Marvel’s Luke Cage (Season 1) Review

Luke Cage Season 1 follows a former convict named Luke Cage with superhuman strength and unbreakable skin who fights crime in Harlem.

First, I’d like to say that Mike Colter completely owns the role of Luke Cage.  Not only is the guy a great actor but he just has that presence, the way he carries himself, the way he looks; the guy just owns the role.  Luke Cage is trying to live a life of peace without wanting to attract attention.  What is revealed about the character in Jessica Jones is better fleshed out especially as he learns that he can make a difference.  Now, he isn’t the best fighter and most of the action he is taking bullets from his opponents but there’s a certain charm to his fighting style where he lets his opponents waste their energies before tossing them to the side.  However, the season does find an effective way to make his character vulnerable so there are stakes.

Simone Missick’s Misty Knight is definitely one of the best additions to the MCU roster.  She’s smart, determined, and exudes that kind of natural strength that doesn’t seem to impede on her feminity.  Shows like this often have these “strong” female characters that are more annoying than anything but Missick definitely does a great job.  Knight is trying to investigate the bullet-proof man and what his intentions are in Harlem.  I do like the two characters’ chemistry together.  I did find that Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple did overshadow anything that could’ve formed between the two (and at this point Claire is just everywhere but she’s still a likable character) and I would’ve liked to have seen their relationship go in that direction, especially when it starts off heading that way.

With Cage’s will to help Harlem, he naturally makes enemies.  The series’ main antagonists are the nightclub owner Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes (Mahershala Ali), politician Mariah Dillard (Alfre Woodard),  a criminal from Luke’s past named Shades (Theo Rossi), and the mysterious Diamondback.  What makes Cottonmouth and Mariah great characters is not only the great relationship between the two but how their idea of Harlem’s salvation come into conflict with that of Cage.  The two characters have enough depth and complexity that they even question themselves and I like that because the series does show that outside influences can be just as brutal as self interest are. Shades is just a complete waste of a character and found no reason for him to have even been introduced.

Willis Stryker aka Diamondback is an interesting character however he isn’t as compelling a bad guy as Cottonmouth or Mariah, who actually have a stronger connection to Harlem, making the battle for Harlem less personal.  However, the backstory between him and Cage is explored showing a more vulnerable side to the character despite him being a sociopath.  I would’ve liked to have seen a better climatic battle between the two (I mean honestly, the suit was kind of corny but at least the ending eludes to Diamondback making a return).  Hopefully, the character’s return will spark something new as his introduction in the second half does slow it down a bit.

The Verdict:  In the end, Luke Cage Season 1 isn’t as action packed as say Daredevil or as intense as Jessica Jones, but it tells a compelling story about a hero’s journey.  The season can be a little slow to get into but it does tell a pretty convincing story. With these great characters, great performances, awesome setting, and great story, Luke Cage is looking to be quite a promising series. Luke Cage Season 1 gets 4 out of 5.

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