Black Lightning: The Cool Badass Dad of DCTV

Countless articles have been written about how Black Lightning has changed the game for DCTV. Starring largely (if not solely) an African-American cast, grounded in the real-world challenges that people of color face today, and with a LGBTQ+ relationship front and center, it certainly isn’t the typical superhero show. Not enough can be said about the importance of those issues. However, Black Lightning is also notable for adding maturity and gravitas as the Badass Dad of the DCTV universe.

Trained…But Tired


From his introduction, Jefferson Pierce is the oldest and perhaps most experienced of the universe’s superheroes. (One might argue who is more experienced between Jefferson and Oliver, but Black Lightning doesn’t dwell on the flashbacks to its titular hero’s immature, training years.) He knows his powers and what he is capable of. Moreover, he has his support system, even with the romantic tension with his ex-wife. He isn’t trying to figure out what it means to be a hero. In fact, he has been a hero. It cost him his family, and he wants more than anything to find a way to get it back.

On the one hand, it’s refreshing to skip past the “How to be a hero” phase (or flashbacks) and get right to the heart of superhero-dom. Origin stories can grow rather stale, so it’s nice to jump past the prologue and get right into the heart of the story. On the other hand, starting off older and wiser comes with its own share of difficulties. He’s also more grizzled. More scarred, emotionally and physically. And so much more tired.   

Don’t Mess with the “Old Man”


The heroes of the Arrowverse are like an extended family. Oliver Queen is that uncle that seems so straight-laced and serious, but he has the absolute craziest stories from when he was younger. Barry Allen is the younger brother you always kind of want to hug and kind of want to strangle – but you’ll fight anyone who is mean to him. Kara is that best friend who isn’t your sister but might as well be because you’re so close that nobody really remembers you aren’t biologically related. And the Legends are all those extended family members you see at every reunion and wonder why you don’t hang out more – until you realize a few hours later that they’re absolutely exhausting and you just need a nap.

The Powers that Be claim that Black Lightning will not technically be integrated into the DCTV universe. From a viewer’s perspective, that’s both a blessing and a curse. But even if he is apart from the DCTV universe, he still has his role in the family. Black Lightning is the cool, badass dad – but you don’t want to get on his bad side.

Of course, he isn’t just the dad of DCTV. He’s a father in his own right. He once hung up his cowl (or, rather, his goggles) for love of his family. However, it is that same love that pulls him back in, when his children are threatened. He isn’t a hero trying to learn how to be a father. He’s a father wondering if he dare once again be a hero.

Naturally, it isn’t easy to juggle these two aspects of his life. Oliver Queen wants to keep his sister, his friends, his wife, and his newfound son safe. Barry Allen struggles to protect his wife and friends. The Legends fight to…well, stop breaking time so much. Jefferson Pierce must protect his teenage daughters – and teenagers aren’t great at keeping themselves safe even when their parents aren’t superheroes.

It may be that over the course of the show, we will see Jefferson want to both protect and to strangle his daughters. If my memory of my own teenage years is anything to go by, it may be a toss-up which side wins from week to week.

But Still So Much Romantic Drama 


Black Lightning doesn’t entirely veer away from the traditional superhero formula. It has the same romantic drama as every other superhero story on DCTV. Oliver had the ex-girlfriend he loved when he was younger and the woman he came to love as an adult. Barry Allen has the woman he’s loved his entire life, in every universe and world and time. The Legends have had…well, as with everything, the Legends are complicated. Nothing is ever simplified with time travel. And Jefferson has the wife he lost when the dangers of being a hero hit a little too close to home.

Jefferson and Lynn have history. They have daughters they both helped raise. They have an incredible depth of love for one other. And they have the romantic angst of two people who absolutely belong together but cannot get on the same page, oh my god.

Two episodes in, and this show is killing me already.

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