Black Lightning: The Resurrection

"I thought you were done being a hero."

There are many things on which I judge a new show. Do I trust the writers to tell a coherent and compelling story? Is this world believable, at least to the extent that it makes sense and is consistent? Are the characters interesting and do I care about them? And finally, is this where I want to spend my time on a weekly basis. As far as Black Lightning is concerned, the answers to the above are yes, yes, yes, and I'm not sure.

Let me start by saying this is one of the strongest premiers I've seen in a long time. The world feels real, the characters are three dimensional, and nothing about the story felt like the writer was still trying to find his footing. That consistency of vision is probably because it was written and directed by the show's creator Salim Akil. We'll have to wait and see if it can be maintained when other writers and directors are thrown into the mix.

We are introduced to Jefferson Pierce. He is a former Olympic gold medalist, current Garfield High Principal, and father of two intelligent, headstrong daughters. He is also a former vigilante, named Black Lightning who is still wanted by the Freeland police. In case you were wondering, Jefferson cares about protecting his family, his school, and his neighborhood, pretty much in that order.

Unfortunately, his life is immediately complicated by the fact that he and his ex-wife have raised two daughters with minds of their own. His oldest, Anissa, is an idealistic med student that teaches part-time at Garfield High. Her high ideals led to her joining the non-violent protest of the recent shootings by The 100 gang. The problem is, thanks to that same gang, the protest did not remain non-violent, and his daughter is arrested. This leads to a confrontation with the police for a crime he couldn't possibly have committed.

His younger daughter, Jennifer, causes even more trouble by bailing on her father's charity event to go to Club 100, a known hang-out of The 100. Despite being an impulsive teenager that lies to her sister about her whereabouts and does a little pot, she is secure enough in who she is to say and mean "no" when her boundaries are crossed. That doesn't apply to the company she keeps. After she gets embroiled in a gang-related squabble between Will, who is NOT wrapped too tight, and his cousin Lala, her father is forced to use his powers for the first time in nine years to rescue her.

In Jefferson's opinion, Black Lightning was never meant to be a hero. It was the means to kill Tobias Whale and avenge the death of his father. Not only did Jefferson not succeed in this, being a vigilante cost him his marriage and branded him a criminal. Unfortunately, his choice to use his power to save his daughter sets in motion a chain of events that put his successful career, the safety of his family and the chance to win back Lynn, the woman he so obviously loves, at risk.

In addition to Jefferson and his immediate family, we are introduced to Inspector Henderson who leads the Freeland Police. Henderson may be an old friend of Jefferson's, but he is definitively anti-vigilante. We also have Peter Gambi, a mentor and father figure for Jefferson, who believes that Black Lightning is a source of hope for the community and fear for criminals. The criminals are represented by Will who lacks any form of impulse control, Latavious, A.K.A. Lala, a mid-level player in The 100, and Tobias Whale, who leads the organization.

So what did I think of the show?

If you are into dark, gritty, superhero dramas that address serious topical issues without providing easy answers, you'll probably enjoy this. It is Arrow on steroids. Just keep in mind that most of those issues are going to be of the racial and economic variety. In this episode alone, we have the police holding Jefferson at gunpoint with no cause on two separate occasions, Lala threatening a young boy for being impolite to his elder and for playing video games instead of selling drugs, and the question of whether metal detectors protect students or make them feel like criminals. As an African-American female, this show hits quite a few personal hot-button issues, and as much as this was a well-crafted hour of television, I'm not sure I can live there on a weekly basis. This is purely personal.

At the end of the day, I think Black Lightning is definitely worth you taking the time to watch and making that decision for yourself.

4.5 out of 5 lightning bolts

Parting Thoughts:

If this show takes place on Earth 1, I'd love to know how Jefferson and Anissa are meta-humans.

For those of you who are interested, this seems to be an updated version of the comics. Jefferson, Peter, Henderson, Tobias, and Lynn are all pretty close to their comic book origins. In the comics, both Anissa and Jennifer become metas, but I certainly wasn't expecting anything like that to manifest in the premier.

And where did Anissa get her self-defense skills? That was a pretty sweet move.

By now, you should know my love for the grey areas. All of the characters in this show seem to live there. Jefferson has made deals with the gangs to ensure his school is a safe haven. Henderson can acknowledge the faults of the police force even as he tries to keep the peace. And as I mentioned above, Lala understands the importance of the communities norms and conventions even as he wantonly violates the law. Loved it. I'm sick that way.

I also loved the music.

Quotes:

Anissa: "Justice, like lightning, should ever appear to some men hope and to other men fear." (this is an actual quote from the comic)

Officer: "Her liquor store just got robbed."
Jefferson: "And I'm sure the description's what, a black man dressed in a suit and tie?"

Henderson: "You got a state senator introducing you? Don't let all this high-class ass-kissing go to your head."
Jefferson: (laughing) "Henderson, my students would define your comments as 'hatin'."

Lala: "I'm talking, sweetheart. Just stand there and be cute."

Jennifer: "Well all you guys want me to do is go to school, run track, and set a good example for 'the other girls.'"
Anissa: "When did that become a bad thing?"

Lynn: "As scary and dangerous as it was, Jennifer was just being a teenager. Don’t take it personal and don't start having catastrophic thoughts."

Jefferson: "I have saved more lives as a principal than I ever would have as Black Lightning. I'm not looking to go backwards."

Store Owner: "When you are staring down the barrel of a gun you don't care if the person saving you is a Christian, Muslim, Jew, black or white, or some guy in a weird Parliament-Funkadelic getup."

Will: "You don't know who you're messing with. "
Jefferson: "You're right I don't. But the police are already on their way, and they don't care who you are. They will shoot your black ass for fun."

Lala: "You teach 'em your way. I'll teach 'em mine."

Lynn: "Where you going?"
Jefferson: "To go get our girls."
Lynn: "Bring them home."

Lala: "These ain't no ordinary girls. Their father's like black Jesus in Freeland."

Black Lightning: "Now you should at least give a brother time to say something heroically clever. You've just pissed me off."

Black Lightning: "Is that your car? It was nice."

Shari loves sci-fi, fantasy, supernatural, and anything with a cape.

6 comments:

Billie Doux said...

Thanks so much for your thoughtful review, Shari. I had a lot of the same reactions. I like that Berlanti went in a different direction with a socially conscious superhero show. I really liked Anissa and Jennifer. I was happy to see Dexter's dad turn up, too.

That said, I didn't connect to Jeff himself, and I found that disappointing. Although I might at some future point. We shall see.

Shari Houtman said...

I'm really curious to see how the ratings for this show stack up against the rest of the Berlanti-verse, especially considering the complaints against Arrow for being so dark. If it doesn't get renewed, it won't be for a lack of quality.

sillyrabbit said...

Nice review. I definitely see what you mean by it being Arrow on steroids with it'gritty reality. He has superpowers but he's still a Black man living in America, a country that had institutionalized racism. I'm intrigued by the daughter's powers and her clear origin story so I'll stick around for as long as I can. I hope douxreviews covers this show.

As an African-American female -- lol, call me the Grammar Police but female is not a noun. :P

Deborah Gallegos said...

Completely LOVED this premiere!
I'm only hearing good buzz about it everywhere - even the Howard Stern show.
Generally, I'm tired of dark, anti-hero comic book shows/movies, but I'm totally loving Black Lightning.
I thought there was some incredible writing and acting in this first episode - what an interesting and unexpected scene when Jefferson confronts Will in front of the school and talks him out of using his gun.
Really looking forward to more and hope the show can also be a conversation starter in addition to featuring some good superheroics.

Heather1 said...

I really didn't like it. It felt like a cheap knock off from the 70s to me. I'm obviously in the minority so I guess there's something I'm missing, and that's fine. If fans like this creative vision and it finds a home, that alright by me. But it's not for me.

Sam Smith said...

IMO, dark gritty shows aren't bad, they're just really hard to do well. I can't stand arrow, but I love the magicians, which is quite possibly one of the darkest shows on tv. I found that this fell on the good side of that line, and I cant wait to see more.