlaw Jr.), blocked the police as they took him away in handcuffs. Jefferson tells Tavon “No one wants to see another black man in cuffs today.” Truer words were never spoken. Jefferson told Tavon to be a leader and make sure all of the other students are doing what they are supposed to be doing. Tavon agrees. Jefferson was also able to calm Anissa, who took a breath and was ready to pound the police into the ground. Jefferson told her to go back inside the school and take care of everyone. You would think Jefferson would have told these things to Vice-Principal, Fowdy, but how could he? She was skulking in the background riddled with guilt. I don’t know if Ms. Fowdy just believes in Jefferson or just wants Jefferson. Either way, she obviously has a heart… buried somewhere… deep down… like really deep down. Jefferson encouraged everyone although he was the one in handcuffs. He inspired them to have faith in themselves and to trust the process. Who do they say Jefferson Pierce is? Black Jesus. He lived up to that name.
In each of the three moments, Jefferson also dropped serious knowledge about how to handle yourself if one were to wind up in this unfortunate situation: 1) Stand down; 2) Stay calm; 3) Have faith.
Watching what happened next was painful but also very real. Jefferson was booked, roughed up by police, then strip searched. Each time Jefferson powered up, he had to calm himself down. He knew he could decimate them all, but kept his emotions in check for the sake of protecting the identity of his family. This scene was so disconcerting. It was very believable. I felt like I was there which is a testament to how good this show really is.
My man, Detective Henderson (Damon Gupta), was also shocked and angered by Jefferson’s arrest. After all, they are BFFs. Henderson knows Cayman and his goon squad are dirty and he boldly confronts them. I thought Cayman came off a little weak in these moments. He outranks Henderson and I expected Cayman to put him in his place. But the moments belonged to Henderson. I like seeing him more actively involved. With passion, he does everything he can to free Jefferson which includes blackmailing one of Cayman’s goons, Detective Glennon (Faron Salisbury) into giving him intel to leverage against Cayman and all of the dirty cops at the Freeland P.D.
Lynn Stewart (Christine Adams), Jefferson’s ex-wife shows up at the police station demanding to see Jefferson. What I love about this character is her strength; her evident wisdom and intelligence; her strong matriarchal heart; and mostly her loyalty to her family. Lynn is fierce. She is the glue that holds the Pierce family together. Lynn knows if they poke the Jefferson-bear too much, the bear will bite back and somebody will get electrocuted. She crosses paths with Henderson who asks her “You trust me, don’t you?” With no hesitation, Lynn says “No. But Jefferson does.” That was a handless slap across the face and a wonderful set-up for some future historical reveals between them all. Later Lynn tries to free Jefferson through the legal channels with no success. She calms Jennifer who falls apart with worry about her dad not coming home. Those tears were real Y’all. The acting is top notch on this show.
There is such a tender relationship between Anissa and her “Uncle Gambi” as she has always affectionately called him. Gambi, still bearing the bruises from his kidnapping, deduces that Jefferson will be taken to a black ops ASA facility where they will kill him and most likely study him. Gambi knows a jail-break will only exacerbate the situation. He understands the only way to free Jefferson is to make the ASA believe he isn’t Black Lightning. Gambi creates a prototype hologram of Black Lighting and with Anissa’s help, and the help of a self-driving van (where can I get one?) they stage a public appearance of Black Lightning. We see the van, steered remotely by Gambi, running wild through the streets with Thunder and the Black Lightning hologram in pursuit. The public saw it, the news outlets saw it and most importantly a relieved Ms. Fowdy saw it.
The ASA dropped its pursuit of Jefferson which trickled down the pipeline to Henderson who set in the motion Jefferson’s freedom. We also got to see Henderson do the unexpected, some major hand-to-hand combat which ended with Deputy Chief Cayman face-planted against the wall. Cayman and his squad were arrested. Henderson was promoted to Deputy Chief getting us closer to the Batman/Captain Gordon relationship I’m hoping to see between Black Lightning and Henderson.
A heartwarming moment came in end between the family. Jefferson invites Gambi to the house for dinner. Gambi tells him he doesn’t expect Jefferson to forgive him. Jefferson honestly answers that he might not be able to but he also can’t forget what Gambi has done for him and his family. Gambi raised Jefferson like a son after his father was killed by Tobias Whale. Jefferson understands what Gambi did for the ASA and that he didn’t know the information he leaked to Jefferson’s father would get him killed. It’s understandable that Jefferson is having trouble forgiving him. But it’s also setting a standard that without forgiveness how can one move forward? Jefferson expressed that he wants to find a new balance with Gambi. Gambi says “Just let me know what you need from me.” Jefferson says “I need you to help me save those children.”
Gambi is now “Uncle Gambi” again. He’s part of the family he’s loved, adored and protected with his own life. Gambi links hands with them, they pray and then sit down to pizza. Again, a beautiful expression of faith and love in a strong core family unit.
What amazed me about this episode is there was no appearance from the cadre of super-villains and I was still satisfied. There were only 2 short action sequences and again I was satisfied. That’s how good the writing is. I would watch this show if no one had super-powers and that’s a testimony to what has been built over the last 11 episodes.
What makes this show unlike any other superhero show is the pushing of the envelope to tell a character’s truth. It’s this truth that somebody out there can relate to. It’s this truth that can help one to see another’s point of view… a bridge to understanding.
I would never have thought I could learn life lessons from a superhero show.
But here I am ready to learn.
My next class is episode 12!!!
Let me know your thoughts.