Monday, 9 July 2018

Black Lighting: Season 1 ★★☆☆☆

DC just cannot deal with Marvel being in the limelight, can it? It has to copy every bloody thing the Marvel Cinematic Universe does. Marvel gives us The Avengers, DC gives us Justice League. Marvel gives us Captain America: Civil War, DC gives us Batman Vs Superman. Now, Marvel has given us Black Panther. Of course, DC has to come along and shout “oooh, oooh, we’ve got a black superhero too!” and throw Black Lightning at us. For goodness sake. When will it end?

Let’s just get through this. High school principal Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams), who retired from his superhero persona Black Lightning nine years ago after seeing the effects it had on his family, is forced to become a vigilante again when the rise of the local gang called “The 100” leads to increased crime and corruption in his community of Freeland (yes, the peaceful community equilibrium is called Freeland). Oh, and if you’re wondering where he gets his name, he can harness and manipulate electricity. Of course he can, he’s Black Lightning.

Now I’ve not really got anything to say about this show but I will try and bulk this review out enough to make it appear like there’s plenty to discuss but, there really isn’t. The main thing of note with Black Lightning is it is culturally relevant and often important in its portrayal of race and class. Jefferson and his family are stopped by police and threatened with guns in one uncomfortable sequence, portraying racial profiling which is always a very difficult thing to see. It is brave and rare that this was included in a superhero story, and I applaud that. Black Lightning also quotes greats like Martin Luther King Jr., making the show almost educational and certainly packing at least some good dialogue.

Putting this hero into a real world with real racism is certainly what stands it out from the largely Wakanda-set Black Panther. Don’t expect Straight Outta Compton (film) levels of racism and brutality to be portrayed, or even discussed – but even the minimum is harrowing enough to witness. But without these race references – and hell, even with them – the show never really managed to evolve into something better than its premise. Over the first season’s 13 episodes I was never truly engrossed by the narrative or action, and nothing at all other than this review pulled me back to watch the next episode. Shows like Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones leave the viewer wanting more after every single episode, Black Lightning left me utterly uninterested, ep after ep.

There are far better TV superheroes out there. Stick with Netflix’s output, because this certainly can’t hold a candle to that. While the Netflix shows feel truly cinematic and polished, I was very aware throughout Black Lightning that this was a television show. It has that TV feel, you know? And when your competitors in the genre are so much better, you need to try harder. Black Lightning might improve on its second season but right now, there’s so much already on the market that is vastly superior. 

Sam Love

Black Lighting: Season 1 at CeX

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