September 21, 2018
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How does CW’s Black Lightning TV Show Stack Up?

Jefferson Pierce has done what many super heroes surmise as a Herculean task to accomplish. After his first goal was met, his surroundings took more of a stance for peace, allowing him to undertake such an endeavor. That is, until his family became victims of a whimper of a time long past. With several clues, blantant hints, and a city to protect yet again, Black Lightning rolls out once again out of the very thing he sought to hold dear: his retirement.

One of DC’s first African American super heroes gets a show and a debut nearly on the heels of the boom of the adaptations of other heroes of hue to big big screen and silver and without any real slouch at all. Black Lightning arrives onto the CW to undertake yet another Belanti production. Unlike its’ master’s other creations, Black Lightning does away with a villain/issue a week and does things at a more serial pace. Pierce’s exploits are more grounded to the state and city he protects. Freeland, or DC’s Atlana holds itself under a smaller microscope. Its’ villains are mostly the average gangs and dealers that inhabit it. Its’ challenges go from the occassional “say no to drugs”, to “figure out who’s supplying street gangs with weapons of supernatural proportions”. Jefferson Pierce’s fight holds more stakes and cards because of the city’s expectation of both his masks. As a principal, he looks after his students, but as BL he’s just as guard-ready.

Unlike Belanti’s other super shows, Black Lightning’s tenure is a near solo outing. Gambi serves more akin to a mentor. His daughters and wife more mutual support than frontline follies at almost a slow pace. As quick as characters make revalations, the reaction to it is more paced out than another CW show. Not as gripping as a Marvel Netflix title, but nearly as calculated. Character metamorphizes are less instant. A character finding out about their part in the story isn’t greeted by a quick amount of montages of finally getting to do this. Things take episodes in Black Lightning, including the reveal of the big bad. It’s akin to chess. Each player moving forward to the bigger game, with several pitfalls unforseen to greet them. There are plots that do get solved in a couple of episodes, but not as microwave-timed. Black Lightning uses new abilties he dsicovers slowly, or at least a couple of times at least. How relative it is is similar to Luke Cage with the current issues. There is even a touch on being black in America and the relations with white supremacy and police brutality woven in the story

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It’s the first time I’ve seen some of these actors. Jill Scott as a crimelord would be something out from my own thoughts, but it seemed to work okay. Williams does himself a decent time out as the alter ego. There are some moments of juggling that are decent. More than several characters can occupy the scene without a “can I talk to you alone”
timeout at the ready. Something Belanti’s other shows seem to do without any real purpose for either the characters or the actors who play them. They do it to Arrow’s Amell and some memory is recalled to set things back into motion. Christine Adams(Lynn Price)’s approach on dealing with her vilgilante husband is believable and grounded. In Black Lightning, this barely happens or at all. Connection is real-time. There are some jokes, but nothing overly used or heavy. For instance, a scene where two characters try to interrogate a suspect with Barack Obama masks. The suspect mentions that he voted for Barack twice. I smiled a bit, but not as much as I needed to. Tobias Whale(Krondon) is menacing and very strict with the punishment. He seems to be an interesting foil to Jefferson Pierce. The soundtrack felt more like a well-funded version of Scandal’s attempt with the selection. Classic 60s and 70s tracks seem to come and go into the show with ease. James Brown gets a bit in there, too. And of course, James Remar’s Gambi deals with both sides in a fashion that may warrant him his own show.

 

There are some things I could do without in Black Lightning. Lala for one. His usefulness in the show felt more of a throw in than anything else. His end held no dramatics, either. No flashbacks on Cyanide was a bit disappointing. Whale does get one himself, but how he got her or even how that came to past is summed up quickly in a text fashion. The theme song did feel a bit lacking. I found myself skipping it or fastforwarding as best as I could.

Black Lightning feels like a strong adaptation of the source material to life. The Cress and co exploit feels like a departure from a formula that Belanti concocted and pushed through nearly 4 times already in other DC properties. The show stands on its’ own in the factory of DC Arrowverse/CW pulls and thank God it does. Black Lightning is destined for great things to produce in its’ own merits.

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