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Black Lightning: Return of the Good Guy

Black Lightning: Return of the Good Guy

By Regular Et Cetera Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018

The #DCTV Couch Club is a team of DC fans dedicated to exploring the universe of The CW’s Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow, Black Lightning and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. Look for new Couch Club posts here on DCComics.com after every new episode!

Black Lightning’s back, and so are we! Welcome to this week’s episode breakdown. Just like last week, I’m going to run through the important story beats of the episode. Then, I’ll hit you with my personal highs and lows. So, let’s get started!

The Story

This week’s episode gave us a glimpse of how life shakes out for people in Freeland when you’re not related to Black Lightning. Lawanda White, one of Jefferson Pierce’s ex-students, opens up at a town hall discussion about the 100 gang, and reveals that her daughter is being held against her will at the Seahorse Motel. This is a shock to Jefferson, as he thought the motel was shut down (in last week’s episode). What he learns instead, is that the police were unable to stop the 100 from operating there and they’re back in business now like nothing ever happened.

After the town hall, Jefferson visits Lala in an attempt to get him to honor their old deal (of keeping violence away from his family and the students of Garfield), but because Anissa and Jennifer have been supposedly talking to the police—Lala says that deal is now forfeit. He sends Jefferson home with a little tough love from his goon squad.

Adding to that injury, Jefferson learns that Lawanda has been protesting outside the Seahorse Motel in an attempt to get her daughter back. He does manage to talk her down from her stakeout mission, but that’s only after promising he will be able to take care of it in 48 hours. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough and after a video-taped confrontation outside the motel, Lala executes Lawanda in the motel parking lot.

Her death sends Jefferson Pierce into a spiral of self-doubt. He argues with his ex-wife Lynn that if only Black Lightning were there, he could have saved her. Lynn doesn’t want him to get back into the fight, but it doesn’t matter, Jefferson has made up his mind.

His ex-wife is not into it. At. All. But as the theme song says, Black Lightning is back. He puts on the suit and heads directly to Lala’s penthouse to make sure justice is served, personally. After a glorious fight scene that follows Black Lightning through a hotel lobby, up the fire escape, and into the penthouse, Lala finally gets what he deserves. The police rush in after all the smoke clears and try to get a two for one arrest in Lala and Black Lightning, but Black Lightning escapes. Lala is apprehended alone.

Unfortunately for Lala, the police were able to get the incriminating video footage of Lawanda’s murder out of her phone. This ends up being the last straw for Tobias. He shows up at the jail and silences Lala, forever (by killing him, obviously).

The Highs

I really appreciated watching the different characters try to sort out the trauma around last week’s kidnapping. From Jennifer’s drinking, to Anissa’s shutting out her girlfriend, to Lynn’s outright denial, and even to Jefferson’s turn toward violence. They were all interesting and familiar takes on the way people try to deal with traumatic events in life. I loved watching each of them attempt to make their life feel right (in their own ways) after it was completely turned upside down by the 100.

And speaking of Anissa, I’m really enjoying her progression into superpowers. She threw that convenience store robber through, like, three whole shelves! It’s going to be great when she and Black Lightning get into a room together, especially since her outlook on doing the right thing kind of flies in direct opposition to what’s been established as Jefferson’s morals and ideals (remember the argument they had after he bailed her out). That, and it should be really interesting to see what a more community-focused vigilante can bring to Freeland. Bonus points for black lesbian representation in the hero community on network TV!   

The Lows

Midway through the episode, we get a scene where Lala asks Tobias why he hates black people. Honestly, I felt this scene was completely unnecessary. In it, Tobias Whale engages with “he’s a self-hating black guy”-isms (which, again, were wholly unneeded), calls black folks “darkies,” and outfits Lala with some kind of BDSM torture gear. All of it feels forced and tone deaf. And by the time you get to the end of the episode, you realize that they could have cut that entire scene, as it has no effect on the plot or character motivations in any way. Just random, gratuitous anti-blackness on a black superhero show.

Shortly after that, Lynn confronts Gambi at his shop. She says something that alludes to Jefferson being addicted to his powers. They don’t really clear up what she meant by that and it even comes up again later in an argument she has with Jefferson about getting back into the vigilante scene. I’m not sure where the show is headed with this addiction angle, but from here, I’m only seeing red flags. Making DC’s first black hero into someone who “gets strung out heroin-style every time he does the right thing for his community” would fall into the sort of stereotypes this show is otherwise shattering. I’m hoping that I misinterpreted and something different is happening.

Fun Honorable Mentions

Inspector Henderson: good neighbor, friend, and dog walker
Lala making water guns great again
Lynn macking on Jefferson with neuroscience
Good guy hero bantering with police
Ms. Fowdy getting fresh with Jefferson in the principal’s office—hey, boo!

One Last Thing

The music is still doing so much wondrous heavy lifting all over this series! Hits like Al Green’s “Simply Beautiful” and “Love and Happniness” were masterfully sprinkled into scenes between Jefferson and his loving family. Meanwhile, Latimore’s “Straighten it Out” thrums mightily in the background while Lala comes to grips with the fact that he has to kill his cousin if he wants to stay in the game. This might be one of the most perfectly assembled soundtracks in television history—top ten, at least!

Signing Off

Alright, dear readers, that’s all I have until next week’s episode of Black Lightning. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did! For more from me on all things Black Lightning, check me out on Twitter at @RegularEtCetera. Until then, peace!


Regular Et Cetera covers Black Lightning as a part of the #DCTV Couch Club. Look for him on Twitter at @RegularEtCetera. Black Lightning airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. (8 p.m. CST) on The CW.

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