Black Lightning: A Hero is Reborn

Title: Black Lightning Season 1 Episode 1: “The Resurrection”
Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama, Science Fiction, Superhero
Platform: TV – CW
Director: Salim Akil
Writer:  Salim Akil
Rating: TV-14
Release: January 16, 2018
Cast: Cress Williams, Nafessa Williams, China Anne McClain, Christine Adams
Feature image: Source


“Black Lightning was the savior who kept our streets and our schools safe. He was hope personified. But he was also Jefferson Pierce, my father.” Anissa Pierce – Black Lightning

Jefferson Pierce/Black Lightning (Cress Williams) is at the Freeland police station with his youngest daughter Jennifer (China Anne McClain) to bail out his oldest daughter Anissa (Nafessa Williams). The police arrested her for protesting against the violence the One Hundred gang is committing in the city. The newscaster on TV is saying the gang is responsible for 125 deaths in the city. The One Hundred also turned the peaceful protest into a riot. Once released, her father lectures her about being at the protest. Jefferson repeats a quote from Dr. King, “Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.” Anissa responds with “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired,” from Fannie Lou Hamer. On the drive home on a stormy night, the police pull Jefferson over. Without provocation they manhandle him; he is trying to keep his cool so things don’t escalate but you can see the lightning forming in his eyes. They take him to the squad car and ask an Asian woman if he’s the man? She says he isn’t and they let him go. Jefferson asks what this is about; they tell him the woman’s store was robbed. Angrily Jefferson asks, “And I’m sure the description of the robber was a black man dressed in a suit and tie, with a getaway car that’s a midsize Volvo wagon?” In a voiceover Anissa says, “Black Lightning was the savior who kept our streets and our schools safe. He was hope personified. But he was also Jefferson Pierce, my father.” This is the night that Black Lightning is reborn.

“Come on Harriet; help a girl get some freedom.” Jennifer Pierce – Black Lightning

An award ceremony and fundraiser is taking place at Garfield High, Jefferson is the principal of the charter school. Senator Nina Turner [a real state senator from Ohio] is praising Jefferson and his two daughters. Anissa is a med student and a part-time teacher at Garfield and Jennifer is a scholar athlete, as her father was. Jennifer is in the bathroom with her friend, getting ready to sneak out of the ceremony. Anissa catches her and chastises her. Jennifer: “Come on Harriet; help a girl get some freedom.” Later that evening, Jennifer is at Club 100, a One Hundred-gang hangout, smoking a joint. She spots a young man named Will (Dabier). He soon joins her and tries to make his moves on her. Jennifer: “Just because I’m a little stoned doesn’t mean that I’m going to have sex in a club bathroom with someone I just met.” Back at the ceremony, a friend to Jefferson [an enemy of Black Lightning], Inspector Henderson (Damon Gupton) jokes around with him. Jefferson thanks him for helping to get Anissa released from jail. Henderson is going to check on the cops who harassed him earlier. Kara Fowdy (Skye P. Marshall) joins them. Jefferson can’t take his eyes off his ex-wife, Lynn Pierce (Christine Adams). He joins her and flirts a little. They discuss their daughters, especially Anissa being arrested at the protest. Jefferson: “We have joint custody, which means that half of her attitude is your responsibility.” When Jefferson gets home, he notices that Jennifer isn’t home. He uses her cell phone to track her to Club 100. Some gang members join Will and Jennifer at their table. Lala (William Catlett) wants to talk to him. Jefferson watches them drag Jennifer into Lala’s office. Lala slaps Will because he owes him money. He tells his boys to take Jennifer to the Seahouse Hotel so she can ‘work’ off the money for Will. She tells him she just met Will and he’s not pimping her off.  She hits Will when he tries to convince her to do this. Jefferson asks one of the gang members to let him in the office. The goon refuses. Jefferson:  “I tried to do it the right way.” Suddenly the lights go out and he strikes the dude with lightning. This allows Jennifer to get away. After beating up some gang members, the police arrive. A racist cop says, “Get your black ass down!” When he doesn’t follow their request, they both taser him. Jefferson has had enough of Freeland’s finest; he lights them up and blows up their squad car.

“Evil is running rampant like a plague through this city. Hell, through this world.” Peter Gambi – Black Lightning

Peter Gambi (James Remar) enters his tailor shop. He finds an injured Jefferson on the floor. Anissa and Jennifer are back at home arguing about Jennifer’s behavior. Gambi patches up Jefferson. Gambi tells Jefferson that he hasn’t used his powers in nine years, and he asks Jefferson why he hasn’t been Black Lightning in all this time when, “Evil is running rampant like a plague through this city. Hell, through this world.” Jefferson explains that he wants to reconcile with Lynn. We get a flashback of a badly injured Jefferson in a bathtub in black and white, with the only color being his blood. Lynn: “You’ve been on the streets fighting The 100 for years. Let someone else do it. The girls need a father.”  Jefferson: “Baby, I promise. No more.” Gambi sympathetically responds, “The promise you made Lynn, while well-intentioned, always had an expiration date.” Lynn is at Jefferson’s house watching Roland Martin on TV questioning why they call Black Lightning a vigilante while they call other [white] super powered people heroes. Jefferson lies to Lynn about Black Lightning being back. Black Lightning’s nemesis Tobias Whale (Marvin “Krondon’ Jones III) watches the news report that Black Lightning is back. He was sure he was dead.

“A weird, Parliament/Funkadelic getup.” Elderly Shop Owner – Black Lightning

Jefferson is happily jogging with his daughters. Later he is at school discussing adding metal detectors to Garfield. He is against it. Jefferson: “I will not turn my school into another jail.” On TV he sees a shop owner (Leon Lamar) thank Black Lightning and pull out an old VHS tape of Black Lightning beating up the crooks who tried to rob his shop. He describes his outfit as, “A weird, Parliament/Funkadelic getup.” Jefferson smiles at that. Outside the school, Will shows up to talk to Jennifer; she doesn’t want to talk to him. He tries to grab her arm, Anissa tells him to leave, and he tells her to mind her own business.  Anissa: “I’m not afraid of the 100.”  Will: “Bitch you should be.” He tries to grab her and she uses some smooth martial arts moves to toss him on his arse. He gets up and pulls out a gun; Jefferson intercedes and tells him he doesn’t want to be charged with a school shooting. Will leaves but warns Jefferson that this isn’t over.

Jefferson lectures Anissa about the way she handled the situation, they have procedures that she didn’t follow. Anissa isn’t having it; she says that Freeland is very violent and that the violence is touching their school. She thinks they have to get involved. Jefferson tells her he’s been trying to help the community before they were born. Anissa asks him when did he abandon the community and walks away. Jefferson leaves to meet with Lala, whom he calls by his real name, Latavious. Lala had once been a student at Garfield High. Now he is a One Hundred-gang leader. Jefferson is there to discuss the truce they have, that Garfield remain a safe zone. Will also happens to be Lala’s cousin. He apologizes for Will, he has just gotten out of prison and it has changed him. A young boy who runs drugs for him is in the shop listening to  music, Lala is a mentor to him, and he makes him shake hands with Jefferson and respectfully address him. He gets mad at the youth for listening to his music, and not learning the lessons the white kids he is selling to are learning to rule the world. When he gets rough with the boy, Jefferson intervenes. Lala pulls his gun on Jefferson and says, “Don’t ever put your hands on me again. You teach them your way, and I’ll teach them mine.”  While he is away from the school, Will and two other members of the One Hundred show up and kidnap Jennifer and Anissa at gunpoint.

“These aren’t ordinary girls; their father is like Black Jesus to Freeland!” Lala – Black Lightning

At the police station, Henderson tells Jefferson and Lynn he and the police will take care of this. Jefferson tells Lynn he is going to take care of this and she tells him to “bring our girls home.” He goes to Gambi’s shop and tells him the One Hundred have his girls. Gambi quickly closes the shop and they go through a hidden exit to where Gambi keeps the Black Lightning gear. He has designed a new suit for Black Lightning. At the Seahorse Hotel, Lala isn’t happy with Will for kidnapping Jefferson’s daughters. Lala: “These aren’t ordinary girls; their father is like Black Jesus to Freeland!” He orders Will to kill the girls. Outside, Black Lightning is giving Lala’s men a thorough thrashing. He catches Will with his daughters; Will shoots him. Unfortunately, for Will this doesn’t faze him, using his electric abilities, he holds him over the parking lot and asks him where Lala is. Will says he doesn’t know. Jefferson: “Is that your car?”  Will: “Yeah.” Jefferson: “It was nice.” He drops Will on top of his car. I thought Will was a dead man; of course there is the rest of the season for that to happen. Lala is driving away from the hotel when two of Tobias Whale’s people stops him. They bring him to their boss. He is upset that Lala has brought Black Lightning back. He shoots him with a HARPOON! He asks Lala can he take care of Black Lightning, or will he have to kill Lala and kill Black Lightning himself.

Back home, Jefferson watches his sleeping girls, safe and sound. He comforts Lynn. She thanks him for getting their daughters back; he tells her it isn’t over yet. She understands. Anissa wakes up from a bad dream and goes to the bathroom; her hands turn red and she breaks the sink.

Welcome to the first episode of Black Lightning, the first black superhero show on the CW. Instead of your usual 20ish white lead, we have an older black male in Cress Williams being the star. Jefferson Pierce is Black Lightning, but he gave up the mantle nine years earlier when he promised his now ex-wife to give it up. He has spent this time as the principal of Garfield High, improving the lives of the students in the community. Unfortunately, while his school is peaceful, their town, Freeland is beset by gang violence and police brutality. The One Hundred is terrorizing the town. Jefferson’s daughter Anissa actively wants to take on the violence. His youngest Jennifer wants to rebel against the high standards she is expected to maintain. It’s clear that they are a loving family. The girls don’t know their father is Black Lightning, but I’m sure that will change very soon. When Jennifer sneaks out to go to Club 100, she gets her family directly involved with the One Hundred, causing Black Lightning to come out of retirement.

The show has some good villains, the standout being Lala. He isn’t a one-dimensional villain. He seems to think he is helping the kids in the community, and sees his way as valid as Jefferson sees his. I’ll have to admit that when Tobias Whale shot him with a HARPOON that moved him up immediately. Tobias killed Jefferson’s father and thinks he had killed Black Lightning. I don’t know if he has any powers, he looks like a Kingpin type crime boss, and Daredevil can tell you how hard it is to beat one of them.

They choreographed the action scenes well. The fight scenes weren’t up to Arrow standards, but they were effective. For a pilot, the cast already seems to have gelled. The Pierce’s feel like a family. I like that they are exploring many issues in the black community like gang violence, police brutality, without being didactic about it. They showed some of the community’s problems, but they also showed the foundations our communities have that are a buttress against these problems. The music selections were great, some of the songs they played were Strange Fruit (Nina Simone), Walk on By (Isaac Hayes), Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City (Bobby “Blue” Bland) and A sign of the Ages (Gil Scott Heron). I hope they can keep this up. My only major complaint, the Black Lightning costume. Come on Gambi, you can do better than that. This was a great pilot episode.

Grade: A

Anthony (Kbear!) Nichols | Editor-in-Chief
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