The question was asked, “Will Black Lightning run along side the rest of Arrow-verse?” Based on this first episode, I would say… “not yet.” But that is the best thing for the future of this show. So, instead of doing a blow-by-blow of the episode proper; let’s talk about what makes this show work, what needs work and how this premiere works on a personal level.
Get This Work
Now just looking at the television properties, Arrow has Curtis Holt or Mister Terrific/Fairplay. Wally West speeds through as Kid Flash. One half of Firestorm is Legend’s Jefferson Jackson. Lastly Supergirl gives precedent to Guardian/James Olsen and the shape-shifting Martian Manhunter. So having a primary African-American hero (though the term vigilante is used in the episode, we’ll get to that) as the catalyst is kind of a important deal. Yes, Luke Cage made his presence felt on the Marvel side of things but we haven’t seen this from DC since the animated days of Static Shock. And if that’s not a tie-in waiting to happen, I might as well turn in my hero card.
Jefferson Pierce is depicted by Cress Williams and boy does he do an excellent job at conveying a father figure who wants to protect his family at any cost along with managing his responsibilities as principal and his past as Black Lightning. Much like the Flash’s Jesse Martin as Detective Joe West, it’s good to see a strong male with defined principles and strong ethics work in a system that pushes against it. (There’s a future topic right there.) Cress gives a very Malcolm-X like feel to Jefferson, his voice comes through the television in every scene he’s in and you see a man that tries his hardest and then gets tired of trying. Speaking of voices, Damon Gupton who plays William Henderson has the most Martin Luther King sounding voice I’ve heard in a long time. His voice gets my attention. It was good to see the retro Black Lightning costume in that video flashback. The powers also look very good…when Jefferson connects with one of his attacks, the effects really stand out with his physical, brawler-like style. It works a lot better than it does on the Flash because of the more combat based elements. I used to find China McClain quite annoying during her younger days on House of Payne. Forget I said that…Tobias Whale might be most menacing looking comic book bad guy since Daredevil’s Kingpin. This dude is scary; anybody who channels Mortal Kombat’s Scorpion telling one of his lieutenants to “get over here” and that brings me to the blood and violence in this show. This isn’t Netflix but for a CW show, there was a lot of blood in this opener (a lot of it coming from Jefferson) and I’d have to go back to when Zoom dusted up Barry Allen as the last time I saw a Arrowverse hero get the business like what happened here. Oh, and the language also surprised me. This show does a lot of things that Luke Cage similarly was able to take advantage of but the family element is what makes it all the more surreal.
What Needs Work
Nothing is perfect and there were a few things that made me tilt my head a little bit, even if some of those were due to plot convenience or playing by television rules. I enjoyed the show wasting little time in establishing the police system and how topical that subject is right now makes the first scene involving Jefferson getting pulled over all the more emotional. You can feel the power of his restraint for the safety of his daughter when those cops had him on the hood of his car. However, when Jefferson left Club 100 and was stopped again by some cops who told him to put his hands in the air (and he did) and they responded with tasers. I mean, that’s a little much, especially considering that The 100 was shooting the club anyway. While they established Jennifer quite well as the younger daughter with all of the reputation but just wants to be a teenager; it came at the expense of Anissa who I felt didn’t get enough to resonate with me emotionally especially given what happens at the end of the episode. I said that this show has a lot of Luke Cage coursing through it and when Lactavius (or as he prefers “LaLa) shows up as one of the main gang leaders and you see the back down from Jefferson who up until that point was shown to be very strong, was at the mercy of some gang member because of a “agreement” that was made between them. It reminded me of a low-rent Cottonmouth from Luke Cage who in that series had a little more to his character to warrant such behavior. To be fair, we may get some backstory on LaLa’s relationship with Jefferson later on. I mentioned the old school costume…not a fan of the modernized version. Maybe it’ll grow on me, but off the bat, it’s a little too bulky for my taste and the goggles really don’t help. A small nitpick, but they used the same music cue before they went to commercial break a few times at the beginning. Familiarity works better if it’s not quite the same as it was before. Static Shock used to do this with the ad-libs that were sung by the same guy but there were enough variations to keep them fresh.
Works For Me
Overall, when Tobias asked “Do you believe in The Resurrection?” He was talking about Black Lightning…well I most certainly do. Here you have a man who lost his wife trying to be a hero and went out and became a principal to make a better life for his daughters and his city. He even admitted that the only reason he put on the suit was to bring down Tobias Whale. I know what it means to try and find peace and purpose for your life. The hard part is when those two things have to collide in order for you achieve both. I look forward to what this show brings. I failed to mention James Remar as Peter. I think a “tailor” is the perfect occupation for Black Lightning’s right hand man. I want to see Jefferson face off against Tobias, his daughters come into their own and not just as heroes either. There’s a reason why the promotion was telling everyone to “Get Lit.” This show has me ready to see what’s next!
Ride the Lightning and see you next time!