Well, the moment has finally come, and Netflix/ Marvel have finally unveiled their latest venture, ‘Luke Cage‘ for the world, by which I mean all episodes are available for streaming as of midnight last night. Over the course of the weekend I will be binge-watching and reviewing the episodes for Sciencefiction.com, so this first review is just going to be for the pilot. I definitely enjoyed it and am looking forward to jumping back into the series, with my only serious issue being the opening credits. It’s a minor nitpicky thing, but for me at least, the text is difficult to read, which is not a huge deal, but it distracts me when I watch the opening titles. It’s not a problem I think I’ve ever had with a series before.
The first episode really is all build-up, introducing us to the Harlem setting that Luke finds himself in, where we meet the barbershop owner named Pops who knows all of Luke’s secrets and lets him work there as a janitor being paid under the table (and is the first character to call Luke ‘Power Man’ which I love), we meet the owner of Genghis Connie’s Chinese restaurant, who happens to be Luke’s landlady as his apartment is above the restaurant (a little predictable as a landlady, as her primary dialogue is demanding rent from Luke), and we meet Cornel ‘Cottonmouth’ Stokes (don’t call him that though, he doesn’t like that name), the owner of the nightclub where Luke washes dishes and occasionally tends bar, who runs a criminal empire from the club and will be Luke’s main villain this season.
We also meet Detective Misty Knight while she is undercover at the club, and then when she and Luke head back to his apartment for a one-night stand, and aside from the sparks she has with Luke, we do not know much about her besides the fact that she’s a cop investigating the gun deal that went awry, and she knows a lot of the kids in the neighborhood. The gun deal in question was being run by Cottonmouth, where he was trading some Hammer Technology Weapons (interesting call back to ‘Iron Man 2‘) to a rival gang that he had struggled to gain trust with. The problem occurred when some of the kids from the Barbershop Luke works at killed all the participants of the deal and stole the money that Cottonmouth and his men were trying to score, thus pissing off all the gangsters and painting a target on the kids involved, named Shameek and Chico. There was a third kid involved named Dante (whose absence from Cottonmouth’s club is the reason Luke was asked to bartend), but Shameek was scared that Dante would rat them out, and he shot the kid, thus sealing his own fate, as Dante’s final moments of life were calling Cottonmouth’s club and telling them what happened.
Predictably, Shameek is easily found by Cottonmouth’s gang and beaten within an inch of his life, the blood ruining Cottonmouth’s suit, though you have to give him credit for not being afraid to do the dirty work himself. Now the search is on for Chico, who I am guessing will go to Luke Cage for protection in the coming episodes, thus further drawing the hero into the conflict. We also met a man named Shades who seems to work for a man above Cottonmouth, and has now been sent in to fix the gun deal situation. From Luke we learn that Shades was in prison with him at the same time, and Luke seems genuinely frightened of the man, which is odd considering Luke’s invulnerability.
After we are reminded about Luke’s dead wife and his struggles to decide how involved he wants to get in helping those around him, we cut to the Chinese Restaurant below his apartment where Cottonmouth’s men are demanding money, despite the owners saying they will not “donate” any more to Mariah Hill, Cottonmouth’s political sister. Before they can attack, Luke shows up, and we finally get to see him show off his superpowers, although it was a little disappointing as this scene was one of the many pre-released clips the show gave us prior to the premiere. Still, it was fun to watch, and Luke’s comment to the owners about how he was “not for hire” was great, as we know that if Luke follows in the footsteps of his comics counterpart, he will one day soon be a hero for hire indeed.
All in all, not a terrible pilot, with some terrific acting and great moments, the only thing really dragging it down was the need to set up everything and introduce all of the characters. Surprisingly, the only odd acting moments I saw were in the club with Alfre Woodard, which again was strange as she is one of the more well-known actresses on the show, but something was lacking in her performance during those scenes. Her other moments in the show played just fine, though, so I’m going to chalk it up to first episode issues, which are all too common with new shows like this. Mike Colter himself is amazing as always, walking the fine line between bad-ass and humble, playing the part of down on his luck transient while never forgetting his power. I am very curious to see how the show progresses from here, as at this point it does not look like Luke has the finesse to dismantle a major criminal organization (he seems to be more of a brawler), but perhaps with some new allies (Claire Temple is still going to show up too) including Misty Knight he will be able to formulate a plan to take down Cottonmouth and deal with Shades, both of whom I’m assuming Luke will have a vendetta against for killing Chico once they find the young man in the coming episodes.
What did you think of the pilot episode? Was it everything you were hoping for? Are you going to stick around the entire season to see where Luke’s journey is going to take him? Do you miss the Hell’s Kitchen setting from the earlier Marvel/ Netflix shows? Feel free to share your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!