Superheroes rarely do it alone. They have mentors, teammates and, confidantes. Too often,,, those close to the heroes turn out to have their own secrets or ulterior motives. Some even betray the hero. For new superhero entry, Black Lightning that is Jefferson Pierce’s oldest friend,,,, Peter Gambi..
On Tuesday, Black Lightning latest episode, “Black Jesus,” Black Lightning was mostly dealing with a new deadly drug. Meanwhile, Big Bad Tobias Whale, who isn’t on solid footing with his evil benefactors, called in his sister to help kill Black Lightning. Also, Black Lightning’s daughter Anissa experimented with her powers, prompting a sneaky reaction from Peter. Which is where the trouble starts.
Peter spends most of the episode helping with the new drug hitting the streets, but when he sees video footage of Anissa’s fight, he lies to Black Lightning by saying there’s no footage, then goes out to explore himself. Why is he doing this? More importantly, why is the show doing this? Instead of using Peter to examine Black Lightning’s retirement they are wasting the show’s, and the viewer’s, time by toying with the idea that he’s a traitor.
In Episode 3 “Lawanda: The Book of Burial” Gambi deleted an image of Tobias from security footage of a shooting at a protest, which was the first clue of Gambi being up to something. Until that encounter, in which Tobias sees Black Lightning without getting spotted himself, both men think the other is dead. There could be a number of explanations, but when you add his investigation of Anissa’s fight the show is clearly up to something.
But, the question about Gambi’s activities and loyalties and loyalties are not helpful to the series overall, and hopefully, the show will move quickly past them. Black Lightning is unique from The CW’s other superhero dramas because it is about a family man who retired from life as a superhero and reclaiming his hero identity. The show uses his family very well – his wife and daughters are interesting characters with their own arcs that only add to the story.
Gambi would serve the show better if he added information and nuance to Jefferson’s past superhero life. If the series could balance their past friendship with whatever Gambi’s doing, then it wouldn’t be an issue. But after 4 episodes it doesn’t seem like they can, so Gambi’s potential treachery should exit stage left at the show’s earlier convenience. Next week would be great too.
Gambi’s potentially treacherous direction hurts Black Lightning as a character and a show, because it’s making him into a “mystery” rather than a tool to flesh out Jefferson’s relationship to the Black Lightning persona. We’re four episodes in and we know Jefferson, but not Black Lightning. Why did he start fighting crime? What made him stop? Was he even good at being a hero? The show isn’t going to spill all its secrets, but it should create situations where viewers get to know the hero they are rooting for.
Black Lightning doesn’t have a team of people around him, so Gambi is our way into the character and his history. So, hopefully, the show will let us get to know Black Lightning and ditch Gambi’s growing list of secrets. If not for the sake of the character, then if only because the secret backstabbing jerk trope is played out.
New epiBlack Lightning airs Tuesdays at 9p.m. Eastern on The CW.