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Black Lightning is the most underrated series in the Arrowverse. There, I said it.
It’s a series that tackles police brutality, gun violence, governmental experimentation, family separation, redistribution of wealth, male privilege, and Black queerness — and OH YEAH, it’s about a family of f***ing incredible superheroes.
Jefferson Pierce, Dr. Lynn Stewart, Anissa Pierce, and Jennifer Pierce (plus Jefferson’s weird adoptive white dad slash former governmental agent Gambi) make up the Black Lightning family, and this series about how their family grapples with superpowers, social justice, and becoming the person you want to be is truly irresistible.
Not only is the series filled with powerful Black characters, but it hinges on the organizing, leadership, and courage of Black women — particularly Anissa. Like the Stonewall Riot’s Stormé DeLarverie and Black Lives Matter’s Patrisse Cullors, Anissa represents the kind of intersectional queer Black leadership the world has always relied on — but this one has actual superpowers.
And as Anissa comes into her power as an organizer and her power as a superhero, she and her father disagree about the best ways to proceed in the fight for equity and justice. Jefferson believes in working within the system; Anissa doesn’t. You’ll just have to tune in to see which argument wins out over the three seasons of the series that have been released so far.
Anissa means so much to me as queer person because she represents everything our communities have fought for — and she constantly sticks by her principles. To help you dig into this series — or hey, maybe you just want to revisit Anissa’s greatest hits — here’s a Very Important Binge of Black Lightning dedicated all to her.
Season 1, Episode 1: “The Resurrection”
The series premiere gives a nice introduction to the Pierce-Stewart family, reveals the constant racism they deal with as Black people, and sets up the antagonism between Anissa and Jefferson, which is going to be a running theme. Oh, and it reveals that Jefferson is Black Lightning, a retired superhero who gets back int the game when his daughters are kidnapped. Oh! Oh! And Anissa is quickly finding out she can inexplicably do some rather amazing things.
Season 1, Episode 3: “Lawanda: the Book of Burial”
Anissa begins exploring the extent of her powers by kicking the s*** out of washing machines in a junkyard and when she goes to do research on genetic mutations (Anissa is a medical student and super-nerd), she meets a cute girl named Grace (AHHHHHH).
Season 1, Episode 4: “Black Jesus”
When Anissa finds out dealers have been selling drugs to her students (she also works at the school where Jefferson is a principal), she decides to bring the thunder. Later that night when she’s leaving a lesbian bar with Grace, they’re harassed by a group of homophobes and SWEET HERA does it feel good to see a lesbian beat them with a simple (shockwave infused) stomp.
Season 1, Episode 5: “And Then the Devil Brought the Plague: The Book of Green Light”
Still completely unaware her dad is Black Lightning, Anissa searches desperately searches for more information about her powers. She learns that her grandfather was investigating a series of vaccines that resulted in powers in some people—similar to the Tuskegee experiments. Anissa decides she needs a suit if she’s going to have powers and creates a delightfully campy leather-infused temporary costume.
Season 1, Episode 6: “Three Sevens: The Book of Thunder”
Anissa gets arrested protesting a confederate statue and she and her dad debate whether personal safety is more important than activism. Then Anissa overhears someone say they wish they could do something about the situation… good thing she knows a badass named Thunder. We also get to see Black Lightning and Thunder fight in this scene — both while trying to protect Anissa’s mom.
Season 1, Episodes 8 and 9: “The Book of Revelations” and “The Book of Little Black Lies”
Anissa continues to work with her dad to develop her powers and become the kind of hero Freeland needs. Jennifer’s powers start to appear and they are quite showy. When she talks to her sister about what’s happening, Anissa tells Jennifer she has powers. But Jennifer doesn’t want to be a hero. Meanwhile, Anissa finally chooses her official Thunder suit.
Season 1, Episode 11: “Black Jesus: The Book of Crucifixion”
Jefferson is framed during a drug bust and the ASA (American Security Agency — these jerks aren’t going anywhere) decides he’s Black Lightning. To get them off his back, Anissa and Gambi construct a realistic hologram and show him running alongside Thunder. Shew. That was a close one.
Season 2, Episode 1: “The Book of Consequences: Chapter One: Rise of the Green Light Babies”
Anissa finds a new way to help the people of Freeland, but her father doesn’t like it. So, she forgets her Thunder costume, dons an all-black outfit with a hoodie, and kicks the ever-loving crap out of drug dealers in an unforgettable fight sequence. She gives the money she steals to the parents of Green Light babies, people who got powers from taking Green Light (which is made from the same stuff as the aforementioned vaccine).
Season 2, Episode 3: “The Book of Consequences: Chapter Three: Master Lowry”
When it becomes known that a health clinic will go under for lack of funding, Anissa decides to reprise her act and steals from a nasty group of dealers. She gives the money to the church in a very cool scene that gives me chills every time! We also get to see Anissa and Grace reconnect and oh, I just want these lovebirds to make it!
Season 2, Episode 4: “The Book of Consequences: Chapter Three: Translucent Freak”
Jefferson isn’t happy when he learns that Anissa has been using her powers to steal money. He tries to re-exert his control over and makes the mistake many parents do when they’re flailing. He throws down an ultimatum: Live in my house with my rules or get out. But Anissa is a grown-ass woman who knows she’s on the right side of history, so she exits stage left. Despite himself, Jefferson starts to wonder if Anissa has a point.
Season 2, Episodes 5-7: “The Book of Blood: Chapter One: Requiem,” “The Book of Blood: Chapter Two: The Perdi” and “The Book of Blood: Chapter Three: The Sange”
In what I would say are some of the best episodes of Black Lightning, Anissa meets a young pregnant woman at the clinic where she works and is concerned for her health. When the woman’s partner returns and dies in Anissa’s care, she goes to check on the woman in South Freeland and learns that South Freeland is racially segregated. But the white half of the group has superpowers due to being enslaved by a hero named Looker, a walking, talking manifestation of White Feminism. Brace yourself for intense racism, brilliant fights, and two very cute bebes. Grace and Anissa decide to make their thing the real deal, but Grace seems kind of distracted. Maybe it’s because her skin keeps rippling, changing, and freaking her out?
Season 2, Episode 12: “The Book of Secrets: Chapter Two: Just and Unjust”
After Jennifer’s boyfriend Khalil is murdered, his mother cannot afford his funeral. But Anissa is definitely not going to stand around and just let that happen. In a delightful scene, she destroys a bunch of gangsters to get the money needed. She delivers the funds and Khalil gets the funeral he deserves.
Season 2, Episodes 13 and 14: “The Book of Secrets: Chapter Three: Pillar of Fire” “The Book of Secrets: Chapter Four: Original Sin”
When Grace suddenly disappears, Anissa decides to do some research on her and learns that Grace has a horrifically traumatic backstory. She tracks Grace down to a dingy apartment. Anissa sees a leopard and a half-eaten horse and starts really freaking out. She comes back as Thunder and fights a remarkable strong older man who then shapeshifts into Grace, shocking TF out of Anissa. But other factors are keeping Anissa firmly focused on Freeland.
Season 3, Episode 3: “The Book of Occupation: Chapter Three: Agent Odell’s Pipe-Dream”
Freeland is wildly different in this season. As Markovian forces try to break into Freeland, which is surrounded by an ASA-run forcefield, the ASA occupies Freeland, keeping citizens underfoot, seizing anyone suspected to have used Green Light, and generally just being nightmarish. Black Lightning and Thunder are working with the ASA so that they don’t experiment on Anissa and Jennifer, so Anissa assumes a new hero identity: Blackbird in the midst of all this awfulness, Grace shows back up and Anissa tells her she doesn’t care if she’s a traumatized shapeshifter — she loves her.
Season 3, Episodes 4: “The Book of Occupation: Chapter Four: Lynn’s Ouroboros”
Anissa and Grace move in together. Jefferson is not here for it at first and his anger causes Grace to shift into her childhood form, a terrified 12-year-old. Anissa continues to show what a badass she is by protecting her partner, standing up to her father, and ordering him to leave. At the same time, she explains to Grace that he will never, ever hurt either of them. Grace’s PTSD is intense and Anissa shows her so much love and care. UGH! THEIR LOVE IS SO PURE.
Season 3, Episodes 6 and 7: “The Book of Resistance: Chapter One: Knocking on Heaven’s Door” and “The Book of Resistance: Chapter Two: Henderson’s Opus”
While trying to save someone, Anissa was poisoned by Painkiller (yes, Khalil is alive again, but he’s brainwashed soooo). In this episode, she records a very sad video about how she accepts her fate and believes in her work at Blackbird. Grace cares for Anissa at home as she recovers.
Season 3, Episode 8: “The Book of Resistance: Chapter Three: The Battle of Franklin Terrace”
At long last, Jefferson decides to say f*** the ASA and f*** the system. As Black Lightning, he helps protect the apartment building where he grew up from being commandeered by the ASA as barracks. Thunder, relieved her dad finally gets it, shows up to have his back and encounters Khalil. To this point, Khalil has utterly destroyed everyone he has fought, but he really needs to remember exactly who Thunder is.
Season 3, Episode 10: “The Book of Markovia: Chapter One: Blessings and Curses Reborn”
The resistance team decides it’s time to rescue the kids that have been held in detention camps before the ASA weaponizes them. When Black Lightning walks into the planning meeting, everyone turns to him for direction, but it’s Blackbird who has been leading them up to this point. She’s not afraid to call her dad out for “male privilege” and though he’s a bit offended, Jefferson relents. It’s a good thing, too, because he makes a bad call in the field but trusts Anissa’s opinion — which saves them all. After almost three seasons of watching these two butt heads, it’s great to see Jefferson see his daughter with new eyes. D’awwwww.
Season 3, Episodes 12 and 13: “The Book of Markovia: Chapter Three: Motherless ID” and “The Book of Markovia: Chapter Four: Grab the Strap”
When Lynn is captured by the Markovians, the Pierce family (complete with Jennifer all suited up!) teams up with the ASA to rescue her. They bring their gaggle of metas with them including Grace and even Khalil (who is no longer brainwashed). The whole team grapples not just with the Markovian forces, but with a terrifyingly powerful meta named Gravedigger who doesn’t really seem to be stoppable.
Season 3, Episodes 14-16: “The Book of War: Chapter One: Homecoming,” “The Book of War: Chapter Two: Freedom Ain’t Free” and “The Book of War: Chapter Three: Liberation”
Things with the Markovians and Gravedigger accelerate and our merry band of heroes braces for all-out war. The Pierces learn they are related to Gravedigger and it’s revealed that that’s why their powers are stable. While Thunder and Grace do some great fighting and ass-kicking, it is their ENGAGEMENT and almost-WEDDING that really steals the cake in Episode 15. UM, JUST LOOK AT THEIR GORGEOUS CREAM WEDDING ATTIRE.
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The season ends with Anissa heartbroken over Grace, who is in a coma after being controlled by Gravedigger to kill Anissa, but I have faith that these two lovers are going to get another chance!