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Luke Cage Review

Warning: There will probably be some spoilers, so read at your own risk.

So let's be blunt: Marvel has done it again. Their latest addition to the MCU, Luke Cage, is another home-run hit and an excellent addition to the 'street side' of the MCU. It is the best-paced opening season thus far, something that Marvel started out good with in Daredevil S1, improved in Jessica Jones S1, and really performed well with here. Honestly the biggest pacing issue feels off during the midpoint of the season with the transition of Cottonmouth's death and Diamondback's formal introduction to the show. It goes through an awkward point there of exposition and reshuffling of power players in the show before marching forward once again.

We got a bit of Mike Colter's Luke Cage in the episodes of Jessica Jones, but he feels like a real character for the first time here. Like nearly every other casting decision Marvel has made, Colter is exactly what you would want from a live-action Cage. He's charming and has a great screen presence, and made me interested in a character I've largely never cared about.

Marvel has had a great track record of making it's different franchises feel very different from movie to movie and show to show. Captain America is your socio-political spy stories, Thor is your fantasy action, Guardians is your space opera. Likewise Daredevil, Jones, and Cage all have very different vibes and apparent themes. Daredevil is about faith and rage, Jones was victimization and control, and Cage strongly deals with themes of race and identity. The only tying theme between them all (particularly Jones and Cage) is redemption. Luke Cage has strong undertones of race in America, and while it may seem 'inappropriate' for me (a white man) to comment on it, a large voice on respecting oneself and one another, especially withing racial and cultural similarities. With all the social issue currently plaguing black communities and police forces, it seems to have an interesting give-and-take dialogue that the way to fixing problems is a two way street.

And that is perhaps what is most interesting about Luke Cage: how he approaches his villain, Cottonmouth, vs how Jessica Jones and Matt Murdock approached Kilgrave and Fisk respectively. He could simply go after Cottonmouth and tear through his whole crew. He even says as much. He plans on bringing Cottonmouth down, he understands the man is toxic to Harlem. He also seems to walk a fine line to stop Cottonmouth without opening a power vacuum in Harlem which could lead to a much worse situation. For the interesting social commentary alone, especially when people might write it off as 'just another superhero show' is quite interesting. Cottonmouth, while on the topic of him, is one of the most interesting characters in the show and much like Fisk and Kilgrave the writing almost makes you empathize and feel for the man, and in this particular case you actually do sympathize more than you really want to.

Even the best of shows are not without their flaws, however. I mentioned the mid-season pacing issue already, so I won't dwell on that again. Some of the characters felt like stereotypes as well. Not racial stereotypes, but almost cliches. Diamondback, for being such an interesting character, felt wildly out of place compared to the setting the show had developed and really felt corny at times. They action is also more comical than actually entertaining. It is always humorous to watch Cage finger-flick KO someone or casually toss grown men around like teddy bears, but there's little to engage in this compared to the tight choreography of Daredevil or the suspense of Jones trying to carefully wade through possessed men and women without doing lasting damage when she could kill them instantly. Thankfully the show sticks to a far more level headed story line (especially since Cage 'doesn't want to be anyone's hero') and the narrative doesn't call for many physical confrontations. Even the big final fight (which features the best combat of the season) has a large vocal narrative.

All in all, Luke Cage S1 earns a 9/10 from me. It's solid, and well worth your time. There's a lot going on here, and Marvel really builds a character you've probably never heard of into a character you genuinely care for. It has the best climax thus far (more questions moving forward than answers) for an opening season and is the strongest of the Netflix-Marvel season 1's. I still rank it second to Daredevil S2, but such rankings are largely personal preference.

Watch it, you won't be disappointed.