Black Lightning returned for its fourth and final season Monday night on The CW but despite Season 3 ending on a victorious note with Jefferson Pierce/Black Lightning (Cress Williams) and his allies ending the Markovian war as well as exposing the A.S.A., "The Book of Reconstruction: Chapter One: Collateral Damage" revealed that the heroes are struggling more now than ever. One year on, Freeland is trying to rebuild but is facing new forms of oppression and when it comes to the Pierce family specifically, they're struggling as well. The experiences of war have changed them all in profound ways and, according to series showrunner Salim Akil, it's that trauma that will largely function as the theme or "big bad" of the season.
Speaking with Entertainment Weekly, Akil said that not only did he want the final season of the series to focus on the Pierce family, but specifically he wanted that focus to be an exploration of trauma.
"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.'"
Seeking help isn't something that's easy for many people in real life and it won't be easy for Jefferson on Black Lightning, either. Akil said that even though we saw Jefferson and Lynn trying to get help via therapy, the real issues they face were things they couldn't speak of because of his secret identity, but he also said there's hope for Jefferson yet.
"The scene with them in therapy... it's funny because we did it in a way where they really couldn't talk about their real issues in therapy because they're hiding the fact that he's Black Lightning," Akil said. "So yeah, that's a huge obstacle for him this season. He'll come around, I'm sure."
Black Lightning airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on The CW.