Hey that was fast. I know I said I had a Luke Cage thing I didn’t like, but I like it a little better now after some work. Welcome back to the grind.
I’ve really been down for the Marvel Netlix extended universe. Agents of Shield was a little meh and pretty slow until later, and then it kinda goes back down after the second and third season, but it had a good run. Daredevil was pretty good, Jessica Jones was awesome, Season Two of Daredevil was still racist towards Asians, but if you can get passed that, then it’s good until Punisher leaves the picture.
And through that, there’s been Luke Cage, waiting in the wings for his shot. Trying to stay out of the limelight and let the world be, but always in the middle of some shit. With his new series, we get a better look at him and his world. There’s good, there’s bad, and its all pretty interesting.
Does Luke Cage stand among the rest? Or does it fall short?
Oh, and spoiler alert (of course).
On the Nose
Frankly, this show came out at the perfect time. Having a black superhero from an African American neighborhood is pretty great as it is. Making him bulletproof? That’s pretty on the nose. Granted, he had those powers already, but it means something more now, and the show is very aware of that.
The commentary on the relationship between police and poverty neighborhoods is pretty in depth, and it makes some good points about the system, the good and the bad. Cops have to deal with people on their worst day, but there does seem to be a race problem in most police departments, especially urban ones. There’s enough praise for cops without saying “All Lives Matter”, and there’s enough call for changing the system without being fair and acknowledging the other side of the argument. Its a balance stance, and I thought it was done tastefully. Good job there.
As to the actual show, I have some thoughts.
The characters are all pretty good. Many of them have many dimensions and fit well into the pseudo-realism Marvel is going for with its portrayal of the all important New York City. The city feels alive, unlike a Gotham or Metropolis that struggles with its identity. Luke Cage can barely walk down the street without naming all of the important landmarks to Black Culture and what they’re significance is. Some might think that’s preachy, but I think it makes a statement. There is a vibrant culture in urban NYC, and it should be acknowledged, especially for those who don’t live there like me.
The backstory behind Luke Cage is pretty interesting, and it seems plausible with all things considered. They do a couple nice nods to the old costume and the things he used to say back in the comics, so there was good reincorporation.
Like the Punisher, Kingpin, and Killgrave, the villains are complex and sympathetic, which makes for interesting interactions when all of the players are activated. Shades and Mariah are of particular interest as he drags her down into the depths of the underworld, all the while whispering in her ear. We’ll get to what becomes of that, but from that moment, I knew I really liked their story and where I hoped it was heading. Misty is interesting and examining her character is interesting, and the whole world just feels vibrant and alive without being too “comics” right? No supervillains with death rays or spandex here. Its all business.
But the show is not without its demerits, and there are some I feel obliged to note. First, the show has a slow startup. It takes a good 3-4 episodes to make it out of the setup, and its all pretty predictable. I was bored by the end of the first episode, and it was obvious that they hadn’t put much thought into who Luke Cage was until they were sure that his show would be viable. That means the team at Marvel and Netflix really had to throw together some backstory and purpose to get Luke out of the reluctant hero attitude. Some of it sticks, some of it feels forced. All in all, it takes almost half the show for something totally unexpected to happen. It’s worth it, but I felt like I was growing old and dying in that time. Really needed a better pickup and go.
I know they had to try and setup for the future, not only for a second season, but also for the Defenders. Now I’m stoked about that series, and I felt there were some ways that the show would close out to make way for that narrative.
Instead, the show quickly threw together an ending that was one of the worst I’ve seen of the series so far. The second season of Daredevil ended on a weak note, but this ending makes the last one look like the end of The Witch. Imagine the cheapest, most lazy things a show could do to wrap up, like Law and Order style to some extant, and just do that.
The ending fight was fucking lame. Diamondback, one of the main villains for Luke Cage, gets his shit beat in the first 15 minutes of the last episode. What follows is a shit ton of resolution that’s supposed to wrap things up, but instead unravels a bunch of threads that should have been tied up and makes a mess. I get that maybe they were trying to show that the Justice System is flawed and sometimes works against you, but I felt they had already gotten that point across fairly well. Instead, the people that should go to prison walk out (and hook up for no fucking reason. I know they’ve been through a lot but she could be your mother. The fuck are you doing Shades?). Luke Cage gets arrested again and goes back to Seagate, even after saving Harlem and being proven innocent, so that fucking happens. All of the character development for Misty gets shot when Candice just kinda gets killed in the last episode for whatever reason, and all of that coming to terms with her desire for control and all of those things just kinda goes by the wayside while they kill off that loose end.
Sam brought up a good point, in that she can hook up with whoever she wants. Fair point, but selfishly, its not what I wanted to happen. There’s not enough strong friendships across gender for me in the media today. Harry and Hermoine go through all kinds of shit, and they never hook up. They’re good friends, and that’s what Claire felt like to everyone in the Netflix-verse. She hangs with Matt Murdock, Jessica Jones, and Luke, and probably Iron Fist, and she’s just a friend who patches them up. I thought that was really cool. Instead we have to cash in on some stupid romance no one wanted. I wasn’t rooting for them to hook up, no one really was, they were just fine as close friends, hanging out and fighting crime. Now we have to submit to all of the stupid predictable BS that comes with superhero relationships, when they one they already had was plenty dynamic.
And as a side note, Diamondbacks suit was fucking stupid. They did some pretty good work with stuff for Jessica Jones. Daredevil didn’t have the best costume for a long time, but they eventually brought it around to something that looks pretty cool. And for all that, Diamondback looked like he walked straight out of Cobra Command. It’s stupid, they could have really done a lot better with that. No knives, just punchies in front of a crowd. And I know what they wanted, some big cathartic fight that involved all of the neighborhood, since it really is about them, but it didn’t hit home. Sam and I agree, it was fucking boring. The Hell did they think they were setting up doing this? The most boring season two ever? How are the Defenders supposed to hop off from this?
Watch it, but brace yourself for the last episode. Maybe someone sees something in it that I don’t, but since this blog isn’t popular and probably won’t be, I’ll stick to my own guns and say that the last episode of Luke Cage was a joke. Someone was sick that day, because they really dropped the ball, and then still let them play the game. Watch it, like it, leave it (and wait for the Defenders. I can’t help it, I’m still psyched, no matter how bad the ending of this was).