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Created By:
Salim Akil, Mara Brock Akil
Cress Williams, China Anne McClain, Nafessa Williams
Writing Credits:

A crusading school principal gets back into action as the original African-American electrical superhero.

Rated TV-14

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 544 min.
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 6/26/2018

• “Art Imitating Life” Featurette
• “A Family of Strength” Featurette
• 2017 Comic-Con Panel
• Gag Reel
• Deleted Scenes
• PSAs


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Black Lightning: The Complete First Season [Blu-Ray] (2018)

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.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus C

Black Lightning appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on these Blu-ray Discs. The shows looked good.

Overall sharpness seemed solid. A little softness impacted a few interiors, but the majority of the episodes delivered tight, concise imaging.

I saw no signs of jaggies or shimmering, and edge haloes remained absent. The shows displayed no source flaws either.

Colors tended toward standard teal and orange, but the episodes allowed for some variation to that theme. Within stylistic choices, the hues appeared well-rendered.

Blacks came across as dark and deep, and shadows followed suit. Low-light shots displayed nice clarity and smoothness. All in all, the episodes provided positive picture quality.

In addition, the season’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack gave us immersive material. With tons of action on display, the shows boasted active use of all five channels. The elements combined in a satisfying manner to create vivid, engaging soundscapes across the year.

Audio quality also appeared fine. Music was lively and full, while speech appeared natural and distinctive.

Effects worked well, as they showed good accuracy and range. Low-end seemed tight and full. I felt the audio complemented the action nicely.

When we move to extras, we begin with a featurette called Art Imitating Life: The Pilot Episode. It runs five minutes, two seconds and includes notes from executive producer Salim Akil and co-executive producer Pat Charles.

“Art” looks at real-life events and their impact on the series. It becomes more personal and effective than most featurettes like this.

With the seven-minute, nine-second A Family of Strength, we hear from Akil and Charles. “Family” discusses characters and themes. A few insights emerge but much of “Family” seems generic.

Next we get a Gag Reel. It occupies two minutes, 15 seconds with the usual goofs and giggles. Don’t expect much from it.

36 Deleted Scenes take up a total of 32 minutes, 38 seconds. That’s a lot of clips, and inevitably, most offer little more than minor character or expository bits. Some fare better than others – I like the follow-up related to Jennifer and her bully – but usually these seem mediocre.

Finally, we get a 2017 Comic-Con Panel. It runs 17 minutes, 25 seconds and features Akil, executive producer Mara Brock Akil, and actors Cress Williams, Christine Adams, Nafessa Williams, and China Anne McClain.

They discuss story/characters, cast and performances, and a few series specifics. These panels always veer down a promotional path with little insight, and that proves true for this forgettable promo piece.

Under Come Visit Georgia, we find two PSAs. The first runs five minutes, 13 seconds while the second lasts six minutes, two seconds. These provide a few glimpses of the Lightning production, but as expected, they mainly promote the use of Georgia for film crews.

No one will mistake Black Lightning for one of the best superhero TV series, but it offers reasonable entertainment. As long as it keeps its melodramatic tendencies in check, it shows potential. The Blu-rays provide very good picture and audio as well as mediocre supplements. This becomes a mostly engaging series

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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