Binge Or Purge? Black Lightning
When I was kid there were only a handful of superhero films. I sat through decidedly B films such as Spiderman, Fantastic 4 and The Phantom and was happy about it. Now, superheroes are saturating all media, and each month seems to bring us a TV show or film featuring a meta human.
Is this a good or bad thing? Can there be such a thing as Superhero fatigue? Can Marvel (let’s not get into DC here!) put out this much content and not sacrifice quality? At least one benefit of the super hero craze is getting to see lesser-known comic book characters get some love. That brings us to DC’s latest TV series, Black Lightning.
Black Lightning Netflix 2018
One thing that Black Lightning does well right off the bat to separate itself from the pack is that it is not an origin story!
Black Lightning begins it’s journey 9 years after the title character decided to hang up his costume. While this may not seem like a big deal, it gives us another look that is vastly different than other superhero stories currently out there. Instead of following the formulaic route where the hero discovers powers and has to come to grips with them, we have a middle-aged man who has a life, a family and a job and no interest in being a superhero.
Not only that this is one of the few Superhero shows that is firmly African-American. It isn’t just about Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams), high school principal, father, and superhero. It’s about his community struggling with violence and drugs. It’s about his 2 daughters and his ex-wife and his conflict to keep both safe without the use of his powers.
Black Lightning Episode One: The Resurrection
Episode one is very strong. It follows Jefferson Pierce (Black Lightning) as he argues with his older daughter Anissa (Nafeesa Williams) about her involvement with a violent protest against the police’s ineptitude in combating the dreaded 100 gang.
The question is could the superhero known as Black Lightning help. The problem is he’s been missing in action for nine years now. Jefferson has been living a peaceful life as the principal of Garfield High. He still has electricity powers that come out when he’s stressed or pushed. Which is evident when he gets pulled over by a police officer and harassed for no reason, right in front of his daughters.
Following the car ride, the Pierces go their separate ways. Jefferson goes to a school fundraiser being held in his honor, while his younger daughter Jennifer (China Anne McClain) heads out to a local club. Jennifer runs into trouble as many kids do at the party when they flirt with gang members, which leads to Jefferson dipping back into his powers as BL and blasting everyone, including some racist cops.
This Put’s Jefferson in a bad spot, as he struggles with putting the genie back in the bottle. He desperately want’s to keep his promise with his ex-wife after coming home bloody and battered many years earlier and leave his alter ego in the past. However with great power comes great responsibility and now his Arch-nemesis is now aware of his survival.
Black Lightning Episode 2: Lawanda: The Book Of Hope
The Second episode of Black Lightning really nails down where this series is going.
“Lawanda: Book of Hope,” picks up in the immediate aftermath of the resurrection of Black Lightning… Everyone in the media and community are talking and thinking about Black lightning.
Particularly Jefferson Pierce.
Jefferson struggles with how who can best serve the community: Is it Jefferson Pierce, Principal, community pillar?
If he follows the path of Black Lightning he sacrifices his body and relationship and possible reconciliation with his Ex wife Lynn. If he chooses to remain Jefferson he may sacrifice his good conscience and what he believes is right.
Enter former student Lawanda: “Why’d Black Lightning rescue your girls and nobody else’s? … Questioning Jefferson, why Black Lightning just saved his girls and not other lower-income kids that aren’t from a “good family”. Certainly a shot at privilege as Jefferson is upper middle class and friends with the police captain. As for Lawanda who is not wealthy, no one seems to care about her daughter. She is lost to the 100 gang and Lawanda sacrifices her life for her.
Jefferson comes to the realization that he cannot turn his back on the voiceless and powerless, and while he may lose everything, at least he will not lose his soul by becoming Black Lightning.
Black Lightning Episode 3: Buried Secrets
Very rarely does a superhero series hit the landing on all of their opening episodes but so far Black lightning has.
We start with Lawanda’s funeral, and gospel music is playing, (A side note here: Black Lightning has a killer soundtrack and they continue to make great choices with it) and the Reverend calls for the city to take action against the 100 for killing another one of their own. He calls out the corrupt police, and declares his faith in Black lightning.
This sets the episode to be an absolute powder keg, and it does not disappoint.
I’m not going to give away anymore here as this is a pivotal episode, and it should be seen spoiler free, but there’s a lot to unpack in this episode from the main and supporting characters, and about the topics of humility, frustration, desire and hope.
Binge or Purge
Black Lightning is perhaps the only superhero show that can also be considered a competent social drama. It does all the “superhero” things right, and doesn’t fall into the Jessica Jones melancholy tone. The characters are fleshed out and the action flows with the story line in a meaningful way.