Reel Geek Review: Luke Cage (first half of the season) *Spoilers*

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So, in case you’ve been living under a rock, Luke Cage is the biggest Marvel/Netflix series to date.  It’s popularity was so great that last weekend Netflix’s servers actually crashed for a bit on Saturday afternoon.  (Don’t think that’s ever happened yet) .  My girlfriend and I watched up through the first half of the season, and, especially after how the last one we watched ended, I had to talk about it.  I will be discussing spoilers so if you haven’t watched the show yet, or at least not up through episode 8, stop reading this right now.

Luke Cage (played by Mike Colter-Jessica Jones) takes place after his adventures with Jessica Jones from last year’s eponymous Netflix series.  He’s been laying low in Harlem, at his late ex wife’s father’s barber shop, sweeping up hair and dishwashing at the nightclub run by gangster Cornell “Cottonmouth Stokes (played by Mahershala Ali –Mockingjay) incidents happen which soon force him to rise up out of hiding of his abilities and become a hero that Harlem can look up to.

This show….I’m only halfway done but…damn.   This to me is my favorite Netflix series since the first season of Daredevil, maybe even better than that.  For starters,  under the direction of Cheo Hodari Coker (writer, Notorius) and the cinematography of Manuel Bileeter-Jessica Jones) they bring to life a completely different side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe than we’ve ever seen before.    This series fully goes to show  that there are no limits to what a comic book show can be.  It can be a straight up superhero tale, it could be a teen angst drama, it could be a kung fu flick or a gangster movie, there’s no stopping what you can do with the medium if you know how to tell a good story.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about the music in the series next.  From all the episode titles being named after Mobb Deep  songs to the performances in Cottonmouth’s club from artists like Raphael Saddiqq, Faith Hill, to Jidenna, music, both in hip hop, soul, R&B and funk all plays a huge role in this series, amplifying the action, letting you inside a character’s psyche the way a thought bubble could do in the comic books, it’s a phenomenal soundtrack that I’ve been listening to all day myself.    It is indeed as one of the writers said, this show brings the “Wu Tangification of the Marvel Universe”, and it’s dope as hell.

The acting is all top notch across the board as well, from Mike Colter’s quiet determination/swagger as Luke Cage, to Mahershala Ali stealing the first half of the season as the villain Cottonmouth to even Frank Whaley (Career Opportunities, Swimming With Sharks) in a supporting role as corrupt cup Detective Scarfe, all of these characters have depth to them, you hate the villains but you can also feel sorry for them and relate to to them at times too, which is more than can be said for the movie villains in the MCU thus far, maybe it owes something to the time that a Netflix or any tv show can take with characters and develop them, but once again Netflix has put the film part of the MCU to shame with it’s villains.

As an Iron Fist and Misty Knight fan/shipper, I was happy to see Misty Knight as a character in this show, I did find it a little odd that they used her as a love interest of sorts to Luke Cage, considering her usual relationship in the comics with his (soon to be bff?) Danny Rand/Iron Fist, but his show isn’t coming til next year, so there’s still time for that to be developed, if it goes in that direction, though I hope they do, as they’re one of my favorite comics couples.

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Simone Missick does kill it in this role though,  and her chemistry with Luke Cage is on point and believeable, so I was happy to see her get some justice (no pun intended, as a take no bs detective).

I was a huge fan of Sons of Anarchy, so I was delighted to see that Theo Rossi would have a role in this show, and boy does he ever.  He nails it as Shades,  emissary to heretofore currently unseen threat Diamondback.  He oozes menace as much as he did Juice’s vulernability in his last major role.  Fantastic stuff.

Alfre Woodard, who played a different character already in the MCU in Civil War this past summer, plays Mariah “Black Mariah” Dillard, Cottonmouth’s cousin/city councilwoman who will stop at nothing to get her power to benefit her community and herself, no matter the cost.

Rosario Dawson also shows up towards the end of this first half, reprising her role as Claire Temple from the previous Netflix Marvel series Daredevil and Jessica Jones, and it was nice to see that continuity being played off of, but even for people for whom this is their first time seeing her she’s explained perfectly so you don’t feel like you’re missing anything if you haven’t seen the other shows, but if you have it’s a nice bonus.  And she’s great as always as well.

Now that you know it’s good, let me just talk about my Top 4 moments in the series thus far.

 

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  1.  The Secret Origin of Luke Cage- They take his origin straight out of the comics, a few tweaks here and there, giving Reva more depth (which will make seeing her death in Jessica Jones that much more gravitas I imagine, when I watch that series again) but overall it’s the origin from the comics, prison experiment super soldier and all.  We even get a quick glimpse of his original outfit from the comics in the tiara and gauntlets from the  experiment, and his grabbing of a yellow shirt and blue jeans off a clothesline, so we get that nice shoutout for the comics fans.

2. Hallway Fight Scene-  In what’s almost a tradition now in a Netflix Marvel show, we get a great hallway fight scene early on in the series,  this one we’ve seen in all the previews, and it’s still great when you see it in the course of the show.  It’s different from the previous hallway fight scenes of the other shows because, unlike Daredevil, Luke Cage is pretty much a tank, ripping off a car door to use as a shield, just throwing guys around left and right, you know he’s just going to beat the crap out of everyone in his way, and it’s just awesome and fun to watch.

3. Cottonmouth Blows Up The Restaurant- In a moment of ( of course he’d do it like that, it’s a comic book world)  after he discovers Luke Cage’s home address thanks to Scarfe, Cottonmouth takes out his frustrations with Mr. Cage the only way he knows how, by trying to blow him up with a rocket launcher.     Great way to end an episode, I was glad this was a Netflix series cause even though I know that’s not going to do anything to Luke Cage being all but invincible, it’s still a crazy unexpected moment in a series that thus far has been fairly grounded.

4. The End of Episode 7.   This is like two big moments in one, but episode 7, where my gf and I left off the series this weekend, is about as good a place to stop as any, it really had a mid season finale feel to it.  For starters, the unexpected killing off of Cottonmouth just as we get some flashbacks into his past to make us feel for him really caused us both to say daaamn.  Did not see that plot twist coming at all.   You think he’s going to be the big bad of the series, and then bam, not even your “main villain” is safe.   I guess this frees things up for Diamondback to show up  soon, it’s going to be hard to top Mashersala’s performance as Cottonmouth though, he was like Wesley Snipes in New Jack City level good villain.

And then also, along with that, the cliffhanger ending of the nigh invulernable Luke Cage getting shot with one of those Judas bullets that we saw earlier, this shit just got really good.  Thankfully though I only have to wait until this weekend to watch more, and not like a true mid season finale where I’d be waiting a few months, but the anticipation is building for us both to continue on in the series.    I’ll do another one of these posts for the second half of episodes next week, so stay tuned for that one.    Til next time guys be sure to Keep It Reel.

***** Five Stars out of Five.

 

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