Now that the show is in full swing, there is a lot happening in every episode, and I have been fairly impressed with how well they are managing to balance all of their characters, giving everyone something to do, and their own unique arc, even while introducing new characters and complications in the series.
We pick up with Claire and Luke trying to escape the shooter, who turns out to be Diamondback himself, aka Willis Stryker, who we will later learn has a serious grudge against Carl Lucas, as they grew up together and Stryker feels that Carl betrayed him. We also learn at the end of episode 8 that Stryker may just be Luke’s brother, but that is not confirmed at this point. Luke and Stryker spend the episode going at it, with Misty and Claire getting caught in the middle, especially since Luke is wounded now and cannot protect them as well as before. Claire manages to sneak Luke into what looked like a veterinary clinic to X-Ray his wounds and begin to figure out how she is going to fix him when his skin is unbreakable, and Misty manages to track them down. She does not buy the story about Luke killing Cottonmouth, and wants answers from the source. Unfortunately, she runs into Stryker, who easily disarms her and is about to kill her executioner style, before he decides letting her live would hurt Luke more. Shaken, Misty returns to the police station with Claire, both ladies having been left behind as Luke and Stryker continue their grudge match elsewhere.
Mariah meanwhile has paid off Candice to claim she saw Luke kill Cottonmouth, a story that Misty does not believe as she remembers how much Candice did not like Cottonmouth, and cannot believe she was there as one of his whores. While Mariah adjusts to her new criminal position, Misty interrogates Claire for information but comes up short as Claire is too tough. Misty gets physical with Claire and Claire is released while Inspector Ridley lays into Misty for letting her emotions overcome her both with Claire and in dealing with Mariah.
Luke meanwhile has a very intimate and painful fight with Stryker in a large auditorium, where Stryker proves that he has some martial arts training, and can take on a wounded Luke. They eventually leave the hall after exchanging words about how Luke betrayed Willis, and while Luke tries to escape, Stryker shoots him with another Judas bullet in the arm. Luke collapses into a trash truck that just happened to be there and is whisked away to safety. He awakens later and tries to make his way quietly back to Harlem, but he is injured and spotted by police officers, who see a suspicious black man in a hoodie in what looks like a wealthy neighborhood and stop to investigate even before thinking it is Luke Cage. To escape Luke has to shield one cop from the bullets of the other, and then toss another cop through a windshield, all of which is unfortunately caught on the dash cam and later goes viral, making everyone afraid of Luke Cage. Luke eventually meets up with Claire and they head south to find the prison doctor, Dr. Noah Burstein, whose experiment created Luke’s powers, hoping he can find a way to heal Luke’s injuries. When last we see Luke, he is having a heart attack after being dipped into an acidic solution which should weaken his skin enough for Claire to remove the shrapnel from the Judas bullets.
Misty meanwhile suffers the consequences of her actions at work, expressions her frustrations with being a cop as people don’t trust her (or the police) and she has to work twice as hard to “stalk justice,” but that despite it all she loves her job and likes helping people. Diamondback pushes his people to continue to search for Luke, and it is clear he now thinks he is running the show in Harlem, which is sure to piss off Mariah, even though she has a plan to sell Judas bullet style weapons to the police to help them fight “freaks” like Luke Cage, a plan that Diamondback can get on board with.
Like I said, there’s a lot going on in these episodes, and it seems like the show is really hitting a stride. They’re telling a great action story but making sure there are some serious points being made as well. From the obvious like the police stopping a black man in a hoodie for no reason to Misty’s feelings of despair and reasons for giving in to her anger over the frustrations of being a cop and trying to work within a broken system. And all this with an invulnerable superhero running around, looking for a mad scientist to pierce his skin and remove the fragment of bullet made with alien metal that were shot into him by a villain known as Diamondback. Kudos to you Marvel, in less capable hands this would all seem quite ridiculous, yet with your creative forces behind the wheel ‘Luke Cage’ is hugely entertaining. I cannot wait to see where the show goes from here.
Check back here soon for a review of episodes 10 and 11!