Myles Aronowitz/Netflix
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October 05, 2016 at 12:11 AM EDT

Marvel's Luke Cage

type
TV Show
genre
Drama, Comic Book Adaptations
run date
09/30/16
creator
Cheo Hodari Coker
performer
Mike Colter, Alfre Woodard, Rosario Dawson
Producers
Marvel Television
broadcaster
Netflix
seasons
2
Current Status
In Season

Since the battle, Luke and Claire have been inseparable and have started making plans to get “coffee.” Unfortunately, they’ll have to put those plans on hold because U.S. Marshals show up to arrest him since Mariah outted him as Carl Lucas on TV. He owes the state of Georgia time. As he’s carted away, Claire says she knows a good lawyer. (I hope she isn’t talking about Matt Murdock.)

While Luke and Claire may be separated, Mariah and Shades head back to Harlem’s Paradise together, where it is implied they’ll rule the neighborhood together. Misty shows up soon after to enjoy the show’s final musical performance, Sharon Jones performing “100 Days, 100 Nights,” and to let Harlem’s new crime king and queen know that she’s watching them.

While I had problems with Luke Cage, I thought the first season was kind of amazing and was a nice follow-up to Jessica Jones. Like Jessica Jones, it felt socially relevant and significant, unlike many superhero shows. Luke Cage‘s consideration of black lives, was thoughtful and striking, even in the moments where I may have disagreed with some of its politics.

As I’ve written throughout, it was very moving to see a bulletproof black man in a television show. However, I liked that the show took it a step further and framed his superpowers as another thing that engendered fear and bias, as opposed to optimism. He was saving people and trying to make a difference, yet that didn’t make difference. In the finale, the police showed up armed with Judas bullets and were ready to shoot him even though the context suggested he was the good guy. That scene combined with the frequent shots of bullet-ridden hoodies — reminiscent of the many tragic headlines we’ve seen over the past few years — drove home the show’s examination of the fraught experience of being black.

But, the show wasn’t a dour affair. Luke didn’t let the system’s attempts to keep him down stop him from trying to do what was right, which was incredibly inspiring. Furthermore, the show’s focus on black culture and history, like that Dapper Dan cameo, added some much-needed lightness and also helped create a Harlem that felt more real than Daredevil‘s Hell’s Kitchen.

And there were many other things to love apart from the show’s political message. Mahershala Ali, Alfre Woodard and Simone Missick delivered knockout performances that made some of the series’ clunkiest dialogue palatable. And while I may not have agreed with the show’s conservative characterization of Luke Cage — which I thought ran counter to its “Forward. Always” mantra — I thought Mike Colter’s made sure his stoic character wasn’t one-note.

While the show’s political message and performances were rather strong, it did stumble when it came to its storytelling. There were plot holes and as is the case with most Netflix shows, especially the Marvel ones, it didn’t need 13 episodes to tell its story — the season sagged in places, especially in the back half with the introduction of Diamondback. And it definitely suffered and lost its center when it killed off Cottonmouth, even though that scene was bloody amazing.

But, let’s not dwell on this too much because Luke Cage’s future is bright. Remember: Forward. Always.

Additional Thoughts:

  • In the episode ending montage, Claire decides to join a self-defense class taught by Colleen Wing.
  • Dr. Noah Burstein pays Diamondback a visit in the hospital at the end, which suggests this isn’t the last time we’ll see him. We know he has Claire’s research and that Luke’s DNA was the key to making it work. He’s probably hoping to create another Power Man with his half brother.
  • Did anyone else think Luke was going to break Styker’s power source on his back to win the fight? That seemed like the logical move.
  • Bobby Fish says Pop’s Barber Shop, which was destroyed in the fight, doesn’t want to be a barbershop anymore. Who wants to bet that’s where Luke will set up his hero for hire business when he gets out of prison?
  • The banter between Claire and Luke, while unnecessary, was cute and I can’t wait for more of it.
  • “Sometimes backwards to move forward. Always,” Luke, as he’s driven out of the city.
  • Make sure you read my colleague Shirley Li’s postmortem with Erik LaRay Harvey.
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