On February 8, 2021, The CW premiered the fourth and final season of the American television series Black Lightning, which is based on the DC Comics character Jefferson Pierce / Black Lightning. The CW’s superhero shows have all become big hits, and they’re all pretty decent, but they’re not exactly prestige dramas.
But what if Greg Berlanti and his team came up with one that was deadly serious? This is what we see in Black Lightning, which is based on a DC character from the 1970s.
Despite the fact that Black Lightning is created by Greg Berlanti and Marc Guggenheim and airs on The CW, co-creator Salim Akil recently told TV critics that the show is not part of the network’s “Arrowverse,” which includes Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, and Legends of Tomorrow. It’s quick to see why after seeing the pilot.
This is a unique presentation in comparison to the others. For one thing, it’s dead serious in tone, with no banter, comic asides, or will-they-won’t-they plotlines like the other series. For another, Black Lightning is the CW’s first middle-aged superhero, at least ten years older than any other hero in the Arrowverse, with a dispute over his identity that even Stephen Amell can’t match.
Apart from Jefferson Pierce’s powers, the show and the city of Freeland are far more grounded in the realism of 2018 than any of the CW’s other superhero series, which is why Black Lightning isn’t — and can’t be — part of the Arrowverse.
While it may not be as realistic as, say, The Chi, the show is serious about how racism, violence, and corruption can spiral out of control in a major city, even in 2018. The show makes no effort to justify police brutality against black people or to depict it as yet another villain to be vanquished.
What’s more intriguing is that he brings Black Lightning back when the widespread violence becomes personal. He’s made an agreement with local kingpin Lala (William Catlett), a former classmate, to keep the peace with The One Hundred, but it’s weak at best.
And, as he’ll soon discover, Tobias Whale is still in control. In the coming weeks, it will be interesting to see how all of these viewpoints are discussed. We won’t be getting a “monster/alien/villain of the week” on this episode, which means we’ll be getting a deep dive into the characters’ backstories, which is a welcome idea given how well the characters were drawn in the pilot.
Black Lightning is as much a prestige drama as it is a superhero film, with plenty of high-octane action thrown in for good measure.