BLACK LIGHTNING Review: “The Resurrection”


I’ve been a longtime disciple of shows like Arrow and Supergirl, which have headlined the CW superhero world for a while. The network’s latest offering, Black Lightning, brings its first black superhero to the fore, though it isn’t necessarily the crusader one would expect. With Luke Cage and sure to be megahit Black Panther kicking butt and taking names, my expectation was that the popular Static Shock and its zany midwestern/metahuman world would next come to life on screen. Instead, they give us Black Lightning, and his principal alter ego, Jefferson Pierce…Huh?

The good news, though, is that the show’s pilot, “Ressurection,” wastes no time in trying to make its mark with the less-heralded superhero. Here’s the deal: Nearly a decade ago, Black Lightning, the vigilante protector of the city of Freeland — a vaguely midwestern city — retired after his now estranged wife, Lynn, begged him to stop and help care for their daughters Jennifer and Anissa. In the present, Jefferson is now the principal of Garfield High, shaping young promising minds and making sure no one falls through the cracks, instead of fighting crime on the streets. Jefferson doesn’t exactly rule with a total iron fist like say, Joe Clark in Lean on Me, but his mission both at school and at home is to make sure the darker forces of Freeland don’t arrive on his doorstep.

What are those forces? Well, there’s The 100 gang, led by Tobias Whale. In the pilot, though, we mostly focus on his underlings, including a man who attended Garfield and whom Jefferson remembers. Without really having to say much of anything, we start to understand how Jefferson has found meaning even while stopping his overtly superhero ways. In a way, it’s an inversion of what’s happened in Arrow, and finally many years in, Oliver Queen finding a way to help his city as its mayor, not just in a hood. Jefferson’s journey, meanwhile, will require that he find meaning as Black Lightning again.

“Ressurection” also feels hot off the presses. First, there’s the music, a mixture of 70s soul, contemporary hip-hop and more. Then there are cameos by Senator Nina Turner and all her fiery power, as well as the outspoken journalist and television host Roland Martin. In an early scene, Jefferson and his family get pulled over by a white cop (“the third time this month”) and while they all survive the encounter, Jefferson’s powers threaten to bubble up as he seethes in anger. But he keeps it in.

Oh, and let’s not forget about gun violence, which continues to plague inner-city communities around the country. Black Lightning manages to talk about two major issues in the black community — police violence and “black on black crime” — without necessarily putting them on the same plane and creating a false equivalence. In this way, it felt like the show was engaging in the kind of thoughtful inside the community conversations I’ve been hearing my entire life, the ones that some wrongly argue never occur.

Anissa is the Pierce daughter the family doesn’t really have to worry about. Jennifer, on the other hand, doesn’t always take school seriously and one day goes to a club frequented by The 100. A young man clumsily hits on Jennifer, but we soon find out that the kid also has ties to the 100 gang. So upset that Jennifer rebuffed him and wanting to prove himself to the gang, the kid eventually helps kidnap the girls, bringing far more heat upon the 100 gang that they would have liked.

Jefferson and his ex Lynn share the responsibility of raising their two girls. They also have a ton of chemistry; just wait for the scene where Lynn unbuttons Jefferson’s shirt, just missing the wounds of battle that she was looking for. Ultimately, though, when Lynn finds out that her daughters are gone she tells Jefferson to get them back by any means necessary. Jefferson transforms into Black Lightning and goes to war.

Black Lightning‘s pilot packs a lot in, perhaps too much at times, with other moments not receiving enough attention. I wanted to know more about Black Lightning’s tailor/gadget man (think Lucius Fox) who provides Jefferson with a revamped suit for his, well, resurrection. We also find out that Anissa has powers, breaking a bathroom sink as she relives the trauma of being kidnapped. That escalated quickly, a bit too soon for my liking.

Overall, I’m also hoping the show has a few more light moments as it comes into its own. Guns were drawn so much in the pilot that the threats began to lose meaning each time. I did love the banter between Jefferson and Lynn. I’m excited to see what CW does with this new and unique superhero in 2018.

TB-TV-Grade-BSeason 1, Episode 1 (S01E01)
Black Lightning airs Tuesdays at 9PM on CW

Read all of our reviews of Black Lightning here.
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Ade writes about the philanthropy of billionaires and millionaires by day, and writes screenplays by night.
Follow Ade on Twitter: @derekadeniji
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