Black Lightning Spinoff Painkiller Gets Backdoor Pilot Order From The CW

When Black Lightning comes back to the airwaves in 2021, Jordan Callowan's Painkiller will reportedly be front and center. The character, who was originally the boyfriend of Black Lightning's daughter Jennifer Pierce (China Anne McClain), was given super powers by series big bad Tobias Whale after an injury that left the former high school sports star unable to walk. He has been through a lot in the last three seasons, even dying at one point and then being brought with no memory of his previous life. His past and those challenges have come together to make him the show's most compelling and sympathetic villain.

Now, The CW has reportedly asked the producers of Black Lightning for a backdoor pilot that would help set up a potential Painkiller spinoff. While the hope is to launch a new series, the pilot will not be a stand-alone Painkiller episode but rather an episode of Black Lightning that will air during the upcoming fourth season.

Variety, who broke the news this morning, report that Black Lightning executive producers Salim Akil and Mara Brock-Akil would also produce a potential Painkiller series, with Akil directing the episode.

Here's how Warner Bros. Television describes the spinoff, as related by Variety: "Based on characters created for DC by Tony Isabella with Eddie Newell, Painkiller follows Khalil Payne (Jordan Calloway), a young man ridden with the guilt of his troubled past from his former life in Freeland City. As a super-enhanced killing machine known as Painkiller, he was both a member of Tobias Whale’s gang and a weapon of Agent Odell and the shadowy ASA. After attempting to bury the darker, devastatingly lethal Painkiller part of his persona, Khalil has distanced himself away from everyone he knows and loves in a new city, Akashic Valley, in order to find peace. But peace never comes easy for men with pasts like his. As his violent, destructive history crashes his idyllic new beginning, Khalil is thrust back into action with a new mission – bring justice where he once gave out punishment – but to do that, he will first have to deal with and harness his darker side."

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Before Black Lightning, Calloway appeared on The CW's Riverdale which, like the Arrowverse series, is executive produced by Greg Berlanti.

Black Lightning was run like a stand-alone series, even being produced in Atlanta, rather than Vancouver, where the rest of Berlanti's CW series are shot. Last season, during the "Crisis on Infinite Earths" event, the worlds on which both Black Lightning and Supergirl took place were merged into the main timeline, and both characters joined a team that is essentially the Arrowverse's version of the Justice League. At the time, "Crisis" showrunner Marc Guggenheim said that the decision to join or not join both the crossover and the larger DC Unvierse that Berlanti has set up at The CW was left up to Akil. Season four, then, will be the first full season of the series set on Earth-Prime, and has, in theory, the potential to generate some crossover stories with other Arrowverse shows (The Flash, DC's Legends of Tomorrow, Batwoman). That may prove difficult, though, given the soaring coronavirus infection rates and the difficulty (and required quarantine time) involved with international travel.