Review - Luke Cage (Netflix), Season 1

Luke Cage (2016), TV-MA, 13 Episodes - Luke Cage hit Netflix last September, and while I made my way through the series at the time (albeit slower than the previous Marvel/Netflix series), my juggling of two jobs kept  me from getting a review together.  With Iron Fist coming out this Friday (the latest Marvel/Netflix collaboration and the last solo series before team up series The Defenders), I figured there was no better time to finally get my thoughts on Luke Cage down 'on paper'.  Since this series has been out for a while, this will likely be shorter and less in depth than my previous Marvel/Netflix reviews.  This is also due to my limited familiarity with the character from the comics.

This series shows what happens with Luke (Mike Colter) after the events of the Jessica Jones series, where much like in modern comics, he had personal ties to Jessica.  Those events are only vaguely mentioned in this series as Luke has moved to Harlem and is trying to live life under the radar, having picked up handy man duties at Pop's barber shop.  Pop  (Frankie Faison) is a local legend of sorts, known for being a positive influence in the community.  His shop is also a respected neutral territory in an area overrun with organized crime and gang violence.  Despite his desire to lay low, Luke find himself coming into conflict with local club owner Cornell 'Cottonmouth' Stokes (Mahershala Ali - now an Academy Award winner for his performance in the film Moonlight), who has some pretty unsavory dealings going on behind his legitimate business front.  Stokes' corruption runs even deeper than it originally appears and as the conflict unfolds we are introduced to a number of other supporting characters with comic book roots such as Detective Misty Knight (Simone Missick), 'Shades' Alvarez (Theo Rossi), Stoke's cousin and local political powerhouse Mariah Dillard (Alfre Woodard), Detective Rafael Scarfe (Frank Whaley), and Willis 'Diamondback' Stryker (Erik LaRay Harvey).  Rosario Dawson's Claire Temple also plays a significant role, providing some connective tissue with the Daredevil and Jessica Jones series, as does Rob Morgan's Turk Barrett.

Showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker does a wonderful job of weaving socio-political themes throughout this series, as well as using the soundtrack to help flesh out yet another corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).  Luke Cage may take place on the same 'street' level that Daredevil and Jessica Jones do, but Harlem is clearly a different environment from Hell's Kitchen.  In keeping with his themes, Coker even used names of Gang Starr songs for each episodes title.

Luke Cage is not as action packed as Daredevil, and may be a bit slower paced than Jessica Jones, but it is another wonderful entry to the Netflix family of Marvel projects, building towards The Defenders later this year.  If you haven't had the chance to check out Luke Cage yet, do yourself a favor and do so.  It continues the Marvel/Netflix pedigree of really well made shows while expanding on the diversity of not only the characters, but the locations within the MCU well.














*****SPOILERS*****

- We're given Luke's origin story - he got his powers from an experiment gone bad while he was in prison for a crime he didn't commit - and we get a hint at his classic comic book look (tiara and gauntlets) when he climbs out of the experiment wreckage.  Later in the episode, he grabs some clothes drying on a clothesline and temporarily dons the yellow shirt and blue pants that the '70s Luke Cage is known for.

- At one point, Pops calls Luke 'Power Man', a nod to his superhero name from the comics.

- Episode 12 gives us the obligatory Stan Lee Marvel cameo.  This time his face appears on a poster on the corner of a building in the background.

- Claire is actually referred to as the 'Night Nurse'.

- I don't remember which episode (it's been a few months since I've watched the series), there is a 'Trish Talk' voice over, which is a nice little tie back to the Jessica Jones series.

- Towards the end of the series, Claire sees a flyer for martial arts/self defense classes taught by Colleen Wing.  In the comics, Colleen Wing is a known associate of Luke, Danny Rand, and Misty Knight.  This is a nice little teaser for the upcoming Iron Fist series.

- In the comics, Luke teamed with Danny Rand (to be introduced in the upcoming Iron Fist) to form the Heroes for Hire.  It will be interesting to see how the two eventually interact on screen.

- Again, toward's the end of the series, Misty suffers a gunshot wound to her arm that appears really bad.  I thought that it may lead to an amputation/replacement (like in comics - she has a robotic arm), but shortly thereafter, she appears to be fine, seemingly recovered.  Maybe it wasn't as bad as it seemed?

- Method Man has a small as himself.  He nerds out over crossing paths with Luke and swaps hoodies with him.  He later retells the story of the encounter on a radio show.

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