Black Lightning – AR Review
Black Lightning will rightly be celebrated for introducing a black superhero.
But the title character also happens to be — unknown to the world — a caring father, a determined school principal and a former husband who still loves his wife. Behold the well-rounded action figure.
The CW series, based on DC characters, gives Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams) memorable talents. In superhero mode, his eyes go eerily white, his hands shoot electricity, and he can levitate foes. He dons a miraculous costume, courtesy of tailor pal Peter Gambi (James Remar).
Beyond the flashy special effects, the drama highlights drawbacks for Black Lightning. Jefferson lost his marriage to Lynn (Christine Adams) over his vigilantism, and his dangerous stunts take a physical toll on the masked middle-aged hero.
The CW is filled with a number of flashy superheroes from the DC Universe, but none of them tackle the type of real-world issues that are found in the network’s newest series, Black Lightning. Those who claim they tune into TV shows to be entertained, to forget about the type of problems they face on a day-to-day basis, may read this and decided not to watch the series premiere. If that sounds like you, you run the risk of missing out on what’s shaping up to be the strongest addition to DC’s slate of comic book television shows to date.
Jefferson retired Black Lightning for nearly a decade, but spreading gang violence prompts his return. His daughters become swept up in the action, another promising wrinkle. Anissa (Nafessa Williams), who teaches at the school, is a social activist. Jennifer (China Anne McClain) is a student rebel whose rowdy ways force the hero to intervene.
Jefferson longs for reconciliation with his wife, but the community needs Black Lightning. He can save his own children, but can he save others?
Black Lightning focuses on the Black family dynamic, and many of the issues the pilot tackles are taken directly from current national headlines. Themes of racial profiling, school violence and gang conflict are all touched upon in the hour-long debut, though none of it seems forced or preachy.
The topics all feel natural and crucial to the series’ direction instead of deterring from the overall story. The episode illustrates how there can be two fundamentally different approaches to dealing with such complex issues, with neither one presented as inherently better or worsen than the other. For example, Jefferson and local gang member Lala each want the best for today’s youth, yet they go about it in different ways. One uses a gentle hand, while the other chooses a firmer, more aggressive fist.
The villains are scary, the dialogue is smart, and the actors are compelling. “Black Lightning” serves a welcome jolt.