Marvel and Netflix’s newest child, Luke Cage, is the third show to join Daredevil and Jessica Jones on the streaming platform and is definitely worthy to join their line-up. Luke Cage explodes off the screen with dynamic storytelling, continues giving us excellent characters all around for the Marvel-Netflixverse, and easily has the best soundtrack of them all. Marvel found a good showrunner in Cheo Hodari Coker, but his inexperience sticks out a bit in a few episodes since this is his first time helming a show (previously a writer &/or producer for shows Southland, NCIS: LA, & Almost Human). I enjoyed this show very much regardless of its flaws, having seen the entire show twice now, and looking forward to watching it again when I eventually start marathoning* the whole Marvel-Netflixverse again.
Luke Cage gives us an excellent cast to portray a great array of well-developed characters. Theo Rossi found a great new supporting character to sink into with Hernan “Shades” Alvarez, and Alfre Woodard as Mariah Dillard is just chilling in her character progression. Mahershala Ali gives a bone-breaking performance, and when I say bone-breaking I mean that’s what I’ll be doing when they forget to nominate him for an Emmy next year. Mike Colter continues the Marvel hero’s trend of truly embodying his hero and becomes the image in your mind when you think Luke Cage from now on. Simone Missick as Mercedes “Misty” Knight is a stellar standout giving us a great detective in the mix of everything going down and I’m looking forward to her return just as much as Cage’s in The Defenders. Without going into spoiler territory for comic readers, they do change a lot of the history but stay true to the core spirit of the source material while a bit of new flavor to help develop their world further. They have depowered Luke Cage from his comic form (for now?), but it is definitely for the better to help him fit into the street level world he’s in.
I can’t really talk about the plot or story without getting into some small spoilers, so spoilers warning for the following two paragraphs. This is where the weakest links of Luke Cage appear; the true plot of the show isn’t revealed until about halfway through the show and is hidden behind a false plot. This spin creates a small tone shift and makes the second half of the show fall short of what we get in the first half. By the end, they do a course correct and give us enough to hope for a promising second season. This by no means makes the second half bad or anything of the sort; I still enjoyed it a lot. The pacing slows down in the second half, and a few episodes drag on. While I love the idea of getting 13 episodes in every Marvelflix show, every show released so far has shown they would have much better pacing if cut down to 10-12 episodes each.** They, however, continue to utilize the longer format to give us what the movies can’t; great villains. All I will simply say is we get multiple great villains in this show
I don’t want to get too much into the story simply because of how easy it is to spoil this show. Luke Cage gives us the most detailed origin of our Marvelflix heroes yet to really help ground his character. This not only helps connect us to a bulletproof character so we care during the action, but also opens the door for us to accept more mystical characters about to enter New York in Marvel’s next show. Luke Cage does not keep giving us more of the same from previous shows. While Daredevil can fall under the genre of a legal drama, and Jessica Jones a gritty detective noir, Luke Cage is very much a gangster drama blaxploitation show. The dialogue is very intriguing but falls flats a bit at times with no real cursing from any New Yorker. The only times I really remember cursing is at Pop’s Shop when someone would violate the Swear Jar. This worked as a nice device for us to understand the lack of cursing, but it only worked for one set. The lack of cursing though doesn’t have you lose interest, and most of the time the dialogue is really good that you don’t really notice it.
Marvel continues to deliver shows made for fans first while grounding them in a realistic manner that can grab the attention of many more new fans. I really like how loose they’re trying to keep each show from one another so you don’t need to see them in any particular order, but I feel that won’t work for much longer. Luke Cage already had a supporting role in Jessica Jones, and while you don’t need to watch Jessica Jones first to start Luke Cage, Luke Cage does slightly spoil a moment or two of Jessica Jones. Although, it might intrigue you to go watch Jessica Jones if you hadn’t seen it already. Luke Cage is definitely a good watch and is compelling enough to be very rewatchable. The best thing Luke Cage does better than Jessica Jones and Daredevil is wrap up its season nicely while giving us a tease of what we can expect in the next season, and giving us an idea of how two of our Defenders might meet in the first episode once that show streams.
* Yes, I’m going to sleep and work in between viewings. I have to keep up with my responsibilities if I want to remain well fed and housed.
** The Defenders has been officially slated for eight episodes, but that is the culmination of 4 shows teaming up for one super season of television. Iron Fist is slated for 13 episodes, so who knows if they will change after The Defenders.