Black Lightening Series Premiere Review
Written by Paul Wright
Black Lightning is the latest superhero drama from The CW, which has made DC superhero shows it’s bread and butter. Based on the DC Comic of the same name, Black Lightning follows Jefferson Pierce (played by Cress Williams), a former Olympic medalist and retired consumed superhero with electricity powers and who gave up the life of superhero/vigilante Black Lightning, to focus on his family. Today, Jefferson’s main focus is raising his 2 daughters with his estranged wife and helping his community in a different way as an award winning high school principal. His oldest daughter Anissa is a medical student who inherited here father’s desire to help her community by protesting against the violent local gang The 100. Meanwhile his youngest daughter Jennifer, a senior at Jefferson’s high school, is going through her rebellious teenage years. Which of course drives her father nuts.
What makes this series stand out is that it tackles issues of race, violence, and the antagonistic relationship between the police and the communities they protect, head on. Before the opening title is even shown, our hero, Jefferson Pierce is driving home with his two daughters and is pulled over and harassed by the police solely because he’s black. The police don’t even offer an apology or explanation when they realize they have the wrong man. It’s ugly and feels all too real. Like thousands of other police stops around the country that are a razors edge away from becoming a tragedy. It’s an opening that grabs you and gets your attention without any superheroics.
Black Lightning is a surprisingly intense series for a superhero show on The CW. Maybe it just feels that way because much of what happens in the story is so similar to what we see on the news everyday. Considering that the main character is a meta-human with electricity powers the show feels more grounded than any other superhero show on The CW.
There’s a great scene where Jefferson has to come to the rescue of his daughter Jennifer, when she gets in some trouble with members of the very dangerous 100 gang at a local club. Despite being out of the game for awhile, Jefferson can still kick ass and take names. After he absolutely fucks up the bad guys in the club, which is pretty damn cool, the cops show up as Jefferson is leaving and immediately pull their tasers on him (I should note that Jefferson is in formal wear throughout this scene). After yelling some racially charged orders at him, the cops tase Jefferson, at which point he’s had enough. When the taser has no effect on him, he electrocutes the 2 cops (without killing them) and blows up their police car. It’s a very cathartic moment. Cress Williams, who plays Jefferson, conveys very well that this is probably something that has happened to the character before and this time he’s not going to take any shit.
There’s a lot to like in this series. There’s even a little bit of a “Dark Knight Returns” vibe. An aging hero comes out of retirement to find his city worse off than ever and he’s forced to confront a particularly vicious gang. There are definitely some parallels there. Also, any big DC Comics fans could guess where some of the stories may go for certain characters.
Overall, Black Lightning was surprisingly good and a welcome addition to The CW’s DC Superhero line up. It’s not completely clear if this show takes place in the “Arrow-verse”, but we are told that other superheroes exist in other cities in this world. Unlike those other DC Superhero shows, Black Lightning seems to have something of a bit more substance to say, which is always welcome in the genre. The characters are likable, especially Cress Williams in the lead roll, the story is appropriately timely, and there are some excellent action sequences. Black Lightning is definitely a show to check out. Highly recommended.
Black Lightning airs Tuesday nights on The CW at 9PM!
Black Lightning: 8.8/10
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