High school principal by day, superhero by night, Jefferson Pierce is the caring, stoic leader of a safe haven of a school in a troubled area. Plagued with gang violence, drugs, and sex trafficking, Freeland symbolizes the struggles faced by many communities in our contemporary society. It is mainly through the leaders that we get a glimpse of the complexities and complications of creating and employing solutions to these societal ills from different angles. Through the figurehead characters of Principal Jefferson Pierce, Detective Billy Henderson, and Rev. Holt, we get an understanding of the philosophies and practices of three main societal institutions – education, law enforcement, and religion. This is most likely because their perspectives are the dominant ones.
The other main characters who are not figureheads for these institutions are also given depth as their personal motivations, fears, and flaws are explored. Jennifer, Pierce’s youngest daughter, plans to have sex for the first time with her new boyfriend, while simultaneously navigating being a target as the principal’s daughter. Older sister Anissa discovers her superhuman strength and begins to test and learn more about her abilities by investigating the mysterious death of her late grandfather. Gambi, Black Lightning’s tailor and trusted confidant, keeps a secret about his relationship with Tobias, and battles with Pierce’s ex-wife, Lynn, about the necessity for the superhero to reemerge. And Lynn, well Lynn is just there.
While it is important to see a loving and present mother onscreen, it is as equally imperative to see Lynn as a woman. We do not know what drives her as an individual; we are unsure of her secrets, her flaws. We only experience her in relation to her family. Even her profession directly caters to her ex-husband. In versions of the comic books, she is a referred to as a teacher and a lawyer; in the television series, she is a neuroscientist who is conveniently called upon by Gambi to tend to Black Lightning, as discretion is needed. At present, Lynn appears to exist solely for the purpose of serving others; she is the only member of the family with no subplot.
To be clear, I do not think Black Lightning is a bad show. The first few episodes seem to be laying the groundwork for the series to take root and unfold and I am enjoying the journey. While Black Lightning’s character is captivating, and Cress Williams is aesthetically pleasing to say the least, I am here for my homegirl Anissa. I mean, a highly intelligent black lesbian superhero with a heart for enacting social justice. I would be remiss if I overlooked Jill Scott’s wonderfully eerie and intriguing portrayal of elegant and sinister Lady Eve. I hope this black girl magic is contagious and that Lynn gets the life she so desperately needs.