Black Lightning Series Premiere Review

My History With the TV Show/Character:

Sometime last year I saw the trailer for Black Lightning, a CW TV show about a comic book character I knew very little about. To be honest, I was not impressed. I thought the costume looked ridiculous and I didn’t see the need for another superhero TV show, especially on The CW.

This week Black Lightning finally made its debut, and after listening to the Geek History Lesson Podcast on Black Lightning I felt compelled to give the show a shot.

What The Film Is About (Non-Spoiler):

A former superhero is forced out of retirement to deal with an ever-growing gang problem in his hometown.

What I Liked About It:

-Cress Williams (Black Lightning/Jefferson Pierce) is a phenomenal actor and he filled this role to perfection. I didn’t recognize him from the trailer, but once the show started I immediately recognized him as the abusive father on Friday Night Lights. He also played Talak’talan in the fantastic episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine called “The Jem’Hadar.”

-Cress Williams may be the star, but I really enjoyed the entire cast. Black Lightning’s daughters (Jennifer and Anissa) played by China Anne McClain and Nafessa Williams were cast well and both provided the show with a lot of depth for their characters to explore. I enjoyed William Catlett (Lala) and Christine Adams (Lynn, his wife) roles as well. The always great James Remar was playing a very different role than what I’m used to seeing him in, but I thought it suited him well.

-I’m not a fan of shows with an agenda or who become preachy with social issues. However, you cannot have a black superhero in America in this day in age and not touch on the topics that are affecting our society when it comes to race relations. You run a risk when creating a show like this because the topics are so touchy, you can easily annoy/offend someone sensibilities and lose them as a viewer. I thought the crew behind Black Lightning did a tremendous job offering an unfiltered, realistic portrayal of some of the race issues in America, without coming off preachy. It didn’t play the blame game, but instead focused on the issues at hand which brings a much needed awareness.

-Jefferson Pierce is a very likable person and you immediately relate to him, so when he undergoes injustices you feel like you are going through it as well. This connection makes the audience empathic and I believe that is what made this episode work so well.

-I loved the slow build for Black Lightning. From almost the first minute you can see that Jefferson Pierce is a man who is just trying to do right by his family. You watch slowly as one injustice occurs after another, before finally someone crosses the line. When Black Lightning appears, you can’t help but feel excited and that is what superhero movies/tv shows are supposed to do.

-I enjoy all the CW superhero shows, but let’s be honest, they all have a lot in common as far as their setup. Black Lightning breaks that mold and offers a superhero that feels more real than the others. Also, the fact that he is an older gentleman coming out of retirement really makes for an interesting plot device that is quite different from the other shows. I hope they stick with not crossing Black Lightning over and keeping it in a separate universe from the rest of the CW superhero shows.

-Peter Gambi (James Remar) is Jefferson’s friend, mentor, and tailor. I absolutely LOVE the fact that he is a tailor. For the first time in any superhero show/movie I actually believe that this guy can create a working superhero suit for Black Lightning.

What I Didn’t Like About It:

-I loved Peter Gambi as a tailor, however, I didn’t buy him having a state-of-the-art flat screen display to show off this amazing tech he put into the new Black Lightning suit. In Arrow, they had The Queen’s money to build that sort of stuff, The Flash had STAR Labs, and Supergirl has the DEO. I just don’t see where that sort of money and technology come from in this universe.

-The suit. I honestly don’t have any great suggestions, but the suit just doesn’t do it for me. It feels like something a 2nd grader would draw when creating his or her own superhero.

Additional Notes:

-Cress Williams appeared in an episode of Lois and Clark, the 90’s Superman TV show.

-Black Lightning is the first CW to star an African-American man in the leading role.

-The show was originally developed for Fox, who passed on it in February 2017. The CW picked up the show with a new script for the pilot.

-The show does not exist in the Arrowverse (as of now) and will not follow the villain of the week format.

-Senator Nina Turner made a guest appearance as the women introducing Jefferson Pierce during the fundraiser.

Rating:

I was telling my wife about the show and she was amazed the script was able to squeeze so much into a single episode. It didn’t occur to me while watching the show that so much was going on, but there really was. I felt like this first episode did a great job dealing with all this plot and I just hope that the future episodes are able to keep everything organized and not become bogged down.

Black Lightning works because of Cress Williams. I enjoyed this show way more than I expected to and look forward to the next episode.

I’d rate Black Lightning a four out of five.

 

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