'Black Lightning' A Refreshing Addition To Superhero TV

By: Henry Hanks, Contributor     @hankstv / tvshenry@gmail.com

SPOILERS: Do not read if you haven't seen the series premiere of "Black Lightning!"

Let's get this out of the way first: the comparisons between Netflix's "Luke Cage" and the CW's new series "Black Lightning" will be obvious, not just because they are the first two TV series in the modern comic book-adaptation era to feature black lead characters, but also because they tackle a lot of similar themes, and have similar villains.

But "Black Lightning" has one very important difference that makes it stand out: unlike Luke Cage, Jefferson Pierce has a lot of life experience to draw from, and has been out of the superhero game for many years. For once, the lead character on a CW series is pushing 50.

Instead of an origin story, like we've seen with so many of the "Arrow"-verse shows, this is the story of how a man who left his powers and his heroic pursuits behind for his family decided to embrace them again.

Jefferson is a good man, though a reluctant hero just the same, and not just because he promised his ex-wife (for whom he still carries a torch) that he would give up the persona of Black Lightning and stop risking his life every night.

His daughters, Jennifer and Anissa (who will later become Thunder, as is hinted in the final scene of the pilot) are a big reason that he is driven to suit up again (and what a suit it is).

Jefferson realizes that crime and corruption are rampant in his hometown, and when his daughters are kidnapped by the 100 gang - led by Tobias Whale, Black Lightning's comic book nemesis - they force his (electricity-infused) hand.

The superhero action in the premiere is used sparingly, and in many ways, the relationship between Jefferson and his daughters drives the show. 

In "Black Lightning," the fate of the world isn't necessarily in the balance (like with "Supergirl," "The Flash" and "Legends of Tomorrow") and Jefferson is a likable, identifiable character (and not brooding to the point of off-putting at times, like "Arrow's" Oliver Queen), just trying to do what's right.

Based on the premiere's ratings, a second season is almost assured. I certainly look forward to exploring these more grounded (pardon the pun) characters further.