Black Lightning‘s series premiere was a glorious breath of fresh air on The CW! Check out our thoughts on “The Resurrection” in this week’s DCTV roundtable with our friends Fangirlish!
Black Lightning premiered last week and it completely exceeded my expectations! I really enjoyed seeing Jefferson Pierce, the family man, the principal/Black Jesus, and the hella reluctant superhero. After a nine year hiatus, Jefferson’s willingness to do anything to protect his daughters forced him back into his Black Lightning alter ego. And truth be told, Freeland really needs him. The premiere set up so many fascination questions: How long will Black Lightning stick around this time? Will Jefferson and Lynn get back together? What will Anissa do with her new powers? Is Tobias Whale really going to be in these streets harpooning people?!
Thank goodness I can share my thoughts/flails in this week’s DCTV roundtable with our friends Fangirlish! Team Fangirlish came up with the awesome questions, which I’ve included below along with my responses and Alyssa’s (Fangirlish) and Lizzie’s (Fangirlish) contributions. The full roundtable post includes a total of SEVEN contributors, so definitely go HERE for more about “The Resurrection”.
1. Describe your thoughts about “The Resurrection” using just six words.
Funmbi: 2018: Year of the Black Superhero!
Alyssa: A stunning, emotional masterpiece of perfection.
Lizzie: Best DCTV show of them all!
2. Describe your feelings about “The Resurrection” using a gif.
3. What was your favorite part of the episode? Is there anything you would change? One episode in, who’s your favorite character?
Funmbi: The Black Lightning series premiere was *fantastic* from beginning to end; honestly, there isn’t anything that I would change. I love that, right from the bat, the show is diving into narratives that reflect the realities of communities of color across America at this very moment. It’s incredibly powerful to see representations like this on primetime television and in the DCTV universe–the good (a beautiful, Black family and community activism), the bad (gang violence), and the ugly (police brutality/misconduct). This might be cheating, but my favorite part and my favorite character is the Pierce family unit. The family dynamics are beyond compelling and authentic. Since there’s a question coming up below about family, I’ll save my flails for later…
Alyssa: There was so much to love about Black Lightning. Like Lizzie, I want to just say EVERYTHING. It was so refreshing to watch a television show like this — better yet, a television show that hails from the DCTV universe and airs on The CW. Sheer brilliance. The thing that immediately jumped out to me was the family focus of this series, and that right there gave me a reason to watch week-in and week-out. I was shocked at how quickly I felt an attachment to these characters — like if someone hurt them I’d want to knock the shit out of them. Bravo, Black Lightning. I wouldn’t change a thing. Except maybe could we get two hours instead of one hour? Just saying. More is always better with this show. I know that already after a single 43-minute episode.
Like Lizzie, I’d have to say my favorite character is Anissa. She’s just a badass that has so many amazing and inspiring qualities about her. She’s an activist, she’s a loving daughter, she’s a protective sister, and she’s someone who will always stand up for what she believes in, regardless of the dangers that come with taking a stance. Anissa is another addition to the DCTV universe of superheroes that are superheroes that don’t need a costume to be one. Slay, Anissa, slay.
Lizzie: Everything? No, really, why do I have to pick one thing? I loved the sisters, I loved the family dynamics, I loved Jefferson the principal and Jefferson the superhero. I loved him and Lynn. I loved Peter and the relationship he has with Jefferson. I loved everything, and I wouldn’t change a thing.
As for my favorite character, MAKE WAY FOR ANISSA, ALL HAIL QUEEN ANISSA. Isn’t she badass? I’m a big sister and I felt like I was her every step of the way in this episode, not just with the laying down of the law (or trying to), but with her standing up for her sister. I can’t wait to see her as a full superhero, but as it stands right now, she already is one for me.
4. The show tackles race head on – showing Jefferson Pierce as a black man first, a superhero second. What do you think about this approach and what does it mean to see this story being told by a writers room that understands?
Funmbi: If I can make a shameless plug, I was at DC in DC for the Black Lightning premiere, and it was such an inspiring event. The truth is that entertainment cannot be separate from the realities of politics and society. It was wonderful to be able to talk candidly about the importance of representation and the ways media and comics can broker change. Anywho, I had a chance to chat with Salim Akil and Mara Brock Akil, Black Lightning’s showrunners. The Akils expressed their concern about how the very serious issues facing the Black community aren’t being reflected on primetime TV. Their intention with Black Lightning is to put the Black man and the Black father at the center of the story. With this goal in mind, it’s clear that the show would portray issues of racial inequality and the ugliness. In the first moments of the episode, we see the Freeland is in crisis, with threats from criminal elements AND police. It is jarring and disheartening, but it is also real. But what I love most, is that we see the beauty of Black communities, too. We see representations of loving families and vibrant community activism. This is also real.
Alyssa: This show is so important because it takes that approach — a series about a black superhero that is a black man by day, black man by night, and that just also happens to be written by a black man. There’s a sense of genuineness that comes with that. There’s an honesty and the stance of not shying away from the brutal honesty of the world that a black man like Jefferson lives in every day. I cannot imagine how important this kind of representation is for people that can genuinely relate to this. But I’m so beyond grateful that Black Lightning is able to give that to so many people. Diversity on television is so important because television should be reflective of the world we live in. And not only that, but we need more diversity in the writer’s rooms, as well. Because if you’re not telling genuine, diverse stories, what the hell is the point?
Lizzie: I was emotional for every second of this episode, and I can’t even imagine what someone who can truly relate to this felt like. I think episodes like this show the reason why diversity is needed on TV, not just because we all want to see ourselves in characters, but because diverse stories are different stories, our experiences are not the same, and we can’t truly say that TV is capturing the whole scope of human experience unless it’s really telling diverse stories.
5. Black Lightning positioned itself as first and foremost a story about family – setting up divorced but still very much in love Jefferson and Lynn, and their two daughters, Anissa and Jennifer as an unit. What did you think about their family dynamics and how did you feel while watching them just be a family?
Funmbi: As I mentioned before, the Pierce family is my favorite thing about this series (so far). Jefferson is a loving dad who would do anything to protect his daughters. Time and time again, it’s his desire to protect Anissa and Jennifer that motivate Jefferson to reclaim Black Lightning: first when the police unjustly stop them on their way to the school fundraiser; again when Jennifer is caught up in the Lala/Will foolishness at Club 100; and then finally at the end when Will kidnaps the girls. Similarly, Lynn is a devoted mother, but in the past has likely believed that keeping the girls away from Black Lightning would be best for them. In fact, this is what motivated her to divorce Jefferson. However, you could tell by the end of the episode that Lynn was starting to change her mind. Beyond that, it was great to see Jefferson and Lynn co-parent. It was even better to see their undeniable chemistry sizzle right off my TV screen. In terms of Anissa and Jennifer, their sister dynamic was spot-on. They love each other, cover each other, and aren’t afraid to call each other out for doing stupid things. It’s so authentic, because I would do anything for my little sister, including kicking some guy’s ass who’s trying to pressure her.
Alyssa: The familial element was the thing that truly drew me in. The reason I watch and keep watching superhero shows is because I give a damn about the characters. And already in one episode, I care a great deal about this family. The family dynamic was organic in its conception and execution. It’s something that’s reminiscent of real life families despite this being a show where the father is a superhero. When a superhero show can feel like it could exist in our world today, you know that it’s something special. I loved the parent-daughter dynamics, the sister relationship, and the angst that is Jefferson and Lynn. Dear lord, I ship them. I ship them bad. I’m going to need this in my life. Now.
Lizzie: Sometimes – not to say all times – TV tends to show diverse families in ways that highlight how different they are, and yes, in some things, there are obvious differences, but TV also fails, in general, to show the many ways they are similar to the families we’re used to seeing on TV. Black Lightning does that in a way that’s not just refreshing, it’s real. Plus, I already ship Jefferson and Lynn, that’s some sizzling chemistry they got there, fix your shit, people. FIX YOUR SHIT.
6. Though the show touches a variety of subjects and seems to take great care to depict the community in a realistic way, it tackles police brutality head on. What did you think about this choice? Was it even a choice?
Funmbi: Portraying police brutality/misconduct wasn’t a choice at all. This is the truth of what people of color and communities of color are facing everyday. It can’t have been easy to write and film those scenes, but we need to see it. We need to be uncomfortable and angry, and we need to be reminded to demand change in our own communities. To me, it’s fascinating that when Black Lightning protects the community, sometimes it’s from criminals, and other times, it’s from police too! I’m curious about what will happen going forward, because Black Lightning will face off against Tobias Whale, but he’ll probably also have to be in opposition to his friend Inspector Henderson. It has to be a very tough position for Jefferson to be in.
Alyssa: The first two minutes of Black Lightning was some of the best television I’ve ever seen. It was so brutal, so infuriating, and yet so realistic. That’s the world we live in. Where a black man is stopped, roughed up by police because he’s a black man in a suit. That sequence and the brutality that lasted throughout the hour infuriated me in a way that I know doesn’t even come close to how angry people that have to live through this every day. This had to be done. And it was going to be done. That’s why Black Lightning is different from the other DCTV shows. That’s why Black Lightning resonates like the others don’t. Because it conveys a sense of realism that is powerful and will be powerful week-in and week-out.
Lizzie: I think it was one, but I don’t think you can tell this story in 2018 in any other way, and I’m glad they didn’t try. Because as angry as I was watching it happen on TV, that’s not even close to as angry the people this happens to every day are, and not even as close to as angry as we all should be about the fact that this is a problem that continues, to this day. So, to tell this story, they had to show this, and maybe this message will resonate with some people who’ve been, somehow, able to avoid the news.
7. What are your feelings on Jefferson and Lynn? Use a gif.
8. At the end of the episode, we see Anissa in the bathroom discovering she also has powers. She had a tumultuous day of defending her sister, being kidnapped and being pushed to the limit. What’s your take on her character and are you looking forward to Thunder?
Funmbi: I’m SO, super excited to see Anissa become Thunder. One of the first things that we hear Lynn say to Jefferson is how much Anissa is like him. It totally makes sense that she would be the first sister to get her powers. It’ll be interesting to see how she will use them to protect her community, something that’s definitely on her mind. What I’m most curious about is if/when/how Jefferson will tell his daughters that he’s Black Lightning. Anissa doesn’t know about her father’s alter ego, so she’ll likely keep her powers to herself and go on vigilante adventures on her own. Wouldn’t it be nuts if Black Lightning and Thunder face off before realizing who they are?! Come to me family crime fighting scenes!
Alyssa: There are no words to express my love for the badass that is Anissa Pierce. She’s everything that I’ve been waiting for in a character and didn’t realize I needed. She’s the picture of strength, confidence, vulnerability, and defiance in the best way. She’s someone that possesses an inner strength that grows every day and will soon show itself as a physical strength when she becomes Thunder. It’s important to me that Anissa is depicted as the hero she is already before she becomes a hero with superpowers. It’s more of an inevitability that she would become an even greater hero than she already is. Slay, Anissa. Slay.
Lizzie: I said it before and I’ll say it again: ALL HAIL QUEEN ANISSA. She’s already my fave and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. She was badass in every respect in this episode, and she now gets to discover her powers and be a full-fledged superhero? SIGN ME THE HELL UP.
9. Jennifer found herself in over her head in this episode, and though she’s clearly fearless and resourceful, that’s bound to leave a mark. Where do you see her going forward and what do you want for her character this season?
Funmbi: Jennifer is definitely the baby of the family. She uses this to her advantage to get out of the consequences of the ill-advised risks she takes. However, Jennifer’s a teenager, so (like Lynn says) it shouldn’t surprise us that she would chafe against expectations of being the principal’s daughter. As of now, Jennifer doesn’t seem to be as socially conscious as Anissa, but that doesn’t mean she’s uncaring. I’m looking forward to seeing Jennifer come into her own as a young woman and as a superhero. She’ll certainly have strong examples from her sister and father.
Alyssa: Jennifer is a character that still has a long way to go before she’s ready to join the family business of crime fighting. There’s no doubt in my mind that she possesses the courage and fearlessness that her father and sister also possess. But Jennifer is young, and her journey is just beginning. I’m looking forward to watching her evolve through her experiences — good and bad. Anissa is a little further along in her hero’s journey, but that means we get to see Jennifer’s journey from the beginning. We get to see her realize the injustice and the threat in her world and how that’ll ultimately shape her as a human being and, eventually, a hero.
Lizzie: Well, I think it’s clear that crime-fighting is going to be a family business, but as for Jennifer, I kinda of hope she gets a chance to grow, not just be a superhero or whatever. A chance to have some sort of normal life, a chance to have friends, and even, within the family dynamic, a chance for them to be more than a crime-fighting team.