Season 1 / Episode 1 / CW
Writer: Salim Akil
Director: Salim Akil
Billie Holiday singing “Strange Fruit”. Out the gate. In a police station. Is it doing the most? Yes. Is it Black as hell? Yes. So I’ll allow it. Clearly, we ain’t gettin no quarter and Black Lightning ain’t playing no games. Black Lightning is a highly anticipated show, so I know you’re here for one thing and one thing only: Let’s recap what happened.
Set Up: Freedland and the State of Policing
Jennifer drops the kind of Milo Sweetman quote that folks familiar with Black Lightning Year One (or quick with the Wiki fingers) will recognize. Anyway, folks ouchea in Freedland shootin’ and actin’ a whole black ass fool. According to the news, the local 100 gang is running all over the police and gunning down Boyz in the Hood like Ricky. Then they turned a peaceful protest into a riot and made Inspector Henderson bust out his good blazer to let ‘em know the police is done taking that mess.
But the people don’t care. They just want Black Lightning back. But Black Lightning is just here to bail his oldest daughter, Anissa, out of jail. And Jennifer is just here to give foreshadowy voiceovers and send shady ass texts. Ah, teenagers. They collect Anissa and her quilted coat and with a glance at the perp walk, which features the wanted poster for Tobias Whale that I’m sure will not be important in any way, they bounce. Because apparently everybody forgot Daddy Jefferson had a shindig tonight. Y’all some terrible daughters.
In the car ride to Garfield High School’s fundraiser, Jefferson reads Anissa the riot act for choosing to go to a protest instead of a boring ass school function. This just goes to show how far he’s fallen from justice. Gotta side with my girl on this one, Jeff. Untiiiiiiiiiil, she tries to say breaking windows and burning police cars fall under “peaceful protest” which…nah, gurl. Protesting a corrupt system can need a broken window or two so say that shit with yo’ chest. Theeeeeeeen, Jefferson loses his own point pulling out a Dr. King quote from the Wypipo’s Sanitized Black Activist Playbook. Ain’t neither one of y’all getting it right now. SMH.
Then well, hold on a minute. Pause. I just want to make sure I get this shit straight. The police, riding around with the robbery victim in the backseat of the squad car, pull Jefferson over because he “fits the description”. They pull him out of his car, cuff him, then walk him back to the Asian liquor store owner (because of course, she’s East Asian) to ask her if this is the man who robbed her. And if it was, WTF was they gonna do? Let the perp ride back to the precinct with his victim/witness/snitch? Leave her by the roadside in the rain while they take him in? Give her his Volvo as a bit of their own vigilante justice?? I’m lost, but okay.
Anyway, Jefferson gets pulled over for DWB for the third time that month by the most simultaneously uptight and lax, racist, and thorough cops I’ve ever seen. He’s not the guy they’re looking for, so after pointing a gun at his daughters and ruining a dry clean only suit, they let him on his soggy way. But you wouldn’t like him when he’s angry. Black Lightning Flashes, the police car whoop-whoops and stalls out. And Black Lightning is back. Kinda.
Jefferson the Principal and Father
We pick-up at a school fundraiser with the real Senator Nina Turner giving a fake speech about Jefferson and Garfield High. Anissa might want to double check her teaching contract to make sure she still has a job once they get wind of her real recent arrest. Meanwhile, Jen and her bestie Keisha are in the bathroom layering on lip gloss (y’all shoulda been using Fenty but gone ‘head) like nobody’s gonna notice the principal’s daughter slipped out of the fundraiser. Ah, teenagers.
Anissa catches them because of course but, like a good big sister, lets them go to their friend’s “house party” like a quarter of the student body isn’t at the fundraiser too. Jefferson’s 6’5” self hits a podium set for 5’4” and goes end of the movie Joe Clark on the student body.
Cut to Club 100 with Jen and Keisha. This song is high-key a bop (“Blicka Blicka” by Rome Fortune). Just in case you didn’t realize Jen was a good girl gone bad, we see her smoking A WEED! GASP! Then she spots a cutie and next thing you know she and Keisha is breaking Black Girl Club Rule #1: Always keep an eye on your girl. Keisha is turning up at the bar while Jen is boo-lovin in VIP. Ah, teenagers.
Back at the fundraiser, Inspector Henderson got off work early to come crack jokes on his bestie Jefferson. If y’all such good friends, why Jefferson keep getting pulled over doe???? Henderson says protesting the police might get you tear-gassed, arrested, and your head knocked in but protesting The 100 will get you killed. And Henderson clearly has a naive level of faith in his department. Quite naive… But that’s all he has time to do because apparently dude is still on the clock. Freedland’s tax dollars at work. Jefferson’s assistant tries to get him to charm a new donor but his ex-wife just rolled up looking finer than frog’s hair so that takes precedence. And they are CLEARLY feeling each other.
Jefferson gets home (I guess Anissa had to walk home because thems the rules if you get arrested) but Jen, smooth criminal that she is, missed her sneak-in window. Ah, teenagers. Daddy has Lojack for his girls and pulls up that Snapchat friends map to see Jen is at Club 100 because she doesn’t respect her life.
At Club 100
Jen is still talking to this dude who probably hit her with the “Oh your name Jennifer? That’s a white girl name” and they talking about Coachella over AfroPunk like they not at a Rome Fortune concert. Not sure how time passes in this club but Jen done stayed long enough to get herself caught up in some bullshit (to the dulcet tones of “Love” by Rome Fortune and I think I’m a fan). But Jefferson just got there, and he ain’t happy to see them drag his little girl into a back room. Also, where the HELL is Keisha??? She’s the worst friend.
Turns out Jen done found herself a dumbass, if the “alternative Black girl” comment wasn’t clue enough. Who shows up AT a drug dealer’s club when you owe him MONEY YOU AIN’T GOT! Homie went to the Sleight school of hustling but since he has neither a Holly nor an electromagnet in his arm, this probably ain’t turning out like he hopes. And Jen’s foolish ass is just stuck. Then they just casually say they’re gonna force her into prostitution and dude is just like okay. What the fuck????
Jefferson tries to force his way into the club’s back room but the guard at the door pulls a gun on him — like what did you think was gonna happen??? But now he’s angry so Black Lightning Flash, the lights go out and mu’fuckas start shootin in a crowded, dark ass club. Jeff, you ain’t think this through, man. But Jen gets out safe while Jefferson looks out over the balcony at the destruction he wrought. Then he takes his time leaving the scene of the crime because things don’t make sense and the police arrive again to do some racial profiling. But their tasers have no power here so he shocks them and blows the fuck out of the police car. Which may be a problem later but go awf.
Jefferson heads to his tailor because SOMEBODY got shot in the dark and that somebody was him. Meanwhile, Anissa is playing Mom and throwing another “fast ass” at Jen. I mean, yeah it was dumb (real dumb) but can we please retire “fast ass” as a descriptor for Black girls. Thanks so much! But the cops are more concerned with the cops that got tased and their car blown up than by the gang that’s just running willy nilly all over the city. Sounds familiar.
Y’all real blasé about girls getting sex trafficked. Like real blasé. It looks like that’s their game at Club 100 and everybody is just kinda glossing over it and it makes me very uncomfortable. And where is Keisha????
Keeping It Low Key
Turns out Jefferson’s tailor is also his Alfred. He can stitch a bullet wound and a mean peak lapel. He wants Black Lightning back but Jefferson just wants to get back with Lynn. Nine years ain’t long enough to be out of the game so he ain’t trying to hear it.
Why y’all ain’t tell me Roland Martin was in this show?? Anyway, Lynn comes over to comfort Jen because she almost got shot and sex trafficked like that wasn’t a big deal. But is Black Lightning back though? Lynn gets a little handsy to see if he’s been working the night shift and when she doesn’t see anything she just gets handsy. But when she leaves, we see the bullet wound was on his side the whole time cause he just can’t stop lying.
We finally meet Tobias Whale, the light-skinned dude with a piranha tank that he puts to good use. And they watching Roland Martin too because I guess…
We got some heartwarming family jogging and Jefferson being The World’s Best Principal. Meanwhile, his assistant is trying to convince him to put metal detectors up in the school because suddenly the gang violence is too much, I guess. Jefferson says no, but not because it’s dehumanizing and demoralizing for kids to get patted down and searched daily like criminals. Because every student in here knows somebody in jail. “Their mothers, fathers, aunties, uncles…” and what are we doing, man. Peter, the tailor, sends a Black Lightning video to Jefferson’s work email because what even are secret identities.
Outside, Jen’s friend from the club has stalked her IG all the way to her school and won’t give up even though he now has proof that she probably ain’t eighteen yet AND HE TRIED TO SEX TRAFFIC HER! He drops a “Why Black girls gotta have so much attitude” because he’s less a character than a bundle of “the worst dudes you could possibly meet” cliches. Only Anissa cares that Jen is being accosted in front of the school with a gut punch and an arm throw. Of course, he has a gun but Principal Jefferson is there in his very serious waistcoat to stop him from using it and let dude off with a warning… Man, what are we even doing??????? He stalked and TRIED TO SEX TRAFFIC YOUR DAUGHTER!!!!! And why are they in trouble because a dude tried to snatch Jennifer?? Like did we forget that?
Turns out Jefferson has a deal with all the local gangs to leave all their mess out of Garfield High School. Which is a kinda fucked up thing to do in the community. He goes to visit the leader of the 100, one of his former students, to ask him to come get his mans. Said mans has been having trouble fitting in since he got out of jail BUT NOBODY CARES BECAUSE Y’ALL ARE SEX TRAFFICKERS!!!! A whole lot of looking the other way happens until some kid gets his ass beat for missing the drug van. La-La pulls a gun on Jefferson for taking up for baby drug dealer.
Back at Garfield, they apparently have zero school security so the Pierce girls get kidnapped by old dude and his friends. Inspector Henderson is at the school trying to wait for confirmation before they look for the girls at the motel like Jefferson ain’t got that Lojack app on his phone. He’s gonna do this by the book but Lynn is okay with Black Lightning showing up now. Jefferson goes to Peter’s shop and turns out dude has a whole ass batcave down in his basement and he’s been working on a new supersuit like Edna Mode.
Light ’em Up
Black Lightning shows up at the motel in his new bulletproof suit and starts beating the shit out of dudes. La-La starts beating the shit out of his dumbass henchman for being a dumbass and orders him to kill Anissa and Jen. Black Lightning is still hitting his slow walk of justice and runs into a half-naked guy trying to sneak out of a room which makes me very uncomfortable knowing what this motel is known for. Dumbass gets an electric purple nurple before getting tossed onto his own car. He ain’t die tho. Sad. The police come to bat cleanup and totally ignore the 6’5” Black dude in a light-up suit standing on the roof of the motel.
La-La’s joyride is interrupted by the dude you always end up sharing the subway car with late-night when it’s going local and the girl you know is evil because she has half a bang. They take him to Tobias who shoots him with a harpoon because, Whale, why not? (I’ll see my self out.) But Black Lightning is back and Tobias is not pleased.
The Pierce family is reunited but it turns out Black Lightning’s bulletproof suit isn’t as bulletproof as we thought or his old flesh wound opened itself back up. Anissa wakes up from a nightmare and goes to the bathroom. She’s freaking out because she just survived a traumatic ass experience then BOOM. She breaks the sink with her bare hands.
Black People with Lines: 19
Bops Dropped: 4
Suit Casualties: 2
Over the Top Visual Puns: 1
There’s plenty of Black Lightning coverage to come. Follow the whole season here at BNP, with lots of other Black Lightning content besides.