First thing’s first, I love binge-watching! Seriously, how awesome is it that Luke Cage aired on September 30th, and I was able to finish it on October 2nd? That’s even with the fact that I took time out to watch sports, played some video games, caught up on other TV shows, and still got 8 hours of sleep a night.
Second thing: Luke Cage was freaking amazing! I love Daredevil, and I like Jessica Jones a lot more than most people I have talked to. I still think that Luke cage was the best of the three.
In this 1st season, we see Luke battle against criminals such as Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes, Mariah Dillard, Hernan “Shades” Alvarez, Domingo Colon, and Willis “Diamondback” Stryker while he tries to understand his powers and come to terms with being out in the open.
Here are a few highlights of the season:
Luke’s Origin Story:
Those who watched Jessica Jones already had some of the pieces to how Luke got his powers. In Luke Cage, though, we hear the full story. Luke (then known as Carl Lucas) is in prison, where he meets prison psychiatrist Reva Connors. In prison, he has negative encounters with a prison guard (Albert Rackham) and his thugs (including Shades). After joining a prison fight club for Rackham, Reva starts to notice that Luke/Carl is skipping his group therapy meetings. Eventually, he gets beat up and needs Dr. Noah Burstein’s help. Burstein puts Luke/Carl into a bath designed to help him heal faster, but when Rackham finds out, he tries to kill hims. This plan obviously backfires, as it instead give him powers. It is after this that he runs away from Georgia to New York to start his life as Luke Cage.
At the end of the season, we see him heading back to Georgia to finish out his sentence. Hopefully, we’ll get more backstory concerning why he was sentenced to prison in the first place.
Claire is officially the only thing tying all of “The Defenders” together. There have been some crossover characters, and offhand references to the other shows. (I loved the constant references to Jessica shooting Luke with a shotgun at point-blank range and Claire’s constant insistence that she knows “a good lawyer”.) Claire has physically appeared in episodes from all 3 shows though, and that will likely continue. I’m sure that she will be the reason that the group all come together for their future mini-series. With all of that being said, it is pretty clear that she is much more invested in Luke Cage than she is in either Daredevil or Jessica Jones.
The Stokes Family:
Cottonmouth and City Councilwoman Mariah Dillard come from a family that historically did sketchy things, and “earned” their money in a non-legal manner. Cottonmouth seems to be okay with continuing similar operations behind the front of legitimate businesses and investments. Mariah is less comfortable with the illegal activities on the service, but, deep-down, she is much more violent and evil than probably anyone in her family.
Cottonmouth runs an illegal operation smuggling guns into the city. Fronting it with his nightclub business, and using the funds to help his cousin’s campaign. She, in turn, develops more things that they can use as fronts for his illegal activities.
Mariah murders her cousin in an impassioned rage. (After he accuses her of “wanting it” when she reveals a sexual assault during their childhood.) After this, she takes over Cottonmouth’s criminal empire and accuses Luke Cage of his murder. Mariah gets away with her crimes, and it seems she will be back in future installments.
This plays a bit more into Luke’s origin story. Diamondback was his childhood best friend. Secretly, though, he and Luke are half-brothers. Their father had an affair 2 years before Luke’s mother had him. Diamondback resents Luke because Luke got the love from their father, preference from a football coach, and got away with things because of his name.
Diamondback comes into the story because he has bullets that are able to pierce Luke’s skin and explode once inside him. After securing a spot at the top of the food-chain of the Cottonmouth’s former group, he reveals to Luke that they are related. He frames Luke for a variety of crimes, and he even provides the police withe ammo that can kill Luke. Ultimately, Diamondback loses to Luke due to a lesson he had actually taught him about boxing when they were teenagers.
What I Didn’t like and What I Did Like:
1. Lack of Connection with the rest of the MCU
Yes, there were offhand references to “The Incident” and both Jessica Jones and Daredevil are mentioned. The big story in the MCU right now is the Sokovia Accords. After making headlines, somebody should be showing up to register Luke Cage on the accords. This could have served as the perfect connection to the rest of the universe, but it wasn’t done.
2. Jessica Jones and Iron Fist aren’t anywhere around.
Luke Cage was huge in Jessica Jones’ story. From what I’ve read, they have a relationship, and even a child, in the comics. I’m not saying she needed to be a main character, but she could have had a few actual appearances.
Besides my little brother (the only Iron Fist fan I know), most fans I have talked to only know Iron Fist in his partnership with Luke Cage/Powerman. Unless The Defenders comes out before the solo Iron Fist show, I’m not sure they can drum up enough support for the show.
1. A Villain I can actually hate
Wilson Fisk and Frank Castle/The Punisher are both villains I was able to enjoy watching. Other villains in Daredevil are easy to hate, but not as recognizable as Fisk or Castle. Kilgrave in Jessica Jones was awful, only for his actions, as David Tennant actually plays him so well that I enjoyed the character. I hated every villain in Luke Cage, which made it awesome to watch as Luke Cage and his allies systematically took them down. I might be in the minority here, but I really enjoyed this.
2. The Harlem Culture
Harlem is one of the most culturally rich regions in the country, and it was really cool to see that culture explored during Luke Cage. They found a way to seamlessly dive into the intricacies of the night-life, the relationship between the citizens and the police, and the way people view basketball and music.
3. Pop’s Barbershop
Pop’s Barbershop is neutral ground when it comes to any and all gang-related activities and conflicts. Pop does everything he can to ensure that stays true. His speech in episode 2, about how the kids need a safe place and good role models in their lives was amazing! I understand the need to destroy the barbershop and kill Pop. It moves the story along, and it gives Luke a reason to use his powers for the good of Harlem. Hopefully, Pop’s will be back up-and-running in the next season of Luke Cage (or possibly even The Defenders).
Overall, I would Recommend Luke Cage to anyone who asks. You can find it on Netflix to binge-watch at your leisure, along with Jessica Jones and 2 seasons of Daredevil. (I highly recommend both of those shows as well.)