When crisis touches his family, Jefferson Pierce reluctantly reclaims his superhero persona after almost a decade. Full recap of Black Lightning, “The Resurrection” (first aired Tuesday, January 16 at 9pm ET|PT on The CW).
I had a chance to see the Black Lightning premiere at DC in DC 2018, and knew from the very beginning that this would be a superhero series like no other. Right from out of the gate, Black Lightning bombards us with narratives we’re all too familiar with from the nightly news, images of police brutality/misconduct and gang violence. At the same time, we recognize the good in this world too–positive representations of the Black family, community activism, and the kickass action we’ve come to expect in DCTV. Yes, 2018 is the year of the Black Superhero, and Black Lightning is 100% in that vanguard!
“The Resurrection” opens by taking us into a police station waiting room. As Jefferson Pierce waits… for something… he watches the news on the television. We learn that Freeland is in the midst of a crisis. Violence has been escalating as the 100, a local gang, gains strength. The community has grown increasingly frustrated with the police, who seem impotent. However, when people decide to have a peaceful demonstration to protest the 100, gang members infiltrate and cause chaos.
Jefferson is joined by the youngest of his daughters, Jennifer, and via her text messages to a friend, we see that her older sister, Anissa, was arrested during the demonstration. Anissa soon joins them, but Jefferson has nothing to say to his oldest at that moment. It turns out that the high school where Jefferson is principal is hosting a fundraiser, one that the entire family is meant to attend. On their way to the event, he fumes because Anissa had a choice and erred on the path that led her to a jail cell. However, Anissa doesn’t see it that way. She was doing the right thing by calling attention to the needs of her community and standing up against those who would see Freeland torn apart. Isn’t this the responsibility their father has always taught them about?
Before the conversation can continue, Jefferson hears a siren and sees a flash–they’re being stopped by the police (which happens to the the THIRD time this month). Two White officers approach the vehicle, and things escalate quickly. One officer yanks Jefferson out of the car into the pouring rain, slams him down onto of the hood of the police car, and cuffs him. The other pulls out a gun on Anissa and Jennifer, demanding that they stop talking and stop trying to record the altercation. Jefferson begs for his daughters to comply with the officers, and his plea is one that resonates so deeply with us all. How many times have we seen this a situation like this play out via security footage, cell phone video, or a police car camera ? Jefferson’s plea is one of a father desperate to keep his children alive when these same circumstances have led to the deaths of so many others. The officer with Jefferson leads him to the back of the police vehicle where an Asian woman is sitting. The officer asks “is this the guy?” The woman shakes her head no. And we are all scandalized. The officer releases Jefferson and wishes him a good night. But surely he cannot be serious! Apparently a liquor store was robbed nearby… and of course the description of the suspect was a tall Black man wearing a suit and driving a midsize sedan. Jefferson is incensed, that he could be so blatantly disrespected and his children disregarded. His powers come upon him: the street lights flash, car lights go out. “This was the night, in the rain, with thunder and lightning as a witness, that Black Lightning was born again.”
Jefferson, Anissa, and Jennifer make it to the high school fundraiser and its quite the event. State Senator Turner is there to introduce Jefferson as a hero of the community who has spent the last seven years turning things around at Garfield High. Now the school has graduation rates upwards of 90%. Senator Turner speaks of Anissa, a medical student who teaches health education three times a week at Garfield, while Jennifer is a star scholar-athlete, like her father. When Jefferson takes the stage, we see immediately the care he’s taken to instill confidence and a sense of responsibility in his students.
As Jefferson schmoozes at the fundraiser, Jefferson thanks Police Inspector Henderson for helping get Anissa released from jail. Inspector Henderson also promises to keep looking for those two officers who detained them earlier. You can tell that these two men are close friends (even though we know that nine years ago, when Black Lightning was at large, these two were on opposite sides of the fence). Miss Kara Fowdy, a colleague of Jefferson’s is eager for his attention, but he’s slightly distracted… and this is when we’re treated to the glorious chemistry between Jefferson and his ex-wife Lynn. They might no longer be married, but the attraction still sizzles between them. Jefferson and Lynn briefly speak about Anissa’s arrest and Lynn expresses being proud of their daughter… like father, like child, it seems.
When Jefferson arrives home, we see that his other daughter has gotten into some trouble tonight too. Earlier, Jennifer and her friend Keisha sneak out of the fundraiser to attend a small house party. Anissa agrees to cover for them, and Jennifer promises to be home before the fundraiser ends. But Jennifer doesn’t go to a small house party–she ends up at Club 100, dancing, drinking, smoking, but having a good time. She even meets a cute guy, Will, and they hit things off.
By the time Jefferson has talked to Anissa (who confesses everything), he’s able to track her location to Club 100 (that GPS, though). And when Jefferson arrives, it’s in time to see that Jennifer is caught up in something really bad. Apparently Will owes his cousin, Lala, $100K, repayment for the drugs the police seized when Will was arrested. Lala confronts Will in the back office and is pretty violent with him. Jennifer tries to leave, she has nothing to do with any of this. But Lala isn’t having it. In fact, he even suggests that Jennifer can help pay off some of that $100K on her back at the Seahorse Motel. Say what now?! Jennifer tries again to leave and even tells Will about himself being someone else’s bitch.
Jefferson tries to get to that back office, but is stopped by one of Lala’s goons. When the guy pulls a gun, Jefferson loses all patience. When he cuts off the electricity in the club, the gang members pull out their guns and start looking for the cause of the commotion. In the chaos, Jennifer is able to sneak away. Meanwhile, Jefferson totally kicks the 100’s ass. He leaves out of the alleyway and is *again* stopped by police. This time, Jefferson does not comply. When the officers try to taze him, Jefferson knocks them out with a massive electric charge, sets their police car on fire, and bounces out of there.
Jennifer makes her way home and Anissa is there waiting for her. Anissa is livid that her sister would put herself in danger by going to Club 100. Jennifer tries to play it cool, but it’s clear that the situation has her shaken up. On the news, reporters speculate that this incident at Club 100 is reminiscent of Black Lightning, but Inspector Henderson calls that fake news.
In the melee, Jefferson is hurt by a stray bullet, so he goes to his old friend Peter Gambi for help. Gambi is adamant that Jefferson needs to reclaim his Black Lightning persona. Freeland needs him! Jefferson isn’t at all convinced–the initial purpose of Black Lightning was to get revenge against Tobias Whale for killing Jefferson’s father. Then that expanded to include other crime bosses, crooked politicians, and on and on. There was no ending in sight, and it was Jefferson that would bear the costs. In flashbacks, we see Jefferson return home from a night fighting crime. He’s soaking in a tub and bleeding. Lynn is there and makes Jefferson promise to put an end of Black Lightning. She and their daughters can’t watch him kill himself. In the present, Jefferson tells Gambi that he has chance to reconcile with Lynn and won’t let Black Lightning jeopardize that.
When Jefferson gets home, Lynn is waiting at the house. He pretends like he’s just learning that Jennifer was at Club 100. Lynn assures Jefferson that Jennifer is okay and that she’s on punishment for the month. Lynn also asks about what she’s been hearing on the news… the possibility that Black Lightning is back. Jefferson denies it. He’s saved way more lives as Garfield’s principal than as Black Lightning. He has no intention of going back. Lynn cares too much about Jefferson to see him in that sort of pain again. When Lynn starts to unbutton Jefferson’s shirt, he reassures her that she won’t find anything there: “just a man who wants his woman back.” (Though we know Gambi has patched up a wound.) Lynn leaves to drive to her place, and we see another flashback: Jefferson has broken his initial promise to Lynn to stop his vigilantism. When a young Anissa finds her father bleeding, Lynn demands a divorce.
The next morning, Jefferson and the girls are in a better mood. The go on a run together and it’s a really sweet father/daughters moment. At school later that morning, after vehemently opposing school board plans to install metal detectors at Garfield (“I will not turn my school into another jail…”), Jefferson receives an email from Gambi. It’s a link to a video interview with a man who Black Lightning saved when his convenience store was robbed. The man is extremely grateful… so maybe Black Lightning wasn’t all bad.
Outside, another altercation unfolds, as Will has stalked Jennifer to the school. She wants nothing to do with him and tells him so. When Will gets grabby, Anissa runs to defend her sister. When Anissa turns to call the police, Will attempts to manhandle her, but she knocks him to the ground (there’s punch and a whole flip). Will is angry and reaches for his gun, but Jefferson is there to intercede. Jefferson reminds Will that there are cameras everywhere and the police are already on their way. If Will is involved in a school shooting, either the police will shoot him then and there or he ends up in prison for the rest of his life. Will leaves, but promises this isn’t over.
Jefferson is once again frustrated with Anissa for escalating the situation with Will instead of just calling security and walking away. But Anissa argues that there’s no way Garfield can be neutral when Freeland as a whole is steeped in violence. She even accuses Jefferson of abandoning the community. It turns out that Jefferson has had an agreement from all the gangs in Freeland that Garfield will be a safe zone. He goes to see Lala, AKA Latavious, about what happened with Will. He has to stay away from Anissa, Jennifer, and the school. While there, Jefferson meets one of Lala’s “mentees”, a boy named Malik. Malik also happens to sell drugs for Latavious, but apparently has been more focussed on playing games on his phone. When Lala gets forceful with Malik, Jefferson tries to intervene… but then Lala pulls a gun on Jefferson: “You teach them your way and I teach them mine.” Lala agrees to handle Will, but Jefferson will owe him.
However, Jefferson is too late. Will and his buddies have already returned to Garfield and kidnap Anissa and Jennifer right out of class. LAWD.
When Inspector Henderson arrives at the school, he asks for Jefferson and Lynn to be patient and let the police handle this situation. Jefferson agrees, or so it seems. He has every intention of getting his daughters back and lets Lynn known this. She cannot hold this against him. Jefferson goes to Gambi who is ready to help. In fact, Gambi has a new and improved Black Lightning suit ready to go. By the time Black Lightning arrives at the Seahorse Motel, he’s ready to kick all the ass, which he does. The 100 doesn’t stand a chance!
Latavious isn’t at all happy that Will has kidnapped Jennifer and Anissa. How could he make a move like this without permission, especially since it unsettle’s Lala’s authority. Lala pistol-whips Will and then tells him to get rid of the girls. But Black Lightning has arrived. Will tries to shoot Black Lightning, but the bullet doesn’t penetrate the suit. Jennifer and Anissa are able to run away while Black Lightning handles Will. He demands to know where Lala is, but Will claims to not know. Black Lightning shocks Will and drops him on his car.
Meanwhile, Latavious has a problem of his own: Tobias Whale. The kingpin has Lala brought to him and then LITERALLY fires a harpoon into his chest. “Do you believe in the Resurrection, Latavious?” Tobias believes that he killed Black Lightning nine years ago, so how in the world is this person back? Tobias expects Latavious to handle things.
That night, Jennifer, Anissa, Jefferson, and Lynn are all at home. Lynn is grateful that their girls are home, but Jefferson tells her that his work as Black Lightning isn’t over yet. Elsewhere, Anissa is dealing with some serious trauma from her kidnapping. When she goes to the bathroom, she’s unable to calm herself down… and ends up shattering the sink with her bare hands. (OHITHERE THUNDER!)
So Black Lightning is back… what does that mean for a Jefferson/Lynn reconciliation? Will Anissa keep her new abilities secret (especially since she has no idea her father is Black Lightning)? How long before a Black Lightning/Tobias Whale confrontation? If Tobias is going to be out here harpooning folks, I’m going to need for Gambi to come up with some weapons/shields that Black Lightning can use too. Finally, can we talk about how ON POINT Black Lightning’s music is?! MUSTLISTEN soundtrack for a MUSTWATCH show!
Black Lightning airs Tuesdays at 9:00pm ET|PT on The CW.