Luke Cage Review: There’s Something Powerful About Seeing a Black Man That’s Bulletproof and Unafraid.
If you’re reading this blog, you have been waiting for Luke Cage to be released with baited breath. I’ve been checking my Netflix repeatedly to see if it would be released a little early. How greedy am I?
In all seriousness, we need to give Netflix kudos for making a show that was so black. Black with a capital B! The director, the female lead, Pop’s barbershop, Biggie with the crown, the soundtrack, Heather B., Ali Shaheed Muhammad, Wu Tang, and the gatdamn Delfonics. So indulgently black and so needed right now.
Harlem is in the midst of gentrification and a Councilwoman named Mariah is doing her best to make sure the city remains black and brown. It sounds admirable, but we quickly learn that it is tainted by ambition and drug/gang politics. Her cousin, Cottonmouth, is the local kingpin who is under increasing pressure to defend and expand his territory. Luke Cage ends up in the middle of this when Pop’s Barbershop is attacked and Pop is killed. Pop was the closest thing that Luke had to a father and brought the ruckus to bring down Cottonmouth and Mariah’s criminal enterprise. There is a huge shift in the story about halfway through that allows us much more insight into Luke’s backstory. I won’t ruin it for you.
The series did so many things right: the setting, the pacing, the soundtrack, the sarcasm, and the reverence for the comics were like a slow burn. I think the standout feature is the acting. Mike Colter, Simone Missick, Alfre Woodard, Mahershala Ali, Erik Harvey, and all The Wire actors who turned up put in tour de force performances. All the actors seemed to revel in the opportunity to flesh out their roles. Something about it feels different. I’m not sure we’ve seen black characters like this before. Even Turk wasn’t a caricature. You won’t forget any of these characters. Honorable mention to Misty Knight’s naturally bountiful bosom and Luke’s hoodie, which deserve their own conversations.
And, shout out to Night Nurse! Can we get her her own show? Every time I see her character, the more I like her. Rosario Dawson did that! #nightnursesolit needs to start trending now!
I will acknowledge that there were weaknesses. Shades. When he first took his shades off the first time, I thought we were about to give way to the supernatural in the show. Does looking someone in the eye give him the ability to know whether someone is telling the truth? Why does he wear them all the time, even at night? The seeming answer was such a letdown. No, he just likes wearing shades. The uneven treatment of his role was awkward and frustrating. He’s intended to be a ‘chaotic neutral’, but instead he’s just chaotic. I don’t know if it was tha the acting was wooden or that the writers didn’t know what to do with his character, but it just didn’t work. Make a decision! And, we’re not even going to discuss that kiss. I screamed out loud a little.
Diamondback was confusing as well. Erik LaRay Harvey did a great job with the material he was given. My complaint was about the material he was given. Diamondback is a lunatic hellbent on destroying Luke Cage, but he’s also a criminal mastermind. What comes across is a petulant man child with daddy issues and misplaced aggression. Is that really a villain worthy of Luke Cage? I don’t think so. It was kinda corny. Here’s hoping that this season was just an introduction and they have much grander plans for Diamondback.
There were a few MCU continuity issues that I noticed. Alfre Woodard already played a different character in Iron Man 3. A reference was made to President Obama when he is not the president in the Marvel universe. I’m sure there were a few others that I missed.
The story is also a bit detached from the rest of the MCU. Not sure if I should consider that a plus or minus. There is mention of The Incident, the Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, Justin Hammer, and Jessica Jones, but seemingly less so than other shows. We’ll see how this continues to unfold in Season 2.
All in all, a great show that is soul satisfying. Thank you to everyone involved for giving it to us.
P.S. If you’re like me and have a whole lot of questions about a certain character, click here. Great writeup by Zakiya Jamal.