Logline: Jefferson Pierce made his choice: He hung up the suit and his secret identity years ago, but with a daughter hellbent on justice and a star student being recruited by a local gang, he’ll be pulled back into the fight as the wanted vigilante and DC legend Black Lightning.
Cast: Cress Williams, Nafessa Williams, China Anne McClain, Christine Adams
Creators: Mara Brock (W / EP), Salim Akil (W / EP / D), Greg Berlanti (EP), Sarah Schechter (EP)
Studios: Warner Bros TV, Berlanti Productions, Akil Productions
Greg Berlanti is a very important person around the Warner Bros lot in Burbank. The comic book shows he produces keep the lights on at The CW. So it’s a little curious this pilot was originally developed at Fox. But CW already airs four superhero shows, so maybe it was a case of no room at the inn. Here’s the thing though: ABC has about 800 family comedies on the air now, so maybe in these times of Peak TV, you just quintuple down on whatever is working?
BLACK LIGHTNING starts off with a guy in a tux in a cop station in Watts. His name is Jefferson Pierce. Via exposition, we learn that Black Lightning (henceforth “BL”, for brevity) has hung up his superhero tights long ago, and was wanted for a murder that through flashback we learn he didn’t commit. BL’s main adversary seems to be a local gang, who was responsible for the murder, and — shocker — Jefferson Pierce, the guy in the tux, is BL. We end the teaser with BL’s socially conscious daughter, Anissa, being let out of jail, and BL being erroneously targeted by the LAPD (not for the first time, and not even for the last time in the pilot).
The middle part of the pilot has BL saving his other daughter, Jennifer (more of a party girl), from the gang. He also has a talk with his ex-wife. The dramatic question is will BL end his nine-year hiatus to start fighting this gang again? You know the answer. And we end with — SPOILER — seeing that his daughter Anissa has superhero powers too, though she doesn’t really know the extent.
I’m not a huge comic book tv show fan, so I can’t compare this to other similar scripts. What I can say is that the pilot is fairly well done. We have the dichotomous sisters, we have a pretty cool lead hero who we want to root for, and we have the interesting father-daughter dynamic that will play out. Some things definitely feel a little “been there, done that” (ie a superhero pulled back in against his will to fighting crime), and the amount of exposition via news reports is excessive. But the pilot does feel current and reflects on inner city violence, police profiling, and resistance. My biggest complaint is that things feel a little small, like this would work better as a limited series on Netflix than as a full-fledged network show. The real question is is there room on the schedule for another DC comic show?