Jefferson Pierce is a man wrestling with a secret. As the father of two daughters and principal of a charter high school that also serves as a safe haven for young people in a New Orleans neighborhood overrun by gang violence, he is a hero to his community. Nine years ago, Pierce was a hero of a different sort. Gifted with the superhuman power to harness and control electricity, he used those powers to keep his hometown streets safe as the masked vigilante Black Lightning. However, after too many nights of his life on the line, and seeing the effects of the damage and loss that his alter ego was inflicting on his family, he left his Super Hero days behind and settled into being a principal and a dad. Choosing to help his city without using his superpowers, he watched his daughters Anissa and Jennifer grow into strong young women, even though his marriage to their mother, Lynn, suffered. Almost a decade later, Pierce’s crime-fighting days are long behind him…or so he thought. But with crime and corruption spreading like wildfire, and those he cares about in the crosshairs of the menacing local gang The One Hundred, Black Lightning returns – to save not only his famil but also the soul of his community. [Warner Bros.]
In recent years, The CW and DC have become one of the biggest markets for superhero television shows. A whopping four shows make up the Arrowverse continuity, with three animated shows on its CW Seed. Earlier this year, the network debuted a fifth show, Black Lightning, which is very different from every other show. There was no big crossover event, no aliens, and as of right now, this show is in its very own universe. We previously reviewed the show’s pilot (find that HERE), and now, we’ll take a look at the whole season.
We previously praised the pilot for its unique approach to superhero storytelling, from a slightly more mature tone to its focus on family. Black Lightning maintained that for the rest of its season. Its storyline was tight, focused, and full of twists and turns. Keeping to 13 episodes for the season really helped. Most of the Arrowverse shows have 23 episodes per season, and that just leads to at least a handful of filler episodes every year. Black Lightning has little to no filler, and its episode count played a big part in that.
The show’s character development is another high point, enhanced by its terrific cast. Cress Williams, Christine Adams, Nafessa Williams, and China Anne McClain all nail it as the Pierce family. While Jefferson Pierce is clearly the star of the series, we spend so much time with the rest of the family. Anissa has a really great character arc too, as we see her become the superhero Thunder. Meanwhile, Jennifer begins to deal with the revelation of her powers (likely to take a bigger role next season), while Jefferon’s relationship with Peter Gambi is fascinating.
Easily one of the show’s best characters is the main villain, Tobias Whale, played by Marvin “Krondon” Jones III. Tobias maintains a gripping presence every time he’s on screen, and the show does a fantastic job developing him. He’s a formidable opponent to Jefferson, who takes their conflict very personally. Tobias survives the season finale, so we’ll be seeing more of him next season. This is an approach many superhero shows don’t take nowadays; usually, the big bad is either killed or imprisoned by the end. So, this is a really good move.
But it’s not all slow. Black Lightning is full of dazzling action scenes. While the hand-to-hand fights are primarily grounded, they also take the time to show off Jefferson and Anissa’s powers. Jefferson’s lightning in particular looks good for a CW show. The show’s cinematography and soundtrack are on point, while even the costume designs are good. Definitely interested in seeing Jennifer’s costume – and maybe more characters? – next season.
Really, it’s hard to nitpick any specific flaws with Black Lightning. The show has a specific set of goals in mind, and this season checks them all. Compelling family drama? Check. Retired superhero needing a good reason to come back? Check. A great villain? Check. I can go on. And while I tend to find nitpicks with every other CW DC show each year, pretty much all of those flaws aren’t found in Black Lightning. Simply put, it sets a new standard for the network.
In summary, Black Lightning season one is easily one of the best comic book TV seasons in recent memory…possibly ever. It’s a fantastic introduction to Jefferson Pierce and his corner of the DC Universe. It doesn’t hesitate to depict more complex and social themes, while it focuses heavily on character-driven storytelling over visual effects. I highly recommend this show to fans, even those who usually don’t care for DC’s television ventures. I just hope season two can continue this momentum.
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