The CW will continue its superhero takeover with its latest addition, Black Lightning. The new series, helmed by showrunners Salim Akil (Jumping the Broom and Girlfriends) and Mara Brock Akil (creator of The Game and Being Mary Jane), will be the fifth DC Comics adaptation to join the network.
Taking the timeslot immediately following The Flash on Tuesday nights, here are five reasons to be excited for (and really why you should be watching and supporting) Black Lightning.
It’s the first DCTV show with a black lead.
If you’ve seen any of the Black Lightning promos, then you obviously know the show focuses on Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams), a former vigilante-turned high school principal. The series is the first ever DCTV show to be led by a black superhero. Making his debut in 1977’s Black Lightning #1, Jefferson was also the first black superhero in DC Comics. It’s 2018, so it’s ridiculous we’ve had to wait this long for the superhero genre to play catch-up, but we’re finally here. The show will not only focus on heroics, but also on the Pierce family dynamics–which include Jefferson’s superhero daughters, Anissa (Nafessa Williams) and Jennifer (China Anne McClain) and ex-wife, Lynn Pierce (Christine Adams)–and it’ll be just as essential to the narrative. The CW isn’t known for having very diverse casts (Jane the Virgin and The Flash being exceptions), so Black Lightning is another wonderful addition and also a great step forward for the network and the superhero genre.
The primary romance is between two women of color.
For all that fans have clamored for more same-sex romances in the superhero genre (Supergirl fans have long insisted Kara and Lena be together in canon), Black Lightning‘s primary romance will be between two women of color: Anissa Pierce and Grace Choi (Chantal Thuy). The only other lesbian romance on The CW’s superhero shows involved Alex Danvers (Chyler Leigh) and Maggie Sawyer (Floriana Lima) and, briefly, Sara (Caity Lotz) and Nyssa (Katrina Law) on Arrow. The coupling between Anissa and Grace is the first of its kind on The CW and also for DCTV at large. Not only is it one of a kind, but the relationship between Anissa and Grace is also straight from the pages of the comic book, which means there’s a lot of source material to back it up in terms of storytelling. For anyone who has ever longed for more representation for romantic relationships between LGBT couples should tune in to Black Lightning and support and champion Anissa and Grace’s relationship.
It’s not an origin story.
While many superhero stories have been all about the lead character’s origin story, Black Lightning isn’t. The series will pick up long after Jefferson Pierce has retired from being a superhero and hung up his costume. Now a high school principal with an ex-wife and two grown children, Jefferson won’t be trying to figure out how to use his powers or how to deal with his newfound abilities. We’ll be dropped into a story that already has a rich history between the characters and picks up with new adventures, motivations, and a more mature superhero. It could be considered a reboot origin, but the question will really be why Jefferson chooses to don his costume once more and how he’ll deal with his life now that he’s out of retirement. It’s something that’s certainly unique among the plethora of younger-skewing superhero shows and will surely create a fantastic dynamic between its characters. Beyond that, the show will also be about family and this will take center stage in many instances.
It will cover topics about race and justice that the other DCTV shows are far too afraid to address.
The other CW superhero shows, while fun and are strong on their own merits, have never been quite able to discuss issues such as race, class, or social justice very well. On Arrow, for example, Oliver Queen is mayor of the city but we rarely see him help the citizens of his city in any meaningful way and the last time we ever saw mentions of class was during the first season. On The Flash, the West family has long been central to Barry’s story and to his progress as a character, but the show never addresses outright the very powerful fact that he’s a white man who’s been heavily influenced, taken in, and loved immensely by a black family. Supergirl likes to pretend it’s on top of issues like immigration, but it would rather just drop a one-liner here and there and be done. Meanwhile, Black Lightning will be tackling real life issues, including race, in a more direct approach and not just fighting off crime as a vigilante. According to series star Cress Williams, Black Lightning “is looking at real-life problems in an actual city, in an actual neighborhood and trying to conquer those problems — i.e., drugs and corruption, gun violence, police violence, and just oppression that happens below the poverty line.”
Anissa and Jennifer Pierce will be just as important to the narrative as their father.
Beyond just focusing on Jefferson, Anissa and Jennifer will also be heavily featured. Each young woman has a distinct personality. Anissa is a medical student who teaches part-time at the high school where her younger sister, Jennifer, attends. Anissa, the first black lesbian superhero on TV, will also become the metahuman known as Thunder, following in her father’s footsteps in her own way. Jennifer, on the other hand, seems like more of a rebel and has “a wild streak of her own“; she will also go on to become the superhero known as Lightning. Diversity doesn’t just mean having more characters of color onscreen as tokens (looking at you, Riverdale), but writing them as actual people with real emotions and challenges of their own. By the looks of it, Anissa and Jennifer will be very three-dimensional and dynamic and that’s really important to see onscreen. It’ll be exciting to see two black women take center stage in a superhero narrative that is often not afforded to them on The CW (currently, The Flash’s Candice Patton and Legends of Tomorrow’s Maisie Richardson-Sellers are the only black female characters on the network with sufficient screen time).
Black Lightning is set to premiere on Tuesday, January 16 at 9/8c on The CW.
What are you most excited about? Let me know in the comments section below!