A lot has already been made, and said, about the new CW series Black Lightning and its separation from the established, interconnected Arrowverse (made up of Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, and Legends of Tomorrow). For the most part, in the show’s premiere episode, the new electric superhero is on his own and will fight crime without the help of DC heroes like Green Arrow or the Flash. However, one line at the halfway mark hints at Black Lightning’s place in a larger, interconnected universe.
Minor spoilers for Black Lightning ahead.
In the pilot episode of Black Lightning, Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams) comes out of superhero retirement in order to save his daughters from a human trafficking ring operated by the notorious street gang, the One Hundred. After Pierce saves his daughters, the cable news networks are ablaze by the return of Black Lightning. One commentator Black Lightning goes to lengths to have speak makes a very revealing statement.
“Why is he a vigilante,” he says (in reference to Black Lightning), “but other communities have folks with superpowers, all of a sudden, they’re heroes?”
The commentator was talking about a racial double-standard when it comes to crimefighting. Really, the line can (and should) be read as meta-textual, as it references the superhero genre than towards the literal canon of Black Lightning. However, in this superhero show, premiering on a network packed with superheroes who meet up for one giant crossover on an annual basis, it’s now reasonable to believe Black Lightning isn’t the only one in his universe.
Countering this theory is that the commentator said other superheroes are called “heroes” while Black Lightning is a vigilante. That’s not totally true, as Oliver Queen from Arrow was pursued by Starling City PD early on (when he was “The Hood”), while The Flash drew plenty of suspicion from Central City cops. However, the public softened on them, and both have coffee brews named and action figures in their likeness. Right now on Arrow, Oliver is under investigation by the federal government for operating as the Green Arrow, but he also has public support for all that he’s done for the city.
Black Lightning showrunners Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil have both previously confirmed the show is not set in the Arrowverse, though the door for inclusion later is open. With the Arrowverse’s fixation on the multiverse, it’s more than possible for Black Lightning to inhabit a parallel Earth until the time is right. If it’s not a problem for Supergirl, why should it be for Black Lightning?
Black Lightning airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. Eastern on The CW.