Black Lightning Recap 1.4: A Drug Problem At Garfield High And Following In Dad’s Footsteps

by Gary Catig

As Jefferson arrives to school, he is alerted to someone freaking out in a bathroom. He goes to investigate and finds one of his students, Bernard, tripping out after taking some drugs. As a result, the student has temporarily gained super strength so the school principal uses his electrical powers to subdue him. Anissa has some drama of her own while driving to school. She sees two of her students getting cozy with a couple 100 corner boys and confronts the gang bangers to ensure they don’t corrupt her kids.  It’s a non-stop battle trying to save your community.
[*Spoilers for 1.4 Ahead!]

Tobias is still coming to terms that his arch enemy is still alive. His whole reputation is based off being the one who took down the super powered vigilante and now people are starting to talk. During a meeting with Lady Eve at her funeral home, he learns that she and her partners are losing confidence in his ability to take care of the Black Lightning situation. Not only that, but he’s bringing unwanted attention to their criminal activity by shooting a reverend and crippling a young promising high school student.
Meanwhile, Jefferson is dealing with the fallout of Bernard’s incident. His student is facing expulsion for doing drugs on school premises and the resulting damage. If Bernard is expelled, he risks jeopardizing his college acceptance, and more importantly, his future. Ultimately, the principal has final decision on punishment, but Jefferson is facing a power struggle with his school board. He can either dismiss Bernard and retain the final say, or save Bernard but have future decisions made by a committee where he is only one vote of many.  He chooses the latter because if he can save one youth right now, it is worth the sacrifice.

At the same time, Jefferson is trying to get ahead of the drug problem and search out the source. As his alter ego, he literally fights his way up the ladder starting with the street level dealers all the way up to an old neighborhood colleague named Two Bits.  After a failed attempt to talk to Two Bits civilly as Jefferson, Black Lightning pays a visit to the drug distributor. The criminal is willing to give up intel on the new street drug, Green Light, as long as the superhero doesn’t call the cops on him. If caught, that would be his third strike and he’d go away for 30 years. Jefferson agrees, but if he finds that Two Bit is back in the drug game, he’ll come back after him.

There seems to be a new crime fighter in the Pierce family as Anissa has started trying to clean up the streets. She first confronts The 100 members from earlier in the episode and doesn’t fully realize her super strength until she almost kills them. Feeling guilty for seriously injuring the gang members, she calls 911 for paramedics before leaving.
Later, while leaving the bar where Grace works, the two friends are threatened by a group of hate-filled homophobic guys. One even assaults Grace, which angers Anissa.  This time she has no qualms about hurting people and commences a superpowered beatdown on the assailants. Maybe since this was an unprovoked attack unlike the one she instigated earlier, she doesn’t feel guilty injuring these guys.
While staking out the warehouse that Two Bit informed him about, Jefferson hears the results from Anissa’s attack. He abandons his post to investigate the disturbance, but arrives too late to find his daughter and Grace. Curious, he asks Gambi to follow up on closed circuit video footage to find out what happened. For the second straight week, Gambi lies to Black Lightning, saying there’s no recorded footage of the fight even though he clearly sees a hooded figure exhibiting super strength.
The next day, Bernard’s father calls Jefferson and tells him his son is back on Green Light. He tried to save his son from the stash house, but got pistol whipped by the dealers. Not wanting to give up on Bernard, Black Lightning storms the drug den and rescues his student, having to carry him out in his arms. As his principal, he helps enroll him in the best treatment facility in Freeland to get him back on track.
In the final scene, Tobias is taking a more subtle approach to dealing with his problem.  Rather than using brute force to take his adversary down, he is trying to turn the community against the superhero. He serves as an anonymous benefactor to Khalil ever since it was announced that he was permanently paralyzed. The leader of The 100 pays the young track star a visit in the hospital and tries to convince him that Black Lightning is responsible for his predicament. If it weren’t for the vigilante stepping in at the march, Khalil would never have been shot. Though technically true, Tobias fails to mention that he’s the one who ordered the shooting.
The conflict Jefferson is feeling has been ratcheting up since Black Lightning returned.  He sees a community in need of saving from the gangs, but each time acts, there’s always some sort of collateral damage. The reverend, Khalil, and now Bernard. All these people are adding up, and it’s weighing heavy on him. He has been dubbed “Black Jesus”, but yet with all his powers, he can’t save everyone. Now, he’s wondering if he made the right decision bringing back his hero persona.
One of the aspects of the series that I feel isn’t as strong is Tobias Whale. As a villain, it’s difficult to see his motivation as more than being the generic bad guy at this point.  His history with Black Lightning is always referenced, but we don’t know the details.  There needs to be a flashback between the two to provide insight on their relationship and how they came into conflict. I feel there have been more compelling bad guys introduced like Lala, and even the shadowy Lady Eve. Tobias’ new approach to managing the titular character is intriguing though, but it is yet to be seen if he successfully persuaded Khalil to play his part.
Black Lightning airs Tuesday nights at 9:00 pm on the CW.

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