Based in Harlem, Luke Cage, Netflix’s latest Marvel show, has a different feel to Daredevil and Jessica Jones but lives in the same universe as the two. Does he have enough strength to not only save Harlem though but to stand out in his own show?
After the events of Jessica Jones, we find Cage (Mike Colter) in Harlem trying to live a quiet life. Tragedy pulls him back to the superhero life though and he’s forced to take on Cottonmouth (Mahershala Ali) while all the time trying to keep his secret a past from the ever vigilant Misty Knight (Simone Missick).
In many ways Luke Cage is familiar territory, there are obvious stylistic references to Daredevil and plenty of teases of the “Lawyer” we know and love. The main focus of the show though is to celebrate the and give a voice to the streets of Harlem. With constant references to “Black Lives Matter” Luke Cage feels topical, especially as we get to later episodes where Police violence becomes more of an issue.
Fans of film (or total film geeks) will recognise influences in Luke Cage from the Blaxploitation films of the seventies, but as a celebration of the positives of those movies. There is no exploitation here, but an effortless cool feeling that the show extrudes, as do the characters and this makes the show truly shine. Cottonmouth is an example of this, played by Mahershala Ali he plays one of the enemies that Cage must overcome. A complicated character, there are certain redeeming characteristics to him, though mostly evil. Ali is able to play that character well though.
Mike Colter is very good as Luke Cage himself, and could easily become of the favourites of the Marvel universe. Colter plays the character in a charismatic way, even if he is the reluctant superhero. We find out about the origins of the Cage character, as well as more about his powers, but in many ways Cage isn’t about his powers at all. What Cage is, could be described similar to Robin Hood in his style. It is more about the protection of Harlem and its people rather than being one of the lycra clad superheroes that are frequently mentioned.
When it comes to other actors who shine, there are so many to name. It should come as no surprise though that Rosario Dawson as the returning Claire Temple stands out, as does Simone Missick, and Alfre Woodard as Mariah Dillard, and Theo Rossi as Shades Alvarez. When Diamondback makes his entrance though, Erik LaRay Harvey makes an instant impact. An actor who stood out to me in Broadwalk Empire, he threatens to steal this show for himself.
Watching Luke Cage, you can’t help but feel that this is an important show, and one that really stands out in the world of Marvel. With a cast predominantly of black actors, there is also a mix of all colours. What it does well though is show a harsh reality of the world around us, and that is racism. Look for the final episode and the words of Pop (Frankie Faison) on that, and in many ways this show is a call for movement, and as Pop would say, forward and not backward.
Luke Cage isn’t a show without weaknesses, it does tend to drag on just a little at the end of the season. When we finally reach the finally though it starts on such a high-point that it does feel redeemed. Topical, but still faithful to its superhero comic book roots, this is a must-see show that is a bright light in a world of entertainment looking for change.