Possible spoilers ahead!
After two season of “Daredevil,” and one season of “Jessica Jones,” the Netflix corner of the MArvel Universe feels like home. So each time a new show premiers, it’s a welcomed sight.
For the new series “Luke Cage,” the setting changes from Hell’s kitchen to Harlem. But the change feels natural, and it makes sense if you watched “Jessica Jones” last year. The only problem I had with the first episode of “Luke Cage” was the pacing.
The first episode spends too much time exploring the neighborhood and meeting all the key characters who call this part of Harlem home. I’m not saying it was a bad episode, but it felt slow to me, especially when compared to the rest of the season whihc moves along at a nice pace. And it’s not as if all the character had something to do in this one episode, so why introduce them all at the same time?
However, I did like that at the start of the season Luke Cage (Mike Colter) is isolated and reserved, reeling from his personal history and the more recent events of “Jessica Jones.” The first episode finds Luke working as a janitor at a barber shop and as a dishwasher at a nightclub.
Luke’s story unfolds throughout the series’ flashbacks over the course of the season. Cage’s early efforts to remain away from the spotlight play to Mike Coker’s strengths as an actor, and gives him room to flesh out the character without punching something. And to his credit, Mike Colter commands the screen in every scene he’s in.
Cage is eventually pitted against criminal cousins Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes (Mahershala Ali) and Mariah Dillard (Alfre Woodard). Like Colter, both actors are excellent in their respective roles, and both get plenty of scene stealing moments during the season. Especially Woodard, who plays a councilwoman eager to see Harlem reinvigorated, even if it means doing so by questionable means.
The biggest surprise of the show is Simone Missick as Misty Knight. In “Luke Cage,” Missick steals the show as the dynamic, tough, and highly intelligent police detective. To comic readers, Knight is best known as a private eye with a bionic arm courtesy of Tony Stark, but “Luke Cage” shows us Misty before that.
She’s a deeply dedicated cop now forced to navigate a world full of cutthroat criminals and super men. This Misty Knight can school basketball players on the streets of Harlem in a game of Horse, and visualize crime scenes with meticulous, Hannibal-esque detail. She even sweeps Luke Cage off of his feet at Cottonmouth’s nightclub, whole at the same time matching him in the banter department. And that’s just in the first two episodes.
Unlike the previous Marvel shows, “Luke Cage” is more of a character drama. Don’t worry, there’s plenty of action too, but the action felt like an extension of whatever what going on with the main characters. I also enjoyed the way the series used music, often with the help of an actual performance.
At the end of the day “Luke Cage” is not your typical superhero show, and frankly, I liked that.
“Luke Cage” final score: 8.5
“Luke Cage” season 1 is available now on Netflix.