After Shocks: Black Lightning Episode 101, "The Resurrection"

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Black Lightning revealed

I can't imagine what it must have been like to have been Tony Isabella last night. Isabella (@TheTonyIsabella) is the creator of Black Lightning, the DC Comics character who got his first live-action debut on the CW.

CRESS WILLIAMS (PRISON BREAK) plays the titular hero, now in retirement and trying to make a difference in his Freedland neighborhood as the principal of Garfield High School. The divorced character maintains relations with his ex-wife Lynn (CHRISTINE ADAMS, AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.) as they raise their two daughter, student Jennifer (CHINA ANNE MCCLAIN, A.N.T. FARM) and part-time health teacher Anissa (NAFESSA WILLIAMS, CODE BLACK).

Within the opening moments of the pilot episode, the show runners set the tone for the series. Anissa has been arrested at what she calls a "peaceful protest" that involved broken windows and burning police cars. Her father, who has just picked her up from the precinct, lectures her on what peaceful means, when he gets pulled over in the rain and treated unfairly because he fit the generic description of a robbery suspect. This puts the Pierce family firmly between the rock of racial injustice and the hard place of gang violence running rampant in the streets.

Jefferson gave up his role as Black Lightning at the behest of his wife and for the sake of his children. Now with both girls nearly grown (Anissa is a part-time health teacher at the school, while Jennifer is a high school student), Pierce keeps the peace through deals struck with the gangs to keep Garfield High a safe place. But when the violence of The 100 -- led by Tobias Whale (MARVIN'KRONDON' JONES III), Black Lightning's old nemesis -- spills over into his home and threatens the lives of his girls, he turns once more to his confidante, Peter Gambi (DEXTER's JAMES REMAR), for assistance in suiting up and discharging some juiced-up justice.

There's a lot to like in BLACK LIGHTNING. There are hints that the powers Pierce wields may be passed down to his children (and in the comics, they are). There are also references to there being other superpowered beings in other cities who are treated like heroes instead of vigilantes. Given that the showrunners have been adamant that BLACK LIGHTNING does not occur in the Arrowverse of their other titles, one wonders if these characters will be existing DC characters, new ones created for the show, or, perhaps, the racially diverse heroes from DC's offshoot Milestone line which brought us characters like Icon, Rocket, Xombi and Static.

On the "room to grow" side, the pilot is a little ham-fisted with the cultural lessons. The Pierce family can't go two scenes without referencing Martin Luther King, Harriet Tubman, or other Civil Rights archetypes. And the opening strains of Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit" as the show opens makes it pretty clear that race relations is going to be one of the persistent issues of the series.

BLACK LIGHTNING also differs from the other CW super-shows in that the character has already been established. In many ways, it's sort of the THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS of the television shows; a hero with a history comes back from retirement, and immediately gets noticed by the enemies he left behind. It's clear that the series will split its focus between battling the street violence and racial injustice pervading Freedland while also developing the skills and abilities of the daughters that are developing powers they can't yet control. We should have a fully operational #TeamLightning within a few months.

Grade: 
3.5 / 5.0