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SYFY WIRE Black Lightning

Black Lightning creator Salim Akil on how the series finale changed, Season 5 ideas, more potential spinoffs

By Matthew Jackson
Jerfferson Pierce Black Lightning

The COVID-19 pandemic meant a lot of changes for a lot of major television shows, and if you're a Black Lightning fan the chaos the pandemic wrought on that particular series may have felt especially jarring. The CW superhero drama was renewed for a fourth season in the early weeks of 2020, before the pandemic began. By November of 2020, before a single episode of Season 4 could air, The CW announced that the fourth season of Black Lightning would be the final one — and the Season 4 premiere didn't arrive until more than a year after the renewal was first announced.

That's a lot to take in as a fan, but it's even more to take in if you're the person in charge of guiding the show. After the series finale of Black Lightning aired earlier this week, completing four years of adventures, creator Salim Akil told Deadline that all the pandemic delays were actually a bit of a blessing as he and his writing staff began to rework the show's ending.

"With Covid and the rules and regulations around that, we had written about 11 scripts, and then had to go back and rewrite them for several reasons. So, we found ourselves in a beautiful creative space, and we actually found the ending. We had one ending set up, but we had to find another one. But I’m pretty pleased with the ending that we have."

Spoilers ahead for Black Lightning's series finale.

Asked what he and his team ended up changing about the ending of the series — which featured Jefferson Pierce defeating Tobias Whale only to then announce his retirement from crimefighting — Akil answered that the original idea was a more "family-oriented" version of the season-long arc, which was complicated by both pandemic protocols and the departure of original cast member China Anne McClain.

"We wanted to deal with trauma in the Black community, and how people deal with trauma in certain communities. I think we still managed to do that, but we had to sort of readjust the approach, and it’s a very subtle thing. But subtle things in writing and television series sometimes can be like an earthquake," Akil explained.

Though Akil also noted that he'd known for some time that the series would end with Season 4, and the pandemic didn't play a role in that decision, he also made it clear that there were always ideas for what might have been in Season 5 and beyond. There were also, of course, ideas for Black Lightning spinoffs, including a Painkiller series that was set up by Season 4 but, The CW announced this week, didn't move forward at the network.

So, could other spinoffs ultimately happen? Well, Jefferson Pierce still has a whole family of heroes around him, so in Akil's mind anything's possible.

"I think that if there was a possibility, the possibility would land in Thunder and Grace and Lightning. I think that that could be a wonderful show," Akil said. "People would be familiar with the characters, be familiar with their backstory. They would be familiar with their wants, their needs and their goals. I think that that trio of women are just very dynamic and talented, so I could see something like that, for sure."