(Black) Lightning Does Strike Twice

The CW threw there hat in the inclusive ring with last year’s announcement of D.C.’s Black Lightning. After the success of their mostly white superhero shows – adding Supergirl two years ago- it was time D.C.’s first African American star shined. Akin to Marvel’s Luke Cage, Lightning struck in the 1970s off the popularity of blaxploitation culture. Afros and jive populated the original comic as Jefferson Pierce, a crime fighter wielding the ability to control electricity, fought injustice. Decades later as the comic genre booms along with the need for fairer representation, Black Lightning strikes back in 2018.

While many blerds rejoiced at the thought of seeing this character come to life, there was an equal level of apprehension. This is The CW we are talking about. Other than Jane the Virgin and supporting casts on the comic titles, accurate potrayals of blacks and POC was scarce. And when rumors buzzed of a Black Lives Matters episode of Arrow, even the ancestors rolled their eyes. Luckily Black Lightning’s success is sewed by Salim and Mara Brock Akil.

The coupled screenwriters behind Girlfriends and Being Mary Jane deliver a relevant and substantial black family drama with hero elements. From this vantage point, the series elevates its tone above the campiness that plagues nominal comic vehicles. The story becomes the focus. And with a good story, everything else can fall into place.

Jefferson Pierce is a divorced principal of Garfield High, curbing the vices of the neighborhood from his students and family. He retired his cape nine years ago, but when a villainous crime circuit threatens his two daughters, Black Lightning suits back up. Driven by Pierce’s need to protect his family, he sees his responsibility goes beyond his own front door. The community is plagued with gun violence and drugs. And where there is violence, there are the unjust hands of the police.

The opening scene finds Pierce (Cress Williams) driving home from a school event. Dressed in a suit and tie, along with his two young daughters, the cops pull him over claiming he matches the description of a theft suspect in the area. Pierce exhausts its the third time that month he’s been profiled as his eldest daughter Anissa (Nafessa Williams) records the interaction with her smartphone. The series unabashedly displays and discusses the current Black experience in America. From protests against police brutality, to questions of class within the Black community, its all on deck. And we’re all better for it.

In addition to the topical issues addressed, the Akils have surrounded the show in a tapestry of authentic blackness. A man compares Black Lightning’s costume to a Parliament/Funkadelic outfit. Anissa chides her younger, rebellious sister Jennifer (China McClain) as “fast ass.” The soundtrack – much like Shonda Rhimes’ with Scandal – is syrupy soul and funk, an homage to the 70s original comic. The series opens to the politically-charged anthem “Strange Fruit” made famous by Billie Holiday. The show is a level of blackness never before herald on The CW.

Beyond the great story and rich cultural observance, the hero stuff we actually came for is legit. Black Lightning kicks ass with believable fight scenes and seemingly strong graphics. The pilot skips the clumsy stretch of our protagonist figuring out how their powers work. Instead we see the veteran Pierce reassemble his skills seamlessly. And he’s going to need it facing one of the most gruesome villains in CW history. Arrow had Slade and Flash Zoom, but Lightning brings Tobais – a brutal thug kingpin who harpoons his foot soldiers for discipline. The violence delivers real consequences for our characters and the story, keeping viewers intensely bound to what happens next.

Two episodes in and I’m sold for the season – which promises us at least two more heroes joining the family’s fight. Black Lightning airs Tuesday’s at 9 p.m. ET on The CW or all the time on The CW app.

Trailer Things: ‘Bright’ looks better this time around 

Will Smith’s big budget Netflix debut is the fantasy-action (race?) thriller Bright. The first trailer left me a bit lost, but this one looks more solid with the racial component looking more smoothed out. 

Smith plays a veteran officer who is paired with the first orc to be a member of the LAPD, Joel Edgerton. As these two work to coexist, a powerful weapon threatens their world. It’s a definite flip of a cop action flick.  

ELN: ‘Gifted’ – “eXit strategy” sets up war to come

the-gifted-exit-strategy-comicbook.comFox’s The Gifted saw our mutant rebels risk it all for a rescue mission.  Lorna and Reed form an unlikely alliance while Marcos visits someone from his past.

The episode opens in a flashback: Marcos, Johnny and others attempt to free prisoners from Sentinel Services. They barely escape, with one mutant – Josh – being left behind. He’s shot in the back. Another casualty in the fight for justice. Continue reading ELN: ‘Gifted’ – “eXit strategy” sets up war to come

Trailer Things: Perry’s “Acrimony” sees Henson as thee woman scorned

The phrase “Tyler Perry presents” has become the best way to clear a theater in recent years. Other than a few Madea-less works, his attempts at keeping black actors paid are laughable BET mainstays. See Madea Boo 2, it will be on Debra Lee’s network soon.

Despite this Perry is highly successful. Owning his own studio, he is able to keep the mahcine working. The next product is the Taraji P. Henson-led Acrimony, which looks like the ideal Lifetime Original dipped in chocolate. I’d lie if I said I wasn’t interested in this tale of revenge from a jilted wife. Peep the trailer below.

ELN: Powerful ‘This Is Us’ reveals two secrets 

Last night’s This Is Us spelled something new for Kate, while unveiling a character flaw Kevin inherited from his father. And Randall and Beth took a step forward with Deja, only to face another setback.

 

Kate busies herself in preparation for a big show, paying particular attention to her steady weight loss. Toby senses she is stressing too much, even ignoring him in the process. But she assures him she is fine. What she hasn’t disclosed to her fiancé is she’s six weeks pregnant.

While Kate prepares for this monumental change, Randall and Beth struggle to connect with the change in their home. A simple discussion about Deja not washing her hair becomes a science neither of them can understand. In an intimate moment, Beth finds the root of the problem: Deja suffers from alopecia. It’s a touching segment seeing her open up to Beth. Unfortunately this progress regresses once Deja discovers Beth shared her secret with Randall. It’s evident men in Deja’s life have been the source of mistreatment.

We see a different form of abuse in the flashback  narrative. An outbreak of the chickenpox brings Rebecca’s tenuous relationship with her mother to a head. We had glimpses of her mother’s constant critiquing, but never witnessed it firsthand.

The snide comments about Kate’s weight. Emphasising Kevin’s success with his looks. Judging Jack for his upbringing. And lastly, her racially insesitive disposition toward Randall. Rebecca finally extolls how none of it is acceptable.

This scene brilliantly tackled the timely issue of addressing problematic family members. To all those with Trump supporters at the Thanksgiving table; to those who’s friends make rape jokes; this is how you make it known that their behavoir is unfavorable and unacceptable.

The flashsback segment also gave us insight into Kevin’s backstory with his father. Jack’s seemingly innocent encouragement for Kevin to be tough through the chickenpox ordeal stuck with him. Even after his football-ending leg injury, Kevin learned to cope with pain and suffering by acting like it isn’t there.

Now with his knee surgery, he’s recoiled to the same tough-it-out mentality. Part of it is him not wanting to lose his acting career like he did his athletic one. The other is him fearing how he’ll react to the opioids prescribed.
Just as Jack coveted his father’s alcoholism, Kevin may have inherited a similar addictive trait. And by the looks of next week’s episode, Kevin succumbs to more than just pills to cope.

N.O.T: I’m all in for joining the ‘Voltron’ Coalition in S4

Netflix’s Voltron: Legendary Defender dropped its fourth season Friday. After my enjoyable weekend, I sat down and sped through the six-episode set. I thoroughly love the shorter seasons. Less filler and more action to keep you glued to the screen.

Voltron-season-4-_Image1The season saw our paladins recruiting forces from across the galaxy to join in their fight against the Galra Empire. As Zarkon’s leadership remained a mystery,  the Coalition grew in numbers. Once strong enough they move forward with a massive undertaking which involves Rebel forces and the Blade of Marmora.

This advantage doesn’t come without a price. Keith split his duties between Voltron and the Blade, as he assists them in covert missions of intel gathering. Soon it interferes with his duties as a Paladin. He makes the executive decision to leave team Voltron. Luckily, Shiro reconnects with the Black Lion as the Paladins sole leader.

In addition to the main narrative, we received two subplots that reaped great rewards. Pidge’s search for her family results in an emotional reunion with her brother Mark. Writers granted her a lone episode, tarrying solo, faithful her older sibling was still alive. One of the series’ strongest episodes, period.

Voltron-Season-4As one family finds each other, an other suffers great loss. Just as Haggar suspected, Lotor’s agenda counters Zarkon’s. With the truth out, a quickly recuperated Zarkon declares Lotor an enemy of the Galra state. This shift leaves the conniving prince a lone wolf.

Will the Paladins of Voltron find an ally in the exiled Lotor? Will Pidge and Mark find their father? Questions needing answers now. Season five cannot come soon enough.