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23 марта 2018, 10:52

Black Lightning Makes Bad Guy Beatdowns a Family Outing


Stay on target

Boy, the last episode of Black Lightning left these characters in a real heavy place. That’s expected of a superhero show this far into the season, but we needed something a little lighter and more hopeful after that. Thankfully, the showrunners felt the same way. Black Lightning has lost a mentor, and now he’s about to become one to two younger heroes. That doesn’t mean he’s taking Gambi’s revelation at the end of last week’s episode particularly well. Since he can no longer be Black Lightning without government agents tracking him down and killing him, he’s taking his anger out on a punching bag. He’s hitting that thing hard enough to make Steve Rogers at the beginning of The Avengers nervous.

Destroying gym equipment isn’t the only thing he’s up to though. He’s trying to clear his good name, and he’s going to need Inspector Henderson’s help to do it. For the first time, the two men have a genuine, empathetic conversation while Jefferson is in superhero mode. As much fun as it is to watch Black Lightning taunt Henderson and pull a Batman-style disappearing act, this was a good moment. It’s easy for the cops in superhero shows to become a nuisance. An annoying obstacle to hinder the hero. It’s easy to see how Henderson could have gone down that path. Instead, we’re shown that despite their differences, and the fact that Jefferson likes playing the smartass superhero with Henderson, there is mutual respect and even a begrudging friendship between the two men.

Cress Williams as Jefferson Pierce (Photo: Annette Brown/The CW)

Jefferson has more immediate concerns right now, though. Not only did he just find out his own father figure has been lying to him for 30 years, his daughter is having a similar revelation. Last week’s episode ended with Jennifer showing Anissa that she has powers. Anissa wants to assure her that she isn’t going crazy, and shows Jennifer her own Thunder powers. If that didn’t freak out Jennifer enough, Anissa also reveals that their dad is Black Lightning. That’ll open up a fresh batch of trust issues.

It’s going to take Jennifer a while to figure out what all these revelations mean to her. No matter how many references to other Arrowverse shows her mom drops. Hey, at least we have confirmation that Vixen exists. And so does Supergirl. I would say that’s weird, since Vixen and Supergirl are from different Earths, but Supergirl has made a couple of inter-dimensional trips at this point. Even if this is on Earth 1 (the one with Arrow, The Flash and Vixen), people have probably heard of her. OK, that’s enough nerding out over tiny details for now. Back to the story, where Jefferson is trying to clear his good name and get Green Light off the streets. First stop: legal documents.

The scene where they interrogate the lawyer for a shady corporation is so good. Since Jefferson can’t go out in his Black Lightning costume, Anissa suggests a different method of concealing his identity. He wears an Obama mask. When Barack Lightning threatens him with a ball of electricity, he tries to de-escalate by saying, “I voted for you. Twice.” Hilarious. What’s the over-under on that being a Get Out reference, you think? The writing in this episode is pretty great all around. Right after this scene, Anissa tries to bring Jennifer around to the whole superhero thing. At one point, Jennifer calls Anissa out for sounding like an after-school special. I mean, at least the show knows it can fall into that territory sometimes. It’s a sweet, funny conversation where both young women discuss the very relatable annoyances of having superpowers thrust upon them.

Cress Williams as Jefferson Pierce, Nafessa Williams as Anissa Pierce and China Anne McClain as Jennifer Pierce (Photo: Annette Brown/The CW)

Outside the Pierce household, Jefferson and Anissa aren’t the only ones doing detective work. Henderson kept his word, and is investigating the illegal weapons trading lead Black Lightning gave him. It doesn’t take him long to find out he works with some dirty cops. That’s not news to us, but it’s a meaningful step forward for Henerson. With his help, maybe Black Lightning’s name will be cleared soon-ish?

Meanwhile, Gambi’s trying to make amends for lying to Jefferson for so long. He tracks down a few illegal weapons sales himself, which brings him to a secret ASA lab where Green Light is manufactured. There, he sees the bodies of all the powered people he let the agency take. He rightly feels terrible about it, and asks Anissa to convince her dad to take down the lab and bring the shadowy agency to justice. To prove he really does care about the Pierce family, he makes Thunder a new suit. Now, that’s a superhero costume. Thunder is starting to look cooler than Lightning on this show. Jefferson decides to trust Gambi’s info, which feels a little too easy. Sure, it’s his daughter, and he trusts his daughter. But at the beginning of the episode, that wound felt too deep for Jefferson to suddenly start trusting Gambi again after one sentence of dialog.

I can forgive that, though because it leads to one of the coolest scenes of the series so far. I’ll admit, I was worried for Henderson at this point. Black Lightning tells him to go home and stay safe, but his cop instincts take over. The situation is too bad for him to do nothing. Tell me that doesn’t have “tragic death” written all over it. It almost counts as a twist that he survives. This is the scene we’ve been waiting for ever since Jeffersons’ and Anissa’s secrets were revealed to each other. It’s so cool to watch Black Lightning and Thunder casually stroll through the lab, taking down guards and blowing up everything in sight. Henderson being there to calmly arrest shadowy government dude makes the scene even better.

Cress Williams as Jefferson Pierce and Christine Adams as Lynn (Photo: Annette Brown/The CW)

For the first time in a while, this episode didn’t end on some big cliffhangeer. It didn’t end with a bad guy showing up to make things worse. After the triumphant fight scene at the lab, it ends on a touching family make-up. That’s when Black Lightning is really great. It’s action scenes are fantastic. It’s political sensibility is admirable, even if it doesn’t always work in the show’s favor. But these family stories are where this show really separates itself from the rest of The CW’s comic book fare. The dynamic between Jefferson and Anissa is very much a father-daughter story with a light layer of superhero on top. It’s impossible to watch them together and not break out into a smile.

Likewise, the story of Jennifer discovering her powers works as well as it does because there’s relatable family drama underneath it. Jennifer wants a normal life. She wants to grow up, have a boyfriend, go to college, get married, all of that. Her arc could have so easily turned her into an obnoxious whiny teenager, but the show avoided that because her desires are so real. Who hasn’t felt that family baggage was holding them back in some way? Here fears are understandable, and the scene where she asks if Jefferson’s powers caused her parents’ divorce really hits you in the gut. But, as teenagers do, she calms down. She’s not racing out to save the world in bright armor like her sister, but she realizes she doesn’t have to. And that for all their weirdness, she still loves her freaky family. The episode ends with Jennifer watching a Disney movie with her dad. This show can be really sweet sometimes. It’s this mixture of thrilling action and earnestness that makes me wish we had more than 13 episodes this season.

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Source: https://www.geek.com/television/black-lightning-makes-bad-guy-beatdowns-a-family-outing-1734533/?source=news