Editor’s Note: This Luke Cage Article Contains Spoilers
There is a real divide between comics fans of whether or not you lie in the DC, Marvel or Other camp in regards to what you read and where your loyalties lie. It tends to be cyclical, where I’m on a big Other kick right now, lead by the wonderful Saga where as I read DC when they launched the New 52 and Marvel before and after that. However, my loyalties are always going to be with Marvel, something you can probably figure out by my Thor PC background, Facebook profile picture, Whatapps pic, etc, etc.
Regardless of what you’re reading or where your loyalties lie, there’s no denying that Marvel’s forays into movies has been a juggernaut and, on the whole, good. Their forays into TV with Agents of SHIELD and Agent Carter have been less than successful as both shows struggled in the ratings as well as not being quite so well received. Though, a couple of years ago, Marvel and Netflix got into bed together and this foray into TV, with dark, violent and decidedly R rated offerings, has been much better received by audiences. The Netflix/Marvel team up is tackling the more street level heroes, The Defenders with each of the team, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist, getting their own series as well as leading up to a crossover event series, aptly named The Defenders.
“Their forays into TV with Agents of SHIELD and Agent Carter have been less than successful as both shows struggled in the ratings as well as not being quite so well received.”
With Iron Fist still due, Luke Cage has been with us for a couple of weeks now, the most recent of the heroes to get a season. I took the time to watch Power Man’s entry into the Marvelverse and then I took some time to digest what I had seen. I’ve been a huge fan as The Defenders have taken the streaming platform by storm and my expectations for Luke Cage had been sizable as the bar had been set quite high. How did it fair in the ever expanding Marvelverse? Well, after careful thought and much deliberation, I am very confident in stating that Luke Cage is far and away Marvel’s biggest misfire to date.
Now, I can already hear the pitchforks sharpening and see the torches being lit. Let’s get this out of the way first. Agents of SHIELD isn’t amazing. It’s not even great. But, it’s certainly done a pretty solid course correct since it got off to such a rocky start and while it’s still not the greatest show in the world, it’s carved itself a niche and makes pretty good use of lesser known characters. With that out of the way, let’s look at the other TV ventures.
Agent Carter, while short lived, also made use of a great side character in Captain America and produced some fun and well made TV. Also on Netflix, Jessica Jones is an excellent season of TV. It runs into a bit of a repeat problem on the back end where Jones vs. Kilgrave seems to happen over and over again with Jessica resolving to kill him seemingly every 20 minutes like it was the first time she said each time. Daredevil is just wonderful. Season one is a damn masterpiece, with nothing out of place and everything there for a reason. There’s nothing that could or should be altered in those first 13 episodes. Season 2 runs into a bit of a ninja problem where, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, more ninja’s was actually the problem, not the solution. So, in saying all that, let’s look at our bulletproof hero.
Set in a rough, gang run Harlem, Luke Cage was always going to be quite different than the other shows on this list. I was worried that Harlem, its inhabitants and Cage himself was going to get a glossy coat of paint – a whitewashing if you will – to make it more palatable for the everyday viewer. However, showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker, best known for writing Notorious and working on shows like Southland, Ray Donavon and NCIS:LA, must have felt my worry because he was having none of that. The feel of the show is ingrained so deeply into hip hop culture and the inner city that there has been wide and far complaints that the show is ‘too black’. With every episode named after Gang Starr tracks and very loose use of slang and potentially upsetting terms that I can’t say in this article, it made sure that it embraced Luke Cage’s ethnic diversity without making a mockery of it. Not to say the show doesn’t pay tribute to the era of Blaxplotation that the character comes from. Sweet Christmas, does it ever acknowledge its roots while making sure that we are very clear that the era we live in now is very different. There are topical references to the struggles of black culture with poverty, gang violence and police clashes being a big factor in the show. If anything, Coker seemed to try to make a show something akin to The Wire when mapping out the season for Luke Cage. Put a simply fantastic soundtrack on top of all that and there was a lot of good going on here!
This all sounds great. So, where do my complaints stem from? Literally everything else. Mike Colter dutifully reprises his role as Cage after first appearing in Jessica Jones. Being the lead, he was going to be the driving force of the show, both in terms of character arc, emotion and action. Which is a shame, because Colter could have been swapped out for a cardboard cut out at any time and I don’t think anyone would notice. Bland, emotionless and lacking any charisma or charm, Colter’s personality was the exact opposite of his imposing size on screen. I take it that he was cast based on appearance, not on ability.
“Colton could have been swapped out for a cardboard cut out at any time and I don’t think anyone would notice.”
While the other characters in the show were strong, none of them really had much of an arc. Mariah, arguably the true villain of the season, has the biggest one, but hers was mostly just her accepting the fate that was openly stated by her cousin in the opening scene of the season. Misty also started to have an arc, but it seemed unclear as to what it was going to be and then they seemed to give up on it all together. The Night Nurse kept her arc up from the previous seasons of other shows, Shades was one dimensional as one dimensional can be and Diamondback is one of the most baffling, terrible villains I’ve ever encountered.
Click on through to PAGE 2 for more of Doug’s impressions.