You know how you just keep doing something because you feel like you have to? My best friends had gotten me into the whole vision board thing when I am the LEAST crafty person in our group – perhaps in the entire state of Indiana – but anyway: while their boards were full of perfectly particularly arranged photos, timelines and paired passages, there I was, struggling not to put too many pictures on one side of the board and running out of cutesy lines.
For two years, I watched as they created beautiful representations of the lives they wish to lead while I have the hardest time trying to keep up. This year I decided I just wasn’t gonna do it anymore. When they sent the annual get together text, I bossed up and said nope. I said I’d come drink wine and watch, but that I wasn’t putting myself through the torture of creating something that I just didn’t find fun anymore.
I told that little anecdote to help explain why I won’t be reviewing Black Lightning anymore.
Family and Black Love
It’s weird because just like I love my friends, I thoroughly love so many aspects about the show. The dynamic between Jennifer and Anissa is hands down one of the best (if not the best) sibling relationships on television. Their chemistry and their rivalry are played so well by Nafeesa Williams and China Anne McClain. Hugs, love advice, stealing clothes, helping each other with advanced math, and of course more hugs- these sisters are the best. Their screen time together has been shorter lately, but that’s probably unavoidable as their origins are being explored separately as well. No matter what, this is one of the things I will miss greatly.
Another thing I’ll miss is the family as a whole. Jefferson’s love for Lynn, Anissa, and Jennifer and even for Gambi and his best friend Bill Henderson, is what hooked me to the show. Like The Flash, Black Lightning has done an excellent job of balancing the emotional toll that being a hero takes on the hero and his loved ones. BL takes it a step further because Jefferson is not the only hero in the family- he has to worry about Anissa and now Jennifer suiting up to take on the scum of Freeland and they have to worry about one another.
The way black love is portrayed on this show is one of the other things I will miss greatly. Whether it’s Jeff and Lynn or Jeff with his daughters, a black man showering his family with love is something that may not seem very important, but it truly is. If you stop and think about all of the shows that you watch regularly, how many can you say have a leading man of color as an active dad and loving husband? Still thinking? Me too. That being said, Jeff’s positive interactions with his wife and children on tv are so important.
The fact that when he argues with them he explains why. He apologizes for being wrong. He cries in front of them. Jefferson Pierce is not a toxic male figure in his family and that needs to be seen by a wide array of television viewers.
The fearlessness with which Black Lighting has approached Anissa’s sexuality is also commendable. Though the relationship with Grace had to simmer a bit, Anissa being a lesbian was not tip- toed around. She was shown in relationships with women and in sensual situations with them as well. Her parents’ reaction to her love life was respectful and handled with care. Nafeesa Willams has been a wonderful representative for her on screen character and representation. Audience reception to her- well, that’s another article for another time.
If I Love it so Much…
After all of that you’re probably wondering what my problem is. When I first started writing for Fangirlish, I wrote about escaping my problems through the comics. How curling up on the couch each week or sinking into a movie theater seat was a way to help me forget (even for just a little while) my crazy life or the crazy world around us. Though Black Lightning does some of that with its heroes, I don’t see how it can continue if it doesn’t branch out of its own world.
Tobias Whale can only take you so far. The episode with the Perdi and the Sange- I can’t even begin to understand what may have gone on at that writers’ table, but it was a case of when keeping it real goes sideways in my opinion. It was just crazy. And sometimes crazy isn’t what I’m looking for, I’m just looking for fun with characters I love.
Loving the characters on their own isn’t enough anymore. I stopped being invested in them in this story. The last few episodes I just didn’t care what happened next. The truth is, I don’t want this show to fail. I don’t want it to fail because it’s a superhero show, it’s a mainly black cast and I’m black. I better be rooting for them right? Damn right! But I won’t keep watching and reviewing out of obligation. Not just because I love Anissa and Jennifer. I need a good story to keep me coming back.
I hope that with some fresh ideas and maybe visiting the Arrowverse (just a bit-not a full dive in) Black Lightning can reinvent itself- build a better story around its great characters- send them on some great adventures. Who knows, maybe they are already working on this? Until then, like the vision boards, I have to boss up and say farewell to Black Lightning for now.