Black Lightning S01E05 "And Then the Devil Brought the Plague: The Book of Green Light"

While some might argue that murder isn't justice, watching Tobias leave his father to die with his sister at his side was a satisfying moment. To help Tobias focus on his mission, Tori points out to her brother that Black Lightning isn't his true nemesis—their abusive father is. A beautifully shot flashback gives a glimpse into how horrible the White household was. This made me think of an episode of The Flash: while villainous terror around Leonard Snart was not as intense as it is around Tobias, watching him murder his abusive father due to how he hurt Lisa, Leonard's younger sister, was a standout moment in that season. The show manages the delicate balance that needs to be struck when finding out the tragic backstory of a villain. We’re reminded of Lady Eve lurking in the background when Tobias receives an envelope full of ground bone. She's the true terror in this show and she's pulling no punches.

We get our first hints of Lighting this episode when a verbal fight turns physical when Jennifer defends herself against girls from another school. Jennifer breaks her wrist with ease. Super strength runs in the family and although she does get punished for lying about the fight, Jefferson can’t but help to be proud that his daughter took on two girls and won. It's noteworthy that Jefferson told Jennifer that violence should put out a fire instead of starting one in an episode where Jefferson almost loses his cool at a cashier and later begins fighting a suspect before even talking to him. Using his powers in new exciting ways has resulted in a mental and physical toll on Jefferson.

Jefferson is very lucky his ex-wife is a neurosurgeon. Gambi contacts Lynn after Jefferson passes out during an argument. For once, instead of chastising Jefferson for being Black Lighting as a whole we see that she's afraid of how it's affecting him physically. It's a tender scene that still keeps them at equal levels and keeps Lynn from seeming like a fully uncooperative partner because at the end of the day, she does want him to stay alive.

Gambi, on the other hand, is not acting the way a partner in crime should. We find out that he did Tobias a favor years ago with the promise that Tobias would leave Freeland alone. When Jefferson realizes that Tobias is likely back in town Gambi does nothing to admit that Jefferson's fears are true. This indicates a future tension that does not look like it'll pan out well.

While trying out his new powers Jefferson saves the life of a young Black man hyped up on Green Light. A Black man in a hoodie being cornered by cops tends to cause a moment of panic for Black viewers. We're living this reality in America day by day: there is no real escape from police brutality. The almost-victim in this story was not a simply passive man who was in trouble for being Black, which is rare to see. He was actively fighting the officers. He was a potential threat. My friend's father was murdered by police but it was easier for people to justify his death because he was holding a sword and attacked an officer. He was not a perfect victim. And yet, white men have been able to shoot at officers and still been arrested alive. It was very nice that Jefferson used his lightning to stun the man before pointing out to the cops that maybe they should have used tasers to subdue the man instead of firing their guns at him.

In connection, a historical thread against Black people that few know about is brought up by name. Like most people Anissa uses Google to try to figure out what's wrong with her. Instead of getting WebMD results, a video points her in the direction of medical testing on Black children. The video would have felt like a conspiracy theory if it wasn't for the fact it referenced modern history: the Tuskegee experiment. A known yet ignored fact about American history is the use of Black people as test subjects to advance science and medicine "for the greater good." The Tuskegee experiment gave syphilis to Black men without their express consent from 1932 to 1972, showing how the disease progressed. The show continues to stay grounded in reality but with its own supernatural elements. It's unclear if Anissa and Jennifer know their grandfather was murdered, as when Anissa tries to ask him about what she’s found her father immediately shut down. But once Anissa gets a box full of information she's all set to find the truth on her own.

The first Thunder outfit makes it debut after a fun outfit change scene. It was nice to see two gay characters—the clerk and Anissa—interact within a background way without it being a huge deal. A gay man helping a straight woman dress for a man is a common trope. Here, we have a gay man help a lesbian dress up as a superhero. Thunder's costume is bright and directly mirrors one of her comic outfits down to the blonde wig. It was a relief to see that her skin was fully covered, the latex painted to give the appearance of skin being exposed as it was in her comic character. Anissa does not have full control of her powers, though, and she breaks the storage unit door instead of simply breaking the lock. The white powder she finds after she destroys a safe leaves us full of more questions, one of the true powers of this show.

Beatrice Onyekachi's picture
on February 15, 2018

I'm a Black lesbian ask me how. I'm a student who spends more time creating fandom content than focusing on her studies. I'm very excited to be a part of Geeks OUT!