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Series / Black Lightning (2018)
aka: Black Lightning

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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

Black Lightning was a superhero television series aired by The CW, based upon the DC Comics character of the same name, which premiered on January 16, 2018.

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...

Though originally not set in the Arrowverse, Jefferson eventually appeared in the Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover event, while the Black Lightning series itself aired a tie-in episode around the same time. Alongside Supergirl's Earth-38, the world of Black Lighting was then folded into the Arrowverse's new, unified Earth-Prime note  as a result of the storyline's events, with Jefferson becoming a founding member of the Arrowverse's Justice League.

The fourth season, which premiered on February 8, 2021 was announced to the be the last season. A spinoff featuring supporting character Painkiller (portrayed by Jordan Calloway) was reported as being in development in November 2020, with a backdoor pilot airing during the final season. On May 24, 2021, the same day that the series finale aired, it was confirmed that the spin-off was not picked up.

The series was developed by Salim Akil, who executive produced it with his wife, Mara Brock Akil, and Arrowverse creator Greg Berlanti. As with many CW series, it was streamed as a Netflix Original in certain countries, which did cause some continuity lockout issues as a result of the aforementioned Crisis.

Black Lightning contains examples of:

  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Tobias Whale was, in the comics, nicknamed such because of obesity, to the point of being larger than his Marvel counterpart the Kingpin. Not so here.
  • Adaptational Location Change: In the comics, Black Lightning operates in the Suicide Slum section of Metropolis. This show places Black Lightning in the fictional city of Freeland, a location completely unconnected to Metropolis.
  • 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, until Crisis on Infinite Earths (2019). It may be located in Georgia or Virginia. The show is filmed in and around Atlanta, Georgia.
    • In a season 4 episode, Devonte is shown to have Georgia license plates.
  • Affably Evil: When he's not being a Large Ham, Tobias is often cultured and polite. Such as when he recruits Lynn in a fancy restaurant in "The Book of Reconstruction: Chapter Three: Despite All My Rage..."
  • 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.
  • Albinos Are Freaks: One of the main villains is Tobias Whale, an African-American albino crime boss whose albinism made him an outcast for much of his life.
  • And the Adventure Continues: The series finale sees Jefferson retiring (for good this time) and handing off Freeland protection duties to Anissa, Jennifer and Grace. The final scene sees Lala breaking free of his concrete prison and in the position to take over as Freeland's new Big Bad.
  • Anthropic Principle:
    • It turns out there's a very logical reason the "real" Black Lightning gets summoned and not the version of him from either of the neighboring universes, even though all Pariah needed was someone with Jefferson's (or Jennifer's) control over energy. In both of the other universes, Jen's choices lead to her father being killed well before Team Flash arrives at the Cosmic Treadmill.
    • The Red Skies Crossover episode of Black Lightning also establishes why Pariah couldn't summon Jen herself, even though she's theoretically more powerful than Jefferson — the nature of her energy-absorbing powers has caused the antimatter storm to send her (and her alternates) glitching uncontrollably across timelines, which means she's trapped in the Void Between the Worlds and impossible to find when the antimatter hits.
  • 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, as his reputation and role in the community let him think he was managing the situation and keeping people safe. The 100 kidnapping his daughters causes him to come out of retirement and come after them.
  • Back for the Finale: After exploding in the ionosphere and reforming into a completely different looking person (played by Laura Kariuki) for several episodes, the original Jennifer (played by the original actress China Anne Mc Clain) reforms herself in the ionosphere and returns to face-off with her in the final episode.
  • 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 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.
  • Bald of Evil: Tobias, the main villain, is bald.
  • 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:
    • Season 1: Tobias Whale is the leader of the 100 gang and the murderer of Alvin Pierce. He's also the proxy for the A.S.A. government organization, which is responsible for Green Light and the barbaric experiments committed on the populace of Freeland.
    • Season 2: Tobias Whale is front stage as the A.S.A. take a backseat, selling metahumans as living weapons. Markovia, an enemy country of the A.S.A. also interested in metahumans, is introduced later into the season.
    • Season 3 has a Big Bad Ensemble:
      • Tyson Sykes / Gravedigger is Jefferson's great uncle and one of the first recorded metahumans, having defected to Markovia after WWII rather than live in segregated America. He takes center stage as Markovia's primary representative in the last quarter of the season.
      • The A.S.A. (led by Agent Odell) enact fascist martial law in the city in opposition to Markovia, committing other morally dubious acts in the name of freedom such as turning Khalil into a living weapon. By the end of the season, Odell attempts to nuke the city in order to get rid of both Gravedigger and the Pierces.
    • Season 4: Tobias Whale, orchestrating events to get himself elected mayor. Lala, the Kobra Cartel, and League of Assassins-candidate Ishmael are secondary threats he manipulates in his rise to power.
  • Bigot with a Badge: The pilot episode has Jefferson getting pulled over by cops with his daughters inside the car because there was a robbery nearby. The hero points out how ridiculous it is to assume that the culprit would be a black man in a suit driving a car with two girls, and the owner of the place that was robbed does indeed confirm his innocence. A later scene in the same episode has a white cop telling Jeff to "get his black ass on the ground", to which he responds by non-lethally zapping them.
  • *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.
  • 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.
  • Canon Character All Along:
    • Lala turns out to be the Tattoed Man.
    • Khalil is turned into Painkiller by Tobias.
    • In season 3, Brandom Marshall is Geo-Force, although his codename is just Geo.
  • 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.)
  • Culturally Sensitive Adaptation:
    • In his earlier appearances, Black Lightning used Jive Turkey speech in order to conceal his secret identity as a schoolteacher. In the show, he speaks in a way a black man normally would, instead relying on a high-tech mask and a voice modulator to hide his identity.
    • In the original comics, Tobias Whale had the codename "White Whale", was a Fat Bastard, and embodied as many terrible stereotypes about fat people and people with albinism as possible. In the TV series, he is still large, but has a more muscular build, he is presented as a more intellectual villain with Faux Affably Evil tendencies, and has a more complicated motive - he's a black albino man who hates other black people because they shunned him in his youth.
  • 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, but even that series has more comic relief. Outside the Bloodier and Gorier streaming-only offerings, this is as dark as the DC universe gets on TV.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Tobias often uses racial slurs against blacks, despite the fact he is African-American.
  • 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.
  • For Want of a Nail: This Earth happens to have two Alternate Timelines with a very recent point of divergence, based on whether Jennifer Pierce chooses to renounce her powers or fully embrace them, and both of which are a Bad Future compared to the main one.
  • Forced Addiction: Lynn Stewart is given subliminal messages from her bosses at the ASA to get her to start taking the highly addictive drug Green Light, both to improve her productivity and also to keep her dependent on the ASA.
  • 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.
    • The first episode's narration says his return is witnessed by "thunder and lightning" while the camera lingers on his daughters, whose go on to become the heroines Thunder and Lightning.
  • 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.
    • At the beginning of season 4, it is revealed that Jennifer has a similar accelerated healing.
  • 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 inherited her father's electrical abilities, only more so.
    • Anissa has different abilities, but appears to have inherited her father's power-activated Glowing Eyes.
  • Large Ham: Tobias is often this, loudly gloating and making dramatic speeches.
  • 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". In Season 2 it turns out to be their metahuman database, including the identities of the Masters of Disaster.
  • 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. Played straight with her Blackbird costume.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • The flashbacks show Black Lightning wearing his classic costume and he's even bald like in the comics. Only time will tell if he ever wears it again instead of the new one.
    • 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.
  • Naming Conventions: Jennifer Pierce from this Earth visits two other realities labeled "Earth-1" and "Earth-2" that clearly can't be the universes in the Arrowverse the Monitor calls Earth-1 and Earth-2. This may be explained by the scientists in her world coming up with their own numbering system, or may even just be names Jennifer came up with on the spot.
  • Newscaster Cameo: Amanda Davis, reporter for Atlanta station WGCL, appeared in many of the news broadcasts, which were filmed prior to her death from a stroke on December 27, 2017.
  • 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.
  • No Name Given: The only Earth to play a prominent role in the Crisis on Infinite Earths (2019) not to be given an official designation in the Monitor's numbering system (since we never physically see it during the Crisis five-parter proper and therefore the Title In gimmick is never used).
  • Origin Story:
    • Averted. Unlike the other CW superhero shows, the show begins in 2018, long after Jefferson became Black Lightning in the first place. 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.
  • Outside-Context Problem: The antimatter wave is this for any of the Earths the Monitor didn't bother to contact, which is most of them. This is the only one where we get to directly observe this as part of an ongoing series, though, with the red skies jarringly interrupting the ongoing story of Jefferson's resistance to the ASA's occupation of Freeland.
  • 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.
    • In the season 4 premier, two policemen harass a boy on the street. Jeff intervenes and they draws guns on him.
  • 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.
  • Poorly-Disguised Pilot: The season 5 episode "Painkiller" is intended as a spinoff for the character of Painkiller, after the Black Lightning series ends. Only two of the seven main characters are present, they are sidelined, and the episode is set in Akashic Valley, while Black Lightning is set in Freeland.
  • 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 Against the Clock: The Crisis Crossover episode leading to Crisis on Infinite Earths (2019) has a unique Title In with each scene transition showing how much time left their Earth has before the antimatter wave arrives, hitting 0:00:00 at the moment the episode — and the universe — ends.
  • 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.
  • Real Men Love Jesus: The whole series has a pretty heavy focus on religious symbolism.
  • Recursive Reality: The show was intended as a more grounded show than the Arrowverse, and has made reference to more familiar DC heroes like Supergirl being fictional within its own universe.
  • Red Skies Crossover: At first it looks like Jefferson's involvement in the Crisis might be this, with the red skies only giving Jennifer a dream sequence where she explores other choices she could've made. But then the antimatter actually hits.
  • Red Sky, Take Warning: The skies turn red in the mid-season finale of season 3, as Jefferson's Earth is affected by the wave of antimatter.
  • 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.
  • Ruder and Cruder: This incarnation of Black Lightning has overt sexuality and swearing, and the showrunners even fought the network for the right to use the N-Word in order to drive home how racist the hero's enemies can be. The original comics were created back when the Comics Code Authority still had considerable teeth, and thus were much tamer.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Like all of the Earths in the Crisis, but since this one is part of an ongoing series it's extra painful.
  • 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.)
    • And now that it's been announced that Black Lightning will be a part of the 2019 Arrowverse event, an adaptation of Crisis on Infinite Earths, this puts the above references further into questionable territory, as it would seem likely that this show occupies a different Earth.
    • Finally resolved as of the Crisis on Infinite Earths (2019) crossover event. Black Lightning was explicitly in its own universe separate from Arrow/The Flash (2014) (known as Earth-1) and Supergirl (known as Earth-38) but the event culminated in a Cosmic Retcon that merged the three separate universes into one universe, Earth-Prime, meaning that Post-Crisis, Black Lightning exists in the same reality as Arrow, The Flash, The Legends and Supergirl.
  • Sex with the Ex: It doesn't start that way in the pilot, but as the series continues, Jefferson and Lynn.
  • Shout-Out: Tobias Whale is an 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.
    • "Green Light babies", the show's nick name for metahumans created by the Green Light drug, is obviously a reference to the "Bang Babies" from Static Shock. Jefferson also learns to use his electricity to simulate magnetic effects just like Static does.
  • Single Phlebotinum Limit: This universe has all manner of superpowers on it but they come from a single source, "metahumans" created by genetic mutation, without any of the magic, Time Travel or extraterrestrials to be found on other CW shows.
  • Straw Character: In a particularly cringeworthy example, they make Season 1's Big Bad Proctor into a caricature of Donald Trump.
  • 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. Both Lightning and Thunder follow in Dad's footsteps.
  • 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.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • Team 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).
  • 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.
  • Trigger Phrase: Lala's is "the Devil deals the cards".
  • 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. Somewhat inverted in season 3 as when confronted by new Tyrants the ASA, even Lowry stands up against them when they forcibly eject Green Light-infected students, and receives an AK to the face for his troubles.
  • 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 all 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.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?:
    • Freeland's location in the United States isn't initially specified, as it is an original city specifically created for the show and not from the comics (wherein Black Lightning is based out of Metropolis), but in the second season it is revealed to be located in Georgia, a nod to the fact that the series is filmed in Atlanta.
    • Played straight with Akashic Valley seen in the season 4 episode "Painkiller", a dystopic CyberPunk city that could be located literally anywhere on Earth-Prime.
  • Wicked Cultured: Tobias is often this, listening to classical music and ordering in French at expensive restaurants.

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


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Alternative Title(s): Black Lightning


Arrowverse DC and WBTV

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