It’s been a while since Luke Cage Season 1 came out on Netflix – more than five months already, if I can recall correctly. Still, Luke Cage is an obscure enough character so I bet there’s a good number of people out there who have yet to catch an episode. Iron Fist is scheduled for release later this month and the first season of the Defenders is on the horizon, so I’m sure there are some who would end up considering whether to catch this or skip this prior to the big crossover series. Let me address that with my SPOILER FREE review!
Luke Cage sees our titular character, fresh from his appearance over at Marvel’s Jessica Jones. He’s moved on and has settled in Harlem, still intent on keeping a low profile and not get involved in other people’s business. Things take a turn for the worse when he gets caught in the middle of a gang dispute, placing him in direct opposition with crime lord Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes.
- Mike Colter does a really good job portraying the character of Luke Cage, and it was nice to see him grow from the indifferent character that he was in Jessica Jones into a someone who wants to defend the people of Harlem from criminals. I didn’t think I’d like him that much, but the character did grow on me especially after the first few episodes.
- I have to say, I like how they choreographed Luke’s fighting style. He just stands there like a brute, knocking down people with just one swing of his arm, taking hits without even flinching. It’s true to his superpowers and it’s very different from the usual martial arts styles that other Marvel Cinematic Universe heroes use. It’s even very different from how the other MCU brutes like Hulk and Drax fight.
- Both the first seasons of Daredevil and Jessica Jones were known for having good, highly compelling villains in both Wilson Fisk and Killgrave. Luke Cage does it differently by having an ensemble of antagonists – You have the crime boss Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes, his cousin and local councilwoman Mariah Dillard, consigliere Shades Alvarez, and the mysterious Diamondback hiding in the shadows. Each character brings something different to the table and gives the show a different feel from it’s predecessors.
- Of these antagonists, Cornell Stokes is the stand out villain – Mahershala Ali was great as the character and I truly want to see more from him. I especially like the contrast between his character and Luke Cage; on one hand, you have a man who has no superpowers save for the command of a gang of criminals and the guise of being an innocent but influential owner of the neighborhood’s most popular nightclub. On the other, you have a super strong, near invulnerable guy who doesn’t even belong in Harlem. Their conflict is a re-telling of what would happen if someone like Lex Luthor would cross paths with a guy like Superman, only told in a smaller and more intimate scale.
- I can’t talk about the good things about Luke Cage without mentioning the supporting cast. From the ones with bigger roles to play like Misty Knight and her partner/mentor Rafael Scarfe, to minor characters like barber shop owner Henry “Pops” Hunter and his shop regulars Bobby Fish and Daredevil character Turk Barrett, the supporting cast had lots of personality that definitely made the world of Luke Cage feel like a real neighborhood with real people.
- If there’s something that really stands out to me about Luke Cage, it’s the amazing soundtrack. Since the series featured a nightclub, Luke Cage featured a lot of real world musicians performing during various episodes. And the opening theme – whenever I binge on TV shows, I end up skipping through the intro of most by the third episode. But not Luke Cage; I even have a recording of the opening theme saved in my phone to listen to – it’s awesome! The combination of the bass guitar and drums, with those sizzling lead guitar riffs… The Luke Cage opening theme is one of my favorite TV show tracks of all time.
- In general, I like the idea of a Claire Temple, a character that shows up in all of the Marvel/Netflix shows and ties them together like an Agent Coulson. But her involvement in Luke Cage is a little too much for my taste. I hate to say this, but I wish there was less of her in this show.
- The first half of Luke Cage was awesome but somewhere around the middle, there’s a drop in the quality of the show. Some episodes feel like they were padded or drawn out too long. The series also takes a more traditional comic book path at that point, making it more predictable. The show is still okay, but I think it would have been better if some scenes were cut and if there were fewer episodes.
- There’s an emphasis on African American history and culture and I understand why the show puts some focus on that – the characters are proud of their heritage and identity. It’s just that I had trouble relating to some of the character building moments early in the show and sometimes, entire conversations flew over my head simply because I’m not that familiar with African American history.
Luke Cage is another solid show under the Marvel/Netflix umbrella, able to stay true to the themes of the brand while having it’s own identity as well. I liked the first half of the first season a lot, almost as much as I loved the first seasons of Daredevil and Jessica Jones. However, the high standards set by the aforementioned shows does magnify the drop in quality of the latter half. I still recommend watching it though, primarily because of it’s ties to the upcoming Defenders series.
And that’s it for my thoughts on Luke Cage Season 1. Netflix has done a great job with it’s Marvel shows; let’s see if they can keep this up.
Have you seen the first season of Marvel’s Luke Cage? Let us know how you felt about the show by leaving a comment or two below!