It took me about 20 minutes to really get into Black Lightning, but once I arrived I was all in. I needed this show to be Black as fuck. I needed it to be so Black that my two White podcast co-hosts would be uncomfortable. I needed it to be so Black my co-hosts wouldn’t be able to pronounce some of the names. Y’all, this show is Black as fuck and good as fuck.
High school principal Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams) is trying to keep the crime and violence that has saturated the city of Freeland from infecting Garfield High. This becomes hard to do when his daughter and Garfield student, Jennifer (China Anne McClain), runs afoul of a member of the city’s biggest gang The 100. When she and her older sister, Anissa (Nafessa Williams), are kidnapped by the gang, Jefferson is forced to bring his alter ago, Black Lightning, out of retirement.
Armed with the power to harness and discharge electricity and with a badass suit thanks to his very own “Alfred,” Peter Gambi (James Remar), Jefferson rescues his girls, but not before the gang’s leader, Lala (William Catlett), gets away. However, Lala’s good fortune is short lived. The big boss, Tobias Whale (Marvin “Krondon” Jones III), harpoons Lala through the shoulder and demands he handle this “imposter.” Seeing as how Tobias is the one who “killed” Black Lightning nine years ago, it’s bad for business if the community believes their hero is back.
There’s a lot to love here. Some of the overacting that proved to be a distraction during the first 20 minutes eventually settled down so that the story could take over. Our hero’s predicament is an interesting one. He left the superhero game after it contributed to his divorce. Just when it appears he and his ex, Lynn (Christine Adams), may be on the road to reconciliation, his community needs a hero like never before.
So much of the dialogue feels authentic, which is a welcome change from the many shows with Black characters being written by non-Black writers. Anissa referring to Jennifer and her friend as “fast-ass” and Jefferson saying “Aun-ties” are just a few of the small, but meaningful, touches that a Black audience will appreciate.
As badass as the title character is, I’m most excited by the reveal that Anissa is developing powers of her own.
Hopefully some of Jennifer’s recklessness will disappear as the series progresses. In the same scene where you’re showing how abuses of power from police can quickly escalate, often with deadly outcomes, it felt silly to have her flashing her camera’s light in the cops face and taunting, “Doesn’t feel good, does it?”
What did you think of the Black Lightning premiere? Leave your thoughts below or on our Facebook post for this review, and we’ll read them on tonight’s podcast.
Black Lightning S1E1 Review Score
Starring: Cress Williams, China Anne McClain, Nafessa Williams, Christine Adams, Marvin ‘Krondon’ Jones III, Damon Gupton, James Remar, William Catlett, Gregg Henry | Director: Salim Akil