Sunday, April 22, 2018
  • The Feed
  • What you're talking about today

Review: ‘Black Lightning’ creates electrifying platform for race and the real world

Black Lightning is the most grounded, mature series the CW has ever aired.

A bold statement, but a true one nonetheless.

Not only is Black Lightning (played by Cress Williams) the network's first black superhero, he was also the first black superhero for the DC comics on which the show is based. And the series exclusively explores the stories of people of color.

The show follows Jefferson Pierce nine years after he's hung up his stint as the costumed, electricity-wielding Black Lightning. His secret vigilante life had been taking a dangerous toll on his family. Instead of packing supercharged punches, Pierce is now the much-revered principal of a private school trying to keep all his students off the streets.

But this series wouldn't exist without the possibility of Pierce bringing back Black Lightning. When the notorious The 100 gang starts to wreak havoc in his neighborhood Pierce first tries to negotiate with its leaders. But then they threaten his family, and out comes the glowing, lightning bolt-studded suit.

This series feels like nothing CW has done before with its comic book-based shows — and that's a great thing. It's not the stereotypical origin story where we see a young person discover their powers and struggle to control them. Though those that follow DC comics will know that Pierce's daughter's Anissa (Nafessa Williams) and Jennifer (China Anne McClain) eventually discover their own powers and take on the names Thunder and Lightning.

Creators Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil present a spin on the superhero narrative similar to what Netflix did with The Punisher and somewhat with Luke Cage and Jessica Jones. In their own ways, those Marvel series explored why someone would not want to be a city's hero. Black Lightning does the same by showing Pierce struggle to choose between protecting his city and protecting his family.

Black Lightning also features a comic hero who is middle-aged and is a full-time parent to a rebellious teenager and an activist college student. Pierce isn't the arrogant, fresh-faced teenager who's just discovered his powers and aims to show them off every chance he gets. At times, it seems as if what Pierce wants more than anything is to not feel the pressure of having to use them.

Being Black Lightning only brings him pain. His want for vengeance against Tobias Whale (Marlon "Krondon" Jones III), who killed his father, destroyed his marriage to wife Lynn (Christine Adams). And he continues to hide his secret identity from Jennifer, who's teen angst gets her into dangerous situations; and Anissa, juggling activism, medical school, her girlfriend and a sudden discovery of super strength.

The series doesn't redefine the superhero genre on TV, but it does present a way to explore the lives of those with superhuman abilities by grounding their stories in reality. While the Flash protects the multiverse from evil and Supergirl defends earth from alien threats, Black Lightning's chief concerns lie in his quest for a normal life.

The CW melds together the best parts of its superhero shows and its dramas to birth Black Lightning. It's engaging while adhering to a popular comic book mythos, and stays fresh by tackling real world problems like race, injustice and poverty.

The series' fun characters and modern relevance give Black Lightning the electrifying debut it deserves.

Contact Chelsea Tatham at ctatham@tampabay.com. Follow @chelseatatham.

Watch

Black Lightning

9 p.m. Tuesday , CW

Comments
Tampa Theatre is showing ‘Reefer Madness’ tonight on 420 Day

Tampa Theatre is showing ‘Reefer Madness’ tonight on 420 Day

The campy gem known as Reefer Madness is screening at 10:30 p.m. tonight at the history Tampa Theatre, a perfect bit of programming on 420 Day. Today's day is 4/20 and it has beeen adopted in some circles as Weed Day because of the numeral code used ...
Published: 04/20/18
Watch this weekend: ‘Westworld,’ ”The 100,’ ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

Watch this weekend: ‘Westworld,’ ”The 100,’ ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

Back online: WestworldIt's crazy to think that the first season of Westworld premiered more than a year ago. But the hype surrounding this modern sci-fi series hasn't let up since. In the first season we explored the high-tech theme park of Westworld...
Published: 04/20/18
Eva Longoria’s American ‘Gran Hotel’ adaptation in Miami: What we know so far

Eva Longoria’s American ‘Gran Hotel’ adaptation in Miami: What we know so far

I forever sing the praises of Gran Hotel, the gasp-inducing Spanish drama that is hands-down the most addicting show I have ever binged. It's been remade in Italy, Mexico (as El hotel de los secretos) and Egypt (as Grand Hotel but on Netflix as Secre...
Published: 04/19/18
Bring yourself back online: ‘Westworld’ returns with a vengeance and even more head-spinning narratives

Bring yourself back online: ‘Westworld’ returns with a vengeance and even more head-spinning narratives

The violent delights and violent ends have returned.Westworld premieres a second season Sunday on HBO, and this time the artificial intelligence "hosts" are in charge of the high-tech theme park.If you thought the first season was brutal, you're in f...
Published: 04/18/18
Blockbuster stores are still open, and soon to receive a special gift from John Oliver

Blockbuster stores are still open, and soon to receive a special gift from John Oliver

Blockbuster is still open in Alaska, and about to receive some interesting movie memorabilia from "Last Week Tonight" and John Oliver.
Published: 04/16/18
St. Petersburg's Movies in the Park lineup announced

St. Petersburg's Movies in the Park lineup announced

Want to see a free movie in North Straub Park?
Published: 04/13/18
Updated: 04/16/18
$13 tattoo for Friday the 13th? You can get one in Tampa Bay

$13 tattoo for Friday the 13th? You can get one in Tampa Bay

Among the things you probably shouldn't try to save money on, tattoos rank right near the top. But if you're feeling lucky on this supposedly unlucky day, you can score a $13 tattoo in honor of Friday the 13th at a number of Tampa Bay tattoo shops. ...
Published: 04/13/18
Watch this weekend: ‘Lost in Space,’ ‘Fear the Walking Dead,’ catch up on ‘Westworld’

Watch this weekend: ‘Lost in Space,’ ‘Fear the Walking Dead,’ catch up on ‘Westworld’

Danger, Will Robinson: Lost in SpaceDon't write off the new Lost in Space as just another science fiction reboot. Few things in this reimagining are the same as the 1960s original. Lost in Space is set 30 years in the future, when space colonization ...
Published: 04/13/18
Medieval #TimesUp? Florida attraction announces its first queen

Medieval #TimesUp? Florida attraction announces its first queen

Medieval Times in Orlando has announced some big changes.
Published: 04/11/18
Review: ‘Lost in Space’  Netflix reboot trades camp for thrills and family drama

Review: ‘Lost in Space’ Netflix reboot trades camp for thrills and family drama

If the original Lost in Space is like the cheesy, campy older cousin, then the reboot is the prestigious, lofty exploratory story in the vein of Star Trek. The 10-episode Netflix reimagining charts a wildly different course than the Irwin Allen seri...
Published: 04/09/18