'Black Lightning' Recap: Even Black Superheroes Have To Deal With Racial Politics 

Bob Mahoney/The CW

Sydney Scott Jan, 17, 2018

There are two things you will immediately notice about The CW’s latest series Black Lightning — yes, that is Scooter (Cress Williams) from Living Single playing Jefferson Pierce, aka Black Lightning and two, the Salim Akil and Mara Brock Akil-created show is hella Black.

The community Pierce, his daughters Jennifer (China Anne McClain) and Annisa (Nafessa Williams), and ex-wife Lynn (Christine Adams) live in is Black. Garfield High School, where Pierce is the principal is predominantly Black. Veteran detective William Henderson (Damon Gupton) is Black. Hell, even the television anchor (played by the late morning anchor and journalist Amanda Davis) in the first minutes of the series premiere is Black. And, the similarities between the protests occurring onscreen during a fictional news segment and the Black Lives Matter movement we’ve witnessed recently do not go unnoticed.

There’s a Harriet Tubman mention from Jennifer referring to her sister, Anissa, who later trades barbs with her father during their ride home from jail (Anissa gets arrested at a protest) using Martin Luther King Jr. and Fannie Lou Hammer quotes.

But, it’s during this ride home that the show begins to explore the complexities and politics of that Blackness. 

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Two officers pull Jefferson over because they’re looking for a robbery suspect, their only clue: he’s Black. And, the situation escalates when one officer shoves Jefferson against the car as another draws his weapon. During this encounter, Jefferson’s eyes become electric with rage, a rage any Black person who’s ever been racially-profiled will recognize.

The episode continues to explore the nuances of Blackness through dialogue between Anissa and Jefferson, who regularly butt heads, resulting in jabs like this from the superheroes eldest daughter, “What happened, dad? When did you abandon your people?”

Bob Mahoney/The CW

Again, when a gang member grabs Jennifer outside of Garfield and says, “Why do Black girls gotta have so much attitude?” And, later, when that same guy is talked out of shooting up the school after Jefferson tells him, “The police don’t care who you are, they will shoot your Black ass for fun.” 

Even Black Lightning is no stranger to the politics of race, which real-life NewsOne Now host and journalist Roland Martin comments on, pointing out the double standards Black superheroes face. Superpowers or not, Black Lightning is still Black. 

With their first episode, the Akils have perfectly established an engaging world reflective of our own with a Black superhero who isn’t just been placed in some random setting, but into a community of Black faces and Black culture.

With the episode ending on Anissa beginning to discover her own strength and a war brewing between Black Lightning and The 100 Gang, we’re excited to see where the series goes. 

Random thoughts:

– Always here for Sampha’s “Blood on Me.”

– Could not stop thinking about the parallels between LaLa and Jefferson during their scene together, during which the gang member says, “You teach them your way and I’ll teach them mine.”

– The moment when Jefferson leaves the school to save Anissa and Jennifer and delivers the line, “To get our girls,” is the moment it became clear that Cress Williams should have played a superhero a long time ago.

– Also, Williams’ spot-on delivery of this, “Now, you should at least give a brotha a moment to say something heroic and clever.” 

– That lingering shot of Cress Williams in the shower!!!!!

via GIPHY

Black Lightning airs Tuesdays at 9p.m. ET on The CW.