“Black Lightning” is a new CW show worth watching

CW’s newest superhero show, “Black Lightning” Proves Itself To Be A Worthwhile Investment


vagueonthehow via flickr, Creative Commons

The cast of Black Lighting speak at a panel at SDCC 2017. Notable actors in the show include Cress Williams and China Anne McClain.

Sol Doyscher, Staff Writer

The CW, in partnership with Greg Berlanti and DC Comics,  has expanded its television superhero portfolio to include Black Lightning, the first black superhero DC created. The hero makes his television debut in this new show starring Cress Williams.

Black Lightning has nothing in common with the other DCW  (a term that refers to the union of DC and the CW) shows (Arrow, Flash, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow) and sets a higher standard that will be hard to follow. The show eludes the common criticism of CW shows: they have too much ‘teen drama’ and characters act unreasonably to cheaply generate tension. All the characters in Black Lightning feel both relatable and well developed, with several facets to their beings. At no point did I question a character’s judgement or think “What they were doing doesn’t make sense!”

Black Lightning stars Cress Williams (Prison Break, Never Been Kissed, Hart of Dixie) as Jefferson Pierce, a vigilante with the power to control lightning and electricity. He retired from superheroics because the strain was too much for his body and for his marriage. The premise of the show already distances itself from its DCW siblings. Whereas the four CW superhero shows all star young, developing heroes, Black Lightning’s protagonist is an already grown, veteran superhero.

Jefferson Pierce, a divorced high school principal, lives with his two daughters, Anissa (Nafeesa Williams) and Jennifer (China Anne McClain), in the community of Freeland. Freeland is plagued by crime and violence. A gang called ‘The 100’ roams the streets killing and stealing from innocent citizens, and police responses haven’t been effective enough to stop them. Pierce, through a mixture of policies that are both tough yet empowering, has turned Freeland’s high school into a safe haven for the youths of the city. He is commemorated for his efforts at a banquet celebrating his work at the school, and his interactions with his ex-wife (Christine Adams; Doctor Who, Pushing Daisies, Heroes) show signs of a potential reconciliation.

Jefferson Pierce is prompted to suit up once again and become the hero, Black Lightning, when men from ‘The 100’ gang kidnap his daughters who were accidentally implicated in the crimes of the gangleader. He enlists the help of his super suit tailor, Peter Gambi (James Remar; Battlestar Galactica, Vampire Diaries, Dexter).

From being unjustly stopped and profiled by the police, to characters protesting gang violence, Black Lightning is full of culturally relevant issues. In many ways, this show is an extension of the black-focused, modern political landscape painted in Marvel superhero show, Luke Cage.

The main character describes his desire to be a superhero as an “addiction.” I find it very poignant that Pierce is saying that despite all the good he does while in his vigilante form, it is an unhealthy part of his life. To see the show acknowledge this dichotomy within the main character puts Black Lighting ahead of the crowd.

The cinematography reflects the show’s grim reality and the soundtrack is both well composed and well utilized. Where the show tends to fail is in the actual superhero aspect. The action excels in choreography, timing and effects, but the scenes are too quick and somewhat sparse. Cress Williams gives a charismatic, emotional performance that is only enhanced by the stellar supporting cast. Both Nafeesa Williams (Code Black) and China Anne McClain (A.N.T. Farm) both show that they have the chops to keep up with the older actors.

Black Lightning stands out as stylistically unique among the CW shows, with a writing team that combine the three essentials of the superhero genre: heart, humor, and spectacle.