Welcome Black Lightning, a show that addresses race, family, police brutality, gun violence, drugs and sexuality in our community, written for us, by us, and in our own voices!
Unique to The CW’s current Superhero lineup, Black Lightning manages to do something that hasn’t been done on this network’s genre roster before: discuss race head-on. From one of the opening shots, we witness a scene that is all too familiar to those in the African-American community. En-route to an event at Garfield High School, Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams), along with his two daughters, Anissa (Nafessa Williams) and Jennifer (China Anne McClain), are pulled over by the cops. Jefferson, dressed impeccably in a suit and tie, is naturally perplexed, anxious, annoyed, and angered by the stop.
Jefferson proceeds to ask the officer why he is getting pulled over, but no response. The white male cop ignores Jefferson’s question and demands instead that he get out of the car. In that moment, the Pierce women immediately come to his defense, but the black woman cop forces them to stay in the car. By this time, Jefferson is being forcefully thrown against the hood of the cop car and yelling at his daughters to stay put and do not resist. In that moment, the most important thing to him is their safety. In that moment, he has to hide who he truly is and what he is really capable of in order to survive.
The white male cop takes him over to be presented to a woman in the back seat of the cop car and asks her if he’s the guy, she shakes her head no. The cop lets Jefferson go, but at this point, he is even more heated than before. You see this frustration giving way to a rebirth of his powers, but he assesses the full situation and after giving the nonchalant cop a piece of his mind, he calms himself down and begrudgingly gets back in the car. The cop shows no sign of remorse for his racially profiling a productive citizen, walks away smirking. That is the beginning of not only the re-emergence of Black Lightning, but a shift in Jefferson Pierce.
This sets the tone for the rest of the episode, which really is just an introduction to all of major characters and threats. Once we finally get to Garfield, we get to see Jefferson in his glory. This man cares about his students above and beyond what most are used to seeing from a black man on TV in his career path. His love for his students is surpassed only by his love for his family. When his ex-wife Lynn (Christine Adams) comes to support him, you can feel the chemistry between the two. While they are not together, they are definitely still in love and navigating the complexities of co-parenting their daughters. Here are two people that fell apart because Black Lightning was in power and Jefferson is acutely aware that his crime-fighting is what got them here in the first place.
We also get to see the personality differences and sisterly bond between Anissa and Jennifer. Anissa, having been bailed out with the help of her father and his childhood friend Inspector Henderson (Damon Gupton), is the “Harriet Tubman” of the sisters. Always pushing her father to fight harder for his community, the Malcolm X to his Martin Luther King, Jr.
Jennifer is young and acts a bit recklessly in order to step out of the shadows of her perfect sister and “Black Jesus” like Father. She is exploring her freedom, but in all the wrong places. Jennifer finds herself at Club 100, the breeding den for the local gang that runs Freeland. Her encounter with Will (Dabier Snell), sets off a ripple effect that truly lets Black Lightning loose. Will, lost and really having a hard time taking no for an answer, is embarrassed by Jennifer in front of his boss and cousin Lala (William Catlett) and takes it upon himself to not only go visit her at school, but kidnap her and her sister! Lala, less than impressed with Will’s behavior, and also trying to honor an agreement he has with Jefferson Pierce about keeping Garfield a safe zone, doesn’t truly handle Will completely, and this leaves the door open for Black Lightning to make his full return.
With Black Lightning’s return comes the cops seeing his as more of a threat than an ally. Gambi (James Remar) getting to create a dope new suit, and Lynn willingly knowing that he is back and that he could fully dive back in, even after his daughters are safe.
As the episode comes to a close, we are introduced to the real big bad for the season! Tobias Whale (Marvin Jones III) is over the entire 100 operation and brings Lala to his knees. Tobias manages in one scene to put the fear in you and everyone around. He is easily one of my favorite villains thus far (right up there with Arrow‘s Slade Wilson and The Thinker on The Flash) and you will immediatelysee why.
Overall, the premiere brings some of the dopest music you have ever heard, great scenes between a black father and his daughters, intense action scenes, and lays the groundwork and foundation for what is sure to be an epic season of TV. It also starkly shows how we as black people, have to continue to mold, position and preserve our ourselves, to not only to excel, but also strategically for our safety.
This show, created by, being rooted in and especially for the culture, is something you will want to watch live and engage in, #GetLit. It is something that everyone will enjoy and will also be a conversation starter for other communities as well. So tune in next week for another incredible episode. After all, this episode ended with us seeing Anissa, ignited by the trauma over the past couple of days, have her powers start to manifest. So is Thunder well on her way? I think so!