Okay. I know I said I’d stop. But that was before I realised how much Luke Cage was going to affect me. What. A. Show. It would be wrong of me, being the Marvel fan I am, not to give a mini, tiny, little review of a show of this magnitude… (Caution: Spoilers ahead!)
First, let me start off by saying that I was a total MCU/Netflix virgin before I started Luke Cage. I’d never watched Daredevil and I’d never watched Jessica Jones. And right now, my current biggest regret is that I didn’t spend my summer binge watching both of them (I’m sad, I know). I’d heard of the excellence that ensues whenever Marvel and Netflix come together, but it was only a few weeks ago that I actually experienced it for myself. The hype for Luke Cage had been building on Twitter for ages, so, armed with my sister’s Netflix password, I thought “why not?”. Little did I know, it would end with me wanting to watch all 13 episodes in two days straight (I stopped myself doing this, purely because I never wanted the goddamn series to end).
I’ll admit, it was a slow burner at first. The pilot episode didn’t get going until the last five minutes, and it wasn’t until episode 4 that I found myself completely immersed. But for me, and I bet for many of you too, it was episode 7 that made me sit up and go “what the fuck?”. The moment that Mariah didn’t just push Cottonmouth out of a window, but proceeded to furtherly fuck him up with a mic stand. Our big, bad villain, dead halfway through the series. Brilliant. Although I must say, as a villain, and as a character, I much preferred Cottonmouth to Diamondback. Cottonmouth had more reason to want Luke gone, in my opinion, considering that Diamondback’s reasoning seemed to just be daddy issues. And honestly, for me, I reckon Mariah was probably the biggest antagonist of the whole series. Yeah, so the other two wanted Luke dead, but she put him through something much worse in that he ended up having to run from a crime he didn’t commit. Just imagine if Candace hadn’t lied…
As always with Marvel, characterisation was brilliant. I sympathised with Luke from the beginning, particularly so when the lovely Pops was killed by Tone (who then got thrown off a roof, thank you, karma). Surprisingly enough, though, I didn’t hate Cottonmouth. I was scared of him, for sure. His unflinching murder of Shameek in episode 1 showed just how ruthless he was. But then, when you bring his flashbacks into the mix, particularly that of episode 7, he was actually… quite sympathetic? Granted, a dodgy upbringing doesn’t condone what he ended up being, but still. I kind of felt for him. However, in saying that, I didn’t feel for Mariah. Stitching up Luke the way she did earned no sympathy from me, regardless.
However, in complimenting Marvel on their characterisation, I must say that they messed up with Claire Temple. I was loving her character; I was fully invested. She was a kick-ass female who needed no one. Until she suddenly decided that she fancied Luke. There was no need. And I’m not just saying this because I was rooting for Luke and Misty, I’m saying this because it came virtually out of the blue. As far as I’m concerned, Claire was there to help Luke bring Diamondback down and eventually bring the Defenders together. I felt slightly deceived and annoyed when it became another predictable love story.
Narrative wise, I was committed from the off. I mean, I was convinced it was going to be a story about how someone with very little (Luke) could triumph over an ego with too much money (Cottonmouth). Of course, this story was cut very short, and took an even more interesting turn in terms of Mariah and Shades, which I was happily surprised by. However, like I said, I was not keen on Diamondback’s story. His unpredictability made him quite compelling to watch, and his framing of Luke was quite ingenious in that it irritated me greatly and made me all the more driven to watch until the very end, to see him get his comeuppance. But, my investment in the story just wasn’t there. I didn’t find myself caring too much when it was revealed that he and Luke were half-brothers. And when he put on that ridiculous suit in the last episode, well, I just couldn’t take him seriously anymore. Why didn’t Luke just punch him in his goddamn face?
I’ve saved the best until last, you’ll be glad to hear. When you think Marvel, you think big, American heroes like Cap and Iron Man. This is where Luke Cage was pleasingly different. He wasn’t saving the world; he was saving Harlem. He didn’t pretend to be a hero; he didn’t want to be known. He just wanted to help people with the gift he was given. And that’s why I can’t wait to see him come face to face with Tony Stark in Infinity War; the showiest hero of them all, attempting to work side by side with someone who, like Cap, simply doesn’t like bullies. Mike Colter is a welcome addition to the MCU; he played Luke with so much compassion and vulnerability, yet you knew when the time came, he wouldn’t take any shit. He saved Harlem from the likes of Cornell Stokes and Willis Stryker, who are honestly two of the most ruthless MCU villains I’ve ever see (Loki who?) and I can’t wait to see what part he plays in taking on Thanos. He is basically invincible, after all.
I know I say this about all MCU releases, but seriously, watch Luke Cage, you will not regret it. He’s an understated character in a world of super-humans, and that’s what makes him probably the most relatable of all the characters we’ve met so far. The narrative is compelling, the script is strong, and even darkly comic at times, and there’s honestly something for everyone in this show. And hey, there’s going to be so many characters in Infinity War, you need to get familiar with them all now. So, go, quick, before Doctor Strange drops and you have yet another new superhero to contend with.