I've finally finished the first season of "Luke Cage"! Verdict? It is Awesome! If you watched Jessica Jones and both seasons of Daredevil, and are expecting pretty much the same, you're going to be disappointed. Right from the start, "Luke Cage" has its own tone, its own vibe, it's own tempo...which is the exact opposite of a "bad thing". I mean, Luke Cage (played by Mike Colter) has a very different demeanor than his contemporaries, so it's only appropriate that his series has a different heartbeat. Where Jessica and Matt are "balls to the wall", "dive in head first", Luke is contemplative, reserved. And that is reflected in the opening. It is just a look into the quiet day to day grind of a hard-working man who's trying to find reason in his life- while staying under the radar- after the events of "Jessica Jones". Every detail reflects Luke's character, from the smooth and deliberate flow to the intellectual repartee.
To be honest, I feel like anything I say about this great show will not do it justice. To the comic book fan, it is like a treasure trove of references to the comics (many satirical of the blaxploitation of the character in the comics, as above). I could probably write a dozen cards, just on the nods, which were both obvious and subtle. I am working on a list of some of my favorites to come at a later time. Thankfully, though, the show is nothing like many of his older comic book incarnations. An important....perhaps the most important... aspect of "Luke Cage" is the raw insight into Black America. As "Jessica Jones" spoke to survivors of relationship abuse, so too does "Luke Cage" speak to a part of our population that has been inadequately (understatement) represented in television and film. Admittedly, I have neither the experience nor the knowledge to grok the fullness of what was presented, but I do see some of the picture...and possibly more of it than I perceived before. (I would really like to open this facet up for someone more qualified to expand upon, please!) I mean, I'm sure that it couldn't have escaped many viewers attention, the significance of a bulletproof black man in a hoodie, fighting corruption in the streets of New York?
So....the story begins where "Jessica Jones" left off, with Luke having gone underground in Harlem after discovering that Jessica killed his love Reva while under the mind control of Killgrave. He has two under the table jobs- sweeping up hair at Pop's barber shop and washing dishes at a club that happens to be owned by a local gangster. However, any aspiration for the quiet life is quickly thrown out the window when local gangster Cottonmouth (Mahershala Ali) begins ramping up gun running in Harlem. Unfortunately, Cottonmouth isn’t the only criminal Cage will have to worry about, as the gangster has an equally shady cousin, Councilwoman Mariah Dillard (Alfre Woodard), and a deranged hit man from his past (Erik LaRey Harvey) to toy with as well. Mike Colter, as seen in his character debut in the Jessica Jones series, provides a stern, yet lovable creation in the character of Cage. We’re given plenty of back story to understand where he’s coming from and why he keeps trying to hide in the background.
The villains, especially that of Councilwoman Mariah Dillard and her accomplice Shades (Theo Rossi), you will love to hate. The back story we get for Mariah and her cousin Cottonmouth provides a great scope into their mindsets, Mariah encouraged to study and attend school while Cottonmouth was forced into the family business against his wishes for a music career. Much like that of Frisk from the Daredevil series, these are some of Marvel’s most exceptional villains to debut on any screen, especially when you consider how shallow the majority of villains are in superhero flicks. All of which is compounded by the aforementioned styles of Alfre Woodard, Theo Rossi and Mahershala Ali. Admittedly, they do throw in a fourth villain about halfway through the series that doesn’t live up to the same level of talent that characters Shades and Mariah provide, but actor Erik LaRey Harvey makes it such a cartoonish, over the top performance that it’s hard not to still enjoy the surprise villainous character.
With the appropriate push of balance, the show shifts focus from the superpower lead hero to that of the everyday hero. Luke's employer and friend makes a sacrifice that cannot be ignored and which inspires greater heroism. Rosario Dawson hesitantly answers her own call to become a force to be reckoned with (at the encouragement of her mother). Misty is a strong, decisive woman and you know that when shit hits the fan, she's got you covered.
Although, it’s more what begins to happen around Luke in Harlem that really sets motion to this show’s exceptional plot, the onslaught of gun violence, the rampant corruption in both the police and government bodies, it’s all addressed so clear-cut and well crafted that it’s hard to not be drawn into this world of superheroes. And all backed by one of the most diverse casts to hit a comic book program? What’s not to love?