Joining the CW’s already impressive (excessive?) list of superhero shows, Black Lightning shares many of the same elements as its predecessors: vigilante hero doing what the cops can’t, familial drama that has as much (if not more) of a presence than any superhero shenanigans, aesthetically pleasing characters, and super-suits that straddle cool and absurd.
The largest difference with the latest addition to the Berlanti-verse is that the titular character isn’t yet another reflection of the pasty superhero that the CW has become known for. Black Lightening is a show that doesn’t shy away from race and actually makes a point of drawing attention to the world’s position towards black men in power.
The premiere of Black Lightening starts off with our hero Jefferson Pierce getting pulled over by the police because he “matched the description” of a man who’s just robbed a nearby store. Pierce’s issues with the police continue after he tracks his wild-child daughter to a club where a group of gangsters are causing problems. After Pierce takes the men out, providing an opening for his daughter to escape, the police naturally show up and once again see him as a threat.
The white police officers proceed to turn their guns on Pierce, yelling, “You get your black ass on the ground,” as he stands defensively with his arms raised. The police then taser Pierce… which unleashes his superhero alter-ego and shocks the officers in more ways than one. An injured Jefferson then makes his way to a secret lair (tailor shop) that is more than Kingsmen-esque. Here we meet Black Lightning’s Alfred, Peter Gambi, and learn that Jefferson hasn’t used his powers in 9 years due to a promise he made to his then-wife (now ex-wife) Lynn to put an end to the vigilante heroics.
The next day brings with it nearly as much stress, as Jefferson finds himself once again dealing with issues in his day and night job. Will, one of the gangsters from the night before decides to pay the youngest Pierce daughter, Anissa, a visit at school and promptly gets his butt beat by older sister Jennifer. This doesn’t do much good though, as Will comes back later with reinforcements and kidnaps both of the Pierce sisters, taking them to the Seahorse Motel and presenting them to the HGIC (head gangster in charge) Lala.
Lala, who is one of Jefferson’s former students, chastises Will for being dumb enough to kidnap the daughters of one of the most beloved figures in the city of Freeland and demands that he make them disappear. This, of course, is easier said than done. Will immediately runs into the suited-up Black Lightning on his way out of the motel and gets his ass handed to him as the girls manage to escape. The police then arrive on scene and take statements from the Pierce sisters as their masked father looks on from the roof of the motel.
“The Resurrection,” ends with Anissa awakening from a nightmare and immediately having a panic attack. As she tries to get control of herself in the bathroom, we see her hands begin to glow and the bathroom sink snapping in half under her grip.
Looks like superhuman powers run in the family!
The reluctant-hero storyline of Black Lightning is surprisingly fresh when in the company of the CW’s other superhero shows (all of the heroes of Arrow, the Flash, Supergirl, and Legends of Tomorrow seem perpetually happy to don their hero-gear no matter how many times they might try to argue otherwise) and adds an interesting layer to the newest addition.
It seems entirely fitting that Black Lightning premiered after an hour of the Flash where Barry Allen brooded over being unfairly imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. While the predicament gained sympathy during the hour, the Flash quickly felt woe-is-me after Black Lightening made such a point of showcasing the racial divide that remains so prevalent in society, fictional or otherwise.
This is a show that holds more power and weight than the CW’s other fare and really has the potential to make statements that shows like Arrow, the Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, and Supergirl have actively avoided.
All-in-all, “The Resurrection,” was a decent premiere and compelling hour of television that has me interested in seeing where Black Lightning is headed.
Episode Grade: A-
- The minimal amount of exposition actually served the show well. Black Lightning isn’t an origin story so I actually appreciated the fact that the pilot wasn’t heavy-handed with flashbacks and unsubtle monologues detailing the past. Both were used sparingly, just enough to get the key points across, which prevented the plot from being dragged down.
- I know Pilots don’t typically showcase the Big Bad, but I do hope that Black Lightning’s foes will stray from the typical underground gangsters that we often see in superhero series.
What did you think of the Black Lightning premiere? Is it a superhero hit? Sound off on Twitter or in the comments below!