While most of The CW's shows based on DC's superheroes share characters and storylines as part of the same wider interconnected Arrowverse, one of them stands out from the rest of the pack, in more ways than one. Since it debuted in 2017, Black Lightning has not connected to the continuity of the other shows, such as Arrow and The Flash.
That's set to change with the upcoming "Crisis on Infinite Earths" crossover event, which will finally bring Black Lightning into contact with the wider Arrowverse, though in just what way is unknown at this time. However, if it's anything like the landmark comic book it's based off of, the event could make crossovers between Black Lightning, Supergirl and The Flash a lot easier by merging the Arrowverse's different Earths.
Despite having references to characters who appear on those shows, Black Lightning is confirmed to not be in the same continuity as the other CW DC shows. Some of this is simple logistics: the show is shot in Atlanta, whereas the other CW superhero shows are filmed in Vancouver. That's part of the reason those shows have been able to crossover so regularly. Black Lightning was also not created with the CW in mind, and was shopped around to various networks before landing there.
The show is also far more grounded than most of the other CW superhero shows. While Black Lightning would fit right in with the earlier seasons of the outgoing Arrow, its street level scope sits at odds with the more outlandish adventures of The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow. The writing is also more serious and, arguably, more nuanced than the rest of its contemporaries on the network. This is especially true of the show's terrifying main villain Tobias Whale, a notable step up compared to the relatively more cartoony villains in the other shows.
Black Lightning isn't the only show on a parallel Earth. Supergirl, which was also not intended for the CW initially, takes place on its own Earth. The show first "connected" to the Arrowverse in a crossover with The Flash that aired when the former show was still on CBS. When the series moved over to The CW, Supergirl was said to take place on an alternate earth that the Flash just happened to visit, which tied into pre-existing ideas about the Multiverse from that series.
Interestingly, Black Lightning has referenced Supergirl, meaning a version of the character exists on his Earth. As confusing as this all sounds, this is exactly the kind of thing the original Crisis on Infinite Earths miniseries was created to clear up.
Marv Wolfman and George Perez's 1985 comic book Crisis On Infinite Earths was the creative result of DC Comics wanting to streamline its Multiverse, and condense the various alternate Earths in its publications into a single continuity. This included incorporating various characters into the DC Universe alongside Superman and Batman, such as the Freedom Fighters, the Justice Society of America and characters from Charlton and Fawcett Comics. Afterwards, the "New Earth" existed as if it was the only Earth ever, with most characters not even remembering the Crisis.
The "Crisis on Infinite Earths" crossover could potentially function in the same way, with the post-Crisis Arrowverse acting as if the various Earths had always been one. Any discrepancies or multiple versions of characters would be solidified into one, much like the comic book Crisis did with the opposing versions of Superman and Batman.
This might then provide a narrative explanation for adding Black Lightning to the Arrowverse and allowing him to appear more regularly. Black Lightning could crossover with the other characters already on the network, while hopefully also retaining its own gritty identity. It, along with the upcoming Batwoman, could also provide some more diversity, both in terms of its cast and tone, against the more lighthearted shows, especially following the end of Arrow. Whatever the network decides, worlds will live, worlds will die and the Arrowverse will never be the same again -- and Black Lightning won't be either.
Returning Monday, October 21 at 9 pm ET/PT on The CW, Black Lightning stars Cress Williams as Jefferson Pierce/Black Lightning, China Anne McClain as Jennifer Pierce, Nafessa Williams as Anissa Pierce/Thunder, Christine Adams as Lynn Stewart, Marvin “Krondon” Jones III as Tobias Whale, Damon Gupton as Billy Henderson, James Remar as Peter Gambi and Jordan Calloway as Khalil/Painkiller.