Black Lightning: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Review: A Realistic Feel to a Show About Superheroes

Disclaimer: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided Cinema Sentries with a free copy of the Blu-ray reviewed in this post. The opinions shared are those solely of the writer

Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams) is Garfield High’s principal and one of the most upstanding and respected members of the Freeland community. Little would anyone know that nine years ago he was running around as a costumed vigilante known as Black Lightning. But his days wearing a mask and fighting criminals are over. His wife, Lynn (Christine Adams), had grown tired of his nightly escapades that frequently brought him home bloodied, injured, or in withdrawals from using his electrical powers. Not only was sitting at home not knowing whether he would be coming back extremely stressful to her, but they had two children, Anissa (Nafessa Williams) and Jennifer (China Anne McClain). And his being there to take care of his family ended up overriding his desire to go out and have violent confrontations out on the city streets.

But just because he could no longer put on a mask, it didn’t stop him from going out and being a positive example in society. Working his way up the chain, Jefferson had made deals with the local gangs, whom he had grown up with, into leaving his school alone. He mentored the kids who attended, stuck up for them, fought for them, and helped them to become productive individuals and to work towards college. And for nine years that existence had worked well for everyone, that is until a few members of a gang calling themselves “The 100” infringes upon the truce. Jennifer catches the eye of one of the gangbangers and begins to get pushed around by him. Anissa, who is a serious activist and teacher at the school, also gets involved. The two find themselves being kidnapped by the gang. While he had an agreement with Lynn not to put on the costume, this event is a game changer for the couple and it is once again time for Black Lightning to come out of the shadows. Hitting up his good friend and mentor, Peter Gambi (James Remar), for his old gear and backup, the two decide to clean up the town once and for all.

Unfortunately for them, the gang is not the only group threatening Freeland. There are two others. Tobias Whale (Marvin ‘Krondon’ Jones III), a big criminal boss who had fled town years ago has decided to come back and finish off his old nemesis once and for all. But not only has he returned for revenge, he’s coming back to take over everything and that includes the A.S.A., a secret government organization that has been doing experiments on the townfolk. Years ago when Jefferson was a child, they had used chemicals on the civilians, which resulted in some of them gaining special powers and now they are back to try out some new more stable version of the drug.

Fighting all these groups, including avoiding the police who are after him, might be too much for one hero to handle alone. It’s a good thing he has Gambi to create new suits and provide intel for him. Not only did he help him in the past, but he became a father figure to him when his own dad was murdered when he was a child. But there may be a problem. Gambi has some secrets of his own and knows a little more than an innocent bystander should know. Along with dealing with possible betrayal from his most trusted friend, Jefferson will also have to come to terms with both of his daughters developing powers who are both handling it in completely different ways.

The Blu-ray is presented in 1080p High Definition 16×9 1.78:1 video with a DTS-HD 5.1 audio track. The video quality is top notch and with many action scenes filmed at night wearing dark costumes, it was still very easy to differentiate the action and characters from one another. The colors were sharp and the quality very clean. The audio track was nice and immersive and delivered a good surround sound that works well with the different action scenes, such as guns blazing and lightning crackling.

All 13 episodes of Season One are contained on two discs, along with several special features:

  • “Come Visit Georgia PSA #1” and “Come Visit Georgia PSA #2” The first one is the crew and casting directors discussing what they like about shooting in Georgia, and the second is the producers and creator discussing their reasons for why they enjoy filming there.
  • “Art Imitating Life: The Pilot Episode” is an in-depth look at the series pilot and how the most pivotal scene when Jefferson was pulled over by the police with his daughter in the car came from a real-life experience.
  • “A Family Of Strength” is a discussion on the roles each member of the family plays and how important the role of family plays in the series.
  • Black Lightning: 2017 Comic-Con Panel” – The cast and creators sat down in front of a large crowd of fans before the first season premiered and discussed the show and what they could expect to see. I’m glad I didn’t see it before I watched the show because they discuss both daughters also having powers and part of the enjoyment about that revelation during the season for me was discovering that they had powers and what they were.
  • Also included were “Deleted Scenes” and a very minimal “Gag Reel”.

Being a fan of all the CW superhero shows, I quickly found Black Lightning stood out as my favorite. Much like Arrow, it has a more serious tone, but this show felt more real than the others. The action was grittier without all the spectacular stunts that the others have. Even their use of superpowers looked plausible and not over the top. Not only was the action more realistic, but the characters were better developed and more relatable. They all had real motivations including the villains. Tobias was a fantastic villain. Not only did he look the part of a tough badass, but he showed no mercy to his victims. The threat of him killing the Pierce family was a serious threat.

One thing I was initially concerned about was that the show was going to be over preachy on social topics. Thankfully, they were not. Yes, they did touch on topics such as racial equality, but it was done very tastefully. I appreciated the fact that it felt more like a discussion instead of in-your-face confrontations, which is one thing that Supergirl has taken to doing. With the discussion in both the Comic-Con panel and the pilot episode that are included in the Special Features, I felt I got a well-rounded perspective on issues that I am ignorant about.

Having watched this season, my only real complaint is that it was too short. I wanted more than 13 episodes, but even so they did a good job of pacing and keeping my attention. I’m looking forward to what Season Two will bring and hoping that they can keep up the same quality of the inaugural season.

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Todd Karella

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