What I Love About Black Lightning (Everything!)
Black Lightning came to impress with its premiere and is looking to keep going strong. The show is well made, for sure, but beyond that, there are a couple things that really make it shine.
First, the soundtrack. I may be biased because “Simply Beautiful” is one of my all time favorite songs, but if this show was a mix tape, I’d wear it out.
Heroes Old and New
Black Lightning comes to us with an established back story, and Jefferson Pierce feels both regret and nostalgia for his past. He’s trying to get some of that back with his ex-wife, and at the same time he’s facing the things he left unfinished when he turned away from Black Lightning. That makes him more than aware of the weight that comes from putting on the Black Lightning costume, and the price of being a hero. At the same time, Anissa’s (and eventually Jennifer’s) emerging powers let us see the rise of a hero and all the optimism and uncertainty that brings, especially when she has to carve out an identity in the shadow of her father. The benefit for us is that we get to see two superheros at very different stages of their careers, and it will be especially interesting to see how Jefferson Pierce handles a superhero daughter. Based on Anissa’s expression after she launched that robber across the store this week, she’s going to love her new powers.
The Community of Freeland
Another part of the show’s strength lies in the fact that is more than just a show about a superhero. It’s a show about community. Freeland has been struggling, most noticeably from the pervasive presence of the 100. For years Jefferson Pierce has managed to carve out a small oasis of neutrality for his high school, claiming that he has done more good as principle than he ever did as Black Lightning. But that confidence was shattered last week when his two daughters were taken from the school.
This week Pierce is confronted with the fact that he and his daughters are part of a greater community, and that community needs help. Local parents challenge Pierce with the fact that though he’s been able to keep the school safe, he’s lost sight of the larger problems of the community. Pierce is realizing that it’s not enough to protect your own if it means letting the rest of your community fall. Black Lightning isn’t a vigilante who works in the shadows. He operates within a community of very real people, and that means he must always be conscious of something beyond himself and his family. This should give the show a connection to the world and society that many other superhero shows are lacking.
It was clear from the get go that this show was going to reflect on the times. With references to the Black Lives Matter Movement and the realities faced by many in African American communities, the show hasn’t shied away from placing itself in the very real context of modern American life. Many shows dance around the challenges and tragedies that dominate headlines, but Black Lightning looks to be prepared to face them head on, and the show looks to be all the better for that.
Response to Black Lightning online has been overwhelming positive, and ratings are strong. It looks like a sure bet for renewal. What are your first impressions of Black Lightning? Do you love it, or do you LOVE it?
Black Lightning airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on the CW.