by G. Brown
Tuesday nights are lit once again as the Fall TV Season returns with fresh shows for viewers deprived over the summer vacay.
Returning for its sophomore season over on the CW, “Black Lightning” hit the ground running with a premiere that continued to play on the show’s quadfecta of family, fiends, power, soundtracks, and Blackness. Showrunner Salim Akil is betting that more soul this season can help his show hit a superfecta.
Cress Williams is back as the aging superhero who’s waging war while moonlighting as Black Lightning and in his daytime job as a high school principal. Also returning for season 2 are Nafessa
Williams(Thunder), China Anne McClain (Lightning), Krondon (TobiasWhale) and Christine Adams (Lynn Pierce). The superhero and his progeny are still fighting crime and injustice that threatens the city of Freeland.
The premiere put the spotlight on the strength of female characters who aren’t just there for eye candy. When the community needed half-a-million dollars for legal help in getting back children being held by the government, Thunder got the job done by beating up the bad guys and taking their money. Two other female characters had a Thunderdome throw-down where only one walked away while the other demonstrated a new meaning of killer heels.
The action was riveting, violent and fast-paced. The sixth non-corporeal star of “The Book of Consequences: The Rise of the Green Light Babies” stayed in stride with it all. Episode 1 featured some classics like Lyn Collins 1972 hit “Think”, Parliament’s 1978’s “Flashlight” and the perfectly placed “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)” by the indelible Marvin Gaye.
The characters battle to survive the drugs, murder, and fear that plague their fictional city much like real life inner city Blacks battle the same infestations.
Akil told entertainment site Shadow and Act “To me, their powers are metaphorical anyway. Although they manifest themselves in the show, in my mind, they’re just metaphorical. I sometimes forget that we have to do powers.”
Whether it’s “The Flash”, the “Arrow” or “Supergirl”, superheroes are metaphorical of the inner struggle within us all. When you put the powers on the shelf, each of these superheroes struggles to balance career and personal life. For “Black Lightning” the heart and soul of the show is family…something that won’t be changing says Akil who calls it a “family drama” about people who happen to have powers.
Another thing that won’t be changing about this fictional show is using real-life headlines to drive conversation. The premiere revolved around Black children who were taken from parents and experimented on. It was a vague resemblance to what’s happening to immigrant children being caged and separated from their families. Akil says “Just one generation ago, there were Jim Crow laws. That didn’t make them right. You can’t always use the laws to have an excuse or condone what you’re doing. That really affected me, because I know what it’s like to be taken away from your parent for whatever reason.”
The commentary on social justice/injustice is just one aspect of what Akil wants to bring to viewers. The show is not only introducing up and coming stars but putting a spark back into careers of some with Season 1 appearances by Jill Scott, Antonio Fargas, journalists Roland Marin and a posthumous cameo by former Atlanta anchor Amanda Davis. Season 2 guests line up include Bill Duke, Robert Townsend and Erika Alexander(Max on “Living Single)”.
As the first TV series starring a Black superhero, “Black Lightning” set a high bar receiving a 96% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and lauded by critics for its “real-world plots” and for being “smart and relevant and full of an attitude that’s all its own.” It’s earned nominations for Best Superhero Television Series, Teen Choice Awards Breakout TV Star and People’s Choice Awards for The Sci-Fi/Fantasy Show of 2018.
Akil says the show is expanding and exposing people to true Black culture. You can read more on Akil’s interview over at Shadow and Act. You can catch season 2 of “Black Lightning” every Tuesday at 9:00 p.m. on the CW.