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"Justice, like lightning, should ever appear, to some men hope, and to other men fear. My father taught me that poem when I was just a little girl. I didn't fully understand the poem, until I grew to know the truth about my family and myself."
Jennifer Pierce
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Black Lightning is a 2018 superhero television series aired by The CW, based upon the DC Comics character of the same name.

Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams) was once Black Lightning, the only hero his community had to protect them from a criminal gang known as the 100. At the behest of his wife Lynn (Christine Adams), he dropped his vigilante career to become a high school principal and raise his daughters Anissa (Nafessa Williams) and Jennifer (China Anne McClain) without being at risk in battle.

However, the 100 didn't go away like he did and have become an even greater danger to the city, the school, and Pierce's family, and Jefferson must return to the life of a superhero if he is to protect all that he cares for. Also, having been kept in the dark over their father's past, his daughters are confused when each starts to exhibit powers of their own...

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The series' Executive Producers are Greg Berlanti and screenwriters Mara Brock Akil & Salim Akil. Despite his involvement, Berlanti has stated the series is not set in the Arrowverse, and has no current plans to crossover with Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, or Supergirl, but that could change.


This series provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Tobias Whale was, in the comics, so named because he’s hugely fat, to the point that his Marvel counterpart the Kingpin would probably recommend he see Jenny Craig. Not so here.
  • Adapted Out: The south area of Metropolis is replaced by Freeland, a new city where Black Lightning is/was the only superhero. Other heroes are mentioned in passing but whether it is set in a larger DC universe is unconfirmed. It may be located in Georgia or Virginia. The show is filmed in and around Atlanta, Georgia.
    • Word of God is that Black Lightning is not in continuity with the Arrowverse series as they wanted to set a Darker and Edgier tone. Characters have mentioned Vixen and Supergirl but it is unclear from context whether they are referring to superheroes who exist on their Earth or to fictional characters.
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  • Afrofuturism: Falls squarely into this genre, as it centers on a black superhero who uses his powers to fight crime and institutionalized racism.
  • The Aggressive Drug Dealer: The 100 specially targets the students at Garfield High as prime candidates to take Green Light. And the police and the school board are very unsympathetic to those students who do.
  • Amicably Divorced: It's revealed early in the pilot that Lynn and Jefferson aren't together anymore, though they still share an attraction to each other and are very friendly in public.
  • Arc Words: Resurrection. The first episode is called "The Resurrection", Tobias uses it in a villainous speech to Lala, and later, LaWanda echoes that speech to Lala after the both of them have seemingly come back to life.
  • Artistic License – Biology: The experiments that gave Black Lightning his powers, which he subsequently passed on to his daughters, apparently came by altering his mitochondria. Mitochondria are inherited exclusively from one's mother, so he shouldn't have been able to do so.
  • Awakening the Sleeping Giant: While angry, Jefferson was okay being retired and stay out of the situation with the 100. The 100 kidnapping his daughters causes him to come out of retirement and come after them.
  • Badass Bookworm:
    • Jefferson is a well-read and intelligent high school principal, but he's also an Olympic gold medalist and a superhero capable of bringing down thugs even without his powers.
    • Anissa also counts, being a med-school student and part-time teacher who is shown to be just as smart as her father, if not more so. She's also capable of judo-flipping a gangster while wearing high heels. And this is before her powers manifest.
  • Badass Family: Jefferson, Anissa, and Jennifer are all superpowered, and time will tell if they start working together.
  • Badass Gay: Anissa is a lesbian and becomes the superheroine Thunder.
  • Badass Teacher: Jefferson is a high school principal who is a superhero. He definitely qualifies.
  • Bad Boss: The first thing Tobias Whale does is feed a man alive to a bunch of piranha. The second thing he does is shoot Lala in the chest with a harpoon and ask if Lala can fix the Black Lightning problem or if he'll have to kill Lala and fix it himself.
  • Bat Signal: Parodied. Black Lightning gives Henderson a cell phone to contact him, and says it's "the Black signal."
  • Being Good Sucks: Played With. The first episode makes it clear that benevolence carries a price and paying it is not easy. Jefferson acting as Black Lightning led to him being injured frequently and his wife was terrified it would get him killed, eventually divorcing him over his vigilantism. His career as a principal is a metaphorical minefield that he has to navigate everyday with every decision having the potential to backfire on him. On the other hand, the series makes it clear that the alternative is much, much worse and he has done plenty good as both the principal AND as Black Lightning.
  • Big Bad: Tobias Whale, leader of the 100, the main criminal gang that operates on the streets of the city.
  • *Bleep*-dammit!: In "The Book of Little Black Lies", the CW streaming has captioning that censors out the word "ass" (but they leave the audio alone). The word is replaced with ellipses (...).
  • Bowdlerise: Not the source material; this is a pretty dark series. However, Jefferson's favorite quote is very different in Real Life: It actually goes "Justice, like lightning, should ever appear/to few men's ruin but to all mens' fear." The last time you probably heard it in a superhero context was "Justice, like Lightning..." being the tagline of Thunderbolts, where their use of it is early foreshadowing that they're actually all disguised villains. Presumably, Jefferson heard the real thing and edited it to better fit his view of justice.
  • Broken Aesop: Black Lightning admonishes some police officers for pulling out their guns on a drug user, rather than go to their tasers. Fair enough under normal circumstances. However, in the show, the user was high on Green Light, which puts users into a berserker rage while granting them superhuman strength and durability. Judging by how the user was able to toss one of the officers around like a ragdoll, it's not a stretch to imagine he could've killed both of them easily. And as for using their tasers, an earlier fight Black Lightning had with a Green Light user required him to use two lightning blasts to knock him unconscious, which even he's surprised by, and his lightning blasts seem to be a lot more powerful than standard tasers. Which means even if the officers did use tasers, they wouldn't even be guaranteed to knock the Green Light user unconscious.
  • The Call Knows Where You Live: Jefferson's school had been a peaceful area until a member of the 100 kidnapped his daughters from it.
  • The Cameo: Former Senator Nina Turner shows up in the pilot to give a commencement speech for the school fundraiser.
  • Can't Stay Normal: Jefferson had retired from the crime fighting game for his family; he returns to being Black Lightning when the 100 threaten his family and his school.
  • Casting Gag:
    • Black Lightning's mentor and father figure is none other than fellow electricity-user Raiden himself.
    • Terrence C. Carson is best known for his roles on Living Single, where he played a suave upper-class stockbroker who was proud of being black, and Kratos in God of War an angry man with pale skinnote  and a shaved head who accidentally killed his daughter. In this show, he plays a working-class bigot who deliberately abused his pale-skinned son, who became a bald man with super strength and a shaved head who hates black people.
    • Also, Carson played a lead character on Living Single while Cress Williams played a supporting character. In this show, they're reversed.
  • Clark Kenting: Apparently all Jefferson needs to hide his identity is a pair of goggles. It helps that he behaves very differently while in costume; as Jefferson he's a mild-mannered family man, while Black Lightning is aggressive and martial. Jennifer also mentions that due to the electricity around him it's difficult to look at him properly or get too close, and his costume is designed to draw attention to his chest. He also adds a reverb effect to his voice.
  • Cops Need the Vigilante: Underplayed, since Henderson and other police clearly consider Black Lightning a criminal, though they're willing to arrest criminals he's captured for them. Then played straight when Henderson reveals he'll slip Black Lightning tips on criminals the law can't touch, meaning he was The Commissioner Gordon all along. (Logical that he'd hide it, with vigilante reputations in general and all of The 100's dirty cops in particular.)
  • Darker and Edgier: Darker than most of the other CW series, with its themes of racism, gang violence and corruption in the police. Tone-wise it's closest to Arrow.
  • Deflector Shield: Jefferson is able to create an electrical shield with his powers, which he does to protect a crowd of protesters against a gunman sent by the 100. It's not clear if the bullets are bouncing off the shield or are simply disintegrated by the electricity.
  • Dirty Cop: Episode 2 reveals Whale has several officers working under his thumb. Dialog in further episodes indicates that he controls most of the police force, either directly or indirectly.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The entire show is one multilayered metaphor for the black American experience, from the Green Light plot sharing a lot in common with actual activities of the US government towards black Americans (both in terms of medical research and illicit drugs) to the religious references highlighting the importance of the church to black American culture.
  • The Dog Bites Back: When Black Lightning raids a gang-controlled hotel in Episode 2, the doormen who've been more or less held hostage by the 100 cheerfully invite him in, give him directions, and even hold an elevator for him.
  • Electric Black Guy: Naturally, since Black Lightning is the Trope Codifier. Many characters who’ve followed in his footsteps were created when an intended appearance of the man himself fell under Screwed by the Lawyers.
  • Elemental Punch: A staple of Jefferson's fighting style, augmenting his punches with electricity.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: The only person Tobias really cares about is his sister Tori.
  • Evil Albino: Tobias Whale, as played by real-life albino, Marvin "Krondon" Jones. Tobias is a Corrupt Politician turned gang leader who runs The 100, a gang that runs in the drug trade, prostitution and murder, among other criminal endeavors.
  • Experienced Protagonist: Contrasting the other DC hero shows that start from the beginning, Jefferson has an entire previous career under his belt before the series begins.
  • Fantastic Drug: Green Light, which is designed to make the victim addicted from the first dose, ensuring they'll come back for more. It was originally part of a government experiment to pacify black people in Freeland, but subsequently proved to trigger superpowers in a small number of people who use it.
  • Fantastic Racism: In addition to real racism, those with powers are considered freaks and abominations by some.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Lala acts polite when he speaks with Jefferson at first, and pretends to be a Pragmatic Villain who keeps the gangs out of the school, but this quickly crumbles when Jefferson interferes with his abuse of one of Jefferson's students and he pulls a gun on Jefferson.
  • Flight: Initially, Black Lightning is often seen on rooftops, and can drop multiple stories without injury, apparently through some use of his electromagnetic powers. Confirmed when his suit adds a Flight mode that focuses them.
  • Foreshadowing: The first time we see a kid high on Green Light, he seems to have almost Hulk-like super strength. This is the audience's first clue that drug's purpose isn't to be highly addictive but to give people powers.
  • Goggles Do Something Unusual: Jefferson's goggles are normally transparent, if tinted, but he can instantly turn them opaque (from the outside) when necessary, which he usually does when being close to people he knows. Later on, Gambi modifies them and gives them "electric vision", which, basically, amounts to X-Ray Vision. The goggles can also track faces.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Characters usually say "Negro" or "ninja" in a situation where someone would say the n-word.
  • Government Conspiracy: An agency known as the ASA is behind the 100 and Green Light, using Freeland as a giant petri dish for their research into superpowers.
  • Healing Factor: Black Lightning's powers also include limited healing, described as twice normal speed. Anissa's even better: a nasty bruise completely disappears in about an hour.
  • Helmets Are Hardly Heroic: Black Lightning and Thunder have bulletproof costumes that leave their heads bare except for goggles. Thunder doesn't even flinch when standing in a hail of bullets that hit everything but her head.
  • He's Back: Though Jefferson has been retired for many years, the 100's violence finally becomes too much for him, and he dons a new costume and returns to action.
    • Named in the show's opening rap: "He said 'This is for the street— Black Lightning's back!' "
  • Hope Bringer: Anissa describes Black Lightning as this. With Freeland as a battleground between gangs and police, Black Lightning is the only one the people trust to protect them, and he does his best to live up to that.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: All the episodes titles are either allusions to The Bible or made to sound Biblical in fitting with the religious motif of the series. The pilot is titled "The Resurrection", and the rest are usually either titled or subtitled "The Book of" something.
  • I Minored in Tropology: In "The Book of Little Black Lies", Black Lightning and Thunder are trying to spy on some bad guys, but can't hear what they're saying. While Jefferson is complaining about it, Anissa is reading their lips. It turns out that she and her crew of protesters had taken lip-reading classes so they would know what the cops were saying about them.
  • In Memoriam: Episode 7 is in memory of reporter Amanda Davis, who appeared in many of the in-universe news reports and died suddenly before the show premiered.
  • Insistent Terminology: Talking heads on TV wonder why other cities have superheroes, while Freeland's is called a "vigilante".
  • It's Personal: The 100 kidnapping Jefferson's daughters in broad daylight is what brings him out of retirement.
  • Lamarck Was Right:
    • Jennifer shows signs of inheriting her father's electrical abilities, via some Power Glows from her hands.
    • Anissa has different abilities, but appears to have inherited her father's power-activated Glowing Eyes.
  • Macguffin: The briefcase Tobias steals from the ASA at the end of Season 1. We don't find out what's in it, but Tobias thinks it'll make him the "King of Freeland", Gambi says it's "probably worse than we think", and Fowdy only describes it as "hell".
  • Movie Superheroes Wear Black:
    • Black Lightning's new costume falls under this, as it lacks the golden lightning lines of his classic suit and goes for more of a silver and black appearance, though it does retain some yellow in the chest and glows blue. The classic suit is still around in all its blue and gold glory, but Jefferson only wears it in flashbacks so far.
    • Subverted with Anissa's Thunder costume, which isn't as colorful as some of her costumes from the comics, but still has a lot of yellow along with black and dark blue, like some of her more recent costumes that have appeared in animated works. Her prototype costume also averts this, as while she was initially going to wear a solid-black outfit, it tore and she replaced it with a more bright and colourful one.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • The flashbacks show Black Lightning wearing his classic costume and even sporting Bald of Awesome like in the comics. Only time will tell if he ever wears it again instead of the new one.
    • The first episode's narration says his return is witnessed by "thunder and lightning" while the camera lingers on his daughters, whose comic codenames are Thunder and Lightning.
    • In "Lawanda: The Book Of Burial", Grace suggests Anissa dress up as Supergirl. The three girls were teammates in the Outsiders back in the 00's.
  • Newscaster Cameo: The Atlanta reporter Amanda Davis appeared in many of the news broadcasts.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Gambi eliminated all evidence that Jefferson was present to witness his father's murder at the hands of Tobias in order to protect Jefferson from retribution. Unfortunately, years later, this completely undermines Jefferson's ability to corroborate his testimony against Tobias, resulting in Tobias going free.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Procter's rhetoric is very obviously meant to reference Donald Trump.
  • Origin Story: Averted. Unlike the other CW superhero shows, the show begins in 2018, long after Jefferson became Black Lightning in the first place, presumably sometime in 2005. Jefferson briefly discusses it in the premiere; he became Black Lightning to take vengeance on Tobias Whale for killing his father.
    • Played straight with Anissa, who first exhibited her powers in episode 1 and donned her first real costume in episode 5 as she becomes Thunder. Jennifer's origin as Lightning occurs in the latter half of the first season.
  • Overprotective Dad: Jefferson suggests he can come off as this to Anissa and Jennifer, who agree with him. There doesn't seem to be any resentment about it, however; they even laugh about it.
  • Police are Useless: The 100 have operated for years and only became more dangerous to the city as a whole once Black Lightning retired. This gets deconstructed because the people have absolutely no faith in the police to do their jobs remotely effectively, and some groups of police are shown as either racist or lazy (see Profiling), or deep in the Big Bad's pocket.
  • Police Brutality:
    • Increasing violence by the 100 and protests going south have made the police more trigger-happy and biased, profiling and detaining Jefferson and even threatening his daughters for filming them. In a vicious cycle, this makes it easier for the gang to gain power as people lose their trust in the police.
    • In the season 2 premiere, a young boy is strangled to death by the police after it is believed he has powers.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Anissa in "Three Sevens: The Book of Thunder" gets into a fight with Black Lightning when he mistakes her for a criminal. She's perfectly capable of speaking and revealing she was there to help, but instead chooses to just duke it out with him.
  • Power Walk: see Unflinching Walk. Has the classic elements: the heroes side-by-side, Slo Mo, slightly low camera angle, and dramatic backdrop (an exploding building).
  • Product Displacement: Gambi uses a Logitech K330 keyboard with the logo and model number blacked out.
  • Profiling: In the first episode, the police pull Jefferson over, drag him out of his car, and point a gun at his daughters for trying to film them. All over something they had absolutely nothing to do with...
    Cop: A liquor store just got robbed.
    Jefferson: And, and I'm sure the description is what? "A black man? Dressed in a suit and tie? Getaway car a mid-sized Volvo wagon?!"
  • Protagonist Title: Three guesses who the main character is.
  • Race Lift:
    • Inspector Henderson from The Adventures of Superman appears in the series, but he's a black man rather than white, similar to his appearances in season one of Lois & Clark (before he's recast as Richard Belzer) and Superman: The Animated Series, as well as the introduction of an unrelated Inspector Mike Henderson in Supergirl (2005). (The 2009 Black Lightning: Year One comic book, for those keeping track, featured the white Bill Henderson.)
    • Notably averted with Tobias Whale, whose actor is an African American albino, just like his comic counterpart.
    • Lady Eve is white in the comics and black in the series.
  • The Real Heroes: A Discussed Trope. Jefferson notes that he's done more long term good for the city as a principal then he did as Black Lightning but it becomes clear that his superhero actions were also necessary because once he stopped them it gave the 100 a chance to grow as a threat.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • Jefferson's a good martial artist with lightning powers, but he isn't invincible and his nights as Black Lightning often end with him bleeding out in the tub. He eventually had to retire for his own health. There's also the fact that his wife never signed up for his vigilantism and the stress of her husband repeatedly risking his life and getting injured led to their divorce.
    • Anissa is tough and acts bravely under pressure when kidnapped and threatened, but later shows signs of trauma and possible PTSD from the experience. Bravery doesn't prevent trauma.
    • Anissa's use of a Shockwave Stomp to destroy a Confederate statue with a nearby crowed results in the shards injuring several people.
    • Lowry's tyrannical rule over the school and near 0% Approval Rating damages his and the school's reputation after his actions get caught on video. Leaving the school board looking bad for hiring what looks like a racist to run a predominantly black school.
    • The series as a whole is practically a deconstruction of peaceful talks and methods. For all the good Jefferson does for the students in the school; it does not prepare or protect them for a world larger than the school. Many come to see Black Lightining as a much needed punch to help preserve the peace the citizenry don't have from police that are either apathetic at best or corrupt at worst. The show takes care to show some positives of peaceful methodologies such as Jefferson's guidance on his school delivering positive results and a healthy learning environment to the youth which has a legitimately positive impact on the students. But the show seems to be saying that those alone aren't enough; and sometimes violence against those who don't want to negotiate or are outright strike first, ask questions later must be taken to preserve that peace.
  • Real Men Love Jesus: The whole series has a pretty heavy focus on religious symbolism.
  • The Reveal: Freeland was actually the location for a Government Conspiracy run by a group called the ASA to test Green Light, which Gambi was a part of but secretly abandoned after Jefferson's father was killed in his attempts to uncover the conspiracy. Green Light itself also actually creates metahumans, which is how Jefferson and Whale have their powers.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: In "Three Sevens: The Book of Thunder" Anissa gets in trouble with the police for defacing a civil war statue, evoking numerous modern protests surrounding the removal of them from public parks and similar places. In particular, the Charlottesville Unite The Right rally, right down to someone being killed by a white nationalist driving a car into the crowd.
  • Schrödinger's Canon: Whether or not the series exists in the Arrowverse, given that it's a DC superhero series on The CW note  that has Greg Berlanti as an executive producer. In August 2017, CW president Mark Pedowitz said the following:
    Pedowitz: If [the showrunners] wish to bring it in, that is their call. We had a long discussion with the studio, Mara, Salim, and myself. We were fine with them making it separate from the Arrowverse, they have a different point of view. If they end up wanting to go that way, that will be their decision.
    • Interestingly, both Supergirl and Vixen are mentioned, suggesting they exist... but in the Arrowverse, Supergirl and Vixen are from different universes! (No, none of the crossovers that had happened at the time resulted in Supergirl becoming known in the main Arrowverse or Vixen ever even visiting Supergirl's world.)
  • Shout-Out: Tobias Whale is an Evil Albino mob boss, and Jefferson nearly destroyed himself with his earlier revenge-driven crusade against him. Tobias is very clearly Jefferson's "white Whale".
    • The show likes to reference inFAMOUS. For example, Jeff can use his powers to glide to the ground, Gambi gives him Cole's Precision Shot, and in "The Book Of Pain", Jennifer revives Jeff with her electric powers, just like Cole could. Not to mention the powerful conspiracy behind everything.
  • Stupid Crooks: The 100 rank and file are shown to be arrogant, reckless and Trigger Happy. Lala and his goons start a firefight in a crowded nightclub. Will kidnaps Anissa and Jennifer from a school classroom with dozens of witnesses and in full view of multiple security cameras that he has been warned about earlier in the episode. Police are Useless but their actions still bring an enormous amount of heat on the organization and seriously piss off their boss Tobias Whale.
  • Superhero Paradox: Inverted. When Black Lightning went away, the villains he fought didn't and actually became worse because he wasn't there. The villains were already present and the hero was the only thing keeping them remotely manageable.
  • Supernatural Martial Arts: Black Lightning fights like this, using his powers to supplement his already formidable martial arts skills.
  • Super Serum: Green Light is this, not an advanced street drug. It was created by a Government Conspiracy for the intention of reacting to someone with the right DNA to give them superpowers.
    • Later revealed that a different type of serum is behind Tobias Whale's and his sister Tori's agelessness, and the source of the former's super strength.
  • Tall Poppy Syndrome: Invoked by Jefferson to explain to Jennifer why she's getting bullied and why she shouldn't retaliate because they're insecure.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Averted. Jefferson states outright that his original goal as Black Lightning was to kill Tobias Whale, and he kills at least one nameless goon during the first episode and another mook as a Bulletproof Human Shield. Later subverted when Jefferson is shown to have a What Have I Done realization after indirectly killing Tobias' sister, showing that Jefferson doesn’t take life carelessly.
    • In the season 1 finale, Gambi and Lynn definitely kill several of Proctor's men. It's uncertain if Anissa and Jefferson killed any.
    • Episode 9 of season 1, however, relies on the fact that Jefferson has never killed anyone with his powers (or at least no one Gambi is aware of/no one whose body has turned up), so coroners don't know what wounds caused by his powers look like. This is why Lady Eve's death is able to be pinned on Black Lightning when Whale's assassins used lightning guns that burn, instead of shock like Jefferson's powers.
  • Turn of the Millennium: The flashback to Jefferson's retirement takes place in 2005.
  • Tyrant Takes the Helm: Lowry, the new principal in season 2, immediately sets about undoing all of Jefferson's hard work. The very first thing he does is install metal detectors, claiming that if Jefferson had done so earlier, the attacks that cost Jefferson his job wouldn't have happened. This is blatantly false, and just indicative that he is treating the students like potential criminals.
  • The Unapologetic: The cop who holds up Jefferson refuses to apologize for profiling him, simply saying "Have a good night, sir," in a smug, mocking manner.
  • Unflinching Walk: In "The Book of Little Black Lies", Black Lightning and Thunder Power Walk away from an exploding warehouse.
  • Vice City: Without Black Lightning, the 100 gang can even get away with threatening students in classrooms and pulling their guns on a teacher.
  • Vigilante Man: Black Lightning operates independently from the police, and at the best of times has an ambivalent relationship with them and Inspector Henderson in particular.
    • Ironically, he is none too pleased to find out that Anissa is following in his footsteps and initially tries to discourage her.
  • Violence Really Is the Answer: The series serves as a surprising Reconstruction of the concept. Jefferson desperately tries to resolve problems nonviolently, believing that resorting to force will only worsen things, but that has its limits when he's fighting against people who don't care about morality, only their own self-indulgent vices. Violence may be condemned and certainly isn't glorified, but it is presented as something that is a necessity at times to fight evil.
  • Voice of the Legion: Heroic example. When using the suit, Black Lightning's voice has this effect at times. Later on, he's shown using it even without the suit, implying he's using his powers to vibrate his vocal cords, similar to how speedsters can do that in the Arrowverse.

"This was the night, in the rain, with Thunder and Lightning as witness, that Black Lightning was born again."
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