‘Black Lightning’ 2 x 01 “The Rise of the Green Light Babies”

I feel like the entire summer was spent waiting on all of my favorite shows to return to the fall t.v. line-up. I was so excited to plop on the couch and run back the DVR for my CW favorites. While the season two premiere of Black Lightning didn’t exactly blow me away, it didn’t run me away either.

So last season ended on a high note with the Pierce family battling the ASA agents and Proctor. The family drama, the fighting scenes, and as always, the soundtrack were all on point. (The Timmy Turner turn up in the woods, I will never forget) After that, I was naturally ready for the season two premiere to be firing on all cylinders. What I got was mixed feelings about the heavy handed homage to the film Lean on Me, Lynn’s rage, and then total love for the prospects of Anissa’s and Jennifer’s hero journeys.

Jefferson as Joe Clark

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In the 1980’s Morgan Freeman played turn around principal Joe Clark in movie called Lean on Me. The movie chronicled the ups and downs of changing a school once known as a failure into a real place of learning. Clark had a no nonsense way of doing things, frequently stepping on the toes of board members and parents alike. It’s no secret that Joe’s story is a powerful one and that having Jefferson have some of his characteristics makes sense, but what I could not understand was why pluck the names and dialogue straight from the movie and plant them in the episode? Was it an homage? Was it lazy writing? I’m not sure, but it felt off.

Robert Townsend is a black movie pioneer. I loved seeing him on the screen, but having him recite the words from Robert Guillaume and even be named Napier as he was in the film was too much for me. The Black Lightning writers could have done much better than this.

Anissa as Robin Hood

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When Anissa and Jefferson were sitting in that church, I could feel the wheels of her brain turning. That’s one of the strengths of the BL cast. In just one season, we have come to know these characters so well that we can anticipate their moves. Jefferson telling Anissa to let go of her need for more heroics was like speaking to a brick wall; her facial expressions told it all. She wasn’t letting it go. In fact, she picked it all up and carried it on her back. Dressed in all black, she robbed drug spots and  gave the money to the cause of helping families fight to have their loved ones returned to them.

This story line resonates with so many because the stories we hear of young men and women being caught up in the system simply because they cannot afford bail or representation is outrageous. This is the smart writing that the BL writers room needs to keep pushing. Not sloppy snags straight from other sources-nuanced ways to fit them into the Freeland narrative with the touch of magic that super heroes bring to the table.

Jennifer as…

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Jennifer’s journey has been wrought with angst from the start. She doesn’t delight in the manifestation of her powers as Anissa does. Jennifer is scared and reluctant to be different. Though she has seen her powers used for good causes (saving her parents’ lives), she still cannot seem to get past the fact that she is no longer normal. Quite sure it didn’t help her warm to the fact that she has powers when she zapped her mother either.

With the green light causing strange occurrences and resurrections, Jennifer’s reaction was quite strange as well. She was levitating at one point and then ended up enveloped in a ball of energy. Her emotions seem to be some sort of trigger; a teen with a wide range of emotions at any give time will be a sight to see. What all of this means is still unclear, but it does still lead me to believe that Jennifer’s powers are quite strong-perhaps even stronger than Jeff’s and Anissa’s.

Other Things Going Through My Mind

We are still left not knowing what Tobias has in the brief case and what it means for the people of Freeland.

There were too many “on the nose” references to things. Maybe I’m being too harsh, but the Lean on Me stuff, even the fight scene with Fowdy and Tobias was too much  like Silence of the Lambs. The genius of Bill Duke and his Menace to Society interrogation reenactment was fun to watch, but the episode was just saturated with these. Maybe one at a time ya’ll.

Jennifer and Khalil?- What’s in store for these two?

Lynn was in full rage mode for a while. I know she’s upset, but the powers aren’t anyone’s fault. Come on back, boo.

What is Jeff gonna say when he finds out what Anissa has done?

The ‘n’ word on the CW! Whew chile- the envelopes we are pushing!

I’m so glad Henderson finally figured out  Jeff is Black Lightning. I was beginning to want his badge for that lack of sleuthing.

Sigh… These long ass episode titles! Come on!

All in all, the episode felt a little uneven to me, and I feel so bad for saying that. Why? Because I desperately want them to succeed. I am no screen writer or director and don’t claim at all to be one, but I am a consumer. And what I would love to see is more of the things done with Anissa’s story than the cutesy promos from prominent black stars or figures and ham fisted movie references.

I’m rooting for you.

What did you think of the season two premiere? Catch Black Lightning on Tuesday nights on the CW.

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