Though the CW’s Black Lightning isn’t slated to premiere until next week, there are certain things about the show and its titular hero you can easily discern without having seen them. Black Lightning is a (retired) black superhero operating outside the law. Of course he’s had run-ins with the police.
Black Lightning’s issues with law enforcement don’t stop when he takes off his costume and becomes school principal Jefferson Pierce—something that Black Lightning showrunner and executive proper Salim Akil wanted to make readily apparent in the series’ first episode. We mentioned this scenario was an obvious one for the show to tackle, but spoiler warning just in case.
There’s a moment in the premiere where Pierce is unjustly stopped by the police. He’s forced to choose between standing up for himself and risking being shot in front of his daughters in the car or following the officers’ directions, knowing the only reason he’s been stopped is that he’s black.
As universal as the scene is, it was deeply personal for Akil—who, speaking to The New York Times, described his own experiences being repeatedly harassed by different police officers within a relatively short amount of time:
“I had been stopped by the police quite a few times, but my anger in being stopped again was about to get me killed. I stopped putting on the mask of, this is how I’m supposed to act in these situations. At a certain point, I closed my eyes and took a moment. And I asked myself, is this really worth dying for?”
The scene speaks both to the countless people who’ve been pulled over simply for driving while black and those innocent people gunned down by police in the streets, unprovoked. It’s a bone-chilling introduction to the city of Freeland that Pierce has sworn to protect, but it’s also a sure sign that when Black Lightning drops next week, it won’t be pulling punches.