Luke Cage, Netflix Excellence

Spoiler Warning

You have been warned!


Luke Cage was released to Netflix on Friday, September 30. By the time Sunday afternoon rolled around I’d finished the series. It was that good 1.

Four episodes in I was already convinced Luke Cage was the best of the Marvel Netflix series, by the time I got to the end of the season whatever lingering doubts I had were gone. Luke Cage is a masterpiece of television, and I don’t use that description lightly.

Many of the reviews of Luke Cage celebrate it’s “blackness.” The show highlights black life and culture though music, cultural references, and even the types of conversations held. This has led many reviewers to sigh a shout of triumphant joy, “Finally.”

I didn’t see any of it.

I don’t write that to demonstrate my “I’m colorblind” stupidity. Rather, I write this because it shows how brilliant Luke Cage is as a series. People in the Black community joyfully picked up references I wouldn’t have seen in a million years because I’m not part of that culture and don’t share that experience. Folks could also celebrate a popular show 2 in which almost all the characters were black and weren’t simply white caricatures of what people think black people must be like. The brilliance of Luke Cage is revealed in how I could be immersed in this world, which is very different than the one with which I’m familiar, and follow along with little more help than context clues. The Blackness of Luke Cage felt absolutely normal to the story and sucked me right in. Luke Cage wasn’t asked to hide, or apologize for, it’s nature as a truly Black show.

The villains of Luke Cage were, I felt, a mixed bag. Cottonmouth was perhaps the closest to a caricature in the series, but only because the story arc took far too long to humanize him. Diamondback was creepy, but relied too much on the over-used trope, “He’s my brother” to drive his arc. Shades was fascinating to watch, and the arc of his story was one of the high points of the series.

The person who stole the show, however, was Mariah. She is truly a villain who is every bit as complex and compelling as Wilson Fisk 3. Her diabolical nature grows throughout the season, and the reason for that growth is her absolute love of Harlem. What makes her so compelling is how her motivations can be genuinely cheered even as you become aware of her darker nature. After she murders Cottonmouth and begins to come to grips with who she really is, Mariah steals every scene in which she appears. This is a powerful character!

The protagonists are better balanced than the villains, and every bit as compelling. I really enjoy this portrayal of Luke Cage, and it helps Mike Colter’s voice and mannerisms remind me of Avery Brooks. Captain Sisko has been my favorite Trek captain since DS9 first premiered 4, and seeing someone with such incredible control of his expressions and voice inflections on screen is an absolute treat. I appreciate how Luke is a conflicted hero, without being completely down on himself. In fact, as he comes to grips with who he’s meant to be, Luke’s character becomes less conflicted and the show depicts him almost enjoying being a hero 5. Claire Temple, who will probably be the one who calls The Defenders together, is introduced to the series in an organic way — and her friendship with Luke grows over the course of the season. By the end, the two have committed to new paths for their lives, and it’s great to follow how they grow together. Claire also gets to show how she’s more than “just a nurse.” In her first scene her pocketbook is stolen and she tracks down the thief and pummels him to no end. Like all the women in the show, she’s no damsel in distress — she either heals distress, or dishes it out.

The runaway protagonist in Luke Cage is, however, Simone Missick’s Misty Knight. Misty has always held an interest for me in the books, as she’s a supporting character who’s weaved through several titles over the years, and I was interested to see how they’d portray her on screen. All I can say is, “Wow.” She schools uppity kids on the basketball court, picks up Luke Cage because she’s bored, and has an ability to visualize situations from photographs which borders on an actual super power. Missick plays Misty with an incredible, but ultimately fragile, strength. What comes across on screen is a character you cannot help but watch. If Netflix doesn’t make a Marvel police procedural with Misty Knight as the primary protagonist and Alfre Woodard’s Mariah Dillard as the over-arching antagonist, they have lost their minds. That show would be the water cooler show of whatever year it was released 6!

So my hat’s off to Marvel, Netflix, and the cast and crew of Luke Cage. If you haven’t seen it yet, put it in your queue!

  1. It also helped the Eagles were on their bye week. 
  2. Which apparently broke Netflix
  3. I would love to see these two go up against one another, what a chess match that would be. 
  4. Yes, I know he was only a commander at the start of that show, be quiet. 
  5. With some pessimistic relapses, of course. 
  6. I would like to see her get her bionic arm, though.