Marvel’s Luke Cage
Episode 1.1 “Moment of Truth”
Created by Cheo Hodari Coker
Directed by Paul McGuigan
Written by Cheo Hodari Coker
Starring Mike Colter, Simone Missick, Mahershala Ali, Alfre Woodard, Theo Rossi, Rosario Dawson, Erik LaRay Harvey
Premiere date: September 30, 2016
Spoilers for Marvel’s Luke Cage Episode 1.1.
We met Marvel’s Luke Cage (Mike Colter) on Jessica Jones which premiered last year on Netflix, and now he’s got his own series, Luke Cage. He is basically indestructible and possesses super strength. He’s haunted by his past and despite the superpowers, he dabbles in low-level work to keep himself out of trouble. Luke Cage is nicknamed “Mr. Bulletproof” by Pop (Frankie Faison), the owner of the local Harlem barbershop where he works one of his two jobs. The other is washing dishes at a Cotton Club-esque nightclub. Not exactly the best use of his abilities, but he’s an ex-con who can barely afford his rent, and grieves for lost love Reva (Parisa Fitz-Henley), so his ambitions are low right now.
The club he works in is run by Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes played by Mahershala Ali from House of Cards. Cottonmouth is using the place to operate a gun-smuggling ring where he funnels money through corrupt local politician, Mariah Dillard (Alfre Woodard), who’s also his cousin. When a bartender calls out, Luke steps in and meets an elegant woman, an “auditor” who is really Detective Misty Knight (Simone Missick). They have a steamy night together. Thank goodness this show is on Netflix. When he asks for her number she tells him, “I know where you work.”
The night before, while they were in the nightclub, a guns-for-money exchange went awry, a bunch of Cottonmouth’s guys were killed, and two young guys from the barbershop crew made away with the money. Soon, a scary representative of the unseen Diamondback named Shades (Theo Rossi of Sons Of Anarchy) is there to help Cornell retrieve his money. They bring in one of the shooters, Shameek (Jermell Howard) and Cornell beats him to death with his bare hands. Luke watched Shameek go in, knowing him from the barbershop, and then saw Shades cruise in behind and instantly recognizes his from his time in prison. Luke’s past and present are colliding, and it’s like his ambitions may soon be changing. When his Chinese landlords are being hassled by Cornell’s goons, he shows them who he really is, and it’s awesome!
There is plenty of great stuff in just the first episode. Those familiar with Jessica Jones know how smooth and cool Mike Colter’s performance is as Cage. The creators nod and wink to hardcore MCU fans with mentions of Justin Hammer’s weapons (the villain from Iron Man 2) and a street vendor selling videos of “The Incident.” But there’s also a layer of social commentary here that is incredibly poignant especially with recent events in North Carolina and Tulsa. After the shootout, Luke and Pop have a talk. “Everyone has a gun, no one has a father,” Luke tells him. Pop describes why he lets the young kids hang out in his barbershop: it’s safer there than on the streets. And after Luke shows off his powers, where he literally catches a bullet, he symbolically puts his hood up as he leaves.
Luke Cage is a powerful, stylish, and sexy superhero show. One episode in, and it already has the same dark grittiness that Daredevil and Jessica Jones had, and is likely as binge-worthy. Check out Luke Cage now on Netflix.