REVIEW: Black Lightning S1E1- The Resurrection

Lightning struck twice on Tuesday.

Following the return of The Flash, the highly anticipated Black Lightning made its series premiere on the CW. Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams) put his crime fighting days behind him to focus on rebuilding his family and his community as the Principal of Garfield High. His school is a safe zone from violence and gangs, a beacon of academic excellence in the city. He’s on track to reconciling with his ex-wife Lynn (Christine Adams). But just because Jefferson wants to be done with the crime and the violence doesn’t mean the crime and violence wants to be done with him. The 100 Gang runs the city, and when his daughters Jennifer (China A. McClain) and Anissa (Nafessa Williams) run afoul of one of its members, Jefferson is unexpectedly drawn back into the world he wanted to leave behind. With the help of his old friend, father figure, and tailor, Gambi (James Remar), Black Lightning suits up once again.

First off, although it may sound weird to put in a review, I have to say I’m so impressed with how Black this show is. Everything screamed authenticity, from the prevalence of black extras to the writing and music choices. There are Black historical and cultural references ranging from Harriet Tubman and Martin Luther King to SZA and Afropunk. The bond Anissa and Jennifer share and the way they bicker with each other reminds me of me and my sister. At times the episode seemed to go a little overkill on the references. It also touched on police brutality (with an intense traffic stop in the rain), black crime, and the negative stereotype that black girls “always gotta have an attitude,” which seems like a lot for one episode, let alone the series premiere. However, even the scene where Lativius aka “LaLa” (William Catlett), a drug lord and member of the 100 Gang, insists his son show some manners when speaking to Jefferson, followed by a “work twice as hard” style speech, really speaks to the identity of the type of show Black Lightning wants to be. It’s like the FUBU of superhero shows, and I love it.

The strongest beats for me in this episode were the scenes between Anissa and Jennifer and between Lynn and Jefferson. The casting on this show is excellent. Williams and McClain really feel like real sisters. Anissa is the strong willed, accomplished, and passionate older sister who’s willing to fight for justice and for her city and doesn’t understand why her father can’t (or won’t) do the same. Jennifer, the independent and witty younger sister, feels smothered by the expectations of her family to be a shining example of “Black Excellence” and does whatever she can to rebel against it. I particularly loved the scene right after Jennifer comes home shaken from her experience at Club 100. Anissa acted as “sister” and “mom,” lecturing Jennifer for not only lying about where she was, but also getting into a dangerous situation. While I can understand the pressure Jennifer feels being sarcastically labeled the “Queen of Garfield,” I found myself echoing Anissa’s statements that “when did [being the good girl] become a bad thing?” Ultimately, while the girls may not always see eye to eye, it’s very clear how much they love each other and their family. What’s not yet clear is whether the girls are aware of their father’s alter ego. But, waking up from a nightmare, Anissa’s latent powers activate, leaving her stunned and surely with a lot of questions.

Similarly, Adams and Williams really deliver in their scenes together as husband and ex-wife. The chemistry between Jefferson and Lynn was, excuse the pun, electrifying. Even though they’re no longer together, you can see how much they still love each other. Watching them together made me wonder, “Why did they ever get divorced?” Well, they got divorced because Lynn wanted Jefferson to promise to hang up the suit for his safety and for future of their family, and that wasn’t a promise he was able to keep at the time. It’s a promise he wants to keep now, but now that he’s on the 100 Gang’s radar that might not be possible for long.

Finally, the series premiere gives us a brief glimpse at Tobias Whale, leader of the 100 Gang. It was not lost on me that when he brought LaLa into his office after the failed run in with Black Lightning, he shot him with a harpoon (because he’s the Whale, get it?). We didn’t get to see much of him this episode, but he and Jefferson already have history so I’m excited to see how the show builds on it.

Overall, “The Resurrection” was a great start to the series, built on a strong foundation of family, community, and unity. Did you enjoy this episode? Let us know in the comments! It’s lit!