Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 1, 2018)
About 40 years after the character’s DC Comics debut, Black Lightning hits TV screens. This Blu-ray set includes all of Season One’s episodes. The plot synopses come from IMDB.
The Resurrection: “A former superhero with the power to control and harness lightning, Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams) - AKA Black Lightning - unrolls the secrets of his past to protect his city and his family.”
As a pilot, “Resurrection” does what it needs. It gives an efficient introduction to characters and circumstances along with a dollop of action. The show seems a little on the melodramatic side, but it works reasonably well.
LaWanda: The Book of Hope: “A glimmer of hope appears in the community that Black Lightning is back to combat the violence.”
How the heck old is Jefferson supposed to be? Williams himself is 47 and that seems about right for the character, but then we meet LaWanda, a fellow parent of a teen who looks about the same age as Jefferson – but we learn she used to be a pupil of his, so she can’t be more than early 30s. It’s not impossible for the chronology to work, but it seems off.
Those issues aside, “Hope” manages to heat up the action some. I’ll admit Lightning follows some surprising paths in that a few characters I assumed would be mainstays are already dead. We’ll see if that level of unpredictability continues.
LaWanda: The Book of Burial: “Anissa (Nafessa Williams) starts to come into her own while Jefferson tries to decide if the community can survive without Black Lightning.”
At some point, I hope the show does away with the constant scenes in which Jefferson bickers with his ex-wife about the return of Black Lightning. That flares again and a few predictable elements disappoint, but enough of “Burial” works to make it decent.
Black Jesus: “Black Lightning is recruited to rally against the 100 gang. Anissa investigates the new drug hitting the streets. Meanwhile, familiar faces begin to reappear.”
The best parts of “Jesus” relate to Anissa’s tale, as the follows an interesting path. The rest feels spottier though still reasonably satisfactory.
And Then the Devil Brought the Plague: The Book of Green Light: “An unexpected phone call unearths the long-buried need for Jefferson to investigate the murder of his father.”
“Plague” hints that there may be another super-powered kid in the cast, and that approaches “bridge too far” territory. Maybe the series will integrate this choice well enough to make it seem less eye-rolling down the road. At least Anissa herself develops well in this episode.
Three Sevens: The Book of Thunder: “Jefferson hunts down his father's killer. Anissa uses her new powers to right a wrong after a failed protest.”
The inclusion of the protest – which duplicates the notorious events from Charlottesville 2017 – feels gratuitous, and Khalil’s (Jordan Calloway) shift from super-nice-kid to complete douche seems awfully abrupt. Developments among the superhero family dynamic work better, at least.
Equinox: The Book of Fate: “Black Lightning's pursuit of Tobias (Marvin 'Krondon' Jones III) continues. Anissa continues to find herself in the new normal.”
Of the series’ roster, Tobias proves to be its most interesting character. His side adds to “Fate” and helps push it along well.
The Book of Revelation: “Black Lightning works with Anissa to help find information to clear Black Lightning's name. Jennifer (China Anne McClain) begins interning for Lynn (Christine Adams). Meanwhile, Gambi (James Remar) finds himself in a precarious situation.”
At the series’ start, it posited Gambi as Alfred to Lightning’s Batman, so his evolution has taken us down unexpected paths. Add the development of a character back from the dead and “Revelation” develops in a satisfying manner.
The Book of Little Black Lies: “Following the latest killing, Black Lightning tries to clear his name as he hunts down the person responsible for his father's death, while tensions remain high between him and Gambi.”
Family developments come to the fore here, and some of these take us toward melodrama. Despite these mawkish moments, the episode amps up the action in a lively way.
Sins of the Father: The Book of Redemption: “After the latest killing, Black Lightning works to clear his name and hunt down those involved in the death of his father.”
Overall, “Redemption” feels like a plot-thickening episode. Nothing especially revelatory occurs on its own, but the show moves along the general narrative in a mostly involving manner.
Black Jesus: The Book of Crucifixion: “As suspicions grow that Jefferson Pierce is Black Lightning, the ASA arranges to have him arrested. Lynn seeks help from Detective Henderson (Damon Gupton).”
With Jefferson in jail much of the episode, the superheroic emphasis changes, and that gives “Crucifixion” an unusual energy. The change in focus works and helps turn this into one of the year’s most effective episodes.
The Resurrection and the Light: The Book of Pain: “Tobias returns to Freeland and is tasked to capture Black Lightning. After a battle of epic proportions, Anissa and Jennifer provide surprising aid.”
Easily the most action-packed episode to date, “Pain” manages to set the table for the season finale. It throws out a good level of excitement and pushes toward the end in a winning way.
Shadow of Death: The Book of War: “The aftermath of the showdown with Black Lightning leaves everyone reeling. Tobias gathers his forces.”
With the season finale, the major narrative comes to a close – and the show leaves open the door for next year’s adventures. “War” concludes events well, as it mixes action and exposition in a satisfactory way to become a winning conclusion.