Let’s be honest here. Black Lighting’s premiere episode was going to have to be pretty terrible for me to hate on it. Like Catwoman bad. Fortunately, The Resurrection was anything but terrible. Black Lighting already seems to have a stronger sense of identity in one episode than some of the other CW superhero shows manage in their entire first season.
Jefferson Pierce (Criss Williams) gave up patrolling the city as the lightning powered Black Lightning years ago. Now, he spends his days as the principal of Freeland High School. Williams has a booming, commanding voice and he gives Jefferson an authoritative presence. In one great scene, Jefferson leads a call and response to his attentive and confident students. For me, I love seeing Living Single’s Scooter in such a strong role. And so many black actors on one show in general.
There’s no tedious origin story to worry about. Audiences don’t get caught up on the details or need some explicitly laid out explanation for how Jefferson can use lightning — we just go with it now. The Resurrection has kind of a The Dark Knight Returns vibe as Jefferson sees his city under siege from The 100 gang, much like Bruce Wayne observed the Mutants in Gotham. Gradually, Jefferson is being pushed off the sidelines. Jefferson’s old friend and tailor to the superpowered set Gambi (James Remar) encourages him to get back in action.
At home, Jefferson has two daughters — Anissa (Nafeesa Williams), the woke activist who also teaches at Freeland; and Jennifer (China Anne McClain, Grown Ups 2), who slightly resents her sister’s shadow, attending the same school as her principal father and her nickname of the Queen of Freeland. Jefferson is also trying to resurrect his marriage after his wife, Lynn (Christine Adams, TRON: Legacy) divorced him over his superhero exploits.
The writing takes great care not to make Lynn look like the bad spouse/mother as she’s still very involved with the girls. If anything, her divorcing Jefferson and granting him custody forced him to stay off the streets to care for his children. Williams and Adams have adult chemistry. So often the CW romances feel so forced for the sake of drama, but the interaction with Jefferson and Lynn came off very genuine. The slow burn to their reconciliation should be interesting.
McClain and Williams play off each other incredibly well. They nail the sibling dynamic right away with Anissa being more outspoken and responsible while Jennifer is more immature and reckless. Jennifer’s carefree demeanor inadvertently puts herself and Anissa in the crosshairs of The 100 forcing Jefferson to end his retirement.
The Resurrection built up nicely to Black Lightning’s return and it didn’t disappoint. Black Lighting is an imposing looking guy so it makes sense that he’s got a more straightforward fighting style. The powers were incorporated well with some shock enhanced punches and lightning lassos. I’m still not sure about the suit, but I like the lighting effects.
Maybe my favorite aspect of the show was how authentic it felt. Creators Salim Akil and Mara Brock Akil establish a universe that’s uniquely suited for Black Lightning from the character perspective, struggles/challenges and music. You couldn’t easily swap any other CW character in Black Lightning and make it work.
I did have two issues/concerns with The Resurrection though. I’m hoping the writers don’t feel obligated to having some sort of white cop/black men or women tension every episode. That’s a very real part of life and unless Black Lighting is scorching them every week, I’m hoping for more escapism not the ripped from the headlines moments. And the portrayal of all white officers as racist spectrum trigger-happy cops felt cheap. It’s painting with the same wide brush that some networks use to portray minorities as thugs, gang members or deviants.
We’re one episode in and already Black Lighting is tossing in supporting heroes with Anissa’s powers starting to trigger. The CW has prominently featured Thunder and Lightning in the show promotional material and I’m a little worried the writers are rushing to assemble a Team Black Lightning. I like the idea of CW’s first black superhero headliner to have his time in the spotlight before tossing in sidekicks. Even if they are his family.
With 13 episodes and a more mature tone, Black Lightning has more of a Netflix comic book series than a CW show. Even the introduction of season villain Tobias White (Marvin ‘Krondon’ Jones III) felt more menacing with an eye to the long game.
The Resurrection starts Black Lighting on a good note. I’ll spare the electrifying puns, but Black Lighting looks like it’s going to be appointment TV for Tuesday nights.
Rating: 9 out of 10
Photo Credit: The CW