Sweet Christmas. We have now been introduced to three of the four Defenders that are going to come together on Netflix. First we got Daredevil, then we met one of the most badass chicks in Hell’s Kitchen, Jessica Jones. And now with this show we’ve been formally introduced to Luke Cage, Harlem’s resident hero. This show does a lot of things differently and even more thing right, and we’re here to talk about that. Let’s jump right into it.
[WARNING: Spoilers Ahead, read at your own risk]
A Unique Hero
One of the biggest things about these Marvel/Netflix shows is that the heroes they’re based off of want to be anything but heroes. Luke Cage is included in that, but in a way, he still wants to be the hero in this show. Similar to the comics, Cage is always in his street wear when he performs heroic acts. And he doesn’t go in making a scene and expecting to be praised in the end. He’s just a guy that wants to do good, but also lay low and be left alone. That’s something we loved about this show. While Cage performed these heroic feats, he got more heat and recognition, but they still managed to keep the events contained and believable. Well, as believable as possible when the main character is bulletproof.
Mike Colter Becomes Luke Cage
Obviously we got to see Mike Colter take on the role of Luke Cage in Jessica Jones, but that was clearly just to get us warned up for the character because wow. This dude is a total badass. His performance never felt forced or staged, it felt like he was actually living this life and trying to make things right in his own city. There was so much humanity to his character, and you just couldn’t help but root for him more and more with each episode.
However, in the comics, he’s a real tough, real outspoken, and of course, real strong. While the show was pretty spot on with his strength and toughness, Cage’s personality lacked a bit of authenticity, because for about the first half of the show he wasn’t as outspoken or anything. And it’s not like we’re saying this hurt the show at all, we just wanted to make mention of things that are different. Still, Colter’s take on Cage was very commendable, and we can’t imagine anyone else giving us a performance like that.
Creating the Tone/Story
Probably the best thing about this show is the story. There was a more noticeable focus on telling Luke Cage’s tale rather than focusing on high octane action sequences. We’re not saying it didn’t have action sequences, because it did and they were great, but the story was the bigger focus here. We felt as though we were brought into Harlem in pretty much every way besides not physically being there. That very gritty, street level feel was present the whole time, and pretty much every moment of dialogue felt needed to progress the story forward.
In terms of tone, this show was pretty much packed with emotion. Everyone was pretty emotionally invested in Harlem, and so there was a lot of humanity behind each character, including the villains. Also just like most superhero shows, they had to include some scenes that were there for pure comedy, and when they did it was a big laugh and never felt forced. We always appreciate moments like that.
This was an incredible cast. Like, out of every Marvel show released at the moment, we’ve yet to see a group of actors who worked together so well on screen. Each character clearly fed off of the other’s energy in each scene, and it felt like they were actually family or teammates in real life. There were so many diverse characters that were being balanced through these 13 episodes (and we honestly can’t talk about each one because there’s really that many), but they somehow managed to give virtually everyone enough time to shine. And so much color! Wow, so many POC in this show. It was a very shocking surprise, but we were here for it 100%. Cottonmouth (Mahershala Ali) and Mariah Dillard (Alfre Woodard) were introduced as the main antagonist in the beginning, and so you expected them to both be the main bad guys that Luke took on in the end (obviously not in a fist fight though because..y’know). But then Dillard kills Cottonmouth (which was an amazingly shocking twist by the way), and you’re like “um..wow okay so…wow.” Like my jaw actually dropped during that scene. Then you fast forward a few episodes and it’s shown that the final boss is actually Luke Cage’s stepbrother Willis “Diamondback” Stryker, an angry, bible-quoting badass who wants nothing more than to kill his stepbrother. Talk about sibling rivalry. There were other villains too like Shades (played by Theo Rossi) and Domingo (played by Jacob Vargas), but the main baddies were those we mentioned earlier.
Obviously though, Misty Knight (Simone Missick) and Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) were probably the best supporting cast members. Misty was something of a thorn in Luke’s side for most of the series, because although Luke was doing good, she didn’t support his acts of vigilantism (she’s a cop, so figures). But still, she remained prevalent throughout the whole show, and her character’s growth was very clear by the end of the season, since she eventually jumped aboard Team Luke. Claire Temple was different though. This is the third Marvel show she’s appeared in (Daredevil and Jessica Jones being the others), and each time she’s served as a nurse to people in need of her assistance. But she was given a much bigger role in Luke Cage. She showed up a bit more than halfway through the series, and she ended up being Luke’s companion/moral compass/sort of love interest by the end. She was given a lot to do, and it was nice to see her character being used to her fullest capacity in one of these shows. We’re super excited to see where she goes next.
Standing For Something Important
While this show’s focus was about Luke Cage and his story in Harlem, it had so many different messages as well. It was actually the perfect time for a show like this to be made, with what’s happening in the world. We’re living in a time where you can get killed just for the color of your skin or the way you’re dressed, and that’s mentioned plenty of times in the show. But while Luke Cage is shot at plenty of times throughout the series, he remains bulletproof. And he keeps moving forward. There’s something about that that can inspire POC (including myself). While some of us are being killed senselessly, we’re being shown by an individual that perseverance and also standing up for yourself and doing what you believe is right throughout all of the events happening in the world is our only option. Mike Colter himself even spoke about his black hoodie that he wears in the show, which was actually a tribute to Trayvon Martin, a young African American boy who was unarmed and shot at just by his appearance. This show plays on a lot of real world issues, and doesn’t use a cookie-cutter message to get the point across. It’s raw, and it’s in your face. Seems like that’s what they were going for, and they pulled it off flawlessly. We commend them for that. because it was very much needed.
Alright here are my final thoughts on Luke Cage. It was an amazing show that was able to balance being a show based off a comic book character, but it also balanced real world themes and represented something bigger than itself as well. In all honesty i was not expecting this show to resonate with me as well as it did, and i could definitely see myself watching it again. There were small issues with some acting with some of the characters, but nothing was major enough to really be brought up in terms of ruining any aspect of the show. The cast was great, the action was great, and the soundtrack was amazing. There were plenty of dope cameos (Method Man, Sway and Heather B were highlights), and this was an all around enjoyable experience. We don’t know how long it’ll be until we see this cast again, but we’re looking forward to Luke returning to the MCU and crossing over with Daredevil, Jessica Jones (again), and eventually Iron Fist. Marvel and Netflix are now 3 for 3 with their shows. We hope they keep it up.
Luke Cage Receives a 9.5 out of 10 from Superhero Task Force
Luke Cage Season 1 is now available for streaming on Netflix.