Go Black Lightning. Go Black Lightning…. Despite my terrible attempt at a Grease reference, how many of you forgot that this was even a show on the CW? So in spite of the show falling prey to similar issues which plagued Luke Cage, it’s still refreshing to see Black Superheroes represented on screen. Also, in spite of it being relegated to the depths of Netflix it’s still better than 95% of DC’s recent output (not that it’s too hard to do that) Anyway, with all that out of the way here is some history about the show.
Black Lightning first debuted on CW in 2018 and ran for 4 series and 58 episodes until it concluded in 2021. The show follows retired superhero, Black Lightning, as he has spent his 9 years in retirement working to better young kids’ lives as a headteacher in his home town of Freeland. This provides the central crux for the show as Jefferson has to choose between returning to vigilantism and keeping his home life together. The show received a lot of praise for its portrayal of a lesbian relationship as well as bringing systemic issues within Black communities to life. So, while it’s always overshadowed by Arrow and The Flash, there’s enough there for an audience to sink their teeth into. Now without further ado, here are the ten best Black Lightning episodes.
Well, everytime Tobias is on screen is a whale of a time for the audience and Jefferson. Now, this episode sees Jefferson struggling to reconcile the fact that his ex and still love interest, Lynn, is being seen with his mortal enemy, Tobias Whale. There’s also more political subterfuge as Mayor Black is assassinated by, shock and horror, Tobias Whale, and there’s a nice open ending with Lightning and her body just dissipating. Overall, this episode does a great job dealing with the aftermath of the Markovian war and the challenges faced by the Pierce family.
9. The Book of War: Chapter Two: Freedom Ain’t Free (S3, E15)
Now as I mentioned in the introduction, there are more than a few similarities between Luke Cage and Black Lightning. And this episode draws another massive one with the whole mysterious antagonist who turns out to be related to the main character. There’s also an engagement party for Anissa and Grace which just reinforces how well the show deals with a mainstream lesbian relationship. Also, the ending scene where Lightning is saved by Black Lightning before he goes to fight Gravedigger which is all sorts of weirdly wholesome. Overall, a good episode which sets the stage for the third season finale.
8. The Book of the Apocalypse: Chapter Two: The Omega (S2, E16)
Well, this is massively mad as a series finale with plenty of points to resolve. So what are these points? Firstly, this episode sees Jennifer finally assume the moniker of Lightning to fight alongside her father: Black Lightning. Also, there’s the stereotypical superhero choice of the hero having to not murder the main villain lest they break their own code as Jefferson manages to stop his daughter killing Tobias Whale. Lucky he knows there’s another two series of the show to go. There’s also a cliffhanger where Odell reveals he knows all the Pierces’s secret identities and that the Markovians are coming for a war in Freeland as a result of their actions. Overall, the season finale is filled with intense moments, setting the stage for the next season.
Now trying to go fully in depth about the intricacies of DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths is insanity given the amount of moving parts but just know this is a good episode. Not only does it set up Black Lightning’s appearances in Parts Three and Five of the crossover, there’s also plenty of emotions at stake for the Pierce family. This is seen when they are trying to bring Jennifer back, only for Black Lightning to end up vanishing in an antimatter wave. Oh, yeah you could play a drinking game for how many times someone says antimatter… Overall this is a solid part of the Arrowverse crossover event “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” this episode features Black Lightning alongside other DC superheroes.
Ahh yes, the quintessential part of any superhero show with an older hero: dealing with their kids. And this episode sees plenty of that as Jennifer and Khalil attempt to evade detection from Black Lightning, Thunder and the world’s most charming assistant: Gambi. There’s also a break in the endless game of hide and seek as there’s a cliffhanger ending when a mysterious metahuman teleports into Freeland after a call with an unknown individual. Overall, a very solid episode which fleshes out Jennifer and Khalil’s relationship with each other and the rest of the cast.
5. LaWanda: The Book of Burial (S1, E3)
Now, this episode really delves deep into social issues within the black community well and sensitively as it deals with the aftermath of LaWanda’s death. Here, we see both Jefferson and Henderson attempting to talk Reverend Holt out of a peaceful march for justice. However, this is both for two very different reasons. And once again due props to the show for not devaluing either argument. Also, the ending where the peace marchers praise Black Lightning’s return whilst Jefferson hugs his family is very well done and captures the central dilemma of the first series. Overall, this episode deals with the aftermath of LaWanda’s death and explores the impact of violence on the community. It’s a pivotal moment in the series that delves into social issues.
4. The Book of Little Black Lies (S1, E9)
Well you can’t spell coincidence without holy s**t this episode has a massive coincidence. Because somehow investigations into corrupt police officers, electrical weapons and drugs all lead to the same manufacturing plant. Anyway, that coincidence aside there’s a very nice battle as Black Lightning nearly gets caught out. But luckily for him and the show he’s saved by Thunder. Also, the ending scene of Jefferson and Anissa watching Princess and The Frog whilst promising to be more truthful to each other is utterly beautiful. This episode explores the strained relationship between Jefferson and Anissa very well, as she discovers her own superpowers.
3. Shadow of Death: The Book of War (S1, E13)
Now this is an electrifying series finale as it brings the conflict between Black Lightning and Tobias Whale. Here, we see Anissa bravely giving her dad his powers back after he wakes up without them. This is in order to evade capture from three different groups. Also, there’s the ending where Tobias’s briefcase hints at him finally having the power to finish off Black Lightning once and for all. All as the obligatory outcast hero is being celebrated. Overall, it’s an action-packed episode with significant consequences for the characters.
2. The Book of Blood: Chapter One: Requiem (S2, E5)
Well, this episode really goes down the melodramatic route as the show tries to convince you Gambi is dead. So with Jefferson rather occupied by searching for hints about Gambi, Tobias Whale makes another big move. Basically as he starts using a mysterious briefcase’s contents to bring councillors under his control. Man, the last time something focussed on a briefcase so much Brett got shot to ribbons… Anyway, there’s also a mysterious virus sweeping around which is causing skin crawling and dissolving into metal. Weird symptoms but okay. Anyway, there’s also some much needed depth for Tobias during a dinner scene with Painkiller. And no references to Three Days Grace….. Anyway, a solid, solid episode.
1. The Resurrection (S1, E1)
And the best episode of Black Lightning is…. The Resurrection. Because ironically, the show manages to capture lightning in a bottle with this episode. Here, it introduces us to Jefferson Pierce as he returns to crime-fighting after a nine-year retirement. Also another positive is it sets the tone for the series and establishes the challenges. These are challenges he faces both as a superhero and a high school principal. Furthermore, the fact it never loses sight of the social issues facing black communities is another high point for the episode. A shockingly good episode which deals with issues incredibly well and sensitively.