is different from the glut of superhero television in several ways. The cast consists primarily of people of color. The main hero is a single father approaching middle age with his own adult children. There's also no real sense that it's attached to any larger narrative or universe outside of its own world. Yet, if there's a singular thing that makes Black Lightning
stand out from the genre and TV in general, it's the romance between Jefferson and Lynn, which, while new, is developing into one of the best on TV.
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Couples of a Certain Age
It's rare on a broadcast network, let alone The CW, to have a romance between people who look and sound like Jefferson and Lynn be front and center. Yet their relationship is notable for much more than its unique look. There's a maturity to Jefferson and Lynn's interaction that's both refreshing and incredibly exciting to watch unfold.
A lot of it has to do with the fact that both characters act their age. It's odd to have anyone in their 40s be the in big romantic spotlight, and it's even rarer for those characters to act as if they've lived all those years. There's such a wealth of experience that is evident with Jefferson and Lynn.
It's true that Jefferson and Lynn are parents and for that reason must act like adults a lot of the time. Even when Anissa and Jennifer aren't around there's a maturity and respect in the way they deal with one another. There's no big outbursts or dramatic proclamations. Even when they're fighting there's a level of mutual respect. Jefferson and Lynn talk out their problems, like adults. There's no forced drama or added stakes; people having a serious discussion can be just as enthralling as any big action scene if done correctly.
Though Black Lightning fans are just meeting Jefferson and Lynn, there's a clearly defined sense of their decades-long history. The characters having been through so much more than the audience is aware of could be frustrating but it's not. Fans know everything they need to about Jefferson and Lynn -- they're two people who love each other but have issues. Every answer isn't needed because the important ones are evident and the emotions are palpable.
A Different Type of Love Story
Black Lightning picked an interesting time to tune into the story of Jefferson and his family. Before the series even began, there were years of adventures and Jefferson and Lynn have gotten together and fallen apart. Now it's all about them mending those fences, but it's no less interesting. In fact, it's probably even more compelling.
TV is littered with stories of boy meeting girl and trying to win her over, or vice versa. Black Lightning isn't two people finding each other, it's about them trying to repair their way to back to one another. The obstacle isn't in Jefferson and Lynn discovering their feelings as it is for most TV romances but it's in how to make those feelings work in the face of real-life responsibilities and realities. It's so much more relatable and interesting than the dull and often frustrating pattern of will-they, won't-they romance. The trouble of romance in real life isn't in getting together -- that's the easy part -- it's how to stay together that is the trouble. This is something Black Lightning understands.
It also helps that the problems Jefferson and Lynn are dealing with are ones with no easy solutions. The affection is there but so is a very real danger for them. Lynn is perfectly within reason to not want Jefferson to risk his life, nightly, as Black Lightning, feeling he can do more good for the community as Jefferson Pierce. Meanwhile, Jefferson has already proven that Black Lightning is a helpful part of the community.
Neither character is "right" or "wrong," it's just matter of perspective. While not unheard of, that dynamic isn't commonplace. It would be so easy to make Lynn the nagging ex-wife but she's much more complicated. Lynn's not rigidly against Jefferson being a hero, it's when he needlessly risks his life that she's concerned. Similarly, Jefferson isn't a foolhardy idiot, he's passionate but not moronic.
It's true that Black Lightning is its infancy and the show, as well as Jefferson and Lynn's relationship, could easily fall into tropes. Yet, for the moment, it's something that everyone need to take notes on and admire. The show might have the typical unbelievable superpowers, but the truly remarkable thing is how the show is dealing with Jefferson and Lynn's complicated and beautiful romance.
But what do you make of Jefferson and Lynn? Are you rooting for them to get back together? How do you think it compares to other romances on TV? Can you think of any story that is similar?
(Image courtesy of The CW)