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The Amazing Women of Black Lightning

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For a show that is ostensibly about the fight between two men who are supposed to be dead, it’s the ladies that breathe life into Black Lightning. Don’t get me wrong, if this show stuck with the typical superhero vs. villain scenario, it would still be good. But there is a depth to the community in which the show is built that takes it to the next level, and the women of Freeland are an impressive part of that community.

Nafessa Williams as Anissa Pierce. Photo by Carin Baer/The CW

Whether standing with or against the men, the women are shown to be strong, without the show making it look as if the men are weaker for it. A personal pet peeve of mine is when a man is shown to be weak because he allowed a woman to  be equal or more powerful than him. These men don’t need chauvinism to feel powerful, and the women don’t have to prove they are competent and deserve a seat at the table, they’re too busy taking care of business.

The show overwhelmingly handles gender and sexual dynamics very well. The women are powerful and respected. A good example of this was when Jennifer Pierce talked with her parents about wanting to have a sexual relationship with her boyfriend. Sure, they’re parents, Lynn and Jefferson weren’t thrilled. But they understood the decision was hers to make, and they were as supportive as one could possibly expect, in spite of their discomfort.

The female characters feel integral to the fabric of the show, and they have lives and interests outside of the men in their lives (I have faith that Jennifer will come around). And, they mess up. They’re not saintly wives patiently waiting at home with dinner on the table or young women just waiting for the right guy to come along. They’re too busy going to college, saving lives, and squeezing every last penny of protection money out of the citizens of Freeland. Seriously, Lady Eve’s not making anyone a sandwich, unless maybe it’s as a last meal.

I’ve yet to see a woman on Black Lightning that I don’t love, but there are a few that really shine.

The Baddies

Lady Eve (Jill Scott) takes care of business, and she makes it look good. She speaks for a group of unseen criminal overlords, and it’s no wonder they turn to her to manage trouble. Nothing and nobody is coming in between her and her money. Jill Scott’s performance this weak was chilling. That “albino magic” talk made me feel sympathy for Tobias Whale, and that takes some doing.

Speaking of Tobias, who does he call when his back’s against the wall? His sister, Tori (Edwina Findley Dickerson). And, how about that entrance? Wow, I wanted to know who she was from the moment we saw her drive into town. She and Tobias are clearly close, and she’s here to work through his Black Lightning problem with him. I can’t wait to see more of her.

If he wants strategy, Tobias has Tori, but when it’s time to remove pesky human obstacles, Syonide (Charlbi Dean Kriek) is Tobias’s gal. She’s a ruthless killer. Heck, she even seems to have unsettled Lady Eve a little. Sure, we may not like her, but the woman eliminates problems with ruthless calm. Syonide may lack the depth of other character, but she makes up for it with that bone-chilling glare.

The Good Gals

Christine Adams as Lynn . Photo by Mark Hill/The CW.

Lynn. Lynn!  Sigh. Swoon. Lynn (Christine Adams) keeps the Pierce family going and is sexy as hell. She obviously loves Jefferson, but she is not taking his Superhero nonsense if it means her girls grow up without a father. She is the voice of reason and calls Jefferson out on any suspect motivation behind returning to Black Lightning, but she has her own career and life too, and kids to raise. She’s not just there to listen to Jefferson introspectively brood over the fallout from Black Lightning’s actions.  After seeing how giddy he was with the electric vision, it’s clear that she’s right to be wary.

I was a little worried when we first saw Ms. Kara “Not Your Secretary” Fowdy (Skye P. Marshall). She and Jefferson have a history beyond work, and I really didn’t want her to turn into someone who would only be used to inspire jealousy and romantic intrigue. That’s not a good look for her or Lynn. But, this week we saw that she cares about the students and is a valuable source of counsel. I like the direction the show is taking her.

Finally, Anyssa (Nafessa Williams) is a dedicated teacher with a passion for civil justice, and that’s before she realized she has powers. However, Anyssa, needs to figure out more than just her powers. She ran around on her girl rather than dealing with a dying relationship, forcing Chenoa to do what Anyssa should have. This new relationship is adorable, and I hope it works, but who knows if Anyssa is really ready. Now she’s drunk on a power she doesn’t fully understand yet and making mistakes. She’s been distant with her family, but it might be time to confide in her parents. Eventually she’s going to get her head on straight, and I can’t wait to see her come into her own as Thunder.

It’s clear that Black Lightning is written and performed in a way that gives female characters space to grow and be real. It’s one more thing I love about this show.

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

Cara spends way too much time thinking about subtext and, when not watching TV, can generally be found with her nose in a book.

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