The second episode of Black Lightning
was a little bit of a letdown from the series' strong premiere. This is mostly because the episode spent a lot of time hemming and hawing about if Jefferson was going to suit up again as a hero. Since the series wouldn't exist without Jefferson returning as his shocking alter ago that's a rather moot point. However, "LaWanda: The Book of Hope" did introduce a potentially compelling reason for why Jefferson shouldn't become Black Lightning again. According to his ex-wife, Lynn, Jefferson can become addicted to his powers.
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The Addiction Is Real
There are obvious thematic and tonal similarities between Black Lightning and the Arrow-verse on The CW. However, the show is not officially part of the Arrow-verse and at best seems like it could be part of the same multiverse. So even though metahuman powers have never worked like a drug or some addictive substance on The Flash or Supergirl, that doesn't mean they couldn't act that way on Black Lightning.
In fact, Jefferson's powers (or anyone's) being a thing that cause addiction is a very interesting wrinkle to add to the mythology of Black Lightning. After a powerful and complex introduction, Black Lightning put Lynn into the frustrating nagging wife role. While Lynn has perfectly logical (and emotional) reasons for not wanting Jefferson to risk his life as Black Lightning it couldn't help but feel like something that's been done countless times before. It's also a circular argument. For Black Lightning to be a show Jefferson needs to be a superhero so Lynn arguing against that just seems pointless. If it turns out that Lynn's correct, and Jefferson can be addicted to his powers, then the storyline becomes fresher and much more interesting.
There was also plenty to suggest in "The Book of Hope" that the addiction isn't all in Lynn's mind. When Jefferson came home from saving his daughters at the start of the episode, he was in a pain that seemed to be more than the average bumps and bruises of superhero life. It was almost as if he was coming down from a high. Later in the episode, when Anissa really manifested her powers, a strange euphoria seemed to come over her as well. Whether it's unique to Jefferson's bloodline or not, there does seem to be a high that's experienced while using powers on Black Lightning.
The power addiction being a real thing opens up more stories for Black Lightning and could make Lynn something other than the nagging wife. It creates this difficult balance where Jefferson (and Anissa) are helping their community but at the same time hurting themselves. There'll be a constant internal struggle for Jefferson as he tries to keep a hold on his powers and do the right thing. It's not a wholly unique idea but it is a rare one to explore in the current superhero TV landscape. In addition, Jefferson's powers being an addiction also opens up a lot of real-world allegories -- allegories that would fit in perfectly with Black Lightning's social consciousness and obvious interest in tackling important topics.
The Addiction Isn't Real
Jefferson being literally addicted to his powers would make Black Lightning more complex. There's a chance, though, that it could be too complicated. Black Lightning has thrown out a lot of heavy ideas in a very short amount of time and so far, it's working. However, Jefferson dealing with addiction could be the angsty straw that broke the stressed camel's back. Black Lightning has enough story fodder for season 1 and beyond; an addiction plotline could prove to be too much, way too soon.
It could also end up putting James Remar's character, Peter Gambi, in a very different light. Of any of the Black Lightning cast, Gambi is the most mysterious and unknown. He's the biggest supporter of Black Lightning and it's almost a fanaticism for him. He's also the one that disagrees the most strongly with Lynn than the Jefferson's powers can be an addiction. If the powers do turn out to be dangerous, that could put Gambi in an uncomfortable place as a character.
Either he did know that Jefferson's powers could hurt him and he didn't care, or Gambi's just a bit of an idiot. Adding some moral complexity to Gambi wouldn't be the worst thing as an uncertain character is better than a bland one. Still, it could be a concern to make the Alfred to Jefferson's Batman more of an antagonist than ally.
The truth of the situation is something that's obviously going to play out as Black Lightning continues its first season (of hopefully many more.) But what are your theories? Are the powers an addiction? Who do you side with, Lynn or Gambi? What would be the best option for the show?
(Image courtesy of The CW)