“Luke Cage” T.V. Show Review

Knocking down a few doors in the projects doesn’t just make you Harlem’s Hero. It actually makes you a legend. This critically acclaimed superhero web television series released all 13 episodes of its first season on Netflix on September 30th, 2016. The third collaboration between Netflix and Marvel Entertainment for adapting street-level superhumans, there were many reports of it being so popular, that many Netflix servers crashed due to overcrowding. Set a few months after the events of Jessica Jones, the titular ex-convict relocates to the city of Harlem, New York with bulletproof skin and enhanced strength. Initially wanting to lay low, he soon finds himself thrust into taking action against notorious gangster Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes and Mariah Dillard, the latter’s scheming politician cousin. Cage must take the pair down while battling the police system, fronted by Mercedes “Misty” Knight. Even though it’s just come out, Luke Cage may be my favorite Marvel/Netflix show to date, at least since season one of Daredevil. There is not a single actor in the cast that gives a dull performance. Everyone brings their A-game to the table. Mike Colter is absolutely perfect as the title character. Charismatic and convincing to a fault, I hardly think that they could have picked a better actor to portray Luke Cage in this universe. Simone Missick as Misty Knight is a particular standout, arguably the breakout star of this entire show. Her sarcasm makes for some funny moments, while her analytical skills make the audience feel like they are a genius detective as well. Rosario Dawson returns for the fourth time in the universe as Claire Temple, a no-nonsense nurse for enhanced beings. She makes a great love interest for Luke Cage, amplified by their fiery chemistry. Let’s get into the villains. Previously, Head of Marvel Television Jeph Loeb jokingly referred to both Cottonmouth and Dillard as “the other heroes of the story.” Netflix veteran Mahershala Ali does give us a violent, yet still human antagonist out of Cottonmouth. Similarly, Alfre Woodard channels her inner activist to depict a calculating, conflicted and despicable politician who will do anything to paint Harlem in her own black image. However, I did not find these two to be as menacing a presence as Kilgrave from Jessica Jones, or as physically imposing as Wilson Fisk/Kingpin. The soundtrack is fantastic as well. The showrunner, Cheo Hodari Coker, was originally a music journalist¬†and was one of the last people to interview the Notorious B.I.G. before he died. He utilizes this old occupation to great effect, with a score by Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad that is reminiscent of hip-hop songs from the 70’s and 90’s. The Wu-Tang-ification of the Marvel world, you yourself will come to love the hip-hop genre by the last episode. It’s also fascinating in its approach to race and other social issues. This is the first property under the Marvel name to use the “n” word. It is used casually by quite a few characters in normal conversations, although some, like Cage or Dillard, prefer not to use it often. And the way they handle certain situations, such as police brutality and wrongful imprisonment, is respectful to victims without being preachy to those unfamiliar with the subject matter. Let’s be honest; the world needs a bulletproof black man right now. He shields fellow Harlem residents from certain death (literally) and singlehandedly takes down a small army money-hungry thugs simply by flicking them on the forehead. And yet, Luke Cage still professes, “I’m no hero. I’m just trying to do right by Pop.” And that’s what makes him a complete hero, and the most emotionally sympathetic protagonist of the Netflix shows. In the end, Luke Cage is the smartest, most socially relevant show to come out of the Netflix/Marvel partnership. Much like listening to a hip-hop album, you can just take a good chunk out of your day to binge-watch as many episodes as you want. It gives me hope for future Marvel shows such as Iron Fist, The Defenders, and The Punisher. Oh, and I guess people have asked me to hear what I think of how Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is introducing Robbie Reyes Ghost Rider in its fourth season. The answer is no, I’m not going to review it. I couldn’t make it through the first season. It was just dull, repetitive, and too much “Freak of the Week” kind of stuff, even for a superhero show. But many friends have told me it really improves in the next two seasons, so we’ll see what happens.

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