Last week, following the premiere of Black Lightning on The CW, we couldn't help but notice that Jefferson Pierce's superhero disguise is, well, kind of terrible. The show's pilot featured a scene in which Jefferson's own daughters stood just a few feet away but couldn't recognize him in his superhero get-up, which hides his face only by means of a pair of transparent goggles. However, in this week's episode, "Lawanda: The Book of Hope," Black Lightning offers an explanation for why Jefferson's flimsy disguise is so effective.
This is an ongoing challenge for the superhero genre, since covering a character's face completely makes it difficult for actors to emote, but the simple domino mask (or the equivalent) requires suspension of disbelief on the part of the audience. The CW's other shows have gotten around this in various ways - from Barry vibrating at a high speed to disguise his face in The Flash, to Supergirl simply blaming people's refusal to believe that a superhero could be someone that they know. With that in mind, Black Lightning's explanation is relatively convincing.
As one of Jefferson's daughters, Jennifer, is hanging out on the roof with her friend (soon to be boyfriend) Khalil (Jordan Calloway), Khalil asks her what it was like to come face-to-face with the notorious Black Lightning. Jennifer replies that she was scared because, "When you try and look at his face, it hurts... It's like looking into a spotlight or something. It's out of focus."
It hasn't yet been explained exactly why people struggle to see Black Lightning's face in the way that Jennifer describes, but it's almost certainly something to do with his costume, which has been upgraded since his earlier outings as the lightning-powered vigilante. Perhaps his goggles emit some kind of field that prevents people from being able to clearly see his face. Then again, perhaps this is simply a manipulation of his powers.
Whatever the reason, the very fact that there is an explanation for why Jefferson's family and friends don't recognize him as Black Lightning puts him above the likes of, for example, Superman. And really, for fans who are used to superhero shows, even a cursory explanation is enough to put the question of why no one recognizes Black Lightning as Jefferson Pierce to rest. On with the show!
Black Lightning returns to The CW on Tuesday, January 29th, at 8/9c.