I don’t know if I have ever really read a comic in which Black Lightning was a featured character. So, I really didn’t know what to expect from this show. The trailers looked interesting to me. I like all the other DC stuff on CW, so my hopes and anticipation were high for this premiere.
This first episode had a great bit of world building in it. It had been 9 years since Jefferson Pierce had last suited up as Black Lightning. Initially he had retired because his wife (maybe?) did not want him to continue that life after he returned home one night beaten and bloody, and one of their daughters saw it. Apparently, Tobias Whale was the one that had delivered that beating, because he assumes that Black Lightning is dead.
In this show, they have given Black Lightning his own city of Freeland, rather than have him operate out of Metropolis’ Suicide Slum. Smart move. Currently, the show isn’t connected to anything, and the moment you mention Metropolis, people are going to be asking about Superman. But either way, Freeland is not a pleasant place. Gang violence is on the rise, namely the 100 Gang. They are led by a man named Lala. Lala knows Jefferson, as he attended his high school, it seems.
Early on it is established that this show isn’t going to stay away from social commentary, or at the minimum, using real world issues within the story. Before the first commercial break, there was a protest that turned violent, a discussion on the effectiveness of protesting, and a police stop due to racial profiling. I like it. You’re a show about an African-American hero, who is principle of what appears to be a predominately African-American high school. Don’t shy away from it. Lean into it. If people are uncomfortable because of the racial issues, then good. You need to do something to stand out. If you play it safe, go through the motions, tell a generic superhero story, nobody is going to care about this show.
I also thought this episode did a fine job of establishing who everyone is. Mostly. Jefferson is the hero that had to grow up. He had to find a different way of helping people, so he became a principle instead. At the high school, he can shape many children’s lives. Then there are his daughters, Vanessa and Jennifer. Both are rebellious in their own ways. Vanessa is in a fight the power mindset. She’s out protesting. When the cops pull them over, she’s video-taping it. Jennifer is more of the typical teenage rebellion. Going to a club and smoking pot when she said she was just going to a house party. Then there’s Lynn. She’s definitely the girls’ mother. I’m assuming she’s Jefferson’s ex-wife. She’s the reason Jefferson retired, but it’s not exactly clear why she left. That may be the only character question I have from this episode. There are other side characters in Jefferson’s life, whose names escape me. A state senator that seemingly likes to use Jefferson’s school because it looks good for her. A police chief (maybe) that hates vigilantes.
I guess at some point, I should mention how Jefferson becomes Black Lightning again. The show is titled Black Lightning after all. After a couple run-ins with a gangster named Will, he kidnaps both daughters from school, and takes them back to a gang controlled hotel. Jefferson can’t take anymore, and with Lynn’s blessing, puts a conveniently new suit on to rescue them. This angers Tobias Whale, who tasks Lala with taking out Black Lightning.
I thought this was a wonderful premiere, and really look forward to what the rest of this season holds in store. Vanessa was shown to have powers, how quickly before we see her in action? I recommend that everyone give this show a chance.
Here are my thoughts while watching the episode.
- Starting off with a pretty simple premise. Gangs are out of control. Black Lightning has been retired for 9 years.
- Jefferson Pierce is bailing one of his daughters of prison after she was arrested during a protest that turned violent.
- Interesting conversation between father and daughter about protesting.
- Now Jefferson is getting pulled over because someone robbed a store earlier.
- Jefferson is a principal and and a former Olympian? Way to just throw out that bit of info.
- Should really learn the daughters names quickly. One when to a club and is not behaving at all.
- Discussing split custody with a woman? Assuming ex-wife. Sly way of establishing it without going, “HEY, THIS IS THE EX-WIFE!!!”
- Jennifer is the one at the club and she’s not home when she’s supposed to be. There will be hell to pay.
- There sure was hell to pay. Hell in the form of LIGHTNING!
- And of course Jefferson is stopped by the police while walking away from the club.
- HA! The cops tried to taser him. You can’t electrocute someone with lightning powers.
- Why is Jefferson passed out? Was that Dexter’s dad? Is he James Remar? I know I know that name from the credits.
- Do the daughters know who their dad is?
- James Remar here kind of looks like Thomas Hayden Church. And he knows Jefferson is.
- Jefferson retired as Black Lightning because Lynn, ex-wife, couldn’t see him beaten and bloody. Though, still unsure why exactly they split up.
- Tobias Whale has a tank full of piranhas? Sweet.
- Gambi, James Remar, sends Jefferson a video of someone Black Lightning had helped.
- Jennifer’s creepy friend from the club shows up at school, gets humiliated by Vanessa (daughter from beginning), and Jefferson talks him out of pulling his gun.
- Jefferson meets with Lala, leader of the 100 gang, about Will (creepy guy) coming to the school. The school is supposed to be an agreed upon safe zone.
- Why do shoes hang from power lines?
- Oh crap, Will just pulled both daughters from school at gunpoint. (I guess the older daughter is working.)
- Of course Gambi, a suit maker, is the one who makes Black Lightning’s suits, and has been working on something.
- So, is Black Lightning okay with killing?
- Ha, he just shocked a probable pervert.
- So, Lala works for Tobias Whale, who holy #%@$ just shot him with a harpoon.
- Vanessa has powers!!!