TV Review: “Luke Cage” – Fantastic

Written by Danielle Sing October 17, 2016

Marvel's Luke Cage

Netflix released their latest collaboration with Marvel Studios to bring us “Luke Cage”, and damn did we ever need this series. Not only is the pace of the series great, the drama intense and the music perfection, but it holds a mirror to the racial tensions occurring in America. This caused some controversy for the series. While the first and second half of the series feel completely different, altogether it makes a fantastic series that’s a must watch – not just for Marvel fans but for every fan of good television.

Luke Cage (Mike Colter) has moved to Harlem and now works for Henry ‘Pop’ Hunter (Frankie Faison) at Pop’s Barbershop and Harlem’s Paradise, a nightclub run by gangster Cornell ‘Cottonmouth’ Stokes (Mahershala Ali) and his city councilwoman cousin, Mariah Dillard (Alfre Woodard). While tending the bar, Luke gets close and personal to undercover cop Mercedes ‘Misty’ Knight (Simone Missick). After an arms deal gone bad, Luke’s landlords get attacked twice and Pop’s Barbershop gets attacked – both by Cottonmouth’s men – and Pop is killed. Misty investigates both of the crimes which makes her feel conflicted about Luke. In revenge, Luke attacks Cottonmouth’s and Dillard’s operations which financially ruins them. Though proud of what he’s done, he’s blind to his enemies.

“Since I can’t touch the king, I’m gonna take his queen, his knights, his rooks. I’m knocking all his pieces off the board.”

“Luke Cage” made headlines before the show even released on Netflix. With websites praising it for being what America needed with ‘a bulletproof black man’ and a positive image of a ‘black man in a hoodie’.  In “Luke Cage”, Method Man (playing himself) states that there is “something powerful about seeing a black man as bulletproof and unafraid”.  “Luke Cage” focuses more on gang and political drama than being a mirror to the racial issues occurring in America. While this has gained some controversy for the series, such as people on Twitter complaining the show was racist for not having enough white people and stereotyping white cops, I don’t think the creators of “Luke Cage” would have expected anything less. They knew what they were doing and they did it well. They created an accurate look at Harlem, while integrating the Marvel comics and giving the characters a more modern and fearsome spin.

luke cage

There are three major positive notes about “Luke Cage”: the pacing, the intensity and the music. Similar to other Marvel and Netflix collaborations, the pacing is steady and some of the more memorable moments don’t a fast pace to be effective. They live well within the slower pace. The pace does increase in the last few episodes and matches the pace of the music. The music in “Luke Cage” is a mix of both live and background music. The live music sets tone, pace, and emotion for the scene including Method Man’s freestyle rap ‘Bulletproof Love’ performed on a radio show and Jidenna’s ‘Long Live the Chief’ performed in Harlem’s Paradise. Music has not been as much of a character itself in a Marvel franchise since “Guardians of the Galaxy”. Lastly, the intensity of the drama is great. You have enough drama to keep the audience on their toes without cluttering the plot. Combined with the slower pace, this allows for each moment of drama to have a meaningful amount of intensity.

“I ain’t guilty. But I ain’t innocent either.”

One of the main downsides of “Luke Cage” is that the first half and the second of the season feel different. This comes from the major twist of the show, a change in villain, but it completely changes the tone, the motive and to an extent the writing of the series. The tone becomes more personal and the motives are familial instead of political. The writing in the first half was more precise and concise, the plot and motives easier to follow. The writing in the second half is busy, as they give more comic backstory while trying to make new characters and previous secondary characters important. The drama is steady through the whole series but there are just too many sub-plots and characters going on in the second half. While there are connecting factors between the first, such as the Judas bullets which also connect the series to “The Avengers” and “Iron Man 2” film using Hammer and Chitauri technology, if the transition was smoother and not so sudden, this change in tone and motive between the first and second half of the series would not have been as noticeable.

Marvel's Luke Cage

Overall, “Luke Cage” is a fantastic series. Despite any controversies or problems some people have with “Luke Cage”, it’s an accurate representation of the racial tensions in America.  The pace, music and intense drama only make the show better. While the transition between the first and second of the series could be better to ensure they did not feel like different series, “Luke Cage” is a tremendous series.

My Rating: 8.5/10

luke cage

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