The next two episodes of ‘Luke Cage’ definitely go a long way toward keeping up the momentum of the show, so much so that at points I was surprised they were already hitting certain plot points already, whereas ‘Daredevil’ season 1 did not hit similar plot points until the second half of the season. ‘Luke Cage’ appears to just have a lot of story to tell, a lot of characters to service, and a superhero point of view that we have not really seen before, and it is fascinating to watch, especially when carried by Mike Colter.
First of all, we got the full ‘Luke Cage’ backstory, which we see as Luke and Connie struggle to make their way out of the rubble of the chinese restaurant. We learn that Luke was once named Carl Lucas, and was an ex-cop who apparently pissed off the wrong people and got send to jail in Seagate Prison. While there, he begrudgingly befriends a man named Squabbles, and falls in love with his future wife Reva, who is the counselor at the prison. Carl also meets many corrupt prison guards, including one named Rackham, and also learns that they are holding inmate fights in secret in the basement (not the most original of ideas for a show, but it works well in this context). After Rackham sends a few inmates (including Shades) to see how tough Carl is, he blackmails Carl into joining the fighting ring by threatening Squabbles, and then later Reva. Carl does not take it lying down however and begins to gather evidence to take down Rackham. Unfortunately, Rackham finds out about this, kills Squabbles, and sends Shades and another inmate to beat Carl to death. Reva finds Carl in the prison hospital, and begs a fellow doctor to save Carl using an experimental procedure the prison had been working on (which she earlier claimed to know nothing about when Carl asked her about it), and Carl is saved in the healing machine. Unfortunately, Rackham arrives and decides he would be better off with Carl dead, and sabotages the healing machine. As often goes in comic books, the “sabotage” ends up causing the equipment to malfunction and blow-up, leaving Carl with superpowers, in this case, super-strength and invulnerability. He punches his way free of the prison (going through a wall), and swims to safety, where he grabs some clothes (and as a nod to fans, basically dresses in the original costume of Power Man) and then meets up with Reva, where they decide on his new name, Luke Cage. In the present, Luke frees himself and Connie from the rubble and announce his name to the world, essentially going to war with Cottonmouth from that point forward.
As for the other characters on the show in this episode and the one following, Misty is pretty sure Cottonmouth took out Luke’s building, but Scarfe manages to erase the cameras in the vicinity and warn Cottonmouth. Eventually, she warned that Scarfe might be investigated by internal affairs, but she is too loyal to her partner to believe it. Cottonmouth is furious that Luke survived and sends out all his men to shake up everyone in Harlem for cash, and to tell the people that this new “tax” is due to Luke Cage’s interference. When the citizens come to Luke for help, he decides to go after Cottonmouth’s men and return every stolen item, and even goes so far as to visit the Harlem Paradise to announce himself and his powers to Cottonmouth, who is shaken by Luke’s abilities. While there, Shades finally recognizes Carl Lucas and comes up with a plan to kill the invulnerable man, using bullets made from an alien metal. Unfortunately, Cottonmouth cannot afford the bullets himself, but Diamondhead (Shade’s boss) can, though Shades warns that if Diamondhead fronts the money, Cottonmouth will lose Harlem. Meanwhile, Claire Temple arrives home to Harlem, where she is instantly greeted with a guy trying to steal her purse, whom she chases down and beats to get her money back. She reunites with her mom and tells her about her zombie hospital woes from ‘Daredevil’ Season 2, and how she is being blacklisted from all New York hospitals, which is fine as she wants to become a doctor who helps enhanced individuals any way she can. She is well on her way to fully becoming the “Night Nurse” from the comics.
Misty continues her investigation and prepares to attend Pops’ funeral, where all the characters are heading at episodes end. Mariah warns Cottonmouth that he needs to deal with Luke Cage and that his reckless decisions are hurting both of them at this point. Everyone goes to Pop’s funeral, where first Cottonmouth states his eulogy for the father figure (Pops had grown up with Cottonmouth’s father and Chico’s father, and looked after both of their kids), ending by saying that Harlem needs to look out for itself, and not rely on strangers with powers. Luke decides to give his own inspiring eulogy, ending by saying people should not trust someone pretending to be their friend, and that he is dedicating himself to the people of Harlem, in part to keep up the example set by Pops, but also because it is the right thing to do. Following the funeral Misty tells Luke that while his speech was good, he basically started a war in Harlem, and while he might be bullet-proof, Harlem is not.
Definitely feel like the show is getting stronger and stronger the more Luke Cage embraces his heroism and gets to work, and I really liked the origin story of Luke Cage, even if some parts were a bit cheesy and long (like how exactly he and Reva came up with his new name). The jokes about how ridiculous he looked in the Power Man costume were definitely fun, and I was sad that Squabbles died, as he was kind of a fun character and a nice foible for Luke. The episode that featured Cottonmouth more was definitely stronger if only because the character is portrayed so well, and I am very curious to see how exactly these characters will go to war, as the show has already hit a lot of the gangster tropes like attempted assassination, stealing the other one’s money, and trying to defame them to the public.
See you back here soon for reviews for episodes 6 and 7!