Howdy ladies and gents, time for another one of those beastly reviews and today I’m reviewing something I’ve waited ages to see, I am of course talking about the first season of Marvel’s Luke Cage. The funny thing is, even though Mike Colter’s Luke Cage was one of the best aspects of Jessica Jones, I wasn’t too hyped about him getting his own show initially. However, over time when I watched and read interviews with the cast, producers and showrunner, my interest increased, but it was after the Comic-Con trailer dropped in July that I was down for this show. So now that I’ve seen it all, how is it? Well read on and find out!
So what’s the story for this show? Well our protagonist, Luke Cage is an ex-convict who was experimented on in prison and given super strength and durability, however he escapes and now resides in Harlem hiding in plain sight. However when problems arise in the city, Luke has to step up and confront issues past and present in order to keep everyone safe.
What I appreciated the most about this show immediately its sense of identity, Luke Cage is totally different from Daredevil and Jessica Jones in style, tone and story, however, it shares enough similarities that in certain elements that it fits into the same universe as the previous shows. Straight from the beginning you notice the show’s sense of presence, charisma and sophistication that you don’t see with a lot superhero TV, and as someone who has been following this show long before the marketing started, it was fascinating and rewarding to see how showrunner, Cheo Hodari Coker’s vision come to life in such a vivid manner after reading and watching all of those interviews. The show also does a really good job of telling its story slowly and methodically, having a lot of the key superhero story plot points, but also telling a story which felt smart, realistic and relevant to social and racial issues that are happening in the world today.
I would also like to note that Luke Cage might be the most consistent of all the Marvel Netflix shows so far, Jessica Jones‘ episodes tended to fluctuate in terms of enjoyment and relevance and the same can be said for this year’s Daredevil season 2, and even Daredevil season 1 there was a dip in quality in the final three episodes (not so much the finale though). As I was binging Luke Cage every episode had content that was felt compelling, fun, interesting, dramatic and most importantly relevant, none of it felt like filler, though I have heard some say that the final two episodes felt weaker than what came before and while I can see that point of view, at the same time they didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment of the show. I also liked how the show took some chances and made some surprising turns with the overall story and use of certain characters. Oh and the references to the Marvel Cinematic Universe might be my favourites so far with ties to specific characters, events and technology from a few of the films and previous Netflix shows being used to great effect in verbal and visual ways. With all that being said the show wasn’t perfect, firstly there was a misuse of certain characters over the course of the season. Secondly there were some plot points that were brought up but never got properly concluded or didn’t have as much of a satisfying pay off as one would expect. And for all the references that were put into the show, I felt like some of them were teasing certain things that never came to pass unfortunately.
Episode highlights include:
- Moment of Truth
- Code of the Streets (personal favourite)
- Who’s Gonna Take the Weight?
- Step in the Arena (personal favourite)
- Just to Get a Rep
- Manifest (personal favourite)
- Blowin’ Up the Spot
- Take It Personal (personal favourite)
- Now You’re Mine
When it comes to the cast they were all really good, and I found it intriguing how a lot of them had surface level personas, but as the season went on you discovered their real selves, though some stood out more than others. Firstly there’s Mike Colter as Luke Cage, damn this guy is good! Colter bring such a sense of fun, charisma, subtlety, magnetism and depth to this character who’s already endured a lot in his life and has more personal struggles ahead of him with the villains and scenarios he gets into. I also adored how grounded and relatable Luke was, he was an every man, like he belonged among non-superpowered people unlike Jessica Jones and Matt Murdock who feel anything but normal and have questionable personality traits. Mahershala Ali was beyond great as Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes, here we had a character who is your standard villain but in all the right ways, he’s charming, intimidating, smart and has some really compelling personal history that enriches him as a character, and every time he was on-screen you wanted him to come back. Simone Missick as Misty Knight was also very good, at first I really appreciated her no-nonsense/cocky attitude, but it did take me a while to feel connected to her and thankfully due to the use of the character in the story and some terrific acting from Missick she ascended into my favourites department. Theo Rossi as Shades was someone I thought would be a throwaway character, but he quickly became one of my favourites due to his totally chilled out demeanour, sense of style and character motivations, plus Rossi’s acting made him so likeable.
Alfre Woodard was fabulous as Mariah Dillard, this lady was driven, committed and proactive, though the actions of Luke and Cottonmouth created some issues morally and personally for her as time went on. There was a lot more to this character than I expected, and the reason I liked her so much was because of Woodard’s acting, bloody hell I forgot how good she was and she has some really great material at certain points. Rosario Dawson did well as Claire Temple and had a fair amount to do, far more than I expected when it came to learning more about her and see how she fits into main story, and Dawson just brings that passion, charm and beauty that she’s known for in full effect. Then there’s Erik LaRay Harvey (who I remembered from Boardwalk Empire) as Diamondback and he was pretty good too, while his character wasn’t nearly compellng or fleshed out as the rest of the cast, at the same time he was pretty scary, perceptive and ruthless and it really helped that Harvey excels in these kind of roles. A powerful arms dealer who is Cage’s half-brother, and framed him for the crime that sent him to Seagate Prison. You also have Frank Whaley as Rafael Scarfe and Ron Cephas Jones as Bobby Fish, both characters have ties to the main characters (Scarfe with Misty and Fish with Luke), and they have some really cool, hilarious and notable moments in this show. And finally there are some wonderful cameos from characters who first appeared in Daredevil and Jessica Jones and they are used to wonderful effect, especially one key character who you’ll know when you see him. 😀
As for the presentation, it fabulous. Visually the show looks very nice and consistent with the previous shows, but I feel like there was a lot more attention to detail when it came to the framing of certain shots and general cinematography. I also loved the way the filmmakers captured Harlem in all of its areas, it makes you feel like you know the area and you get in on the ground level from the fancy areas to the dark back alleys. And I have to talk about the action scenes, while not as impressive as Daredevil (obviously because Luke’s no martial arts expert) I really enjoyed the way the show depicted Luke’s strength and durability, but also how he fought in his action sequences which were frantic, hard-hitting and sometimes hilarious. Oh and that intro with the visual imagery and song, fabulous! As for the soundtrack, composers Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad made something damn special, their score for this TV show has such a beautiful sound that feels intricate to the show and has a variety in its sound, but calls a lot a 1970’s funk/disco sound with some hip-hop vibes. Oh and that the choices of music from real life musicians whether they were life performances or just placed within an episode were fantastic and captured the mood and style of the show so well.
In conclusion season 1 of Marvel’s Luke Cage is a damn good show and I would say it’s miles better than Jessica Jones, but not quite as solid Daredevil‘s first season, though it’s damn close! This show has a lot to say over with its themes, issues and story aspects which were explored in such a thoughtful, emotional and engaging manner, and with such fabulous performances and an incredible soundtrack it is impossible to deny this show’s quality. It does have some issues with the use of characters and unanswered story elements, and some may not enjoy the slower pace, but overall it’s some damn good TV which I highly recommend.
So have you seen season 1 of Marvel’s Luke Cage and is so what do you think of it? And how would you compare it to Daredevil and Jessica Jones? Please leave your comments below and I’ll see ya on the next review, laters. 🙂