After a four-season run on The CW, Jefferson Pierce and his electricity-harnessing alter ego Black Lightning won’t be returning to The CW. Black Lightning will be canceled after it wraps up its current season. This is disappointing news for a cool character that was groundbreaking when he first debuted on the network.
Black Lightning creator and showrunner Salim Akil announced in a statement that the show wasn’t being renewed and that Season 4 would be the last on the air. His statement was nothing if not appreciative of the time spent on the network, with pride over what they were able to accomplish on the show. He cites the show’s strides in bringing about “DC’s first African-American family of superheroes…” as well as the “(studio’s) partnership and support of my vision.”
Akil created Black Lightning as part of The CW’s Arrowverse (don’t call it the CWVerse), which started with the titular Arrow, but has expanded to include The Flash, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow, Batgirl, and the upcoming Superman & Lois. That universe continues to be in a state of flux though, since Arrow is no longer in production and it was recently announced that Supergirl would stop after Season 6.
Though no reason was cited for Black Lightning’s cancellation, one has to assume it is around the declining ratings over the course of its first three seasons. The first season saw around 2 million viewers per episode. But by the third season, those numbers had dipped to under a million for the premiere and down to about a half-million for the finale. For comparison, Black Lightning‘s 2019-2020 ratings in the 18-49 demographic were half of the audience for The Flash, making Black Lightning the least popular superhero series on The CW. For a show that always performed well with critics, sitting above 90% for all three seasons on Rotten Tomatoes it struggled to maintain a steady viewing audience.
Akil will remain with franchise creator Greg Berlanti in the Arrowverse. He’s been slated to helm a spin-off show around the Black Lightning character, Painkiller. The show is currently without a title, but has been ordered as a backdoor pilot. Jordan Calloway is slated to reprise his role and star in the show, keeping the Arrowverse diverse with strong African-American leads. He plays a super-enhanced former contract killer who is trying to turn his life around and away from a past of crime and violence. That Akil will bring a strong voice and vision to the character is promising and this represents something for Black Lightning fans to keep excited about. The show will exist in the same world with overlapping plots and characters to the original.
We still have a Black Lightning Season 4 to look forward to. Because there’s plenty of notice with this cancellation, one has to assume the show wraps itself up in such a way that brings the storylines to a proper close. Fans don’t have long to wait for the final season to air, as Black Lightning is set to come back in just a few months on February 8, 2021.