Black Lightning is unlike anything we’ve ever seen on The CW. In the best possible way. Welcome to our new obsession that’s perhaps the most refreshing thing we’ve ever witnessed on the network.
This is the perfect example of blending brutal realism with heart and family and tying it with a nice superhero ribbon.
Our Fangirlish writers Alyssa, Lizzie, Lyra, Charles, Lacey, and Naomi, as well as We So Nerdy’s Funmbi, are breaking down the CW’s most impressive pilot, well, ever. Here we go!
Describe your thoughts about “The Resurrection” using just six words.
Alyssa: A stunning, emotional masterpiece of perfection.
Lizzie: Best DCTV show of them all!
Lyra: Never leave me, Cress Williams smile!
Charles: Wonderful from start to finish yes!
Lacey: Absolute, utter, unfiltered, amazing damn perfection!
Naomi: Unapologetic and all in your face!
Funmbi: 2018: Year of the Black Superhero!
Describe your feelings about “The Resurrection” using a gif.
What was your favorite part of the episode? Is there anything you would change? One episode in, who’s your favorite character?
Alyssa: There was so much to love about Black Lightning. Like Lizzie, I want to just say EVERYTHING. It was so refreshing to watch a television show like this — better yet, a television show that hails from the DCTV universe and airs on The CW. Sheer brilliance. The thing that immediately jumped out to me was the family focus of this series, and that right there gave me a reason to watch week-in and week-out. I was shocked at how quickly I felt an attachment to these characters — like if someone hurt them I’d want to knock the shit out of them. Bravo, Black Lightning. I wouldn’t change a thing. Except maybe could we get two hours instead of one hour? Just saying. More is always better with this show. I know that already after a single 43-minute episode.
Like Lizzie, I’d have to say my favorite character is Anissa. She’s just a badass that has so many amazing and inspiring qualities about her. She’s an activist, she’s a loving daughter, she’s a protective sister, and she’s someone who will always stand up for what she believes in, regardless of the dangers that come with taking a stance. Anissa is another addition to the DCTV universe of superheroes that are superheroes that don’t need a costume to be one. Slay, Anissa, slay.
Lizzie: Everything? No, really, why do I have to pick one thing? I loved the sisters, I loved the family dynamics, I loved Jefferson the principal and Jefferson the superhero. I loved him and Lynn. I loved Peter and the relationship he has with Jefferson. I loved everything, and I wouldn’t change a thing.
As for my favorite character, MAKE WAY FOR ANISSA, ALL HAIL QUEEN ANISSA. Isn’t she badass? I’m a big sister and I felt like I was her every step of the way in this episode, not just with the laying down of the law (or trying to), but with her standing up for her sister. I can’t wait to see her as a full superhero, but as it stands right now, she already is one for me.
Lyra: My favorite part of the premiere Black Lightning episode was the time that the cops stopped him the second time outside of the 100 club. He was so done. After being stopped the first time, embarrassed, treated like a criminal, and using his powers for the first time in years…HE WAS LIVID! He let go and saw that this town still needed him and maybe in a way he needed in retur to right the wrongs placed upon him.
What would I change? I was going to say nothing until I thought about Cress Williams laughing, smiling and running with his TV kids. Yeah….give me more of that. He’s my favorite. Especially in a suit. Yeah…dat suit.
Charles: I’m going to stick with who the show is named after and say most things involving Jefferson. From the raw, heartbreaking moment with the police at the beginning to the end with him showing no mercy to the criminals, I fell in love with his character. A man just trying to do good for his family and his people and it don’t hurt that Cress Williams is a damn fine actor either!
Lacey: I’m with Lizzie. Can my answer be everything because hot damn is everything on point with this show! From the music to the fighting to the family dynamics, just PERFECTION! Favorite character though has to be Jefferson. I’ve always been a fan of Cress Williams (even when he was killing people on Prison Break). The man carries himself with such poise and is so damn suave! I can’t say enough about him. He was the perfect pick to portray such a badass comic book character. And his daughters? Just like their dad: not afraid to get their hands dirty and they stand their ground. GAH! I just can’t say enough!!
Naomi: My favorite part of the episode was watching Jefferson struggle to just be a man for as long as he could. A man gazing at his estranged wife, a man trying to raise two girls, and a man trying desperately to navigate his world without annihilating everything that gets on his last nerve. Then boom- he loses it. Brilliant! I was a little underwhelmed by Tobias, but it’s early so we have to wait and see how he fleshes out as a villain. I won’t say I have a favorite just yet, but I am most interested in Anissa. We have a pretty good grasp on how Jefferson feels about his powers, but Anissa being very outspoken and an activist sets up some awesome “with great power comes great responsibility” fall out. I can’t wait!
Funmbi: The Black Lightning series premiere was *fantastic* from beginning to end; honestly, there isn’t anything that I would change. I love that, right from the bat, the show is diving into narratives that reflect the realities of communities of color across America at this very moment. It’s incredibly powerful to see representations like this on primetime television and in the DCTV universe–the good (a beautiful, Black family and community activism), the bad (gang violence), and the ugly (police brutality/misconduct). This might be cheating, but my favorite part and my favorite character is the Pierce family unit. The family dynamics are beyond compelling and authentic. Since there’s a question coming up below about family, I’ll save my flails for later…
The show tackles race head on – showing Jefferson Pierce as a black man first, a superhero second. What do you think about this approach and what does it mean to see this story being told by a writers room that understands?
Alyssa: This show is so important because it takes that approach — a series about a black superhero that is a black man by day, black man by night, and that just also happens to be written by a black man. There’s a sense of genuineness that comes with that. There’s an honesty and the stance of not shying away from the brutal honesty of the world that a black man like Jefferson lives in every day. I cannot imagine how important this kind of representation is for people that can genuinely relate to this. But I’m so beyond grateful that Black Lightning is able to give that to so many people. Diversity on television is so important because television should be reflective of the world we live in. And not only that, but we need more diversity in the writer’s rooms, as well. Because if you’re not telling genuine, diverse stories, what the hell is the point?
Lizzie: I was emotional for every second of this episode, and I can’t even imagine what someone who can truly relate to this felt like. I think episodes like this show the reason why diversity is needed on TV, not just because we all want to see ourselves in characters, but because diverse stories are different stories, our experiences are not the same, and we can’t truly say that TV is capturing the whole scope of human experience unless it’s really telling diverse stories.
Lyra: This approach that the writers room took, set a tone for the show from the very first scene. It felt real, made easy to connect with the people on screen, and left me wanting to see more of the characters journeys, woes, and personal struggles. Also, to the ignorant people out there that shrug away at diversity and act like it’s nothing to have diverse writers room, this is a big fuck you to you, via the Black Lightning writers room. This is diversity, this is using a writers room to get a story across that tells it how it is from a perspective that knows. It counts. It matters. And you can sure as hell tell the difference as soon as you see it.
Charles: It is always a plus to have a show that showcases diversity and these stories. As Alyssa and Lizzie said, there is a honesty and genuineness to this story being told. The hardships Jefferson and his family go through every damn day need to be shown so people can understand this is what happens to black people every damn day. Let these stories be told and let them be told more and more in the future.
Lacey: There were multiple times throughout this episode when Jefferson was discriminated against because of the color of his skin that I verbally yelled “Oh fuck no!” because it pissed me off so much! We need more shows like this and we need more diversity. It needs to be in the forefront, in your face reminding you that the world we live in isn’t always fair or just but that you need to keep fighting; ALWAYS. Fight for yourself, your family and for what is right and that’s exactly what Jefferson is doing. He is an advocate, a voice and a staple in this community and it’s already one of my favorite things about this show and this character.
Naomi: As someone who is on her grind and praying to become one of those rare diverse voices in a writers’ room, my heart was so full listening to some of the dialogue. When Anissa got in Jennifer’s face and said, “Call me a bitch one more time” or when Jefferson told Will, “They will shoot your black ass for fun”, I was stunned and relieved at the same time. I was happy that the writing was true to the circumstances. Jefferson is a principal, but he is also a father and a mentor who tells Will the hard truth- no matter how tough it is for us to hear. I did wonder how the full throated blackness of the pilot would play to everyone. It’s nice to see that it hasn’t scared everyone away because it was tough and raw throughout. I think the writers have to be very in your face with race because the element of racial discrimination/tension in the community is one of the “last straws” that pushes Jefferson to reactivate his powers and once again don the Black Lightning suit.
Funmbi: If I can make a shameless plug, I was at DC in DC for the Black Lightning premiere, and it was such an inspiring event. The truth is that entertainment cannot be separate from the realities of politics and society. It was wonderful to be able to talk candidly about the importance of representation and the ways media and comics can broker change. Anywho, I had a chance to chat with Salim Akil and Mara Brock Akil, Black Lightning’s showrunners (http://www.wesonerdy.com/2018/01/16/salim-akil-mara-brock-akil-dc-in-dc-2018-interview-black-lightning/). The Akils expressed their concern about how the very serious issues facing the Black community aren’t being reflected on primetime TV. Their intention with Black Lightning is to put the Black man and the Black father at the center of the story. With this goal in mind, it’s clear that the show would portray issues of racial inequality and the ugliness. In the first moments of the episode, we see the Freeland is in crisis, with threats from criminal elements AND police. It is jarring and disheartening, but it is also real. But what I love most, is that we see the beauty of Black communities, too. We see representations of loving families and vibrant community activism. This is also real.
Black Lightning positioned itself as first and foremost a story about family – setting up divorced but still very much in love Jefferson and Lynn, and their two daughters, Anissa and Jennifer as an unit. What did you think about their family dynamics and how did you feel while watching them just be a family?
Alyssa: The familial element was the thing that truly drew me in. The reason I watch and keep watching superhero shows is because I give a damn about the characters. And already in one episode, I care a great deal about this family. The family dynamic was organic in its conception and execution. It’s something that’s reminiscent of real life families despite this being a show where the father is a superhero. When a superhero show can feel like it could exist in our world today, you know that it’s something special. I loved the parent-daughter dynamics, the sister relationship, and the angst that is Jefferson and Lynn. Dear lord, I ship them. I ship them bad. I’m going to need this in my life. Now.
Lizzie: Sometimes – not to say all times – TV tends to show diverse families in ways that highlight how different they are, and yes, in some things, there are obvious differences, but TV also fails, in general, to show the many ways they are similar to the families we’re used to seeing on TV. Black Lightning does that in a way that’s not just refreshing, it’s real. Plus, I already ship Jefferson and Lynn, that’s some sizzling chemistry they got there, fix your shit, people. FIX YOUR SHIT.
Lyra: Sweet Jesus, thank you for giving me a chance to talk about Jefferson and Lynn. They are my new OTP, my ride or die, my “OMG IS THERE FANFICTION OF THIS ALREADY?!” They are worth watching, rooting for, and speculating to the moon and back about what specifics about him being Black Lightning tore them apart but didn’t steal the love away from them. The fact that these two still love each other makes for an interesting moment every single time they are in the same room together. It gives me hope that one day this family will take a chance and work through their issues together.
Lacey: I thought the dynamic of this family was so organic and real. It’s something a lot of people can relate to, well, not the whole superpowers thing but a family with divorced parents. But what’s so different about Lynn and Jefferson is that you can see that deep love they still have for each other. You know that their separation wasn’t because of the lack of love but because of his time as Black Lightning. You can already see that they are both strong willed people who love with everything they have. And their daughters are the exact same way, even with Jennifer’s rebellious side. These four are willing to do what is right no matter what it takes.
Naomi: I love this family so much all ready. Jefferson and Lynn are obviously still very much in love, but we are being shown that love is not always enough sometimes. Lynn made a stand for her physical and emotional well being and that of the girls; I am happy that the writers made her strong in that way. But we all see the way they look at each other- a reunion is on the horizon and I am so here for it!
The girls are interesting and their chemistry is very palpable. The scene when they fall asleep together is so cute and relatable. I think Black Lightning is following very much in the footsteps of The Flash with family relationships. That is the strongest point to each of these shows by far.
Funmbi: As I mentioned before, the Pierce family is my favorite thing about this series (so far). Jefferson is a loving dad who would do anything to protect his daughters. Time and time again, it’s his desire to protect Anissa and Jennifer that motivate Jefferson to reclaim Black Lightning: first when the police unjustly stop them on their way to the school fundraiser; again when Jennifer is caught up in the Lala/Will foolishness at Club 100; and then finally at the end when Will kidnaps the girls. Similarly, Lynn is a devoted mother, but in the past has likely believed that keeping the girls away from Black Lightning would be best for them. In fact, this is what motivated her to divorce Jefferson. However, you could tell by the end of the episode that Lynn was starting to change her mind. Beyond that, it was great to see Jefferson and Lynn co-parent. It was even better to see their undeniable chemistry sizzle right off my TV screen. In terms of Anissa and Jennifer, their sister dynamic was spot-on. They love each other, cover each other, and aren’t afraid to call each other out for doing stupid things. It’s so authentic, because I would do anything for my little sister, including kicking some guy’s ass who’s trying to pressure her.
Though the show touches a variety of subjects and seems to take great care to depict the community in a realistic way, it tackles police brutality head on. What did you think about this choice? Was it even a choice?
Alyssa: The first two minutes of Black Lightning was some of the best television I’ve ever seen. It was so brutal, so infuriating, and yet so realistic. That’s the world we live in. Where a black man is stopped, roughed up by police because he’s a black man in a suit. That sequence and the brutality that lasted throughout the hour infuriated me in a way that I know doesn’t even come close to how angry people that have to live through this every day. This had to be done. And it was going to be done. That’s why Black Lightning is different from the other DCTV shows. That’s why Black Lightning resonates like the others don’t. Because it conveys a sense of realism that is powerful and will be powerful week-in and week-out.
Lizzie: I think it was one, but I don’t think you can tell this story in 2018 in any other way, and I’m glad they didn’t try. Because as angry as I was watching it happen on TV, that’s not even close to as angry the people this happens to every day are, and not even as close to as angry as we all should be about the fact that this is a problem that continues, to this day. So, to tell this story, they had to show this, and maybe this message will resonate with some people who’ve been, somehow, able to avoid the news.
Lyra: It sent chills down my spine. The first time the police stopped him…I couldn’t breathe. I could only watch in horror as someone innocent was treated like garbage, embarrassed, and then disposed of as if the officers did nothing wrong. It felt real and I can’t thank the writers enough for taking the time to craft such a powerful and painful scene. Just because they’re in a superhero show doesn’t mean that they’re going to ignore the reality of our world and what’s happening in it. They’re going to explore it.
Charles: If you want to be real to the Jefferson’s life, then there was no choice. This happens to all non-white men and women every day. I wish it didn’t but it’s the truth. Showing it right off the bat lets you know this is different from your regular CW/DC tv shows. This is going to be in your face about the hardships Jefferson and his family go through.
Lacey: As I said earlier, this world can be an ugly place and unfortunately, situations like the ones we saw in Tuesday’s episode are happening all over the world right now. I think this show is doing a stellar job at tackling this issue. I like that they don’t skate around the issue and instead, throw it in your face because that’s what needs to happen if we want to see change in this world. These writers are not afraid to attack issues head on and there is something so uplifting about that.
Naomi: They had to do it. Black Lightning like most heroes is the savior of his community and right now Freeland is overrun by thugs and disrespectful ass police. If Jefferson Pierce, upstanding principal is told to “Get your black ass on the ground”, what happens to Jefferson with no titles or Jefferson the teenager? The truth had to be televised!
Funmbi: Portraying police brutality/misconduct wasn’t a choice at all. This is the truth of what people of color and communities of color are facing everyday. It can’t have been easy to write and film those scenes, but we need to see it. We need to be uncomfortable and angry, and we need to be reminded to demand change in our own communities. To me, it’s fascinating that when Black Lightning protects the community, sometimes it’s from criminals, and other times, it’s from police too! I’m curious about what will happen going forward, because Black Lightning will face off against Tobias Whale, but he’ll probably also have to be in opposition to his friend Inspector Henderson. It has to be a very tough position for Jefferson to be in.
What are your feelings on Jefferson and Lynn?
At the end of the episode, we see Anissa in the bathroom discovering she also has powers. She had a tumultuous day of defending her sister, beingkidnapped and being pushed to the limit. What’s your take on her character and are you looking forward to Thunder?
Alyssa: There are no words to express my love for the badass that is Anissa Pierce. She’s everything that I’ve been waiting for in a character and didn’t realize I needed. She’s the picture of strength, confidence, vulnerability, and defiance in the best way. She’s someone that possesses an inner strength that grows every day and will soon show itself as a physical strength when she becomes Thunder. It’s important to me that Anissa is depicted as the hero she is already before she becomes a hero with superpowers. It’s more of an inevitability that she would become an even greater hero than she already is. Slay, Anissa. Slay.
Lizzie: I said it before and I’ll say it again: ALL HAIL QUEEN ANISSA. She’s already my fave and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. She was badass in every respect in this episode, and she now gets to discover her powers and be a full-fledged superhero? SIGN ME THE HELL UP.
Lyra: MY LESBIAN QUEEN OF COLOR WHO PROTECTS HER FAMILY, HAS A FIERCE HEART, AND JUST SO HAPPENS TO BE SUPERPOWERED AND WILL TRANSFORM INTO THUNDER, I LOVE YOU! The end.
Lacey: First off, yassssss! Anissa was already a badass but seeing her powers as Thunder emerging?! Yes queen, yes!! I’m so ready to see her and Jefferson fight side by side. With a show that has a male lead, I love that they are already prepping Anissa to fight just as hard as her dad and showing how badass females can be. I have no doubt that the writers will do this duo justice! Also, when they first appear together in their suits, can we get “Thunder” by Imagine Dragons playing in the background please?! EPIC!!
Naomi: I am super excited for Anissa to have powers, but I am also excited for the obvious tension it will cause. Anissa is an activist and even challenged her father about how he has decided to deal with problems on the rise around them. Because she and Jennifer have already been shown to be able to handle themselves, I can imagine Anissa will be a pretty trigger happy with her powers at first. Who wouldn’t with what she has just been through?
Funmbi: I’m SO, super excited to see Anissa become Thunder. One of the first things that we hear Lynn say to Jefferson is how much Anissa is like him. It totally makes sense that she would be the first sister to get her powers. It’ll be interesting to see how she will use them to protect her community, something that’s definitely on her mind. What I’m most curious about is if/when/how Jefferson will tell his daughters that he’s Black Lightning. Anissa doesn’t know about her father’s alter ego, so she’ll likely keep her powers to herself and go on vigilante adventures on her own. Wouldn’t it be nuts if Black Lightning and Thunder face off before realizing who they are?! Come to me family crime fighting scenes!
Jennifer found herself in over her head in this episode, and though she’s clearly fearless and resourceful, that’s bound to leave a mark. Where do you see her going forward and what do you want for her character this season?
Alyssa: Jennifer is a character that still has a long way to go before she’s ready to join the family business of crime fighting. There’s no doubt in my mind that she possesses the courage and fearlessness that her father and sister also possess. But Jennifer is young, and her journey is just beginning. I’m looking forward to watching her evolve through her experiences — good and bad. Anissa is a little further along in her hero’s journey, but that means we get to see Jennifer’s journey from the beginning. We get to see her realize the injustice and the threat in her world and how that’ll ultimately shape her as a human being and, eventually, a hero.
Lizzie: Well, I think it’s clear that crime-fighting is going to be a family business, but as for Jennifer, I kinda of hope she gets a chance to grow, not just be a superhero or whatever. A chance to have some sort of normal life, a chance to have friends, and even, within the family dynamic, a chance for them to be more than a crime-fighting team.
Lyra: I loved that they made her someone I didn’t expect. I was ready for her to be the bratty young teen who didn’t listen. And in that respect she did live up to the expectation. But she surprised me with how she fought back, how she didn’t take it laying down, and how she worked on getting out of the situations she had found herself in in a manner that even I would do so. She’s got a lot of growing up to do but I’m willing to stick by her side to see where this show takes her next.
Lacey: I like how strong-willed she is and that she doesn’t back down but that can also be a hindrance. I don’t want her to lose that side of her, just mold it and grow and know what battles to pick and when to just move on. I’m excited to see what happens with her next especially with her dad and sister both having powers. Have I mentioned how much I love this damn show?!?!
Naomi: I like that Jennifer is a little sassy. It makes for funny and complicated dialogue with her family.Jennifer is the baby so I imagine she will be babied even more after their ordeal- and not just by Jefferson. Her rebellious side will probably continue, but Anissa having her powers manifest first is a good way to create a mentorship arc for the two of them. This is also why I think crossing over with another show is so important because I think the relationships with other heroes will be helpful to both girls.
Funmbi: Jennifer is definitely the baby of the family. She uses this to her advantage to get out of the consequences of the ill-advised risks she takes. However, Jennifer’s a teenager, so (like Lynn says) it shouldn’t surprise us that she would chafe against expectations of being the principal’s daughter. As of now, Jennifer doesn’t seem to be as socially conscious as Anissa, but that doesn’t mean she’s uncaring. I’m looking forward to seeing Jennifer come into her own as a young woman and as a superhero. She’ll certainly have strong examples from her sister and father.
Black Lightning airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on the CW.
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