After months of speculation as to whether the network would greenlight yet another DC superhero show, it’s official: Black Lightning is finally making its way onto the CW later this year. For some strange reason, though, Black Lighting won’t be a part of the Arrowverse.
Yesterday at the CW’s annual upfronts where the network previews its upcoming shows for press, network president Mark Pedowitz said that while there’s another Arrow/Flash/Supergirl/Legends of Tomorrow crossover in the works next season, Black Lightning won’t be involved because the upcoming show will be set in yet another universe—a different one from both the Arrowverse and Supergirl’s universe. (Not that that’s kept those superheroes from making guest appearances on each others’ shows, obviously.)
“We do not aim to do a five-way crossover,” Pedowitz said. “Black Lightning, at this time, is not part of the Arrowverse. It is a separate situation.”
Though Pedowitz didn’t give a specific reason as to why Black Lightning is being kept separate from the CW’s other DC shows, it stands to reason that logistics are a factor. While Arrow, Flash, Supergirl, and Legends of Tomorrow are all shot in Vancouver, while Black Lightning films in Atlanta, meaning that scheduling a full-fledged crossover between all five shows would be something of a nightmare. To be fair, when Supergirl was filmed in L.A., during its inaugural season at CBS, the only crossover was when the Flash stopped by for a single episode.
Still though, setting Black Lightning in an entirely different universe seems like an odd decision to make, considering that the extended Arrowverse was built on crossover episodes that have been ratings hits for the CW. Last year’s “Invasion!” event that spanned the entirety of the current DC/CW-verse gave the CW its best week of ratings in nearly six years. Additionally, the “Invasion!” episodes of Arrow, Flash, Supergirl, and Legends of Tomorrow all saw massive spikes in viewership that set record ratings for their current seasons.
In the Arrowverse, crossovers not only command the attention of a show’s already established fanbase, but also draw new viewers into a series that they might not have considered otherwise. It’s clear that the CW believes in Black Lightning enough to bring it to television. But at this late stage in the universe-building game, ruling out the potential for some sort of crossover or even references to a shared universe is a mistake, especially when the network knows what a benefit it would potentially be.
Black Lightning will be the CW’s first show with a black leading actor and a predominantly black cast since Everybody Hates Chris went off the air in 2009. Also, it’ll be the CW’s first superhero show to feature a lead character who’s firmly established as a middle-aged adult, also juggling the responsibilities of parenthood. In many ways, Black Lightning will be a new type of show that the CW’s audience hasn’t seen before—both a good thing and a potentially risky thing.
Black Lightning’s success will be dependent on viewers tuning in weekly to watch Jefferson Pierce go toe to toe with the 100, the gang terrorizing his city that, in the comics, has a fairly extensive history with Superman. The groundwork for Black Lightning to share a universe with the CW’s other cape shows is already there in its comics canon. All the network needs to do is push a little to actually build upon it.