Sweet Christmas! ‘Luke Cage’ Episode 1-2 Packs a Punch in 4 slices

It is Saturday and I usually have my “So Who Saturdays” where I do a post on ‘Doctor Who’. But the good Doctor is getting a bump this week because Marvel series ‘Luke Cage’ dropped on Friday and it was so cool I had to do a post. So my Whovians don’t blame me, blame Netflix.

For those not in the know ‘Luke Cage’ is the third series produced from the Netflix/Marvel partnership after the fantastic ‘Daredevil’ and thrilling ‘Jessica Jones’. Cage, based on the eponymous Marvel comics character, is a superhero with super strength and unbreakable skin. In the new series he is a convict and fugitive doing odd jobs in Harlem who gets pulled into fighting crime.

I caught the first couple episodes and I really enjoyed the tone and the vibe. For this post I will be discussing details so a SPOILER ALERT is in effect. Here is the 411 in four easy to chew slices:

#1 He’s one bad mother…shut your mouth!

Bullets? Well isn’t that cute

We were first introduced to Mike Colter as Luke Cage last year in ‘Jessica Jones’. I enjoyed that performance and thought he brought the cool and swagger necessary for the beloved character. But he was a supporting character then and there was a question mark over whether he could carry his own series. Having seen only the first two episodes so far he is doing a commendable job.

His Cage is strong but still haunted by the death of his wife Reva (his relationship with Jones gets an offhand mention in the premiere), and he is caring but still the reluctant hero. Well reluctant until they killed his mentor “Pop” in a blaze of gunfire. The death scene, while not groundbreaking, was moving and I will miss Frankie Faison’s endearing performance. That scene with him shielding the boy with his body was quite poignant.

I enjoyed his scenes with Pop, romancing Misty, roughing up thugs and facing off against Cottonmouth. The first couple of episodes were light on the fisticuffs but I foresee him using his strength and unbreakable skin a lot more as the series progresses. Overall I give Colter a “B” so far as I like what I see and expect a lot more.

#2 Don’t call me Cottonmouth!

The Notorious C.C.S.

There is a frequent complaint that the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) lacks great villains. Well anyone watching the Netflix series corner of the MCU would inform you that is definitely not a problem here. From Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin in ‘Daredevil’ to David Tennant’s Kilgrave in ‘Jessica Jones’ Netflix serves up compelling villain after compelling villain and Luke Cage’s Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes, played by House of Cards’ Mahershala, Ali is no exception.

A comic book villain and long time Cage foe, in this series Stokes is the owner of the upscale Paradise Club in Harlem and also has his hands in some illegal operations like gun running. Ali plays the character with so much poise and energy that he is electric. He’s also a sharp dresser who enjoys a good laugh. But don’t be fooled – when he gets violent he will beat a man to death or throw an underling off a roof easy peezy lemon squeezy.

Stokes (don’t you dare call him Cottonmouth) has his own philosophy that justifies his criminal ways and also a code of honour. Ali’s Stokes is my favourite character so far and I am excited to see where they take him next. Honourable mention to the always solid Alfre Woodard as Stoke’s cousin and opportunistic politician Mariah Dillard.

#3 Misty nights in Harlem

She’s a brick…house!

Speaking of ladies we were also introduced to Simone Missick as detective Mercedes “Misty” Knight, a supporting character from comics. I thought she was cool, smart and sassy and her hook up with Cage really set off the sprinklers. She has been set up as a love interest initially so we will see how that goes.

Another “character” in the show is Harlem itself. It feels living and breathing and probably the most grounded place we have experienced so far in the MCU. And despite being a superhero show we deal with the very real issues of racial consciousness, crime and gang violence. I also really enjoyed the R&B and jazz soundtrack and a predominantly black cast on a superhero television show is something to celebrate.

#4 MCU shout outs

Celebrity Sightings In New York City - September 22, 2015
Holy crap! Was that Hawkeye?! (Photo by Steve Sands/GC Images)

With just two episodes in we get quite a few shout outs to the MCU as well as to the other Netflix series. I mentioned above the reference to Jessica Jones but we also had Pop referencing the Avengers or “those other guys”, a street hustler speaking about the Avengers in colourful descriptions and selling a tape of “the incident” (the attack on New York as seen in The Avengers) and also Rob Morgan reprising his role as mob enforcer and arms dealer Turk Barrett from ‘Daredevil’.

‘Luke Cage’ feels a part of the MCU but, like the other Netflix shows, has its own tone and exists in its own little world. I am really enjoying it and looking forward to watching the rest of the episodes. I plan to do a complete series review next week, likely by Wednesday, so you guys can look out for that.

‘So have you started watching ‘Luke Cage’? What do you think of it so far (without spoilers of course)? Feel free to comment below and if you enjoyed this you can share it with your peeps. Sharing is caring.

For my breakdown of the ‘Luke Cage’, ‘Iron Fist’ and ‘Defenders’ teasers you can click here and for my predictions of ‘Daredevil’ Season 3 you can click here. And for more super powered reviews you can check redmangoreviews for new posts Monday to Saturday and follow me on Twitter @suprememango012 for updates.

Julien got your back like a chiropractor. l8rs.


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