Black Lightning – The Resurrection
By: Tam Curran
Adding to the list of other popular DC shows airing on The CW, “Black Lightning” brings a whole new light within the superhero genre. The show premiered on the 16th of January and is set with thirteen episodes in its first season. The story is said to be about a middle-aged man, Jefferson Pierce, who had detached himself from his superhero persona Black Lightning nine years ago after noticing the negative effects it had on not only himself but also his family. However, Jefferson is compelled to sink back into his old roots as Black Lightning, when a local gang called The 100 seem to have brought large amounts of crime and corruption into his community.
Why I Watched:
I’m usually not a huge fan of the whole superhero brand, but there were a couple of things that drew me into wanting to watch this show. It pretty much all boils down to representation. Firstly, identifying as a queer woman, one of the first things I look for in TV shows, movies, books, etc. is LGBTQ+ characters that I can identify with. I was immediately eager to get to know Anissa Pierce (Nafessa Williams), Jefferson’s lesbian daughter. Not only is she a kickass lesbian, she is also an all rounded powerful black woman. This is the type of representation media is severely lacking. We’re too used to the same old token white gay characters and it was certainly time for a wash of reality; people of color are a part of the LGBTQ+ community too. Now I know I’m white, but I do understand the need and want for validation and a sense of belonging within a fictional universe.
Adding to such a rare type of representation, I was also thrilled to hear that just like in the comics, Anissa will be given a love interest, Grace Choi – an Asian bisexual badass.
What I Thought:
Jefferson Pierce/Black Lightning (Cress Williams) not only is DCs first Black superhero, but is a well written in depth character. Diving into one of the first scenes, we see the way Jefferson displays confliction with his metahuman persona, but when it comes to protecting his family, this high school principal is forced back into his old ways; thus, Black Lightning is reborn. Although I feel his powers aren’t technically as relevant in the first episode, it was more about the rebirth. Overall Jefferson is depicted in such a stimulating way, that I can only imagine has the audience dying to know more.
As mentioned before, Anissa Pierce is Jefferson’s 22 year-old daughter who also carries some interesting aspects that will serve to feed the plot. She is an intelligent medical student who additionally works for her father at Garfield High School. We learn by the end of the episode, like father like daughter, Anissa also holds metahuman powers and will soon become known as “Thunder.” I saw the first look of Anissa in her heroic crime fighting get up the other day and I immediately grew impatient, keen to see her reactions and adaptations to a different lifestyle.
Anissa’s youngest sister, Jennifer (China Anne McClain), portrays a self-governing wild 16 year-old. Carrying feminist morals, this scholar athlete fits the terms “outspoken” and “forthright” perfectly. Jennifer slips out to club 100 without her parents knowing, no doubt with the thrill of danger lingering in her mind, which is exactly the typical mindset of most teenagers. It has been promised that Jennifer will receive her own suit to serve some justice as well, although fans haven’t been given any sneak previews and for now it is just another concept for us look forward to.
Lynn Pierce (Christine Adams) is the ex-wife of Jefferson and the mother of both Anissa and Jennifer. No, she isn’t a super human like the rest of her family. She’s just one of us. But this character holds other admirable aspects. She is a confident, business-like woman who doesn’t need special powers to be badass.
Digging into other elements that make this show a must watch, we have the villainous gang called The 100 that have taken over what I imagine as a once peaceful community and have brought in large amounts of drugs and violence, endangering the Pierce family and their neighborhood. We also have characters such as Peter Gambi (James Remar), an old friend of Jefferson, and Tobias Whale (Marvin ‘Krondon’ Jones III), a former politician that now leads the infamous The 100 gang. I look forward to seeing more of even the minor characters that serve relevance to the story and how they tie into the plot as the season continues.
Admittingly I had a few doubts before starting the show, but jumping into the first episode I instantly grew enticed by the plot. And like I said, I’m not really a huge fan of superhero shows (or comics). In fact, there’s only very few that I tend to enjoy. However, compared to other popular shows such as “Supergirl” or “Arrow,” the new series “Black Lightning “is not an origin story and it seemed to have a very different kind of atmosphere to it. Almost as if it really wasn’t a typical The CW show.
Unlike other shows that identify as part of the “Arrow-verse” franchise, “Black Lightning” presented some weighty real-life issues. We see the way Jefferson is harshly treated by the police, not once but twice in the first episode alone and Anissa was arrested for protesting The 100. We can see the show is casting a negative light on police officers and is clearly outlining racial inequality and police brutality in America, which I think is fantastic! Illustrating real life issues, instead of sinking into a comprehensive fantasy show where we pretend issues like this don’t exist, is a way “Black Lightning” has made as feel more grounded to reality.
Not only do we have a cast full of powerful black women and men, as if that isn’t rare enough, but just as I discussed earlier the show also represents sexuality. I believe now is the perfect time for more and more creators to implement characters that aren’t always (or at all) presented on television. And, yes, we have been seeing more of diversity lately, but it still isn’t near enough.
Due to previous incidents regarding LGBTQ+ characters, we’ve discovered The CW shows haven’t really laid out a sense of fairness to LGBTQ+ audiences and still haven’t got a firm grip on what it means to positively represent minorities. But I hold high hopes for Miss Anissa Pierce because “Black Lightning” seems very promising in more ways than one.
Comparisons to the comic
Black Lightning was created by writer Tony Isabella with artist Trevor Von Eeden in 1977. I imagine there are a lot of components in the comic that are displayed throughout the show. The 100 have been causing mayhem in the DC universe for years. In the comics, the evil gang work together to find a method to become immortal. Whether or not the show will portray the same ideas of the notorious gang, we’re yet to find out.
I admit, I have never looked at a Black Lightning comic, but I know that there usually are differences when it comes to comparing a comic book series and a newly found television series.
The way “Black Lightning” has presented itself so far has been refreshing. I was amazed to find out that it actually premiered with the strongest ratings in two years on The CW. Amazing what giving people the representation they’ve spent years asking for will do, right?
“Black Lightning” is easily the most important show airing on The CW right now. The connection it has with reality, while being a superhero show and the image it conveys for minorities, is a huge stepping stone for television in general. It seems as though the show has at least something for someone, reaching out to many different audiences.
It is immensely promising that the show will continue with the value it has shown so far, although it might be a little hard to determine which way it’ll go. I hold faith that the show will continue to please its fans. And if you haven’t watched it already, I recommend doing so, even if you aren’t a huge superhero fan like me.
Black Lightning airs Tuesday nights at 9pm on The CW