23rd Jan2018

‘Black Lighting 1×01: The Resurrection’ Review

by Jason Brigger

Stars: Cress Williams, China Anne McClain, Nafessa Williams, Christine Adams | Developed by Salim Akil

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Black Lightning strikes (see what I did there?) a new and completely different tone for superhero shows on television and after only one episode, the show feels like it was a show Netflix created and not network television.

The pilot episode introduces us to Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams), a principal of a charter school who nine years ago left behind his vigilante days as Black Lightning to focus on his wife, Lynn Stewart (Christine Adams), and his two daughters, Anissa and Jennifer, (Nafessa Williams and China Anne McClain). While Pierce succeeded in the father role, his marriage eventually fell apart but he still hopes for a reconciliation with his ex-wife, as long as he stays being Pierce and not Black Lightning. Pierce’s two worlds crash together when his youngest daughter Jennifer, after a night out at the local club, gets mixed up with the city’s worst gang, the 100, and Pierce must become Black Lightning again to save his family and the city.

Pierce’s decision to become Black Lightning again is justified by his ex-wife when Jennifer and Anissa are kidnapped by the 100 and only Lightning can save them by working outside the law. The last fifteen minutes of the episode is nothing more than an introduction of Black Lightning’s fighting and super power abilities and because of the great script and slow burn of the episode, the audience is craving for Lightning to unleash his power on the 100. Even the “surprise” at the end of the episode is written well and will have the audience wanting more of Black Lightning.

The Good

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  • Cress Williams. Williams does a great job adding depth to the Jefferson Pierce character and is the rare superhero character that does just as much good out of the costume as he does in the costume. The first episode presents a conflicted Pierce that swings between teaching his children and his students the right way to live their lives and a character that makes deals with LaLa (William Catlett), the local leader of the 100 in order to protect his family.
  • The future villains. Whether it’s Lala, Lala’s boss Tobias Whale (Marvin Jones III) or even random street criminals, Black Lightning feels more gritty and realistic, as much as a superhero show can be, than even the Marvel shows on Netflix.
    Lala, after only one episode, is an interesting and complex villain as he was Pierce’s childhood friend and presents a “public side” as a caring mentor to the local children but is also running one of the most dangerous gangs in the city.
    Whale, while not given much to do in the pilot episode except yell, will become an important villain as his connection to Pierce’s family is revealed in future episodes. If the writers take their time and can slowly reveal Whale’s backstory and true intentions, he could become one of the most compelling villains in DC’s television universe.
  • Racial tension. Now stay with me as racism and racial tension is never a good thing but Black Lightning brings the topic to the forefront which is something unique in the world of television superheroes. The audience’s anger, much like Pierce’s, will increase throughout the episode as examples of racial tension are highlighted in the Black Lighting universe. The episode highlights the issues that face the world today from Pierce being unjustly harassed by the police to the lack of empathy from politicians regarding inner city shootings to the love Black Lighting receives by the African American community as someone finally standing up and taking action/providing hope for the city. It may only be one episode but the writers have nailed the pulse of the real world in this fictional world.

The Bad

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  • The Costume. Fans of the comic book will appreciate the look of Black Lightning’s costume but the design on television needs a few tweaks. The suit looks bulky and not very functional for a vigilante that hides in the shadows and is showcased for his quick reactions against his enemies. The costume is not the worst costume design for a television show but it does need a lot of work.

The Middling

  • Black Lightning’s mentor and father figure, Gambi. Gambi raised Pierce ever since he was 12 years old and his store fronts for Black Lightning’s new base of operations. Gambi is the “M’ to Pierce’s “Bond”, handling everything from his costume to new gadgets to even encouraging words when the situation is dire. The role is needed as every vigilante needs a confidant but based on the pilot episode, the shop and Gambi feels a little too “Kingsman” for my taste. The character has potential but it depends if the show will allow Gambi to have a more important role than just another “Alfred”.

Final Grade: A- (Great)

Black Lightning does the rarest thing in television, make a great and compelling pilot episode that thrusts the audience into a world we haven’t seen enough of on television. The show, after one episode, gets my highest recommendation and I am excited for the future of this season.

You can catch Jason Brigger on the geek-centric podcast, The History of Bad Ideas, as new episodes are released every week at www.nerdly.co.uk or subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher and other podcasting apps. You can listen to their latest episode right here
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