There’s a feeling in the air now. 2018 signaled a turning of the tide where ordinary (and some extraordinary) citizens are making stands for equality, justice, and against corruption. It’s fitting that The CW’s Black Lightning would debut now, because the people of Freeland are dealing with the exact same problems many Americans are.
When we first meet the Pierce family, high school principal Jefferson Pierce (Cres Williams) and his daughter, Jennifer (China Anne McClain), are waiting at the police station to pick up Anissa (Nafessa Williams), Jefferson’s eldest daughter, from lockup. Anissa, a medical student, part-time teacher and social activist was arrested for protesting The 100, the evil gang that has gripped Freeland in near perpetual violence. On the way back, the family is pulled over by some crooked cops who drag Jefferson out of the car and point their guns at his daughters. Anissa is videotaping the incident, but is forced to put her hands up or risk violence. It’s a scene we’ve seen all too often in reality, and it’s hard not to feel your own anger rising too as Jefferson’s calm demeanor starts to crack and threatens to reveal his long-hidden alter-ego, Black Lightning. The same night, when his daughter’s life is threatened by Lala, one of the leaders of The 100, Jefferson uses his powers to save her and officially comes out of superhero retirement, whether he likes it or not.
But the city of Freeland has more than one superhero. It becomes evident that Anissa inherited some of her father’s more uncommon attributes. When Will, the man who dragged Jennifer into his mess with The 100 shows up at her school the next day, Anissa steps in and lays him flat. But Anissa’s real power is her passion for justice and the people of Freeland, and that’s what will make her such an excellent superhero.
Despite Jefferson’s deal with Lala to keep The 100 far from his high school, Will returns with some backup and violently pulls Jennifer and Anissa out of the school. Dad suits up and rescues them, setting up the action for rest of the series, and triggering Anissa’s superhero powers for real.
While we’ve only seen the first episode, we know from the comic books that Anissa will become Thunder, a powerful heroine and she will have a romance with character Grace Choi (Chantal Thuy), which by most accounts will be the show’s major romance. Grace is also a superhero, so talk about your power lesbians!
Having a queer woman of color saving lives and bringing hope to a community can’t help but bring to mind how often women of color in this country have done exactly that in reality, something that has been taken for granted for far too long. Anissa may put a famous face to these heroic actions, but she represents so much more. She’s the person many of us would like to be, but perhaps aren’t brave enough. She’s hope and power and change. She’s the future.
Black Lightning airs on Tuesdays 9pm EST on The CW.