When I first got the email telling me that Black Lightning had been released on Netflix on Tuesday, I was a bit shocked. I hadn’t expected it to come out for a while longer, since I hadn’t been following its release schedule. But it was a pleasant surprise and I immediately set out to watch it.
For those that want a quick review then all I can say is go watch it for a fun, campy superhero show with actual superpowers.
Unlike Netflix’s other Comic based shows, Black Lightning is not a serious and darkly toned show, at least not yet since they are releasing each episode on a weekly basis which prevents me from binge watching all the episodes in a caffeine fueled madness like I want to. While some of the themes and ideas in the show so far point towards a darker side of the story, so far it remains light. When compared to the Marvel properties that Netflix have released, it is a totally different style of show.
Cress Williams plays Jefferson Pierce, a retired Black Lightning, who is doing his best to restore his broken marriage and keep his two daughters safe and well in a city that is slowly tearing itself apart with gang violence. His performance is perfect for what I wanted to see in this show. I have been getting a bit tired of these serious and dour street heroes that Netflix has been serving up to us with its Marvel shows. The Defenders and Iron Fist have so far been the only light in a very, very dark world that has been created.
By the time the climax of the first show arrived I was fully invested in the family and their daily struggles. The youngest daughter, trying her hardest to make her own space in the shadow of her older sister and father. The eldest daughter, trying her hardest to be a mother figure to her little sister when their actual mother doesn’t live with them. The mother, with her own issues and fears, keeping a distance from her own family. Finally, the father, a man who is doing his best to protect those around him and the school he has worked so hard to build into something good, without needing to rely on his abilities as Black Lightning.
In a lot of ways, the story is compelling and interesting. Once Black Lightning was on screen and in costume I cheered. The costume design department have outdone themselves and some people obviously had a lot of fun in making a functional battle suit for a hero with lightning powers. While I don’t know its accuracy to the comic version I loved it.
A lot of other reviews seem to think it is coming in strong on racial overtones and discrimination and while not entirely wrong, I don’t think the show fully intended to point out these facts. At least not in the opening minutes. There are certain lines and themes that do touch on racial prejudices, but at the same time those very things make the show a bit more relatable. They exist in the real world, they should exist in the show too, and since they exist in the show its best to establish quickly and without doubt that the main character is not immune to it.
There were a few twists and turns and some great character moments in this first episode. I am really looking forward to watching episode two, next Tuesday.