Luke Cage Season One Review
Length: 13 Hour Long Episodes
After being introduced in 2015’s Jessica Jones series, Luke Cage(Mike Colter) is back as the most unflappable character in the Marvel Universe. Suave, quick-witted, and bulletproof; Luke is another reluctant hero, struggling to find a balance between helping the community and the ones he loves with a need to stay out of the spotlight.
Ripped out obscurity by the death of a loved one, Cage takes on Harlem’s top crime lord, Cornell ‘Cottonmouth’ Stokes(Mahershala Ali) and his politically active cousin Mariah Dillard(Alfre Woodard).
If Daredevil defines itself with its action, and Jessica Jones its dark and edgy nature, Luke Cage defines itself by being the coolest show on TV.
Each character seems to be carefully crafted and perfectly aligned with the world they live in – cynical when the world demands it, sharp-witted when the world allows it, and violent in a world that tolerates it. While Luke, Mariah, and Shades match the tone of the show, Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes is the perfect villain for Harlem. In a city that can’t decide whether or not he’s even a villain, Stokes carries himself with the perfect amount of arrogance for a man who’s never lost a fight. And unlike Wilson Fisk, Cottonmouth has level of influence, power, and darkness that seem reasonable, if not relatively attainable.
The aberration to this trend is ‘Diamondback’, Willis Stryker(Erik LaRay Harvey). This sociopathic character is one dimensional and doesn’t show any shade of a ‘greatest good’ argument we’ve come to expect in a Marvel villain. There is no ‘better world’ or ‘better city’. His motivations are purely revenge and power, and it falls flat.
The borough of Harlem features in the series as much as any character; the wide sidewalks, street merchants, murals, and most of all the music. Cottonmouth’s Harlem’s Paradise provides a perfect medium to show-case how deeply Harlem’s musical roots run. As well as creating some original scores that set the tone for the show, Luke Cage features several prominent hip hop artists including Jidenna, Raphael Saadiq, Charles Bradley, and most notably Method Man.
It’s impossible not to connect Luke Cage to the racial element that he brings to the table. Created during the height of Blaxploitation Luke Cage was one of the earliest superheroes to be African-American, and unlike his Avenger compatriot Black Panther, Luke embraces his American and cultural roots. A Method Man cameo may phrase it best, “There’s something powerful about seeing a black man that’s bulletproof and unafraid,”
As compelling a character as Luke Cage is, one of the most enjoyable aspects of the show is a continued expansion of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Easter Eggs, allusions, and subtle references to past and future Marvel material are littered throughout and remind us of a connected world and how easily it will be to connect our favorite heroes for a Defenders series. Next stop: Iron Fist.
- In my eyes, Cottonmouth was the best performance in the series. The show loses steam once we lose the character.
- I enjoyed that Luke didn’t run from his abilities. He’s proud of who is, and doesn’t shy away from the daylight.
- The fight scenes, while less common than other Marvel series, are some of the most visually appealing in TV
- Sweet Christmas, this show was great.