Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Luke Cage Packs a Powerful Punch

The short version is to say that I liked Luke Cage more than Jessica Jones, about the same as Daredevil Season 2, and a little less than Daredevil Season 1.

The problem in the first few episodes was the villain.  Cornell "Cottonmouth" Stoaks is a mid-level crime boss in Harlem.  He owns the Harlem's Paradise club where Luke Cage works nights as a dishwasher.  But then one night Luke has to cover the bar and meets Detective Misty Knight (and immediately beds her) while a couple of kids who work/go to the barber shop where Luke works days decide to steal some guns Cottonmouth is selling.  Gradually Luke is drawn into Harlem's underworld.  The problem is with his superstrength and unbreakable skin, all Luke has to do is march down to Harlem's Paradise, beat the crap out of the guards, and snap Cottonmouth's neck.  Instead he goes after Cottonmouth's business, mostly by robbing his "vault" in a community center.  I was seriously wondering why he didn't just go beat the shit out of Cottonmouth and end all this because Cottonmouth doesn't have superpowers like Kilgrave in Jessica Jones and he doesn't have the power (physical and political) of the Kingpin in Daredevil.  So it was really a mismatch.

Fortunately the oft-alluded-to Diamondback finally enters the fray along with the "Judas bullet," a bullet that can penetrate Luke's skin because it's made of alien metal.  Like they needed to invent Kryptonite to have a weapon to make Superman vulnerable, there needed to be something that could make Luke vulnerable (other than mind control) to up the stakes.  With the bad guys and police armed with Judas bullets, Luke couldn't just walk up to any bad guys and kick their asses right away.  So at that point it definitely made the season better.

And kudos for the Justin Hammer/Hammer tech references.  You might remember that from Iron Man 2 back in 2010.  I'm not sure if they ever said what became of Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) at the end of that movie, though I suppose he was rich enough to buy his way out of prison and keep his company going.

Anyway, I suppose some people (like Quentin Tarantino) would like more of the 70s, jive-talking Luke Cage, but in 2016 that would come off as pretty racist.  There were complaints on both sides that it wasn't "black enough" and more ludicrously that there weren't enough white people in the cast, but I thought it walked the tightrope pretty well.  Luke's constant wearing of hoodies, especially when he's confronted by cops in the street, harkens back to the Trayvon Martin incident and especially with what's happened in recent months that gives it more social relevance.  It's good Marvel/ABC sprung to film it in Harlem instead of one of those Vancouver-as-New York kind of deals like the CW does.  Not that I could tell the difference, but other people certainly would be able to.

It probably would have been good if I had found the Luke Cage backstory parts in Jessica Jones, because that was months ago and I was a little fuzzy on some of the details.  While there are a few references to Jessica Jones, Daredevil, and the Punisher, the only character from those to appear is Claire the (former) nurse.  She and Luke come close to going to bed together, but never really make it.  At the end Claire takes the number for martial arts training to provide a bridge to the Iron Fist show that will be coming up.

The end was kind of a bummer as Luke seems heading back to prison.  Though with the evidence to free him in play, he should be able to get free.  I'm not sure whether Season 2 will come before or after the Defenders movie.  If it's after they should start that with Matt Murdoch walking into the prison with the evidence and freeing Luke.  Then you've got two of the Defenders together already.  Genius.

Anyway, I enjoyed most of the season and I'm looking forward to the next one. (3/5)

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