Black Lightning Series Creator Reflects on the "Personal" Stories Ahead of Series Finale

Tonight, Black Lightning ends after four seasons on The CW and as the series prepares to close the book on the story of the hero Black Lightning, the Pierce family, and the people of Freeland, series creator and showrunner Salim Akil is looking back on the groundbreaking series. While the stories Black Lightning told were set in a world of superheroes and superpowers, they very frequently were rooted in the real world and real events, including some very personal experiences of his own as well as others who worked on the series.

"I think that there are particular episodes that were very personal or a story arc that were very personal," Akil told ComicBook.com. "The arcs come from a personal place, but then you have to allow the artists, the other artists that are around you, to do their thing because that's why they're there. Particularly in this last season. I did very, very little rewriting because I knew it was the last season I wanted the other artists, the writers, and everyone else to be able to express themselves freely. So that was a really interesting experience for me, but it was a good experience."

The earliest example of those personal stories that made up Black Lightning goes back to the opening scene in the series premiere in which the titular hero -- in his civilian identity as Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams) was pulled over and quickly maltreated by the police while his daughters remained in the car. That tense, racially motivated traffic stop scene came from an experience in Akil's own life, and over the course of Black Lightning's entire run, there have been many other moments that reflected the real-world experiences of Black Americans. In the final season, the trauma of those experiences was even factored in as an exploration in terms of story, something Akil previously spoke with Entertainment Weekly about.

"I think I just wanted to go back to dealing with the family. We had ended on such a broad note of ending the Markovian war," Akil said. "I wanted to then go back to the family and see what trauma looks like and how do you go about healing yourself. If you remember, Jefferson is depressed because his daughters have killed people, his wife has killed in people in this war, and he feels like he's let them down and it's his responsibility."

Akil continued, "Trauma changes people. So I wanted to explore the idea of trauma, especially in African American families, because not all of us but far too many of us live in areas where gun violence and crime is prevalent on a daily basis, and nobody is really doing anything to try and solve it or report it anymore. So there's a lot of trauma out there, and I just wanted to say to the people watching, 'Hey, in order to heal, you have to talk about things. You have to deal with them and you have to seek help.' I think if there's a theme this year, someone said that 'trauma is sort of the big bad this season.'"

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Black Lightning's series finale airs Monday, May 24 at 9/8c on The CW.