Black Lightning (2018) S1 TV Review

black-lightning

Summary: High school principal Jefferson Pierce, who retired from his superhero persona Black Lightning nine years ago after seeing the effects it had on his family, is forced to become a vigilante again when the rise of the local gang called the 100 leads to increased crime and corruption in his community of Freeland.
There will be some spoilers ahead. I’m going to try to keep them minor because the show just ended.
Pros:
Cast and Characters.
Main Cast
  • Cress Williams as Jefferson Pierce / Black Lightning. Jefferson is a retired superhero with the ability to harness and manipulate electricity. He’s like a battery. He is the current principal at Garfield High School. Jefferson returns to fight crime after his daughters are kidnapped by a local gang. He immediately knows what he has to do and Jefferson will do whatever it takes to protect his family. Now, because he is a family man, he does protect his family but he considers his students to be his family as well. He’ll do whatever it takes to help them. He is stubborn, and can be a bit too determined sometimes but he always means well. Jefferson wants to protect his town from those who want to do it harm. Jefferson feels like a real person, it’s hard with superheroes sometimes, because they don’t feel human, like they don’t have human problems but Jefferson does. He has a family, even though he isn’t married to Lynn, he obviously still loves her and does whatever he can to protect her just as he does his daughters. He’s also very sad and angry about the death of his father and he even tries to take it upon himself to get revenge for it later in the season, but he’s never unreasonable. I like that about him. He gets his mind-set on something but he can still be talked down from it, it’s unpredictable, you’re not sure what he might do. Unpredictable. Cress Williams is fantastic as Jefferson. He’s also a beautiful man lol. He’s so… inspiring when he talks to his students but I also believe he’ll get you right.
  • China Anne McClain as Jennifer Pierce. Jefferson’s younger daughter, who is very independent, outspoken, smart and an athlete. She has a bit of a wild streak, but I think that was shown mostly in the first two episodes and then that kind of went away probably because of the kidnapping. She is a teenager so she does some teenagery like things, like wanting to go to the next step with her boyfriend, or being a bit of a smartass, and of course stealing her sister’s clothes. Jennifer in ways, reminds me of my younger sister (she’s in college now), but she loves her family even if they can be a bit hard on her. Jennifer gets her powers way late in the game, she shows that something might be different about her when she gets in a fight with this girl (who came at her) and she breaks her wrist. She has strong feelings for Khalil and even though he hurt her, she still loves him. When he comes back, she even is willing to see him but of course he comes back different. We finally see her gain her powers and she’s like a generator and I think she might be more powerful than her dad. I hope to see her use her powers more in the second season because I want to see some LIGHTNING! China Anne McClain is great, I’ve always enjoyed watching her, and she’s great as Jennifer. Her emotional scenes are definitely some of her strongest.
  • Nafessa Williams as Anissa Pierce / Thunder. Jefferson’s elder daughter who is in medical school and teaches part-time at Jefferson’s school. Anissa learns about her powers early on, she has the ability to manipulate her density, allowing herself to have superhuman strength and near invulnerability. She can also create powerful shock waves in which she can do that THUNDER CLAP!! She also has a rapid healing factor. She starts off fighting crime alone as Thunder because she thought she was alone in it (not knowing who BL was yet) but she eventually learns it’s her father and they become a team because she would keep doing it without him. Anissa is strong, determined, very stubborn and will do things her own way, especially in the beginning. We do see her grow to make more mature decisions on how things are handled which is great. Anissa also is bold in everything she does, from her hair to her clothes… I love her. She had a girlfriend in the beginning but she wasn’t feeling it, which I’ve noticed, if she’s not feeling it, then she’s not in it. She does meet Grace, later on, we’ll see what happens with that later on. Nafeesa Williams is great! She has great chemistry with everyone around her. She is strong and she answered my Twitter questions which was awesome. I love how she does the deep breath to allow her powers to do their thing. I also love her hair, I have hair envy every time she’s on-screen. Killing the game.
  • Christine Adams as Lynn Stewart. A neuroscientist at Bowman College and Jefferson’s ex-wife. Lynn is kind, loving but she will not take your crap. She will lay you out as well. Lynn still loves Jefferson and she of course loves her daughters, she is very much involved in everyone’s lives. She is intelligent and while she may not have powers (I think they should give her some lol), she is a strong part of the family by being the human backbone. She’s watched Jefferson be a hero for years, and now she has to see it again, with her daughters being caught in the mix. She doesn’t like it, but she has to accept it because it’s the reality of the situation. I also love the fact that she knows her family enough that she knows when something is wrong, but she doesn’t pry. Christine Adams is great! Whenever she’s being sassy, I’m like YASSS and whenever she is letting someone have it, I’m like YASSS! I also love her mother/daughter scenes with her girls, and her passionate scenes with Cress Williams.
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Main Supporting Characters.
  • Marvin “Krondon” Jones III as Tobias Whale. A former politician who rose through the ranks of local government through corruption but was brought down by Jefferson’s father, Alvin. Tobias was exiled after killing Alvin but he became the leader of the 100. He also gets involved with the A.S.A in hopes of capturing and studying Black Lightning, but Tobias just wants him out the way. Tobias is an interesting character. He’s Albino and he definitely seems to hate black people, or at least the “typical black person”, whatever that means. He does have some great monologues though. He is super strong, seems to be aging slowly and has extreme anger issues. He trusts very few people, like his sister Tori and Syonide. He’s willing to do whatever it takes to get what he wants. He’ll take everyone out. Krondon Jones is great! He’s a scary dude and his voice is awesome. I believe he’s gonna take over Freeland, and I also believe he could kill Black Lightning if he’s not careful. Dude can mean mug like nobodies business.
  • Damon Gupton as Billy Henderson. A veteran detective inspector with the police, he’s friends with Jefferson and I think he was an ally to Black Lightning previously. While he may help BL, he’s still a detective and he doesn’t care for vigilantism. However, he does his part because he sees that cops are corrupt. I like him, he can be a bit annoying but I think he’s a good man and I hope nothing happens to him in the future but I kind of feel like something will. Damon Gupton is fine in the role, he’s a nice guy and he doesn’t make me want to punch him so that’s good lol.
  • James Remar as Peter Gambi. Jefferson’s oldest friend who became a father figure and mentor to him and works as his “tailor” while having connections with Lady Eve. His real name is Peter Esposito and was a former member of the A.S.A. until he turned against the organization and gave information to Alvin Pierce, resulting in his murder.
Reoccurring Supporting Characters.
  • Skye P. Marshall as Kara Fowdy. She is Garfield High’s vice-principal. In the beginning, it’s easy to tell that she has a crush on Jefferson and that sometimes she tries to hard. She isn’t a major character but it’s imperative that viewers pay attention to her because we learn something about her later on, that I totally saw coming and it makes sense. However, she does seem to feel remorseful about her decisions but ya know, once you get in too deep, it’s hard to get back out. Kara Fowdy does well in her role, I’m curious to see if we see more of her in the second season.
  • William Catlett as Latavius “Lala” Johnson (mild spoilers). A member of the 100 who is in charge of the Seahorse Motel that 100 use as a front for their prostitution ring. I think he also does a bit of drug dealing. Lala used to be a student at Garfield High, so Jefferson feels a little responsibility for him in that he could get through to him but Lala has his “empire” and he’s not going to give that up. Something happens to him that when he shows back up in the show, something is definitely up with him and you have no idea what’s going on. It’s a bit weird but at the same time, it’s dope. He starts to show some changes himself. One of those changes is that he starts seeing the ghosts and these ghosts leave markings on his body. It’s really cool to be honest. He has some great scenes in the latter half of the season. William Catlett does a great job at making you really dislike Lala (his nickname is also stupid, I can’t always take him seriously) but later on, as things are discovered, he makes you really feel bad for him too.
  • Charlbi Dean as Syonide. Tobias Whale’s henchwoman and enforcer. She doesn’t say much but she will kill you with a look and she’s a bit scary. She has a great fight scene with Thunder and we really get to see her physical prowess as a fighter. She also talked in the season finale and I was like “Oh! She talks… weird.” Like she had full on sentences, when usually she just looks, smirks and threatens. Charlbi Dean is fine in the role, she manages to make me feel unsettled by her looks.
  • Jordan Calloway as Khalil Payne (mild spoilers). He is a track star at Garfield High and dating Jennifer. He is on the road to becoming something great with track. He has a great scene with Jefferson when Jennifer tells her parents that she might be ready to take the next step with Khalil. He’s sweet, a bit awkward and hopeful. He goes on a march with some residents in Freeland and he gets shot which paralyzes him from the waist down. Him losing the use of his legs, depresses him and he gets really moody and even treats Jennifer wrongly. I feel bad for him honestly, especially since his depression leaves him wide open for negative persuasion. He disappears for a while and when he comes back, things are definitely different. It’s a little jarring at first, mostly the appearance but it grew on me and I’m definitely interested to see what happens with him in the second season, I hope he becomes more prominent because he’s interesting. Jordan Calloway is not only *swoons* but he does a great job at playing the many faces of Khalil we’ve seen. The sad part of him, the mean part (though I’ve seen him be mean in Riverdale lol), and the part that he is currently.
  • Jill Scott as Evelyn Stillwater-Ferguson / Lady Eve. The owner of a funeral parlor who connects Tobias Whale with a secret group of corrupt leaders that gave him leadership over the 100. She is AHMAZING! She has some kind of control that allows her to be like this big boss in Freeland, but everyone also loves her. I can’t help but wonder how she looks and acts outside of her little corrupt group because the fact that people love her, and aren’t suspicious of her makes me wonder. Jill Scott is always a win and she killed it in the times we saw Lady Eve, every bit of line delivery was her just chewing it up.
Strong Family Dynamic. So Jefferson and Lynn are divorced but they have a working relationship that allows their daughters to still have that parent connection even though Lynn doesn’t live with them. They have Friday dinners where they all come together and eat dinner together and most times Lynn is there helping Jefferson prepare the dinner. Lynn and Jefferson also still have amazing chemistry and it’s easy to tell that they are still in love with each other, even though they divorced because Lynn couldn’t handle him being a superhero (the getting hurt part, not the saving part). But she obviously still cares for him. I also love how they are with Anissa and Jennifer. I think Anissa is in her early 20’s and Jen is 17-18 and they aren’t treated like children but in a mature way. They want to protect their girls but they also understand that they’re getting older and they must make their own choices. Nafeesa and China also have great sisterly chemistry, they feel like they’re sisters and I love their dynamic, especially in the beginning when Jen would steal Anissa’s clothes or when Jefferson and Anissa were being all weird and Jen knew something was up. I loved that they know each other so well that they know when something is wrong. I love the Pierce family. I also love how they look related, Anissa looks like Lynn and Jennifer looks like Jefferson, it’s really good casting.
Great Villains. The show has a main villain in Tobias Whale but we’ve seen a lot of people who are villainous in the show. They’re all great. Lala, Lady Eve, Tobias and Proctor are all very different villains, with different ways of going about their agendas but they’re all memorable. A lot of that is definitely the performances of these actors and how they deliver the dialogue. I can’t wait to see what Tobias does in the second season.
The Soundtrack. Now, I don’t always pay attention to the music in TV shows because I just don’t think about it. Unless it doesn’t go with the scene. But I think Blake Neely is the composer for the CW superhero shows, or probably all of the CW shows, and while the music is fine, it usually all sounds the same. Black Lightning’s soundtrack stands out because the music not only fits the show, fits the scenes, but it feels steeped in black culture. Kurt Farquhar is the composer for BL and the songs they choose for scenes, especially emotional and action scenes are so good. For example, in the season finale, they played “Stairway to Heaven” by the O’Jays, during an emotional scene with Jefferson and I teared up. Take a gander for yourself. There is a link below that has the music for each episode in Season 1. I really wish the CW would do what they used to where they would tell us who the artists and the songs were after each episode. GET BACK ON IT!! I would love that.
https://www.tunefind.com/show/black-lightning/season-1
Get Ready for the Thunder and Lightning! The action in this show is so cool to behold. First of all, whatever Anissa does as Thunder is freaking awesome. Watching her use her powers, especially when she becomes bullet proof (Look there is nothing like seeing black people be bullet proof), and she can just walk through a rain shower of bullets… or how she does her thunder-clap. I love it. Also, when she fights alongside her father, they work so well together AND AND AND he did this awesome thing where he made stairs out of lightning and Anissa uses them to go up before coming down and doing like a Thunder stomp or something. Oh man, it was so awesome. The season finale was also great, Jennifer did this great move where she uses her powers and like body slam this dude and just her whole move was great. Also, Thunder and Black Lightning squared off in a fist fight as well and that was pretty cool too.
The Messages/The Story. I think because it’s only 13 episodes, the first season had the ability to be more intimate and focus on the characters more (which I think is part of Riverdale‘s season 2 problem). We really got to know the Pierce family and our villains. We really got to see what makes them tick and we’re learning more about them in each episode. The story is realistic in that it’s not centered around a young hero making choices that people constantly judge for being stupid (looking at you Barry and Oliver). But it’s about a man, who was already in his prime, whose lived that life and returned to it to save his family. I like that. I also love that it’s focusing on a black family that isn’t in pieces, even though Lynn and Jefferson aren’t together, they’re still a unit. That’s positive. I also love how they are showcasing things that black people go through, just in the guise of a superhero show. I can imagine this might be hard for some people, especially if you only want to see superheros superheroing but it’s set in the real world, so I think that’s legit. I mean, drugs, relationships, gangs, gun violence, police brutality… all of that is real and I think so far they’ve handled it well, for the most part.
Not part of the Arrowverse. While this is a CW show, it’s not in the arrowverse, at least not yet, and I kind of hope it stays separate. It has a more mature and serious tone compared to the other shows, and I want it to stay in its own bubble because I really don’t want to see Oliver Queen try to tell Jefferson Piece what to do and how to do it. Nor do I want to see Felicity try to be nerd friends with Lynn. I just… don’t want it. Now, if somehow Iris could meet Anissa and become best friends, I’m down with that lol, but that’s it. I like how different it feels compared to the other shows. I like that it’s more serious and family oriented (some of the other shows kind of had that going for a while, but it’s been lost I think). I don’t want any type of Damien Darkh-like nonsense to seep into Black Lightning, it has it’s down magic and science thing going on… let it stay that way.
The Serious/Mature Tone. It definitely takes some risks, the show handles a lot of material that I can imagine some people find a bit too heavy-handed, or they feel like it’s “invading” their show because they just want to watch a superhero show. I understand that, but I think not expecting a show to tackle current issues, or to even talk about them at all is a bit ignorant. They’re not all just fiction, a lot of their stories deal with reality. A black superhero is still a black person, they still have to live as a black person. I like that about Black Lightning. I like that. I also like that it handles a strong family dynamic. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, I mean it does, but it doesn’t try to be all dark like how Arrow feels like it’s trying to do now.
Cons:
The Theme Song. I just want them to choose a new song. I don’t really care for it. It’s very… juvenile compared to the mature feeling of the show and how they use some of the other songs throughout. Let’s upgrade the theme song!
The Costumes. So I have a love/hate relationship with Black Lightning and Thunder’s costumes which is why it’s here and not in the “pros”. So Jefferson’s suit, is like a suit of armor, it’s bulletproof and it has lightning bolts down the front and they’re yellow and blue as shown below.
I don’t really like his suit, it looks kind of weird to me, it also fits him weird. I also do not like the yellow on his suit. Jefferson’s lightning is blue and I think his suit should just have a blue and maybe a kind of white going on, since lightning isn’t yellow. Or at least have the yellow only be the outline and not be so prominent.
First-Glimpse-of-Thunder-in-Black-Lightning-2
Like how it is on this picture to the left. It’s there but it’s not so big and bulky looking. I definitely don’t want spandex because that doesn’t translate, but maybe something that looks more workable.
As for Anissa’s suit, in the beginning she went thrift shopping and found something to make work for a while. Then when she started working with her dad, Gambi made her suit and while I think she wears it very well and it does look good overall, there’s something about it I don’t really like. I think it’s the neck/collarbone part.
The picture on the left is the outfit she had at first, and while it’s cute, she looks like she’s trying to be Beyoncé in a spandex outfit but it’s not feasible for crime fighting which I think becomes evident when she first fights Black Lightning. Now, her official costume, the one on the right, I think looks good overall. I like the color and I like how it fits, but the little part above her chest plate, I think looks too big when she’s moving in it. It seems loose. Otherwise, I like it.
This is from an animated show and the comics, and I kind of like this look better. I definitely see the inspiration, but the one on the left, in terms of the top, I think looks better. Don’t get me wrong, I like realistic looking superhero uniforms, but I don’t think “realistic” means “unflattering” either. I can’t seem to find it but they showed a look at his old costume and I remember liking that one way more.
Heavy Handed. I don’t think this happens all the time but there are times where it feels like they’re trying to really hammer in some messages and they don’t really have to make it feel preachy. It only happens a few times, but those times do happen and I’m like “Okay, we get it, less is more.” I like the fact that it focuses on things that minorities, especially black people go through, but I do think, for a superhero show, it could fall into that thing that Luke Cage fell into where it hits a glass ceiling because it comes on too strong. This may seem like I’m contradicting myself from my earlier comment but I think I would be remiss to ignore that I have thought that.
Dumb Choices. There aren’t many but I hate, and it burns my grits every time, but I hate it when characters go and investigate stuff and DON’T WEAR GLOVES!!! You are searching for things, YOU SHOULD BE WEARING GLOVES! Ugh I drives me insane. Black Lightning was framed for a murder and Jefferson and Anissa are just running around all willy nilly, breaking into places and just touching stuff. *sighs* Also, Lynn is a neuroscientist, there are too many times where she’s doing science stuff with other people around, or she’s talking to her family in her lab like people can’t hear them. *sighs* There was a scene in a hospital I think, where Anissa and Jefferson or Lynn and Jefferson were talking but they were just casually walking down the hallway… I’m like “really y’all? It’s a secret!” *sighs* stuff like that man. They should really think about that.
Overall, I love Black Lightning. It’s probably my favorite of the CW shows right now. It felt fresh compared to the others, which I guess would happen since those have been on for a few years now. I just loved the family dynamic, I think that is definitely the strength of the show. Not to mention, I think all of the actors do a great job, it’s not always the best, but I think it’s overall good. I like the Pierce family and I like the villains. I think the music is used in a fantastic way in the show. It really amplifies the show and makes it feel so different. The action is handled very well, Anissa and Jefferson work very well together and I can’t wait to see them handle the villains even more in the second season. I love how they handled a lot of the messages, such as gang violence, drugs, police brutality, family issues, identity among many things. I don’t think it handles anything negatively but I can understand if people feel like it’s too heavy-handed and I can agree in some places. I also like that it’s not part of the Arrowverse, I hope that it stays that way. Now, I don’t really like BL’s costume and there are parts of Thunder’s that I don’t care for and I definitely think characters make some really dumb choices. HOWEVER! I loved this show! Second season whoooo!!
Rating: 4.4 out of 5 stars.
Have you seen Black Lightning? What do you think about it? Are you interested in it at all? Let me know your thoughts down below!
There’s a spoiler below… don’t read any further if you haven’t seen the show or at least haven’t finished it.
spoiler-warning
So in the finale, Lala died, at least I think he died. He seemed to have been blown up, in that Tobias winter soldiered him and made him have a grenade or something inside of him that made him choke up the little pull thing. I don’t know but it was weird. I thought it was weird, how Lala seemed to be the big bad but I knew Tobias was going to be probably the biggest baddie, but then Lady Eve seemed to be even worse than him… then we have the A.S.A. So, I just hope we don’t villain hop anymore because while I definitely think Tobias is the biggest threat for now. I am curious though, is he going to be taken down in the second season and if so, who’s going to top him? They killed Lala, they killed Lady Eve and Proctor (the lead dude of the A.S.A) is dead now, so… I’m curious to see what happens next.
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