Oct 7, 2016

[TV] Luke Cage: Season 1

Tobie and I may not have all the time in the world to binge on Netflix shows all day, but do make time when we can. And there are certain shows that gather so much hype about them that it almost feels imperative to to get through the season in order to avoid the growing threat of spoilers online.

So that's how we managed to get through all 13 episodes of Marvel's Luke Cage within a week of the series hitting Netflix in an effort to avoid precisely that. And I can't blame folks since the Netflix family of Marvel shows have been pretty awesome and this series has been no exception. We also had a few hours of downtime over the weekend, most likely related to everyone watching the series I expect.

Luke Cage as a series wasn't too flashy and tried to tell a pretty solid story. Some parts felt a little cliche in terms of movies that focus on African-Americans but after the first few episodes the narrative matured into a very complex look at race relations using superheroes as a lens of sorts.

Synopsis: Marvel's Luke Cage is an American crime drama series created by Cheo Hodari Coker for Netflix. The show is of course based on the titular Marvel character of the same name. The show takes place sometime after the events of the first season of Jessica Jones and the second season of Daredevil.

The story begins with Luke Cage (Mike Colter) now trying to keep a low profile by working at a barbershop owned by Pop (Frankie Faison), a former gangster. Luke also works as a dishwasher at Harlem's Paradise, a local nightclub owned by Cottonmouth Stokes (Mahershala Ali), although he generally hates that old nickname. And arms deal that goes bad brings in detectives Misty Knight (Simone Missick) and her partner Rafael Scarfe (Frank Whaley) look into things. And despite Luke's best efforts not to get involved in things there's just too much bad business brewing in Harlem for him to completely ignore.

What I Liked: There's some fairly complex storytelling at work here and what at first seems like  silly game of Fiasco later evolves into a complex web of bad decisions getting worse but also acting as a catalyst for a hero to rise up. And this is more than your classic Hero's Journey for Luke and the end result is pretty brilliant. The story also makes sure to bring in real-world elements such as the problems of such minority communities and the realities of police profiling and other problems.

On the side we also need to show a lot of love and respect for Rosario Dawson, who continues to beautifully portray the role of Claire Temple across all of these Netflix Marvel shows. She's grown to be one of the bravest and most put-together characters, thus making it seem like she's a strong player character wading through hordes of NPCs, in RPG-speak.

I also need to sing praises for Alfre Woodard as Councilwoman Mariah Dillard. She was really intense in certain episodes and she truly made the most of her role with a character journey all of her own. And I also loved Simone Missick as Misty Knight. She totally owned that character and is just another example of the strong female roles in this series.

What Could Have Been Better: The story takes a while to setup all the elements of the story that it wants to tell so a lot of the first three or so episodes feels like so much backstory and fluff. Throw in a lot of what I'd call stereotypical elements of movies focused on African Americans like the barbershop being a pseudo community center I could have done without.

I also didn't get the appeal of both Mahershala Ali, Theo Rossi, and Erik LaRay as some of our primary villains in this show. They just didn't quite carry that much presence on-screen and it was part of why the first few episodes felt so slow to me.

TL;DR: Marvel's Luke Cage wasn't quite the home run that Jessica Jones felt like to me, but then I recognize that we all probably like different things in shows like this. But it's still a really solid almost noir-style story about one man taking a stand for his neighborhood and just so happening to be bulletproof. Thus the first season gets a good 4 moments of awesome for the Night Nurse out of a possible 5.

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