I started watching Luke Cage with my girlfriend back when the show first was released a few months back in late September, (discussion of the first half of season one here: https://reelgeeksguide.com/2016/10/03/reel-geek-review-luke-cage-first-half-of-the-season-spoilers/ ) and we got through the first half around that time, and then life stuff happened, and there’s a billion other entertainment options out there, so we fell off on Luke Cage for a bit. And, of course, as those of you in couples now, once you start watching a show with your significant other, it’s a borderline sin to continue on watching a show that the two of you started together without the other one there.
So, it wasn’t until last weekend that we picked up in earnest and finished off the rest of the season. To me it wasn’t as strong as the start of the season, but it still had some merit to it. Mahershala Ali’s Cottonmouth was a tough act to follow on the villain front, but Erik Laray Harvey (Boardwalk Empire) does a great job as well with stealing the show as Luke Cage’s bible quoting, evil half brother.
I also need to talk about how great Theo Rossi is in this show as Hernan ‘Shades’ Alvarez, every villains’ right hand man for a price. I got used to seeing him as the vulnerable Juice on Sons of Anarchy, and how in this role he’s manipulative, forceful, and the guy who’s really in power despite what the main villain thinks is a thing of beauty.
I also really enjoyed the social commentary that the show used, with using it to bring more awareness to police brutality and other social issues faced in our real world that more people need to be aware of, that might not see it in their day to day lives but might see something like this happen on a tv show or in a comic book and that might open their eyes to these issues.
It did lose me a bit after that great midway point of the series episode ending with Luke Cage (Mike Colter)being shot with the powerful Judas bullet and actually being injured the fact that the subsequent two episodes after that leave off with Luke Cage on the brink of death. I get you have to have a cliffhanger, but to have (essentially) the same type of cliffhanger three times in a row in a show that’s made to be binge watched it starts to feel pretty stale pretty quickly.
I was so hoping that this season would give them a reason to give Simone Missick’s Misty Knight her signature cybernetic arm as seen in the comics, but that didn’t happen yet, even though it was teased that it could happen. We did at least get to see her in her iconic Misty Knight red outfit at least by the season’s end, so that was a nice nod to her comic book fans.
Also nice was the nod to Diamondback’s comic book costume, which we got to see in the climactic street fight at the end of the season as an enhancement suit which put him on the same level as Luke Cage in a street fight.
It wasn’t a perfect second half of television though, as I already alluded to with the three time Luke Cage is dying cliffhanger ending, but also it felt inconsistent at times with the vibe that was set up in the first half of the season. I realize in retrospect that a lot of the musical performances in the club during the first half were to set up Cottonmouth as a character and such, but it also felt like that was part of the heart of the show at first, and the music sequences felt missing during most of the second half of the season, save for one more performance scene towards the end, wrapping everything up as much as possible at least, the music felt to me to be the heart of the show, and that was lost during this part of the season.
We do get a great couple of scenes with Method Man playing himself, both in an encounter with Luke Cage as he stops a robbery, and again on Sway’s morning radio talk show, with a great montage of people wearing the bullet holed hoodies in solidarity with Luke Cage, who’s on the run from the police at this point in the series. So that kept the heart of hip hop alive in the season somewhat, but it wasn’t as prevalent as it was during the first 8 episodes.
The whole finale really felt oddly paced, the climactic fight with Diamondback is wrapped up in the first 15 minutes, leaving the next 45 minutes with some more closure for some characters, and some unexpected twists with Mariah Dillard (Alfre Woodard) getting away with everything, and Luke Cage back in prison, which I thought was an odd place to end the season, as he’ll be back in action later this year in The Defenders series, but perhaps that will be part of his intro into that series is being released from prison, we’ll just have to wait and see on that one.
All in all, I’d still place this as my favorite of the Netflix Marvel series so far. Can’t wait to see Iron Fist in a few months, and The Punisher and The Defenders later in the year. Netflix is really the best place for shows like this, they can do the characters and stories justice while still keeping a sense of hyper reality to them, in a binge ready format.
Final grade on the season B+