The CW’s new television series “Black Lightning” is an action-packed drama that dives into the challenge of mixing family life with being a superhero. Director Salim Akil has pulled together a storyline that balances superhero storytelling with relatable themes and situations that makes for an attention-grabbing series.
“Black Lightning,” based on the DC Comics superhero created by writer Tony Isabella and artist Trevor Von Eden, revolves around the life of Jefferson Pierce, a retired superhero/vigilante with the ability to control electricity. His new life as principal of Garfield High School and being a known positive figure in the town of Freeland takes up a lot of time. In the midst of all these things, he still has to find time to raise his daughters Anissa and Jennifer and make sure his school is not affected by The One Hundred, a local gang.
When Jennifer is taken by The One Hundred and immediate danger is brought to his doorstep, Pierce retakes the mantle of Black Lightning.
“This is an American story; this is not a black story. We’re going to be culturally specific, but universal in our themes so everyone can see themselves in these stories,” Akil said during an Entertainment Weekly interview. According to Variety, Black Lightning’s premiere brought in 2.3 million viewers to make it the second-highest rated CW show.
Akil has definitely taken a step in a new creative direction with this series compared to his other shows “Being Mary Jane” and “Jumping the Broom.” His writing style blends well with the action of the DC Universe, always allowing the story to enhance real-life situations with comic book concepts.
Unlike anything else on the network, “Black Lightning” tells a story from the perspective of black lives. As the show is rooted in a black community, it doesn’t shy away from issues like police brutality and racial profiling. In comparison to some of The CW’s other superhero shows like “The Flash” and “Supergirl,” we actually get character development for everyone and find out why Black Lightning, already a breath of fresh air as a black lead, is so determined to protect his family and community.
A lot of this care for the subject matter can be attributed to the predominantly black writing. “If you’re doing a show about black people and you only have one black writer, you are losing,” said Akil during a 1A podcast interview. “It simply is not enough.”
Cress Williams as Jefferson Pierce himself takes that script and transforms it with emotion. When Pierce is racially profiled in the beginning, audiences are able to connect to the experience through Williams’ masterful acting. The same goes for Anissa and Jennifer, played by Nafessa Williams and China Anne McClain respectively, who also bring great performances to the table as well.
Black Lightning also has a connection to N.C. Central University. Theatre program alumnus Jimmy Woods has a reoccurring role as one of the members of The One Hundred.
“He was my work study student while he attended and he was a very creative person,” said NCCU TV studio manager Felecia Casey-Hicks. “He was also very passionate.”
Others at NCCU have had a very positive reaction to the debut of “Black Lightning” as well.
“I thought it was a classic kind of comic book type (show), but I also liked that there was a real storyline there with a dramatic piece to it,” said mass communication professor Dr. Charmaine McKissick-Melton. “I think we as a people need to see these great powerful images or ourselves. I grew up on Roxboro Street here in Durham and when a black person was seen on TV, people would literally scream out the window ‘colored person on TV!’ It’s very refreshing to be seen as more than just talent and I hope this generation of people embraces it and it does well.”
You can watch “Black Lightning” live on The CW Tuesdays at 9 p.m. or stream it through the CW App.