Last week on Black Lightning, Jennifer Pierce discovered that she has super powers and in tonight's episode, Jefferson Pierce's younger daughter starts to come to terms with that discovery -- and gave audiences a very realistic look at a superhero origin story.
Spoilers for tonight's episode of Black Lightning, "The Book of Little Black Lies", below.
While Anissa Pierce (Nafessa Williams) took the discovery of her superpowers and embraced them to become the hero Thunder, Jennifer (China Anne McClain) had a very different reaction. Instead of feeling the need to save the world, Jennifer felt confused and depressed. She retreated to her bed and was content to hide there while she attempted to process everything that had just happened to her. That didn't sit well with Anissa who reveals not only her own Thunder powers, but also outs their father, Jefferson (Cress Williams), as Black Lightning. It's a big reveal that Jennifer doesn't react well do. The teen feels liked to and betrayed, both understandable when one considers that she is literally the last person in her family to know what's going on, but as the episode progresses we discover that for Jennifer, there's more to it.
As we see later in the episode, Jennifer has a lot of questions and concerns about her superpowers. She wants to know why her parents didn't tell her that she was going to get powers and, after her mother Lynn (Christine Adams) explains that they had no way of knowing she would, Jennifer starts speculating about her future. She tells her mother that she feels like a freak and she wonders who will ever love her as a superpowered freak. When she realizes that her parents divorced because of her father's superpowers, she's even more upset, leading to the realization that her dream of getting married and having kids is now a big question mark as she doesn't even know if she's capable of having children.
As Jennifer breaks down and tries to deal with the gravity of how her life has changed, not only do audiences feel for her but it's easy to put ourselves in her shoes because Jennifer's reactions to her superpowers -- especially since, in comics Jennifer later becomes the hero Lightning -- is one that is realistic, perhaps one of the most realistic ones we've seen on TV.
Generally, when we see people gain superpowers on television or in movies they not only seem immediately comfortable with it, but the quickly head down their heroic (or villainous) path. Even on The CW's other DC Comics-inspired hero shows there's not a lot of time spent on watching the character struggle and come to terms with their situation. Even this season on The Flash, the bus metas created when Barry (Grant Gustin) emerged from the Speed Force seem to quickly and seamlessly adapt to their newfound powers. Ralph (Hartley Sawyer) in particular moves pretty quickly from discovering his powers to heroics -- his only real hiccups are his selfish nature, which he starts to overcome as well.
But Jennifer's path is different. Instead of being ready to simply forgive her family for lying to her and suit up to join her father and sister in heroics, she's got a lot to process and isn't certain of not only what she wants to do with her powers, but if she can trust her family fully. McClain told reporters during a visit to the Black Lightning set that the betrayal hits Jennifer hard.
"Parents aren't exactly supposed to keep secrets from their children, especially when you feel like this should be an open environment to where we can talk, and you guys always tell me to talk to you about this," McClain said. "But this is something you kept from me, because the girls don't know that their father is Black Lightning. She's just like, what? She feels like her world has been turned upside down and there's some anger and some resentment there for sure."
Black Lightning airs Tuesday nights at 9/8c on The CW.