After Frank Castle/Punisher tore a hole through Hell’s Kitchen, street level communities are on a knife edge. People are afraid, as the world is filling up with people who can’t be matched. Even after Jessica Jones, people are wary of their own safety. Now we are taken on a walk to the black sector of New York, Harlem. Plagued with the gift of super strength and durability by a botched experiment, a wrongfully accused man escapes prison to become a Harlem’s defender. His name, Luke Cage.
Luke Cage isn’t your standard hero. He’s a black man in a hoody who takes down bad guys on the streets of Harlem. In addition to that, he’s bulletproof. Luke Cage is infested with a sociopolitical commentary and themes that are so relevant to the now, Black Lives Matter and all. A bulletproof black male is as political as it gets. Cheo Coker (showrunner) takes that idea and spun it in an original and uplifting way. Harlem is a mainly black community. Sheeeit! The opening scene in the season premiere takes place in a barbershop, owned and run by Henry’ Pops’ Hunter (The Wire’s Frankie Faison), nicknamed that from his younger days because of the sound his fists made on impact. Pop!
Netflix addicts who have stayed with the superhero Netflix shows should know Luke Cage already, as he was a supporting character in Jessica Jones. He is someone who has already been explored on a psychological level. He’s just a guy who wants to be “left the hell alone.” Whether you know the character or not, by the end of the show, you’ll learn something new; from the character’s beliefs or motivations, to the deep socially relevant awakening that many viewers felt afterwards. The show gets deep quickly. Too deep for many indeed. Luke Cage attacks very current issues; matters of race and gender in this smog of growing socio-political anxieties on both sides of the Atlantic. Luke is encircled with a number of allies such as Misty Knight (Simone Missick). She’s a constant reminder of Harlem’s spirit, from her sassy personality to her darkness. She’s a cop and is a reminder that Luke’s neighbourhood can break so easily. “You might be bullet proof, but Harlem ain’t” she says to Luke.
To me, it seems that the best characters in the MCU are on Netflix. Hell’s Kitchen and Harlem’s badass character inventory is growing with each show they release. Misty Knight is someone who knows Harlem. She was raised there, knows its people and what motivates them regardless if they’re good or bad. She’ll appeal to someones humanity before going in guns blazing. Rosario Dawson (Daredevil) returns again as Claire Temple. She is the link between the Netflix shows as she was also in Jessica Jones. Not to forget to mention that both characters are returning for Iron Fist. Mehershala Ali (Free State Of Jones) plays a convincing Cornell Stokes/Cottonmouth and Alfre Woodard (12 Years A Slave) steals every scene she’s in as the corrupt politician Mariah Dillard. Netflix’s Marvel shows trump the movie universe in terms of villains, as we add Dillard to Wilson Fisk and The Purple Man (Jessica Jones).
It’s no secret that Diamondback (Erik LaRay Harvey) is the main antagonist this season. He’s the real threat, and I really liked him as a villain, as I did Cottonmouth. But Mariah and Theo Rossi’s Shades were better antagonists in my opinion. Fans wanted a fist fight and we got one in the last episode and I must say, it was lit. Luke Cage is Harlem’s hero. He’s their defender and he said from the beginning that he’s not a hero for hire. He will defend Harlem from those who will do it harm, not for money, but because this is his neighbourhood and it’s the right thing to do. He can do things the cops can’t. He plays by his own rules and he’s a force to be reckoned with, as Pops jokes calling him “Power Man.”
As we go past places like Malcolm X Boulevard, we see how much Harlem has imprinted on the world but moreover, black culture and black identity as a whole. It tells a story with a complex social commentary, on a subject that hits many hard, black and white alike. This is our world. We must all live in it together regardless if we like it or not. Despite colour, sex, gender, creed or physical traits, we must all cooperate, which is easier said than done. The main protagonist is a black superhero. The show explores the fragility of black lives to make this powered hero with nearly indestructible skin that much more a political figure. He’s not just a hero. He’s a political figure, whether he likes it or not. He breaks that black archetype thus giving the Blaxploitation genre a huge punch worthy of Luke Cage.
Luke Cage wins with showing us the Western fear factor of the black hero, let alone, controversially a black man succeeding in something other than sport and having good rhythm. I look at Cage and my mind is recollecting seeing brutal news headlines day in and day out, of unarmed black males being gunned down by cops. Marvel’s world is a mirror image of black life in urban settlements, that create villains like Cottonmouth (Ali) and Dillard (Woodard) who have no choice but to manipulate the system to their advantage to survive, thus developing their cold, immoral and unethical personalities. That life turns men, and women into beasts. It’s either that, or become victims of a system that depicts white as have, and black as have not. Filled with excellent performances, an outstanding soundtrack and a very real plot, Luke Cage is one to watch for the masses.