Hot Take: Thunder, Lightning, and Black Lightning

Hot Take: Thunder, Lightning, and Black Lightning

This is on the CW. It premiered last night (Tuesday January 16). And it’s a superhero show.

I know what you’re thinking, but Arrow isn’t involved. No, this is all Black Lightning.

And if you’re not watching it, get to the CW and check it out.

The Backstory

Back in 1977, Black Lightning was a new DC superhero who had the ability to shoot lightning out of his fists. And he was a black man, hence the name. If you’re rolling your eyes, don’t worry, the comic books do as well, to the point that Jefferson Pierce (the man himself) makes jokes about it too. Anyway, the basic story has always been that Pierce, a decathlete and Olympic Gold Medalist, comes back to his home town and sees that it’s in bad shape. There are gangs all over. So he decides to clean up the town.

This comes at great personal cost, which is basically comic book slang for “it messes up his marriage.” Pierce retires and, in the TV show, becomes a school principal. Of course things don’t last, gangs get worse, and he puts the suit back on. only this time his two kids turn out to also have superpowers. Thus, Black Lightning and his daughters, Thunder and Lightning, go to work.

Well. They will eventually. We’re starting from the ‘Jefferson puts the suit back on.’

The TV Show

Okay, yes I know yes, it’s on the CW, but it’s disconnected from the Arrow-verse!

This actually concerned Tracy, who wanted to know if it was segregation or worse. After all, they were making it look like the black supers were left out. And let’s be honest, the Arrow-verse doesn’t have a great track record with inclusion beyond tokenism. I dug into articles, and it appears that the Black Lightning show runners didn’t want to be included. At least, not yet.

To be honest, I’d be happier if they never crossed over. It would feel like The Defenders, where Luke Cage spent much of his time looking like it might be nice to shove Mr. Iron Fist face first into a wall. Don’t let us stop you, Luke. But I’m prejudging my data. After all, I came up with the feeling that a well done show, staring black superheroes, wouldn’t fit in with the predominantly whiteness of Arrow et al.

I had to watch it first.

Okay, so how is the show?

This is what you want to know, right?

Well. It premiered the Tuesday after Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Initial reviews (people who get the show in advance) were exceptionally positive. As 6pm rolled around, my East Coast friends started watching and I got excited.

Right? That’s the best news I could have heard. And then it went on and got better. Three hours later, my wife and I sat down to watch the best superhero premiere we’ve seen on the CW. Scratch that, on TV. And yes, I’ve seen a lot of superhero TV shows. It was, indeed, different from any other CW show.

In the first episode, it tackled racial profiling by police, hyper-masculinity, men unable to handle rejection, and violence within the black community. It was written the way people actual talk, not TV talk. They addressed gang violence. They used music by black artists.

Why is he a vigilante, but those others are called heroes?

I mean…

What’s Next?

First of all, no, I’m not spoiling. But here’s what we know from the UpFronts and such:

  1. Both daughters will be fighting along side dad
  2. Anissa is an ‘out and proud’ lesbian
  3. Grace Choi, her GF, has been cast

And that’s all I’m telling! Just trust me, if this holds true to the comics then you’ll like where this is going. And I trust the show runners.

About Mika A. Epstein

Mika has been deep in fandom since she could say 'Trekkie.' With decades experience in running fansites, developing software, and organizing communities, she's taken on the challenge of delving into the recesses of television for queers long forgotten. Making this site with Tracy is nothing short of serendipity. Mika lives with her wife and their cats in Southern California. Of course she has a hybrid, but she'd rather ride her bicycle.
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