None of my pals wanted to see Ramp-age: Era of Inclined Planes with me, & I didn’t take the personal initiative. (Perhaps I’ll get around to it when exactly nobody care anymore.) That means this week’s blog will be about the conclusion of Black Lightning’s inaugural season. While Legends of Tomorrow is the most fun of The CW’s DC shows, Black Lightning may be its overall best. So it’s currently the reverse-Arrow! Spoilers for stuff that happened after the galvanizing premiere including the first finale strike below!
Starting this season in media res was a great choice. (Filming the flashbacks in black & white contrasts strikingly with the modern day vibrancy.) We didn’t have to wait seasons to get the whole Pierce family in the superhero loop. Once they surmount their obligatory mistaken identity clash, Jefferson & Anissa become a dynamic daddy-daughter duo! He’s so proud of her! Black Lightning won Take Your Daughter to Work Day! Their metahuman team up to destroy the Green Light lab was spectacular. They’re too cool to look at explosions!
Thunder’s first costume with the Beyonce disguise wig was pretty comic accurate. So is her second, although it resembles Bumblebee. Consummate rebel Jennifer resents having superpowers although she wields them well. Hopefully Jennifer transforms into an electricity-porcupine when she becomes no-adjective Lightning. She most likely won’t. (DC also has a brother duo named Thunder & Lightning for extra confusion.)
Jill Scott’s chilling Lady Eve proves shes should’ve been cast as Amanda Waller! She’s a stickler for manners that embalms those who fail her alive! I was hoping that she’d magically resurrect herself after being killed with a lightning canon. The Cult of Kobra she’s associated with didn’t appear either. Maybe they’re saving both for season two?
While Tobias “habitual line-stepper” Whale frames Black Lightning for killing Lady Eve, Black Lightning ambushes him! That’s stupendous ironic timing. I love when superheroes are proactive & cunning. Once he’s healed, Tobias wisely starts wearing rubber undergarments to insulate himself.
Shady government agency ASA invented a vaccine three decades ago secretly designed to make blacks docile. Instead it gave some superpowers like Jefferson Pierce, & the Freeland experiment was terminated once his father tried to expose it. Now the vaccine’s mutagenic component is turned into a PCP-type street drug called Green Light in hopes of creating superhuman soldiers. (Green Light killed the market for old fashioned drugs. That is some realistic yet hilarious world building.) This is not a great plan. They have to monitor its users for signs of superpowers, kidnap them, keep them in cryo-storage until they work out stabilizing these powers, & eventually coerce them to serve the ASA. (Do they even have a brainwashing program ready?) Why not cut out most of those steps by using the mutagen on people who are already willing ASA operatives?
Nobody in Freeland buys bespoke clothes, so Peter “Exposition Alfred” Gambi has plenty of free time to run BL’s errands. He must have an excellent ASA pension to afford a holographic Danger Room. Gambi’s former employer, Martin Proctor, tortures him & renditions Principal Pierce as an extra inducement to divulge the identity of Freeland’s local superhero. When both mysteriously escape shortly thereafter, Proctor immediately deduces Pierce is Black Lightning. Hooray for competent villains! Luckily Gambi rigs his hologram projector as a decoy while Jefferson is in police custody on trumped up drug charges.
The corrupt police got taken down in one episode. It’s rushed & too tidy, but the world probably needs some escapism wins. They were foreshadowing Inspector Henderson being killed by the dirty cops, so him getting a promotion was a nice swerve.
Syonide joins Deadshot & Victor Zsasz in the annals of exemplary assassins that are inexplicably ineffective against main characters. The nonplussed expression on her face when she realizes her recoil-free pistols have no effect on Thunder was hilariously understated. To her credit, she continues brawling even after being thunder-stomped. (I would’ve pretended to be unconscious & then run away.) She’s got work ethic in addition to subdermal armor (but no electro-whip). While she gets plenty of couture outfits, Charlbi Dean Kriek wears the best Syonide costume in Can’t Have You. Perhaps next season she can effectively slay Violet Harper… until she’s resurrected by an extraterrestrial as Halo.
Khalil Payne feels more like Chuck Clayton from the comics than Riverdale‘s (at least until he’s paralyzed & rebuilt by Whale), yet they’re both Jordan Calloway! Khalil’s new dreads turned him evil? I’ll allow it. Somehow getting a cybernetic spinal implant is directly tied into him shooting neurotoxin darts out of wrist gauntlets. He turns out to be obscure villain Painkiller with less weapons strapped to his body.
The weirdest part of the series was when the murdered crimester formerly known as Latavius wakes up alive with the ghost of his latest victim becoming a face inscribed onto his chest. Lady Eve’s ground albino powder really was magic? YEEESSSS!!!!! No, wait, Tobias actually spent a million dollars to resurrect him without magic as a sleeper assassin. Surely it would’ve been cheaper to Manchurian Candidate somebody living? Whale calls him Tattoo Man, although his inexplicable power is completely useless unlike the similar sounding Tattooed Man’s. Then he explodes without killing Proctor. So that was a waste.
Proctor & his rogue ASA team have to find a sample of stable metahuman genes within hours to keep his test subjects alive in their cryo-pods. After Gambi kills him for being too on the nose with his political analogue dialogue (though sadly not while cosplaying The Shadow like when he whacked Joey Toledo), Dr. Lynn Stewart announces she knows someone who can help with the pods. Then it cuts to news interviews & Jefferson jogging with his daughters. We don’t know whether Lynn’s friend stabilized the pods or defrosted their contents. That’s unsatisfying. At least we know Tobias stole
Marcellus Wallace’s soul the source of Green Light to hopefully make his own metahuman army with panache than Proctor.
Grace Choi’s Outsiders comic book has Lady Eve & Syonide on the cover! This metafictional joke confuses me as to the nature of the series’ reality! How did this universe’s DC Comics happen to pick the same names as these low profile villainesses? Or do these characters just have new names on this Earth? Looker is namedropped, but it’s unclear if she’s only fictional here. In addition to folding 90’s comics in her pants like a philistine, Grace abruptly vanishes from the narrative. Since she’s not a Bana-Mighdall Amazon here, I was expecting her to get superhuman strength from Green Light.
This was a great first season. Its real world politics have a lived-in authenticity, but it doesn’t neglect its fun superhero aspects. (The season’s best gag was when low level dealer Two-Bits asks for a selfie with Black Lightning before being punched out.) Despite tackling heavy issues, it ended on an upbeat note with the Pierce family united. It refrained from prematurely killing any of its core cast too! Black Lightning is like a Marvel Netflix show with better pacing & exciting visuals! I worry about whether it’ll get an expanded episode count in season two, as that hasn’t been working out so well for Riverdale‘s sophomore season. It looks like the next will be more focused on the Pierces fighting The 100’s super-crimesters instead of generic government conspiracies, so I’ll be back for more. Hopefully its quality will fully recharge with each renewal. (If a Black Lightning review doesn’t contain any strained electricity puns, did it even happen?)
Speaking of live action adaptations of mid-tier DC properties with black in their names, Steven Spielberg wants to make a Blackhawk movie? (Black Canary is also likely to co-star in Cathy Yan’s Birds of Prey film, while The Black Racer may cameo in Ava DuVernay’s The New Gods. Get a new agent, Black Condor & Black Spider!) It’s rumored to be a pulpy WWII adventure. If it’s not a slavish ode to The New Blackhawk Era, however, what is even the point?
Infinity War opens next weekend, so I’m obligated by law to write about that. In the meantime I may sneak out a paean to Gotham’s villains to further ensure my eventual review of Jessica Jones season two is less timely.