The Adult Swim sitcom Black Jesus builds dramatic (well, comedic) tension out of the returned Messiah’s (Slink Mitchell) ability to lead his new disciples. To the untrained eye they look like a disorganized gang of drug-addled losers, but to Jesus they are people of sterling character. They have to be to help their leader out at the conclusion of Season One. The last three episodes saw Jesus evicted, on the run from the law and locked up in a mental hospital. Not to worry, though; Jesus comes through this ordeal with his belief and good cheer intact. It is only the growth of the “disciples” that give him the belief that he can go on. Given the show’s critical raves and high ratings, the path to a second season looks assured.
Vic (Charlie Murphy), the landlord and sworn enemy of Jesus, has let the apartment building fall apart. Still devastated over his rejection by Miss Tudi (Angela Elayne Gibbs), the God-fearing drug lord, he falls into drunken stupors. Jesus sets out to save him from Lloyd (John Witherspoon). the homeless man who has become way too big an influence on his boss. Newly sober, Vic shows his gratitude by evicting the disciples from the garden they made bloom in the heart of Compton.
Desperate to raise the money to buy the land, Jesus approaches his homeboy Coolio to perform in a benefit concert to raise funds. The wild-haired veteran rapper turned chef is not down with the idea. After all, he needs Jesus’ help to save his failing restaurant and has gotten nothing so far. Jesus assures him he will save the restaurant but the garden must come first. Coolio agrees to perform but the show is shut down before it can get going. Even worse, the police show up to arrest Jesus on a 5150 charge, which mandates confinement in a mental hospital for observation. Jesus goes on the run a step ahead of the cops (who look awfully fat and out of shape by real LAPD standards).
The final episode finds Jesus wearing a hoodie, talking to himself in a diner. Much like the Biblical Jesus, he questions God why his efforts seem to be bearing so little fruit. Unfortunately even with his hair cut short he is recognized as the Savior and has to run again. In his absence, the disciples start to question their own lives. Maggie (Kali Hawk) tells her male counterparts that she loves them and will stand by them no matter what. They realize they feel the same way.
At this point the cops show up to evict them from the garden. The scene is set for the kind of violent action all too often seen on the news lately. Just then Jesus comes forward riding a horse. The same horse that escaped the Compton Stables in an early episode in which they stole the manure to help fertilize their community garden. Jesus is arrested but feels his burden lightened as he sees his disciples standing together. At the end, he lets them know the other psychiatric patients have taken to his teachings and the charges have been dropped. He is coming home to Compton.
The greatest pleasure of this show is the way the former Boondocks’ creators combine belly laughs with some serious thinking. Aaron McGruder and Mike Clattenburg have thought about what a modern-day Jesus might take as his worldly concerns. He stands out as a peaceful warrior for social justice and love for each other. At the same time, he enjoys joints and cusses like a sailor. The excellent ensemble turns in performances much better than expected from a first-year series. The one worry is where a second season will go. After the strength of the initial one, I look forward to seeing what direction the show takes and follows along.
– Louis Burklow (aka, Hollywood Country Boy), Senior Staff Writer, Phoenix Genesis
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