STARRING: Mike Colter, Simone Missick, Mahershala Ali, Theo Rossi, Erik LaRay Harvey, Rosario Dawson and Alfre Woodard
Given superstrength and durability by a sabotaged experiment, a wrongly accused man escapes prison to become a superhero for hire.
When a sabotaged experiment gives him super strength and unbreakable skin, Luke Cage becomes a fugitive that attempts to rebuild his life in Harlem and must soon confront his past and fight a battle for the heart of his city.
Luke Cage is the third solo outing series to drop on the Netflix streaming service after Daredevil and Jessica Jones, and much like the previous shows before it, Cage has its own distinct feel to separate it from the other Marvel shows. Here we are taken to Harlem where we follow Luke Cage keeping a low profile working two jobs at a barber shop and a nightclub as he’s on the run and he tries to figure out his place in the world after a sabotaged experiment gives him super strength and unbreakable skin, literally making him bulletproof. Certain events come into play which puts Cage on a path to step into the spotlight and take on a criminal kingpin in a battle for Harlem.
The biggest strength that Luke Cage has going for it is its casting, from the main cast right down to the guest players that appear on the show. Mike Colter is great as the title character, a man burdened with his past and reluctant to use his powers, but after circumstances as a few youngsters that come to Pop’s Barbershop see an opportunity for quick cash that soon turns bloody, placing them on the radar of a crime boss, leading to Cage fighting not only to move Harlem into the light but himself as well. Colter is charismatic as hell, especially with some of the cheesy (corny) lines that he has to deal with that he makes work and is a total badass when it comes to the fight sequences, which makes it different from the Marvel shows before in how he handles his business. Someone I wasn’t familiar with in the cast was Simone Missick and I must say I was really impressed with her performance as Misty Knight this season. She’s a great foil for Cage, bringing a fiery energy playing a smart and driven detective that is just as well written as she is played. In terms of the villains that appear in Luke Cage, Mahershala Ali‘s portrayal of Cornell Stokes aka Cottonmouth is my personal favourite of the season. Ali has appeared in small roles on the big screen such as The Hunger Games (still haven’t seen House of Cards to comment on his performance there) recently but here he absolutely steals pretty much every scene he’s in as Cottonmouth, bringing the right amount of theatrical villainy that makes him compelling to watch. Rosario Dawson makes her mark as well in this season as Claire Temple, having a much meatier role compared to her appearances in Daredevil and Jessica Jones and for me she comes into the show like a breath of fresh air and has great chemistry with the likes of Mike Colter and Simone Missick. The veterans in the industry as well get to shine, particular Alfre Woodard as Cornell’s cousin Mariah Dillard who has her own vision in how to make Harlem in her image and then there’s Luke’s mentors Pop and Bobby Fish played by Frankie Faison and Ron Cephas Jones. All three play their roles effortlessly and give scenes in the show some gravitas. Another strength to the series is that essentially makes Harlem a character in itself, from the people now to the history of what Harlem stood for before. Also Luke Cage will have the best music in a Marvel show to date, both in terms of the songs used and the original scores created to give it a distinct vibe.
While I did very much enjoy this first season of Luke Cage I did have a few problems with it. The main problem is that halfway through the season it takes a particular shift of focus from one character to another and that character was just too ridiculous for my liking to take seriously, considering how much I was enjoying the character before him. Like the rest of the Marvel shows on Netflix, Luke Cage suffers from being too long with a thirteen episode run rather than say other Netflix shows like Narcos (ten) or Stranger Things (eight), meaning that after such a strong start, it fizzled for me towards the end of the season. Also the finale did not work for me at all in terms of the final confrontation, though I get what they were aiming for in terms of the narrative. While I didn’t mind the character of Shades, I can understand how some can’t take Theo Rossi‘s character as particularly menacing in comparison to the likes of Cottonmouth but Shades does come across as more levelheaded than his counterparts in terms of how to play the long game in how to deal with Luke Cage.
Luke Cage is really good as the latest entry to the Marvel Netflix Universe, creating a character that is compelling to watch and easy to root for and it helps that Mike Colter’s performance is worth following the title character for years to come. The supporting cast is well rounded with Mahershala Ali, Simone Missick and Rosario Dawson being highlights for me in this season. There is another villain that gets introduced into the second half of the season that brings the show down a bit for me due to being too one-dimensional/over-the-top and the show also suffers by having thirteen episodes, meaning that a few episodes feel like it stalls the momentum of the story after a strong start. While the finale felt like a disappoint to me, it still doesn’t dampen the season for me overall. Bring on Iron Fist next. 8/10