I was shocked when I discovered the CW would not only develop a black superhero show but place him outside of the Arrowverse to thrive on his own. Of course, many thought this show would be the conduit for a future Static Shock and many others thought Black Lightning is the current iteration of Virgil Hawkins. Both are wrong. Black Lightning is a standalone character with his unique story.
You won’t find another origin story quite like this one. Jefferson Pierce is a former Olympic athlete turned superhero turned high school principal who turns back into a superhero. While many other superheroes simply have to juggle a life of hiding their identity, Pierce not only has to deal with life as a school administrator but he has to raise two daughters as well.
The episode opens with our titular character picking up his daughter after she was taken into custody for protesting. On the way to a ceremony, he’s pulled over by police officers questioning him about a liquor store robbery. While this moment doesn’t quite work for me, a brief race related scene drives a similar point home. As Jefferson was walking through his home, Roland Martin is on his TV recounting the events of the night before. There’s one line that stands out in particular:”When a white hero puts on a mask he’s called a hero when a black man does it he’s called a vigilante”. This stuck with me throughout the entire show because honestly, it’s an angle that hasn’t been explored in the world of on-screen superheroes. His skin color is just as important as the powers he possesses.
Also, instead of saving an entire city, he’s focused on saving one community. By being an esteemed figure in his community and a hero at night, he’s going to fight for his community with and without the mask. He doesn’t even consider putting on the mask again until his daughters are threatened. Having a family gives this show real stakes because Black Lightning has a lot to lose.
This type of family dynamic, black family dynamic especially, could only be crafted on the small screen by knowledgeable and gifted hands. There could be no better show-runner than Mara Brock Akil. Her credits include Girlfriends, The Game, and Being Mary Jane. Her name has been attached to pretty much all of your favorite black shows ever and those extensive years of expertise show up on screen in Black Lightning. Although this is a superhero show, this world seems familiar and these characters are people we know.
Amidst all the chaos that occurred during this episode, my favorite scene is when Jefferson is jogging with his daughters. Strip this show down, and it’s simply about a beautiful black family trying to make their way just like any other family. Keep adding layers of powers and mysticism and we have a superhero show unlike any other on TV currently.
Going forward, I’m really interested to see more of Tobias Whale, portrayed by Krondon of Strong Arm Steady. Also, the reveal of Anissa’s powers came a lot sooner than expected so I’m curious to see how this story unfolds. Last but not least, I’m most interested in seeing how Jefferson Pierce juggles family and hero life. Jefferson Pierce is being wonderfully portrayed by Cress Williams.
I can’t leave this post without calling him Electric Scooter. Sorry. See you next week!
[I apologize for all the electricity puns in this post. Ok, I regret nothing.]