There’s nothing that can hurt you, so what the hell are you afraid of?
My issue with Superman is that he’s boring. He is essentially all-powerful and he lives to save people – no matter what he comes up against, the outcome is pretty predictable. I was slightly worried that Luke Cage might suffer from the same problem. If he’s invulnerable, how exactly were they going to create real stakes? Never doubt Marvel.
After months of anticipation, the first episode of the series was aptly named, “The Moment of Truth” and it delivered. They made sure to pack it full of wider MCU references, from the Avengers, to Jessica Jones, and even Justin Hammer (definitely look out for all kinds of Easter eggs in this series – including that Power Man costume).
If they felt that they had to reinforce the fact that this show was a part of the MCU, that’s because this is completely different to anything else that Marvel has produced.
Whilst the Netflix shows are known for their grittier, darker takes on heroism; Luke Cage strays from that model. Yes, there’s blood and violence but Luke isn’t like Matt Murdock or Jessica Jones. He has his issues but he’s not the tortured vigilante: Luke Cage is warm and funny and it takes an Uncle Ben-esque moment to force him into the position of hero.
There are no masks and Luke doesn’t fight crime in the shadows – he’s out in the open. Honestly, this feels almost revolutionary for a superhero show: a hero who doesn’t hide??? Obviously there are reasons why this doesn’t happen often in the genre and this show examines those to great effect.
One of my favourite scenes in the entire season is where Luke and Cotton Mouth fight, not with their fists but in a debate. It’s brilliant and a technique that other shows can’t employ. It makes it immensely clear that the battles in this series extend past brawls between individuals and incorporates a fight for the public support.
A hero is nothing without a good villain and there are plenty to choose from in this show – maybe too many? This show was fantastic at building the back-stories of all of their characters but sometimes it felt too late. They would wait until that character’s final arc and then reveal their motivation which meant that there was such a long period in which these villains just didn’t quite make sense.
The perfect example of this is the show’s “big bad”, Willis. We’ve seen the theme of religion handled expertly with Daredevil’s Catholic guilt, and in comparison this felt weak. The idea of the character was a lot more interesting than the execution and at points it felt like he was just a caricature of an evil religious zealot.
On the other hand, I liked the other villains of the season a lot more – particularly Shades and Mariah. Throughout the season a part of me was rooting for Shades and I was certainly sympathetic towards Mariah during that game-changing scene in episode 7 where she kills her cousin.
Rape, racism, prejudice: this show handles some heavy themes. Luke Cage is a black superhero and that matters a lot. The creators of the show don’t try to dismiss that, they really embraced it and portray this honest depiction of black lives in Harlem without being preachy. It gave a balanced view: looking at the racial divide from both sides of authority.
There are a lot of things that make this series special and you certainly can’t forget the soundtrack. It had already been announced that music would be a large part of this show and it was true. The mixture of jazz and hip-hop, whilst actually shooting in Harlem gave a wonderfully authentic feel to events. Harlem feels like more than a setting, it’s like a character in and of itself.
Amongst my favourite parts of this show were the flashbacks, which were always superb, the gorgeous cinematography, and more Claire Temple than we’ve seen in Daredevil and Jessica Jones combined.
This didn’t hit as hard as Daredevil with the action sequences; it didn’t have as compelling an antagonist as Jessica Jones; but it held its ground. Luke Cage is a different kind of hero so he has a different kind of show. It’s still amazing.
What did you think of Luke Cage? What were your favourite parts of the series? What didn’t you like? Let me know in the comments.