Welcome back to Harlem! Luke Cage is back to defend Uptown Manhattan from evil in season 2 of Marvel’s Luke Cage. Embracing the spirit of the superhero drama’s second season, EW’s Chancellor Agard and Christian Holub have teamed up for this handy binge guide to all 13 episodes. Follow along as you watch!
EPISODE 1: ‘Soul Brother’
Luke Cage season 2 begins like almost every Marvel-Netflix show so far — very slowly. “Soul Brother,” which was written by showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker and directed by Elementary’s Lucy Liu, takes its time establishing Harlem’s new status quo after the events of season 1 and lacks any sense of urgency. At one point, Bushmaster, season 2’s big bad (played by Mustafa Shakir), says, “Harlem can wait,” and part of me is concerned that’s a sign of things to come in the next 12 episodes.
The premiere is mainly focused on revealing how Luke’s life has changed since we last saw him. In the intervening months, he’s become a local hero in Harlem. There’s even an app that tracks his whereabouts, because kids and their technology are just crazy! However, this attention isn’t all good. There’s a new drug on the streets called Luke Cage, and you can bet the real Power Man is not too pleased with that. In fact, “Soul Brother” opens with him busting a drug den producing the product and frightening a corner boy off the corner, which is probably the most entertaining part about the entire episode. But Luke isn’t only busy with the streets this season.
Taking a page out of Jessica Jones’ book, the show also introduces us to Luke’s preacher father, James Lucas (the late Reg E. Cathey). When we first meet James, who speaks like he’s a Shonda Rhimes character, he’s practicing his sermon about how the people of Harlem shouldn’t put their faith in Luke to save the community because he’s just a man. The Lucas men eventually comes face to face on the street one night, and their terse exchange reveals just how fraught this relationship is. Luke is still upset that his father never replied to any of his letters or told him when his mother died. I’m not too optimistic about this storyline because I’m frankly tired of superhero shows becoming about the heroes’ relationship with their parents, but Jessica Jones surprised with its interesting take on a worn-out theme. Maybe Luke Cage will do the same.
Meanwhile, Mariah and Shades, whose romantic relationship has grown weirder since we last saw them, are trying to go straight. Mariah convenes a meeting with several gangs uptown because she wants to sell all her guns to the highest bidder. The potential buyers include Arturo Rey, a furniture king who also sells drugs; Nigel, a representative from the Jamaican gang the Yardies; and a guy with the unfortunate name of Cockroach. It’s not clear who she gives the contract to, but we know Cockroach and the Yardies will probably figure into the rest of the season — the former because he has crossed paths with Misty in the past (she and Scarfe put him away, but he was freed when everyone found out Scarfe was dirty), and the latter because the hilariously named Bushsmaster also hails from Jamaica.
Alas, Arturo will not be walking away with those guns because he made the mistake of trying to kill Luke by blowing him up in a furniture truck. Obviously, Luke survives. So, Arturo moves onto plan B: shooting him with a Judas bullet, which doesn’t do anything either. Luke knocks Arturo out and deposits him at the police station.
Luke’s feeling pretty confident after this latest takedown and decides to send a message to the rest of Harlem’s underground. “Yo, I’m Luke Cage. You can’t burn me, you can’t blast me, and you definitely can’t break me! I am Harlem, and Harlem is me,” says Luke, speaking into D.W.’s camera, before dabbing. Raise your hand if you think Luke’s arrogance will get the better of him this season.
While all this is going on, Misty is busy adjusting after losing her arm on The Defenders. When she’s not doing physical therapy with Claire, she’s busy sulking at home. However, when she discovers that the aforementioned Cockroach was freed from jail, she heads to the precinct and requests her job back because she can’t stand Cockroach and 30 other people Scarfe put away being out and about. Alas, there’s no sign of her prosthetic arm in this episode. Hopefully Luke Cage doesn’t waste much time getting to it.
Before the episode ends, we get our first real introduction to Bushmaster. As I mentioned earlier, Bushmaster arrives in New York but decides to postpone visiting Harlem. Instead, he heads to Brooklyn to let his fellow Yardies know what’s up. And by that, I mean he kills the head of Yardies, revealing in the process that he’s bulletproof, and a very skilled, ruthless fighter. Like, instead of just breaking Nigel’s neck, he also cuts his eyes with a knife for some reason. Watching that brutal display of violence convinces the other Yardies to fall in line behind him. Luke definitely isn’t ready for the Bushmater. (Luke Cage drinking game: Drink every time you fail to say “Bushmaster” with a straight face.)
- Although I found the Luke Cage premiere rather slow, I was pleasantly reminded how delightfully cheesy and goofy the show can be. For example, Luke and Claire have sex to Gregory Isaac’s “Night Nurse.” Get it? Also, at one point, Mariah sucks on Shades’ thumb after a waiter mistakes her for his aunt and not his girlfriend. It’s weird and silly at the same time.
- “Just because you’re a woke superhero doesn’t mean you need to be a broke superhero.” —Bobby Fish to Luke, who refuses to skim money from his drug busts.
- “I’m just surprised a bulletproof white man hasn’t shown up yet.”
(Click ahead for episode 2)