Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Pilot Review: Black Lightning

Black Lightning (CW)
Premiered January 16 at 9pm

There’s one thing that the relatively young network the CW does really well, and that’s superhero dramas. It makes total sense that they’d want to add more such series to their lineup, especially since DC Comics has provided the characters and storylines for most of their successful brands. I knew that this wasn’t related to what’s frequently referred to as the Arrowverse, and therefore it started off just on its own without debuting as a backdoor pilot on a preexisting series. I don’t know anything about Black Lightning, and therefore I assumed that the original comic featured dad Jefferson as the superhero and that this show would feature one of his daughters taking on that mantle. Both of those appear to be true to a degree, thanks to the episode-ending reveal that Anissa has abilities about which she wasn’t previously aware. This show is aiming to be relevant and timely with its depiction of an African-American man pulled over in the rain in the middle of the night because he matched the very thin description given of someone who committed a crime, though I found there to be way too many guns brandished at school to be comfortable given how often that has been happening in the real world these days. Black Lightning’s powers are cool, at least, but it does seem like it’s going to be a very slow burn for a member of the family to emerge back into the limelight as a superhero. I knew I recognized star Cress Williams from somewhere, and it turns out it was his unfortunate role on “Prison Break,” so at least this is a huge improvement on that. I immediately identified James Remar’s voice from his work on “Dexter,” even if his face looked a bit different. I think there are meaty roles for each member of the Pierce family, and the actresses here are likely to have good showcases going forward. I don’t think I’ll be sticking around since this didn’t grip me, and its pacing is a bit slower than I prefer for superhero shows.

How will it work as a series? Jefferson hung up his costume to become a principal for a reason, and now he’s going to have to go back into the superhero business to clean up the streets around him, which should prove enticing if the universe around him is stocked with similarly intriguing characters. Its setting feels a lot more real-world, suggesting a lack of typical comic book villains, which might not be a bad thing, but this show is going to have to prove its worth.
How long will it last? After a strong debut, this show demonstrated its staying power in its subsequent episodes (the advantage of watching a pilot after two more episodes have already aired is seeing into its future). Reviews are very strong, and I think the CW has discovered an audience for a type of show that doesn’t really exist right now on its network, which should lead to a bright future for this series.

Pilot grade: B

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