Streaming Consciousness: Black Lightning

Black LightningOh my fuck.

I’m gonna be honest here – when I saw that the CW was launching another DC hero show, I just couldn’t. I couldn’t! Despite what reading this blog may make you think, I don’t actually get a whole lot of time for watching stuff. I DVR a ton of shows on the CW including Arrow, Flash, Supergirl, Legends and Supernatural. Adding another would make a logistical nightmare given I share TV with my mom and brother, and they just don’t get or like or use the DVR. Which causes some issues when it’s trying to record something, and they’re trying to turn the channel to something else and even though there’s 3 tuners…

I digress.

Anyway. I tell you all of that so you understand why I’m so late to the game on Black Lightning.

Thank you Netflix, because otherwise I would’ve missed out on a truly phenomenal show.

Not technically part of the Arrowverse, Black Lightning doesn’t really follow the formula those shows have, which marks it as unique and different, and a stand out hit in my opinion. Black lightning is about broad social issues but tackles them through a very narrow, focused lens of a single community and the struggles of the people living within it. It’s about family, and the stress being a hero puts on those bonds – and that’s really where this show hooked me.

Jefferson Pierce is a high school principal in a predominantly African-American community. He focuses on instilling a sense of pride and responsibility in his students, pushing them to excel and boasting a huge graduate rate who go onto college. He does this in a town essentially run by a gang called The 100. They control everything, but he has a truce and agreement with them to leave his school – Garfield High – alone.

His eldest daughter, Anissa, is in medical school but spends part of her time as a teacher in Garfleid. His youngest daughter, Jennifer, is a student there. Anissa is a lesbian in a relationship she doesn’t truly want to be in, and a crusader out to change the world for the better. Jennifer is growing up in the shadow of her over-achieving sister, and is relentlessly bullied by the other kids in school because she is the principal’s daughter.

Lynn is their mom and Jefferson’s ex-wife. The kids don’t know the truth behind why their parents split up – that the strain of his life as Black Lightning – became too much.

Nearly a decade later, as The 100 have grown in power and are nearly unstoppable, Jennifer and Anissa are kidnapped by The 100 and Jefferson has to once again walk the streets as Black Lightning. With the help of an old friend – Peter Gambi – he must rescue his daughters. But that one act opens up his eyes to what’s truly been going on in his town, and forces him to make some difficult decisions about who can best help Freeland – high School Principal Jefferson Pierce, or Black Lightning.

The drama here is strong, both with the family, the community and the gang controlling it. There’s a deeper mystery surrounding both Black Lightning, his daughters and his old friend and father-figure, Peter Gambi. While I love Luke Cage, I feel like this show does a much better job of creating relatable and compelling African American heroes. The dynamics between all the different characters is fantastic, the writing is too and the actors – Cress Williams, China Anne McClain, Nafessa Williams, Christine Adams, Marvin “Krondon” Jones III, Damon Gupton, and James Remar all deliver powerful performances.

Black Lightning Season 1 is available on Netflix – just 13 episodes. Give it a shot. I think you’ll enjoy it.