Marvel and Netflix have been on an absolute roll with their TV series. Daredevil and Jessica Jones were both certified hits, and the upcoming Iron Fist looks like another sure thing. The thing that I like most about these Netflix shows is that they’re taking these lesser known characters and really fleshing them out, giving people a reason to really care about them and their stories. While the stories are extraordinary in themselves, they manage to keep them very grounded and relatable to a degree the bigger movies just can’t accomplish. I was always skeptical about Luke Cage, because he was based off the old blaxploitation films from the 70’s and he seemed like a walking stereotype, but if anybody could prove me wrong, it’d be Marvel.
I was always skeptical about Luke Cage, because he was based off the old blaxploitation films from the 70’s and he seemed like a walking stereotype…
Without spoiling too much, the basic set up for Luke Cage is that a series of events leads to him being experimented on in prison, granting him super strength, endurance, and indestructible skin. He breaks out and returns to Harlem to do some good. The timing of Marvel introducing a bulletproof black super hero seems almost too coincidental to be an accident.
The timing of Marvel introducing a bulletproof black super hero seems almost too coincidental to be an accident.
The general story of Season 1 is seeing Luke coming to grips with his new powers and taking the full plunge into being a hero. Throw in a couple flashbacks to his past life and to how he got his powers, and you got the gist of it all. The biggest problem with Luke Cage as a character, is how do you present a real threat to someone with indestructible skin who’s fighting mere humans. Ultimately, I think they did a decent job of creating real threats for him. Whether it was through collateral damage, threat of exposure, or exploding bullets; they managed to keep me engaged.
Music (especially hip-hop) is very integral to who Luke Cage is. There’s a ton of classic hip-hop songs that get played throughout the season, episode titles are all named after Gang Starr songs, and Method Man even makes an appearance. I thought it was a really dope touch that really hammered home him being from Harlem and differentiated it from the other shows. He’s very much a man of the people, and a part of the community, and they did a really good job of portraying this through his various interactions with the people of Harlem. Because unlike other heroes, he doesn’t hide behind a mask. He’s accountable for all his actions and people can reach out to him directly. The budget may not be as big as the movies, but they were still able to pull off some really great looking fight scenes (minus one) that showed off his powers really well. One scene in particular, where we get a slow-mo of a criminal breaking his hand on his jaw in one instance and in another stopping a bullet in his hand.
…unlike other heroes, he doesn’t hide behind a mask. He’s accountable for all his actions and people can reach out to him directly.
Mike Coulter did a fantastic job as Luke Cage and gave a real “weight” to the character. Bringing a realness and authenticity to the character that made his actions believable. Rosario Dawson as Claire Temple continues to steal the show and is given even more screen time this time around. Simone Missick as Misty Knight probably had the best character arc of anyone on the show and really grew into a character that I liked. They all played great off one another, but a hero is only as good as his villain. And I’d have to say Season 1 had some good ones, for the most part at least. There’s a cheap feeling bait and switch about halfway through the season and I really wish Cornell aka ‘Cottonmouth’ was given more to do because he was a greatly layered character who was well acted.
What’d you think about Season 1 of Luke Cage? Do you think they did enough to keep things interesting or was it too small scale? What’d you think about his villains? What’d you think about the music in the show? Let me know in the comments below and be sure to leave a rating for Season 1.
* SPOILERS *
While I loved Cottonmouth as a character and main antagonist, I really didn’t like Diamondback. Where Cottonmouth was layered and had deeper motivations, Diamondback was very one dimensional and almost cartoonish in his depiction. He was supposed to be a great threat meant to be feared, but he came off as wacky. And the revelation that he was his half brother made the story less interesting for me because it made things even smaller scale. It also made Diamondback look like a whiny little bitch because he didn’t get enough attention from Dad. Boo hoo. They could have and should have made that more interesting.
While we’re on Diamondback, the end fight was pure weak sauce. He somehow creates a super suit capable of going toe to toe with Luke Cage and he loses because Luke stops fighting back, making him less angry and causing the suit to lose power. Huh? TF?
But Diamondback is not dead and looks set to go through the same experiment that Luke did. Maybe next time he’ll feel like the serious threat they tried to play him up as. Even though I wish they’d go with a different character altogether.
I’m not familiar with the comics, but was there ever a bullet that could pierce his skin or was it just for the show? I really want to know.
In the end Luke is headed back to prison, but is being represented by Matt Murdock aka Daredevil. So I doubt he’ll be there long (especially since the barber guy found the evidence) and that’s where they’ll start to intro into The Defenders.
Now that Mariah Dillard got off free, I’m sure Misty Knight will go full on vigilante soon.
Turk popping up in every show should be a requirement at this point. It’s always good screen time.
Alright time for some Easter Eggs:
Riva, his first love, was the one that was killed by Jessica Jones.
Hammer Industries, from Iron Man 2, gets name dropped for making the weapons.
He wears his original costume after initially escaping the prison.
Misty almost lost her arm, a possible hint at her future bionic arm?
Claire takes martial arts from Colleen Wing who will be integral in the upcoming Iron Fist.
Season 1 of Luke Cage was another extremely well put together series from Marvel and Netflix. The character and world building really brought Harlem to life, and the acting was fantastic. However, a weak end villain and an, at times, too small scale of a story keep it from being exceptional. Very solid, but not exceptional.