‘Luke Cage’ is back! And to be perfectly honest, so far it already looks like this season has the potential to be better than the first. The world has opened up a lot since ‘The Defenders‘ and unlike ‘Daredevil’ Season 2 and ‘Jessica Jones’ Season 2, ‘Luke Cage’ seems more than willing to bring in major guest stars from the other series and use them in meaningful ways. Combine that with a narrative carried by Mike Colter, Simone Missick (Misty Knight being my favorite character) and Alfre Woodard, and you have one hell of an entertaining show.
But jumping in, let’s talk about what Luke is up to in the first three episodes, titled “Soul Brother #1,’ ‘Straighten It Out,’ and ‘Wig Out.’ Since ‘The Defenders’ and Season 1 of ‘Luke Cage,’ our hero has become a Harlem celebrity, with his buddy DW selling Luke Cage merchandise out of the Barber Shop while also promoting the ‘Luke Cage’ app which lets the citizens of Harlem track their hero as he goes about his heroic deeds, including trying to take down a drug ring which is distributing a new product with the name of ‘Luke Cage,’ hurting Luke’s reputation and really pissing him off.
Sadly for Luke, not everything he is doing is all that heroic these days. Our hero appears to have some anger issues, a lot of which comes from his relationship with his father, James Lucas, who Luke blames for ruining his life as James’s lies ended up creating Diamondback which put Luke in jail in the first place and got him into that experiment. James also never visited Luke in prison after his wife died, a death which he initially blamed on his son. So yeah, a lot of baggage and things are not helped by Claire, who can see Luke’s issues and is trying to get him to realize he has some anger problems and speak to his father, to no avail. She even visits his father who has come to Harlem to be near his son and discovers James Lucas is not necessarily the villain Luke thinks he is.
Meanwhile, Luke is a bit too cocky right now with Harlem loving him and after someone tries to kill him with a Judas bullet, he learns he is now resistant to those and gets even more cocky, though Claire is still worried. They test his new prowess in a very public (with people shooting videos of him) workout in Harlem, where he reveals how strong he is, how far he can jump, and how fast he is, with someone remarking he is faster than Usain Bolt, a hilarious point of contention for almost every Jamaican character (including Bushmaster) that Luke meets for the rest of the season. He is offered some potential endorsement deals (including Nike) which makes his friend (and manager?) Bobby Fish very happy as they need money to save the Barbershop and support Luke’s work.
Thanks to some tips from Misty, Luke begins investigating Mariah’s latest deeds and some gangs she appears interested in selling her business to. Unfortunately, his anger all comes to a head when he tries to save a woman and her son from her lover who beats them both, a jerk named Cockroach (who incidentally was put away by Scarfe and Misty but got out because all of Scarfe’s cases were re-opened, a big reason Misty rejoins the force), and Luke’s anger comes out a bit too much and he almost beats Cockroach to death, scaring the family in the process. Claire arrives to check on Cockroach and calls Misty, who lets Luke go despite the obvious assault.
Mariah and Shades meanwhile have become very, very close, though she does not like that Shades has brought in his own friend Comanche, who does not show Mariah the same respect everyone else does, but Shades does not reprimand him. Mariah is trying to get out of the gun business and go legit, especially after being offered an inside trading deal with a plastics company that could net her billions of dollars. So to raise money, she decides to sell her business to a rival gang, the first one being Arturo ” El Rey” Gomez III, who is open to the offer but ends up dead when he insults Mariah in front of Shades, who does not like anyone talking shit about his woman.
Next on the list is Cockroach and his gang, but after Luke Cage puts him in the hospital, Mariah and Shades have only one choice, the Jamaican gang which Shades learns is now controlled by a newcomer named Bushmaster as he had recently arrived in town and killed the former gang-head Nigel. The deal is made but soon after, Cage himself visits Bushmaster’s crew and they attempt to take him down, only to discover that the rumors are true and he is unbreakable. However, Bushmaster secretly tapes the attack and is seen practicing moves against Luke as he takes in a strange smoke created by “Nightshade,” a rare herb he purchased from none other than the daughter of Mariah Dillard (Stokes), Tilda Johnson, who runs an herbal store in Harlem now, and whom Mariah is trying to get close with again as she struggles to launch her new image and go legit.
Misty meanwhile, has been sidelined from police work by her arm loss, but she rejoins the force to help catch all of the criminals set free because of Scarfe’s corruptness, but finds the other cops do not think she can handle the job one-armed. Upset, she eventually meets up with Colleen Wing, who boxes with her and then goes to a bar with her, and it is clear Colleen still thinks Misty can do anything she wants, including kicking ass. And she proves it when a guy hits on Misty and starts a bar-fight, and Colleen lets Misty fight the guy on her own, only joining once the brawl gets bigger. Her confidence restored after winning the fight, Misty dives back into her work, and uses her pull with Luke Cage to secretly investigate Mariah’s back-alley deals and keep the case on track, even though she is not technically supposed to be working on it.
Back at Claire’s apartment, Claire and Luke argue, with Luke upset that Claire is still pushing him to speak to his father (and even went to visit the man), and Claire finding it more and more distressing how much anger Luke is holding on to, and how close he came to killing Cockroach. It finally breaks down when, in his anger, Luke punches a massive hole in her apartment wall, and Claire realizes she cannot live with this anger and tells Luke to leave and that she needs some space. Trying to cope with what just happened, Luke walks away, and is ambushed by Bushmaster, who handily beats the surprised and downtrodden hero, all while Luke is filmed.
It was a fun start to the season, and I like the pace so far, easing us into the story and what is going on with each of the characters slowly, but setting up enough that we know a lot is going to go down. I like the villain of Bushmaster, especially since he has a form of invincibility like Luke’s but it is not the same, and seems to be reliant on this nightshade drug. I am also really enjoying Mariah and Shades this season, with Alfre Woodard really stealing the show with every scene she is in. And of course, Misty Knight is as bad-ass as always, and I cannot wait for her to get that bionic arm so she can really get into her superheroine persona! See you back here soon for a review of the next three episodes!