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  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Was Khalil really driven to madness by his injury or was he a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing? In-universe, even Jefferson isn't sure.
  • Anvilicious: The police brutality message is delivered with all the subtlety of a baton to the temple.
  • Arc Fatigue:
    • Lala's resurrection. It does nothing for the main plot and both Tobias and Jefferson have no idea he's even back. It's not even explained how he's back. Tobias killed him in a police cell in 1x02, then he wakes up in a hotel room in 1x07 without any explanation seemingly no worse for wear. We eventually do find out in the season one finale and in season two: Tobias paid good money to have Lala "reanimated" to have a disposable henchman whom he can do anything with and bring back, time and time again for more services.
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    • Tobias running free from his crimes in Season 2. While he was the (main) problem throughout Season 1, Tobias is arrested early on in Season 2, but the charges against him are dropped and then, he starts killing off witnesses or people like Jeremiah Holt or henchpeople close to him like Khalil and Todd Green. Not only that, he gets access to his own personal metahuman army, a half of dozen metas in ASA storage, including the Masters of Disasters. When he is finally arrested at the end of the season, it is damn cathartic to watch Tobias get knock down a peg or two by both Black Lightning & Lightning, and then being tossed into a blacksite meta prison that is designed for him and other dangerous metas to be jailed.
  • Author's Saving Throw: After the show was clearly not allowed to use the N-word in Season 1, severely neutering its portrayal of racism as noted in Narm below, the network is allowing it in Season 2.
  • Complete Monster:
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    • Season 1: The racist, revolting Martin Proctor is the man in charge of the Freeland operations of the sinister ASA. On his own, he restarts a vaccine program with a high mortality rate due to how it can potentially enslave innocent African-Americans and create superpowered pawns. Repackaging it into a drug and circulating it throughout the city to target teenagers with an epidemic of death following, those who develop superpowers are taken for experimentation. When Proctor goes up against his rival Gambi, he has a subordinate force Gambi's surrender by holding a large crowd at gunpoint and is flatly disappointed he can't massacre them when Gambi surrenders. Proctor proceeds to betray and try to kill his ally, crime lord Tobias Whale, while also framing hero Jefferson Pierce as a drug user, not caring if his men kill anyone in the way. When his plans fail, Proctor shores up his losses and intends to take the surviving teens to perform hideous experiments on them to his heart's content, even trying to blackmail Jefferson into giving him a genetic sample by threatening to kill his family. A twisted, racist madman who cares nothing for the damage he does, Proctor is only too glad to condemn thousands of innocent young black men to death, justifying himself with the worst racist rhetoric.
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    • "The Perdi" & "The Sange": The Looker is a metahuman who lords over South Freeland, and an Arc Villain in season 2. Having been exposed to the ASA vaccine 30 years prior, she developed the powers to emanate a mysterious metallic substance known as the Element, which she uses to enslave the white population of South Freeland to join her Hive Mind as Sange. Despite her self-serving belief that she "saved" the town from a drug epidemic, one of her slaves counters that her assimilation is far worse than the drugs; she counters by cruelly murdering him. With the town under her control, the black population—the Perdi—is forced to hide out in the woods, lest the Sange lynch them and hang them from trees. When Anaya, a Perdi, has twin babies with Deacon, a Sange, Looker stops at nothing to capture these babies to be part of her control. Cruel, racist, and self-centered, Looker desired to maintain total dominance over South Freeland, by the most violent means imaginable.
  • Friendly Fandoms: With Marvel's Black Panther movie, which came out only a few weeks after the show premiered. It helps the two properties stand out in what are mostly white-led franchises. Both Jefferson and T'Challa have similar views on how to help the less fortunate and even have similar arcs — both were reluctant to use their powers outside of helping their immediate circle before realizing how they can no longer stand by.
  • Growing the Beard: After Jefferson and Anissa find out about one another's abilities and start working together, the show's fight scenes massively improve, and the characters stop butting heads and start communicating more.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • Prior to this show, one of Cress Williams' best known roles was in Friday Night Lights, where he played the father of Michael B. Jordan's character. The same year that Black Lightning started airing also saw Jordan play Erik Killmonger in the Black Panther movie, meaning the father went on to be a superhero while the son became a supervillain. Williams even joked about the coincidence during an interview with Steve Harvey.
    • James Remar played Raiden the God of Thunder in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. In this show, he's the sidekick/father figure to a superhero with lightning powers. Becomes even funnier since Black Lightning appears in Injustice 2 as an alternate skin for Raiden.
  • LGBT Fanbase: The show has garnered attention in the LGBT community due to the primary romantic subplot being lesbian, with Jefferson's daughter Anissa and Grace Choi, who is bisexual, averting TV's history of No Bisexuals.
  • Moral Event Horizon: Tobias Whale has several possible moments throughout the series; the first notable one occurred before the start of the series, namely him murdering Jefferson's dad by literally shoving his newspaper articles down his throat until he chokes. But him brutally ripping Khalil's spinal implant out of his back and leaving him to a slow and agonizing death is by far his worst moment and seals the deal of him being an utter psychopath.
  • Most Wonderful Sound: Anissa's sharp, echoing inhale to activate her powers.
  • Narm:
    • Sometimes it's hard to keep a straight face when Tobias Whale is on screen. One noteworthy scene is him complaining about the marchers singing in "Lawanda: The Book Of Burial", which sounds like it could have been said by The Grinch.
    • For some, the flowery and religious document-esque episode titles.
    • Many of the times the show depicts racism it can be difficult to take seriously; since they can't use slurs worse than 'negro' (this being CW show and all), they make up for it by having characters casually express highly racist opinions with no subtlety at all, which can get... pretty silly at times. In the season 1 finale, Martin Proctor's racism is so over the top that he becomes a caricature.
    • It's quite hard to take the Sange seriously whenever their name is spoken, as it's pronounced exactly like the name Sanjay. Their enemies the Perdi (meaning it just sounds like hillbillies saying they're pretty) aren't much better.
  • Narm Charm: Fowdy's stiletto heels have actual stiletto knives in them.
  • Older Than They Think: The local gang being called The 100 often results in quite a bit of Narm, thanks to lines that sound like people just really hate another CW show; however, it's justified because the gang is actually called that in the comics.
  • One-Scene Wonder: The Camp Gay clerk who helps Anissa create her superhero outfit.
  • Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped:
    • The show makes no bones about the fact that many of the police are racist and in some cases actively on Tobias Whale's payroll. In addition to mirroring real life problems that African-Americans deal with, it helps to further establish the need for Black Lightning, as even many of the police that are not brazenly corrupt don't show overmuch interest in distinguishing the 100 from the rest of the city's black population. A more subtle application would not properly explain why the police are so ineffective and would just lead to Fridge Logic.
    • Episode 11 spends an awfully long time for a scripted show on Jefferson's processing after being arrested, including the strip and cavity search, despite nothing plotwise happening. What it does do is give the viewer an appreciation of how completely humiliating the process is, and how being innocent doesn't change that.
  • Unintentionally Sympathetic: In season 2 the mostly white school board forces Jefferson to resign as principal, due to his presumed absence when Tobias attacked the school (he was there, but as Black Lightning). We're clearly supposed to side with Jefferson, particularly when he acts like it's some racist gambit on their part when his replacement is white, but what were they supposed to do? The head of the school is nowhere to be found when a notorious gang leader shows up with his Dragons and starts assaulting and threatening students. Doesn't exactly paint a pretty picture.
    • Granted the fact that it seems that they intentionally chose a white man as a replacement for Jefferson for no apparent reason other than that they knew it would frustrate him still has them in the Jerkass territory.
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic:
    • Lynn's reason for making Jefferson give up Black Lightning — she doesn't want their daughters to see him a bloody mess — seems solid. However, in the years since she made him quit, the 100 have made Freeland a hellhole of criminals and corrupt cops. Mitigated during the pilot; when it hits her how bad things are (when their daughters are kidnapped) and she realizes he's going to suit up again, she gives him her blessing and support, and quietly accepts it when he decides to renew his quest against the 100.
    • Jefferson and Lynn lecturing Jennifer about fighting after she breaks a bully's wrist, completely ignoring that she was being physically attacked two on one. While she might have taken it a bit far by breaking one of their wrists, she didn't really have a choice but to defend herself, which makes their lecture seem like a recipe for Pacifism Backfire. Then the Season 1 finale features a teenage Jefferson posing the same question of what he was supposed to do in a similar situation to his father, to which his father doesn't even try to answer, yet the scene still acts like he's spouting some brilliant comeback.
    • Jefferson getting mad at Lynn for trying to find a cure for Jennifer’s meta gene. Unlike Anissa, Jennifer had already made it clear that she doesn’t want to be a hero and wants a normal life. It’s a little hard to understand Jefferson’s side when he kinda sounds like a guy complaining that his daughter won’t be like him anymore. While his attitude might make more sense if metas were a common and persecuted part of society in their world a la the X-Men, here it seems that the only people with powers are the Pierce family and those the ASA have experimented on, so his attitude doesn't really fit the setting of the show.
  • Win the Crowd: The series ended up being the highest rated series premiere on the CW in two years. Not bad, considering the series stars a lower B-Tier hero in DC's history and "black" shows are seen as having niche appeal.
  • WTH, Casting Agency?: Some fans of Grace Choi have taken issue with the fact that her actress is much less muscular than her comic counterpart, pointing out that women, and especially Asian women, usually aren't allowed to have that body type in media.
  • WTH, Costuming Department?:
    • Black Lightning's modern suit has been derided by many, in large part because of the overly-armored and busy appearance. Ironically, the show does include a comics-accurate suit as what Jefferson wore during his original tenure as Black Lightning, but it's passed over when he returns to action, with Gambi claiming the new suit is betternote .
      • Interestingly, the brightly glowing lightning designs make it one of the brightest superhero costumes in the CW’s line-up of DC Heroes (Supergirl & the first three seasons of The Flash (2014) keep their title characters’ reds and blues but they’re very muted.)
    • The painfully fake dreads Khalil has when he becomes Pain Killer make it obviously a wig.

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