Black Lightning began with a lot of Jefferson Pierce outside of his electrified suit. Yet, understandably, as he gives the show its name, Black Lightning became much more front and center than Jefferson Pierce, eventually overshadowing Jefferson's day job as principal.
In the episode "Black Jesus," Black Lightning went right back to the well of Jefferson as principal, having him deal with a superhero problem both in and out of his suit. "Black Jesus" might've not been the best Black Lightning episode to date but it had a format that most episodes of the series should follow in the future.
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The Children Are the Future (of Black Lightning)
Plenty of superheroes have day jobs but they're used specifically as cover. The job itself isn't important so much as the hero having a way to explain how they can support themselves or the crime-fighting habit. It makes sense too. The most interesting part of Bruce Wayne isn't that he's a multi-billionaire, it's that he's Batman. Yet it's different for Black Lightning, or at least it should be different.
Black Lightning, as a series, is all about the positive impact that Jefferson wants to have on his community. This doesn't separate him too much from any other hero, especially one on The CW. (After all, Oliver Queen was yelling about people failing the city for two seasons on Arrow.) Yet the thing that sets Jefferson and Black Lightning apart is that the show has a very easy and obvious opportunity to show that change in real time.
A hero's goal to save their city is a noble one but it's hard to connect as a viewer -- it's an ideal rather than anything tangible. As principal of Garfield High School in Freeland, though, Jefferson is on the "front lines." Jefferson (and the audience) can see how his world changes around him because of Black Lightning. The audience will be much more invested in Jefferson taking back Freeland bit by bit because it will play out through the characters at Garfield.
The Face to the Suffering
Jefferson discovering a current problem with The 100 as principal and pursuing it as Black Lightning is a brilliant way for the series to deal with cause and effect. Gambi introducing a problem for Jefferson and having him face it is fine but very impersonal.
The student who got addicted to greenlight in "Black Jesus," Bernard, wasn't the most complex of characters. He was really just a plot point but that plot point made Jefferson's journey to save Freeland much more personal and intimate than before on Black Lightning. The gang warfare in Black Lightning had a face, which hasn't happened since the pilot when Jennifer and Anissa were kidnapped, and that's not something the show should (or can) do every episode.
It might be silly to make every problem Black Lightning faces come back to haunt Jefferson at Garfield High. The 100 is obviously concerned with getting to its members when they're young but every single one of them being a student at Garfield is just a bit too much.
Yet for average case-of-the-week stories, which was the intention and function of "Black Jesus," the way things played out was near perfect. Black Lightning should never forget that Jefferson can do as much good for Freeland as principal of Garfield High as he can as Black Lightning.
But what do you think? Should Black Lightning focus more on Jefferson as principal of Garfield? What did you make of the format for "Black Jesus?"
(Image courtesy of The CW)