REVIEWED: SEASON 3 (EPISODES 1 - 3) | WHERE TO WATCH: NETFLIX
After an encouraging but inconsistent first season, Black Lightning hit its stride in its sophomore year, delivering on its early promise with a tightly-woven tale of superheroes, community-wrecking drugs, shady government dealings, and the unchecked ambition of a ruthless gangster. The end of Season 2, which finally saw main antagonist Tobias Whale put behind bars, upped the stakes for the people of Freeland – super-powered or not – with the threat of their own government rivalling that of a possible invasion by foreign agents.
When Season 3 opens, Freeland is on lockdown. Agent O’Dell (played with seriously creepy calmness by veteran character actor Bill Duke) of the ASA, has incarcerated all known and suspected metahumans, with the exception of Black Lightning’s daughters, Anissa and Jennifer. That’s to ensure the co-operation of Freeland’s hero, and his wife, a top metahuman scientist.
O’Dell’s rationale is that the Markovians, who have a long comic book association with Black Lightning and mentions of whom were sprinkled through Season 2, are looking to capture Freeland’s metahumans to use them as weapons of mass destruction, but even when the sinister Europeans appear en masse there’s still a suspicion that O’Dell and the ASA are out to use the metahumans for their own, equally sinister ends.
Although this year’s Black Lightning has a very different feel to the previous one (which itself was a change from the tone of Season 1), subplots from the show’s first two years continue throughout, with the fates of Whale, tattooed-man LaLa, and Jennifer’s ex-boyfriend PainKiller still very much a part of the show. Returning, too, is Grace Choi, the shapeshifting love interest of older daughter Anissa, and there’s a new face in town; Adeptinpo Thomas’s Jamillah Olsen, a very urban take on cub reporter Jimmy Olsen from the mainstream DC universe.
And that may be where Black Lightning finds its place in the grand scheme of things; this is a very black show, every bit as relative to the lives and concerns and struggles of urban African-Americans as it is a tale of super-powered fighty people.
Black Lightning stands beside the mainstream Arrowverse, and has never been explicitly connected to the other shows on the CW network. That will change, at least slightly (and maybe much more), when Cress Williams’s electric hero appears in the annual Arrowverse crossover later this year, but you’d hope that even if Freeland becomes part of the same America that National City, Star City, and Central City occupy, Black Lightning will still retain its unique, stylish, black perspective.