Posted January 17, 2018 by Jasmin in Reviews

REVIEW: Black Lightning – Series Premiere – The Resurrection

Episode: S01E01 – “The Resurrection”
Director: Salim Akil
Writer: Salim Akil
Based on Characters by: Tony Isabella, Trevor Von Eeden
Starring: Cress Williams, China Anne McClain, Nafessa Williams, Christine Adams, Marvin “Krondon” Jones III, Damon Gupton, James Remar

Black Lightning

© The CW

Black Lightning isn’t normal superhero fare as it is helmed by a father with two daughters, one of whom is already in medical school. Having suppressed his metahuman powers for almost a decade, Jefferson Pierce is forced out of retirement when his girls are kidnapped by a local gang. But don’t be fooled by the catchy name and cheesy outfit — this series is very down to earth and boils down to a community of people that are sick and tired of being sick and tired.

The show premiered to the biggest premiere numbers since the CW launched fellow DC series, Legends of Tomorrow. The mid-season premiere followed the return of The Flash, and according to Variety, Black Lightning maintained 90 percent of that 2.5 million audience. Based on DC Comics’ first African-American hero Black Lightning, the series is developed and produced by the team of Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil in association with Warner Bros. Television and Berlanti Productions.

Originally created in 1977 by writer Tony Isabella and illustrated by Trevor von Eeden, the Black Lightning comics took place in a part of Metropolis known as Suicide Slum. Considered a blight and an area beyond help, the city lives under the weight of the gangs that have assumed control. With the name changed in the TV series to Freeland, this fictional town now resembles a number of American towns like Ferguson, Missouri or Chicago, Illinois. Freeland is in the midst of all out war between a gang called The 100, the police, and its citizens as tensions rise.

Black Lightning

© The CW

What immediately stands out with Black Lightning is that the series already feels familiar. I had never heard of the character Black Lightning before this was ordered to series by the CW. But the themes of racial tension and police and gang violence are an American reality, especially in black communities and other communities of color. There is a scene where Pierce, with his daughters in the car, are pulled over by the police and as the situation escalates, so does my heart rate. The idea of being stopped for “driving while black” is a real fear that people have. In fact, Salim Akil (who wrote and directed this premiere episode), wrote that traffic stop based on something that happened to him in the past.

So far, the Black Lightning series is one rooted in reality that many of us live in. The heroic fantasy is easy to fall into, but there is always a zinger in the dialogue that brings me right back to reality. I find the series reminiscent of Luke Cage (Tony Isabella wrote Luke Cage comics for Marvel as well) in its blurring of the lines between reality and fiction.

“The Resurrection” pulls no punches in conversations about banding together as a community and covering some of the “black paranoia” that Akil has also mentioned as motivation. For instance, when a white cop yells at Pierce to “get [his] black ass on the ground,” I can’t help but feel the same sense of anger that the character feels in that moment. Later in the episode, when Jefferson confronts Will after he tries to draw a gun on school property, the principal informs the young gang member that the police are on the way and that they, “will shoot [his] black ass for fun.” It’s heartbreaking to one, see so much compassion from Jefferson; and two, because how many times has a black parent had to say something similar to their child in real life?

Cress Williams Black Lightning

© The CW

Black Lightning puts family front and center, and in this first episode, the audience gets the opportunity to grow attached to these characters. We can see the struggle that Jefferson bears with wanting to protect his kids and get his marriage back (which ended because he was a vigilante), but also wanting to be a public servant and stop his city from falling completely into the hands of the criminals. His youngest daughter, Jennifer (China Anne McClain) is going through a typical high school rebellion, but she is also feisty and self-aware. Anissa (Nafessa Williams) is a local activist and a part-time teacher at Garfield high; but she challenges both Jennifer’s tantrums and Jefferson’s complacency about the state of their community.

I want to see where this story is going. The idea of a hero being forced out of retirement to keep a community from turning in on itself is precisely the kind of fantasy that can inspire real world change. Yes, Black Lightning is a superhero show on the superhero network of CW, but it doesn’t let viewers get too deep into their escapism. The special effects leave something to be desired, but with the depth of story so far, I’m willing to forgive bad CGI.

Black Lightning airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on The CW.

Via: Deadline, Variety

Jasmin loves Batman, sci-fi, and movies with lots of explosions. When she’s not writing about geektastic things, she’s probably playing video games or watching sports. Her ultimate goals include traveling the world to watch tennis and working for BioWare to revive the essence of the original Mass Effect Trilogy.