Black Lightning returns for its second season with some bold storytelling choices and its usual strong sense of identity.
The CW’s superhero shows are returning on top form this week. Black Lightning season 2, episode 1 got off to a ballsy start, with DC’s scuzzier answer to Luke Cage immediately making some daring creative decisions in the on-going saga of crusading high school principle Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams).
For one thing, Tobias Whale (Marvin ‘Krondon’ Jones III) is out for revenge following the untimely demise of his favourite henchperson, Syonide (Charlbi Dean Kriek), who was skewered on the shoe heel of Kara Fowdy (Skye P. Marshall). It was a cool fight scene, but was unceremoniously killing off an intriguing character the right move? Is there a possibility of her returning? Will you ever look at a woman’s shoe in quite the same way again?
Believe it or not, that might have been the more minor of the Season 2 premiere’s big twists. Inspector Henderson (Damon Gupton) now knows that Jefferson is Black Lightning, having put the not exactly mysterious pieces together after the first season’s school-invasion finale. (I wish more superhero properties had the good sense to call out their heroes for disappearing during major crises.) But what’s that going to mean for the two of them long-term? So many questions!
Anissa (Nafessa Williams), meanwhile, is doing a Robin Hoodie shtick to help out her struggling community (Black Lightning still echoes with the voices of the downtrodden and disenfranchised), while Jennifer’s (China Anne McClain) powers are manifesting in increasingly unpredictable ways. Tying the perception of “metas” into typical teenage anxieties is a useful way of addressing pesky character development while also enriching the show’s fiction. The best aspect of Black Lightning is still its authentic, aggrieved identity, and how it doesn’t shy away from its up-front explorations of race and racism. In a television landscape populated with plenty of superhero shows, Black Lightning is still able to stand out thanks to feeling as though it’s too mature and edgy for network TV – and like it’s getting away with something subversive each episode.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.