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‘Black Lightning’ Finale Explained: Salim Akil Interview | DC TV Watch


Welcome back to The Hollywood Reporter‘s weekly DC TV Watch, a rundown of all things DC Comics on the small screen. Every Saturday, we round up the major twists, epic fights, new mysteries and anything else that goes down on The CW’s Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, Supergirl and Black Lightning and Fox’s Gotham. Note: Legends of Tomorrow did not air a new episode this week.

Black Lightning

Delayed face-off | Just when Black Lightning fans started preparing for the face-off to end all face-offs in the season one finale, it never actually came. Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams) never went head-to-head with Tobias Whale (Marvin “Krondon” Jones III) by the time the season one finale credits started to roll. In a sense, they actually worked together to take down the rogue ASA experiment targeting Freeland, albeit for different reasons. Jefferson did it to save his family and his city, while Tobias did it take control of Freeland’s criminal underworld. So by the end of the finale, the two were in separate orbits. The CW’s latest superhero series ended the finale with a shot of the Pierce family sharing a happy and peaceful moment together before cutting away to an ominous shot of Tobias opening up a mysterious briefcase and smiling. “Just when you think everything is happy and peaceful, there is something else on the horizon,” executive producer Salim Akil tells THR of choosing to end the finale on that moment. “No matter how happy and peaceful you can be at a certain time, you always have this, at least I do, paranoia or catastrophic thought that even now that I have all this peace and quiet, what’s the next challenge? What’s coming next? On a very human level, I think most people can identify with that. Especially since we have a superhero show, I wanted to show that all is not right with the world but all is right with the Pierce family at the moment.” 

The devil you know | And with Tobias’ survival, that means the villain Jefferson will be facing in season two will be all too familiar. “I don’t want to introduce too many villains,” Akil says. “I want us to settle in now that we know everyone. We know what the ASA is, we know who Tobias is, so now we can really tell some grounded stories about our villains, our heroes, the people in Freeland. So yes Tobias will be our villains but there will be other forces in Freeland and outside of Freeland that will rear their ugly heads.” As for what’s in the briefcase, Akil laughs. “I can’t tell you, but I can give you a general answer,” he says. “There is power in that box, power like Tobias has never had before. What he sees in it is horrible to us, but to him it’s exciting. He feels it’s going to make him the king of Freeland and beyond.”

A family affair | With season one focusing mainly on Black Lightning coming out of retirement and Anissa (Nefessa Williams) discovering her powers and becoming Thunder, season two will finally showcase Jennifer’s (China Anne McClain) journey to becoming Lightning. She’s only just begun her training, and hasn’t suited up yet. But Akil promises she will very soon. “Definitely, but it won’t be an easy journey,” he says. “Jefferson know all too well what the negative aspects of having powers are, so we’ll definitely walk along that path with Jennifer. It’s something that people may be able to identify with even though we as humans don’t have powers like Jennifer, Anissa and Jefferson, but we have certain powers that we have to come to terms with. Jennifer is going to have to come to terms with hers next season.”

Out in the open | What Akil is most excited to explore in season two is the “family dynamic now that everyone has been outed” when it comes to their powers. “Everyone knows their father is Black Lightning, they know that Anissa is Thunder and eventually Jennifer will become Lightning,” Akil says. “There are no more secrets among the family. I’m excited about what that means for their relationships and their inner dynamics.”

No end in sight | Despite Akil telling THR before season one began that his dream would be to have Black Lightning run for three seasons, he’s since rethought that wish. “In that conversation, I was looking at it from the standpoint of storytelling. Where do I go, how do I sustain this for more than three years?” Akil says. “But because our orders are so short, we had 13 [episodes] and maybe we’ll have 13 or 16 next year, if the orders remain small, I learned that I have a lot more to say in that 13 than I thought I did. We really were rocking and rolling through these 13 episodes.” Now Akil has no idea how how many years he’d like to continue the series. “The best way for me to approach it is as long as I can tell compelling stories that continue to excite and engage viewers and my own creativity then I’ll just keep going in that direction and not try to put a number on it,” he adds. “Putting a number on it at this time is a little bit premature. Because when we started, the girls didn’t have their powers so I was just looking at Jefferson. He had his powers and he was one dude, and now I have a couple of women with powers and what does that mean for them? I think that should be explored in its totality.”

Supergirl

One and the same | After a long hiatus, Supergirl finally returned, and with the spring premiere came answers for what the Legion is truly doing in the present. Mon-El (Chris Wood) confided in Kara (Melissa Benoist) that his wife Imra (Amy Jackson) had been keeping the real purpose of the Legion’s mission a secret from him and now he finally understood just how much his lies about his true identity hurt Kara last year. But they have to put their feelings about his past transgressions and betrayal on hold, because the Legion’s mission now coincides with Kara’s fight against the World Killers, meaning they can finally work together. Turns out the third World Killer, Pestilence, becomes a dangerous being known as the Blight in the future, and that’s why the Legion came to this time. If they can defeat Pestilence now, the Blight never comes to be and the future can be saved. While Mon-El has never gone into much detail about the Blight, comic book fans already have a cursory understanding of what it is. The Blight are a fictional race of techno-organic beings made of rotting flesh and technology. Their main mission is to achieve immortality and they have the ability to teleport, and they drain energy from entire worlds (which is on par with the World Killers mythology). In the comics, the Legion of Super-Heroes comes into contact with the Blight and destroys their ability to teleport, effectively stopping their decay from spreading further across the galaxy. If the Blight causes an extinction level event in the 31st century on Supergirl, perhaps Pestilence gives birth to this new race. If Mon-El and Kara can stop Pestilence now, the Blight will never come to be. But is it too much to hope for them to fail in the present, so Supergirl can travel to the future and fight the Blight with the Legion? That would certainly give season four a new creative boost, and raise the stakes of what Supergirl can do. 

The Flash

The Thinker’s plans realized | Just when Team Flash thought they’d gotten the upper hand on The Thinker (Neil Sandilands), they realized just how formidable he truly is. He invaded STAR Labs and in a heartbreaking twist, caught and killed the remaining two bus metas … including Team Flash hero Ralph Dibny (Hartley Sawyer). While it’s definitely tragic to see Ralph go after such an incredible arc of character growth from selfish cad to righteous, brave hero, this is an exciting twist for The Flash. Not only does it raise the stakes on what The Thinker is willing and able to do, but it also gives Sawyer the chance to flex his acting muscles as the new vessel for The Thinker. Watching the normally wise-cracking man turn dour and serious with a malevolent twinkle in his eye is truly compelling. And now it means Team Flash will have to fight their former ally in these last few episodes of the season, as long as he doesn’t keep using Ralph’s powers to morph into his original body (played once again by Sandilands). Hopefully The Thinker is done jumping from body to body and stays in Ralph’s for the remainder, because this is truly the best iteration yet.

Arrow

Yet another layer | This week’s episode of Arrow served to make viewers care more about Ricardo Diaz (Kirk Acevedo) and his plans for Star City. But it turns out his grand plans have always been to seize control of the city … only to offer it up to yet another criminal organization so he could join it. It was quite the letdown to find out that the Dragon wasn’t in this for a deeper reason other than wanting to belong with another group of criminals. But his displays of brutality might have been too much for Laurel (Katie Cassidy), so if this what it takes to finally make her turn to the good guys and take down the Dragon, this will all have been worth it. As of now, Arrow needs to pivot from this Dragon/Quadrant storyline and fast. If there is going to be an episode of Arrow almost entirely without the Green Arrow (Stephen Amell), it needs to be for a good reason, and this just wasn’t it.

Gotham

Guess who’s back … again? | The return of Ra’s al Ghul (Alexander Siddig) in this week’s episode may have seemed like an unneccesary twist, but it actually served to propel Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) further onto the path to becoming the Dark Knight that Batman fans know he will become. And based on the timing of Ra’s’ return so close to the end of this season, it’s looking more and more likely that Bruce will become Batman, cape, cowl and all, by the time the finale ends. Whereas in seasons past it might have been too soon for the young kid to take on his comic book mythology destiny, the amount of growth he’s achieved in this season alone proves he finally ready to become Batman, especially to take down Ra’s al Ghul once and for all and to save Gotham from whatever “cataclysmic” event is coming.  

Gotham airs Thursdays on Fox. Supergirl airs Mondays; The Flash and Black Lightning air Tuesdays; Arrow airs Thursdays; and Legends of Tomorrow will return for season four, all on The CW.

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