“Black Lightning” takes darker tone in debut episode

Written By Jordan Slobodinsky, Copy Editor

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The CW network is well known for their adaptation of DC comics characters. The “Arrowverse” includes the shows “Arrow,” “The Flash,” “Supergirl” and “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.” All of these shows are well known for their incredibly well done first seasons, and it appears as though the newly created “Black Lightning” is off to the same start.

Unlike the aforementioned shows, “Black Lightning” did not give us an origin story of our main character. Instead, Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams) is a retired superhero who has taken up the role of a high school principal in a troubled city. With the ability to harness electricity and use it to fight crime, Pierce has been retired for nine years until he decides that he needs to get back into the suit.

Perhaps the best part about the pilot episode was the fact that it did not even feel like a superhero show. Instead, we get a look at a city that is ravaged by the “100 Gang” and a police force that is crippled by the gang’s access to better weapons and more money. Amidst it all is Pierce and his daughters Anissa (Nafessa Williams) and Jennifer (China Anne McClain). The entire family is devoted to saving the youth of the city from joining the 100 Gang. When his daughters are captured by the 100 Gang, Pierce is forced to step out of retirement and dawn the mantle of “Black Lightning” once again.

The relationship between Pierce and his daughters was particularly interesting because of the portrayal that the actors gave. Nafessa Williams gave a great performance as the successful older daughter who was protesting the actions of the 100 Gang, while McClain was the rebellious younger daughter who only wanted to have fun. I loved the interaction between the family members and I hope the tension between them can be felt in every episode.

The idea of an actual criminal gang that recruits young people is one that I feel was a strong choice for the show to make. It really felt like Pierce was fighting to keep his students safe from the 100 Gang. We even see some of his interactions with a gang leader when he confronts them about a member stepping onto school property. Now, my knowledge of gang culture is very slim, but I think they nailed it.

The show is not scared to show how violent the 100 Gang can be, and they are not afraid to push the boundaries of television.

As the first black lead character in the Arrowverse, Pierce faces a racist police force and drives home the idea that not all superheroes have it easy. In fact, the main point of the first 10 minutes of the pilot episode was that even though Pierce is a well-respected principal, even he can fall victim to racism. “Black Lightning” did not hide its intentions to show the world that they were serious about making gang life and racism connected.

Whereas other superhero shows have initiated their episodes by having the character overcome some sort of obstacle, “Black Lightning” took that obstacle and stepped it up. The writers incorporated gang violence, parenting issues, dealing with traumatic experiences and racism into one episode.

A strong start for this show is great, and with any luck it will lead to more success. “Black Lightning” will air every Tuesday and the show already hooked me in and has me cheering for a future Static Shock cameo. I believe you should give it a shot too.

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