Black Lightning: 1.01 The Resurrection
Black Lightning is the latest in an ever growing line of superhero TV shows. Created by the CW network but not currently part of the “Arrowverse”, it has taken what I thought would become a tiresome generic superhero show and turned it on its head. Instead a new, exciting and thought provoking beginning that adds a new spin on the genre.
The episode starts by introducing us to the main characters and themes. Jefferson Pierce AKA Black Lightning is a retired meta-human (more like the The Flash than Arrow) who retired from being a hero 9 years ago, after the toll it took on his family was too great. He is now the local high school principal and single parent to his two daughters, Jennifer (intelligent student and rebel) and Anissa (teacher at high school and badass). After Anissa is arrested for protesting gang violence, he’s forced to pick her up and on the drive back he’s pulled over by two white policemen who clearly treat him differently due to his colour. This becomes the catalyst that essentially brings back his hero alter ego.
The next phase in Jefferson’s rebirth is set off by Jennifer’s rebellious side as she sneaks off to a party. As made clear at the start of the episode, the community is being overrun by gang violence orchestrated by ‘Club 100’, led in turn by Tobias White, an ex-politician who killed Jefferson’s father and was the original reason for Black Lightning’s appearance. Jefferson’s daughter is taken by a gang member, and after failing to get her back “the old fashion way”, decides to use his powers to gain advantage. Police arrive at the club as everyone’s running out and once again Jefferson is stopped by two white policemen who demand he get on the ground. He refuses and gets tasered, he then uses his powers (he is able to generate lightning similar to the Iron Man suit) to knock them out and destroy their vehicle. This scene was quite irritating, firstly you could sympathise from a discrimination perspective but given the situation you could argue that the police were simply doing their job. The first scene, the police were clearly in the wrong but here was totally different, Jefferson was using his powers out of clear frustration on the whole scenario which seemed somewhat childish. It fit the narrative and flowed perfectly fine but I found the message a tad stupid. This was addressed by the police detective inspector on how this could easily be seen as an act of violence rather than heroism, turning Black Lightning into a vigilante rather than a hero. I like to think the writers noticed this issue and purposefully added that line.
Due to his injuries we’re introduced to Peter Gambi, (played by James Remar) Jefferson’s oldest friend, father figure and mentor. The best comparison I can think of is that he is the Cisco (from The Flash) of Black Lightning. While patching him up Peter tries to convince him to return to his superhero ways as the community needs him more than ever. Failing, Jefferson returns home to his daughters and ex-wife who has punished Jennifer for what she did. The next day, both girls are kidnapped directly from the school, as expected this further triggers Black Lightning’s more permanent return. Jefferson goes to see Peter to get his new and improved suit that he uses to go on a rampage to get his daughters back. After some excellent action sequences and a successful rescue, it’s made clear to Jefferson that this change needs to be permanent. The episode ends with the oldest daughter Anissa discovering she too has powers… of what sort…who knows!
Overall I thought The Resurrection was a fantastic opening episode, the writing is superb and is something I hope is kept up with in upcoming episodes. Enough information was divulged about all characters to keep you intrigued yet plenty of mystery is still alive to further the anticipation for what’s to come. The action scenes and effects were excellent. This premise of a retired superhero returning to action is something that’s never been done before (that I can recall). This was a nice change of pace to the usual cliché superhero show running a villain of the week formula, showing character progression as they learn to deal with their “hero” status. Instead we get to witness someone who already knows their capabilities and limitations unwind from a 9 year rest and get back to fighting crime.
I look forward to the progression of Anissa’s powers; I hope it doesn’t become the cliché new superhero storyline they’ve thus far managed to avoid. Instead it would be great for the father to take his daughter under his wing but in a new and different way rather than using the Oliver style formula from Arrow. Additionally I loved how immediately the show established its female characters as unafraid and perfectly capable to defend themselves with both daughters proving their fighting skills.
The Resurrection sets out to be an intelligent and complex superhero show like we’ve never seen before. It’s irregular in the best possible sense and is highly recommended. It’s not without flaws and clichés but these small gripes could easily be ironed out much like our title character will be finding his feet and brushing off the dust. Bring on episode 2.