DAR TV: Netflix's Luke Cage

Introduction By @TrueGodImmortal
-13 episodes. One man. With superhuman abilities. This show has quickly captured the attention of the world over and for good reason. When I first heard the news that Luke Cage was coming to Netflix, I admittedly was skeptical. You know, Marvel usually doesn't get much wrong, but for some reason, with Luke Cage being a mostly black casted show, I was really worried they might not get it right. Thank God I was wrong. With this action packed, drama filled show setting the tone for more big series to come, and following in the footsteps of previous Netflix hits like Daredevil and Jessica Jones, which Luke Cage also appears in, this show exceeds both of them. With Mike Colter playing Luke Cage, a former convict turned superhuman, the show has a perfect lead to play the hero and Colter delivers his dialogue and plays his role so perfectly, that you really begin to believe he is truly the character. With the boom bap production prowess of Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad, the grungy score of the show reeks of classic NY hip hop and being that the show is set in Harlem, this works perfectly. It is the most urban themed thing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (aka this show is full of black culture and I love it) and it follows a certain order leading into The Defenders miniseries that is in the works. Preceded by Jessica Jones and soon to be followed by Iron Fist, this show is right in the middle of building something very epic.

Now, looking at the cast, before I get into more details, I have to speak highly of the main characters and the actors that play them. Simone Missick as Misty Knight is truly on the money here, as a gifted yet conflicted Harlem NYPD detective who has an interesting relationship with Luke Cage. I've already spoken highly of Mike Colter and his role as Luke Cage, but in the first half of the first season, his greatest adversary is the best character on the entire show, the flawed yet somewhat likable villain Cornell "Cottonmouth" Stokes, played by Mahershala Ali. Cottonmouth is brash, arrogant, but he still has somewhat of a code. That code will come into question as the show goes on, as you'll see, if you haven't already, but he plays a great villain coupled with NY style, flare, and the right amount of aggression behind it. Though she doesn't arrive in the series until a little later, I am always fond of Rosario Dawson and her role as Claire Temple works just as well as it did on previous Marvel programs, even more so here because of the depth of her relationship with Luke. I admittedly hated Alfre Woodard and her character Mariah Dillard, which means she played this role 100% how she was supposed to. Usually we see Alfre as a mother or a less devious role, but she is in actuality the biggest villain of the show. There is Misty's partner Scarfe, who has an important role for some of the season, and other little insignificant character arcs in the early episodes that don't last long, but more importantly there are more villains. I personally don't like or dislike Willis Stryker, who plays Diamondback, and while I don't necessarily care for Shades either, I feel more indifference for both characters than legit dislike. I don't want to see them killed brutally or meet their end watching them, instead I just rather not pay attention to them, but I'll get to this a little later as far as why. When talking the best performances overall on the show however, I've listed the ones that matter the most. There are also musical performances on this show, which add an element. Performances from Raphael Saadiq, Faith Evans and more make for a fun added piece to the show.

Now that you've gotten an introduction to the show, let's get a bit more in depth. I'm going to give you my short play by play on my favorite episodes of the show, without spoiling too much. If you haven't seen it, please do so ASAP. You won't regret it. But first, let me get another opinion in on this matter before I get into my favorite episodes analysis.

Luke Cage was released on Netflix September 30th and I can't speak for everyone else, but I've already finished. So I'll keep this as spoiler free as possible. The first thing I have to mention before getting into the main point of my section is this: everyone involved in this show needs some type of recognition. The acting in this show is phenomenal. It gives true weight to the character development and all characters had something to do, some hand in the large scheme of the show as it went on. Even Diamondback, who I have to admit was a fairly weak villain compared to the others in the show. He could have definitely done more fleshing out over the course of the season after his appearance. That being said, Mahershala Ali as Cottonmouth was amazing. He gave that character weight, meaning and purpose and the combination of him and Alfre Woodard's Mariah Dillard is a force to be reckoned with.

Now for the most important thing about this show: LUKE. CAGE. IS. BLACK. AS. HELL. This show is a true celebration of our people and our artistic history. If you're going to set a show like this in Harlem, you had best recognize the impact that city and its history has on our people and damn it if this show doesn't nail it. The music, the art, the dialogue: everything is Black. Even the style of the show is a form of an updated Blaxploitation film. Music is everywhere, and there are even some corny lines here and there but it's fine, that's part of it. There are so many little asides and lines that are part of our culture, this show truly feels like it's for us.

There's a moment where a character discusses his differences with Luke by making mention of the long standing MJ/Prince argument. A small mention taken strictly in the context of the show, but it's a very big deal considering how big both of those artists were in the black community and that line gives a true idea of their clashing styles. Later in the season, there's a scene that really underscores the "bulletproof black man in a hoodie" theme and gives a great commentary on current events while celebrating what having that character means to Black people in today's climate. Luke Cage is a show for us and I couldn't be happier that it exists.

Favorite Episode Breakdown 
By @TrueGodImmortal

*Episode 1
Moment Of Truth 
-The first episode is pretty slow in the beginning and might confuse you at first. Luke Cage is keeping such a low profile as a sweeper in Pop's Barbershop, and as a part time dishwasher in Harlem's Paradise, a nightclub owned by Cottonmouth. One night in particular, Luke ends up working the bar and meets Misty Knight, who in a strange turn of events, ends up sleeping with Luke shortly after that meeting. Luke is unaware of the profession that Misty has, but as of now, it all seems harmless. The reason for Luke having to work the bar? One of the bartenders was missing for the night. His whereabouts? Involvement in a robbery that has ties to Cottonmouth. What follows from there is a crazy rollercoaster, as things with links to Pop's Barbershop, Harlem's Paradise, and somehow Luke as well all take shape, especially when we run into some "activists" who are hellbent on leading the "New Harlem Renaissance". This opening episode is really solid and drew me in to watch even more.

*Episode 2
Code of The Streets
-I really have mixed feelings about this episode, but my love and hate for it make it one of my favorite and though I can't really give you details of it without providing spoilers, I'll try to explain. So, I'll preface it as such: almost everything changes with this episode. Things within Pop's Barbershop will never be the same, Luke will never be the same, the dynamic of the short Misty and Luke relationship instantly alters with a development, and the war between Cottonmouth and Luke really begins at this point. The world wasn't aware of the superman abilities that Luke possessed, but at some point... you could feel the reveal coming in this episode. You'll see why.

*Episode 3
Who's Gonna Take The Weight 
-Pop's Barbershop was certainly a very big focal point of Episodes 1 and 2, and this is no different. The whole show seems to slightly revolve around Pop's Barbershop, as it becomes many things like a war zone, a hiding place, and somehow a place of solitude. We find out about Crispus Attackus and its real purpose, along with more info on the villains. We also find out some more truth about Misty and her partner in particular, that would slowly change the course of the show. This episode is very game changing for the direction of the show, and the most epic scene comes when Luke decides to take a "walk" through Crispus Attackus and "borrow" something he and Pop's Barbershop desperately needs. That would prove to be a disaster, and like I said, it changes the show in some way.

*Episode 4
Step Into The Arena
-After the change in the show, we spend most of this episode watching what occurred to Luke when he was in jail previously. There wasn't much development of the story, but rather provided the backstory for why Luke is the way he is in some way, in regards to his almost unemotional state regularly. We learn of a Dr. Reva Connors, Dr. Burnstein, and the experiment that turned Luke into a superhuman and gave him the powers. We also see Luke have to reveal himself to the world as a superhuman, which will prove to be telling in the coming episodes.

*Episode 7
-This is where shit gets real. It really sucks that I can't really give spoilers, but I'll just say this, a villain meets their end far too soon in the show and I think it honestly weighs down the show just a bit afterwards. I also didn't like the way the villain met his end, as I think every single major villain in this show should meet their end in the most epic way possible. That didn't happen here. By now, Rosario Dawson is on the show as Claire Temple and she and Luke have some interesting history. There's some backstory provided for Dillard and Cottonmouth as well in this episode and it really flows well. Also, we learned of bullets that could stop Luke Cage and apparently we see the effects of that in this episode near the end. A true turning point in the show, as we learn more of what Diamondback is capable of and he slowly works his way up to become THE villain on the show now.

*Episode 8
Blowin' Up The Spot 
-Another landmark episode. Which, I can't really go into too much details, as it would spoil everything. I'll just give you a rundown of what you get to witness on this episode. Luke Cage shows his first signs of being weakened, Diamondback is being relentless in his quest to end Luke, Claire and Misty have a confrontation, and now the police seem to have a target on the back of Luke. If anything, the tension between Claire and Misty initially make for an interesting dichotomy due to their ties to Luke. There is also the first official fight between Luke and Diamondback, which takes place in a movie theater. Let's just say a lot of shit gets destroyed. This is yet another great episode, paced perfectly, yet it has so much happening.

*Episode 11
Now You're Mine
-After a few episodes that suffered from the lack of a likable yet hate worthy villain, it picks up the pace some. While Luke and Diamondback still have their feud going on, it is apparent that we now know Dillard is really the mastermind of this all, and uses her place in office to manipulate people, which was saw in a previous episode where she paid someone to try and blame a murder on Luke. In this episode, we see Diamondback display more dastardly qualities and frame Luke for more murders, which is honestly one of the only things I don't like about this show. The need to frame heroes for murder really makes the villains seem weaker and as a result, less threatening. Diamondback comes off more like a bitch in these moments rather than an actual menacing threat or smart, cunning villain. It's what made Cottonmouth the greatest character on this show, as he could teeter the line between both, and it's what made Dillard someone we love to hate, because she was smart, cunning, and believes she does the right thing, despite committing the deeds she does. Even Shades, while also seeming like a bitch, is a bit more ruthless than Diamondback. The last few episodes are weighed down by the Diamondback angle if I'm being honest, but the rest of the cast manages to work around it and make the show still entertaining.

*Episode 12
Soliloquy of Chaos
-I prefer this episode over the final one on the season because this is REALLY where things get crazy. We see Claire, Luke, Misty, and others get clarity on their fates in a way, while the whole city puts their support behind Luke. Bulletproof hoodies become a fashion statement, which ironically is hilariously reminiscent of the Yeezy clothing line in some ways. However, this episode is powerful and showcases the most black power of the whole season. Method Man oddly enough guest stars as himself and takes the show up a notch with his support of Luke and performing a freestyle/rap song on Sway dedicated to him called "Bulletproof Love". The episode ends with Luke and Diamondback having a season ending brawl. The final episode is not as action packed, it's tying up loose ends for the 2nd season. This is really what I consider the season finale, or at least part 1 with most of the action.

Outro By @TrueGodImmortal 
-While this show is "unapologetically" (hate the term but it applies) black, let us not forget the focus of the show: human decency. In many ways, Luke Cage is a show about the struggle between good and evil, the ability to change your life for the better, and the desires that seem to come from everyone to be better in general. Luke Cage is a flawed superhero. Cottonmouth is a flawed villain at conflict with himself. Dillard is very flawed considering her job and a villain that will do what she can to uphold her name. The beauty of the show accentuates the flaws of the main characters and that somehow makes this show much more relatable than expected. When all is said and done, the characters of Luke, Pops, Cottonmouth, Scarfe, Misty, Claire, Reva, Bobby Fish, and Dillard all leave some sort of effect on you and that's exactly what you want from a TV series such as this. A show that leaves an effect with their powerful performances, setting, and imagery. That sums up Luke Cage perfectly.



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