With only two episodes left, the tension has mounted and we’ve officially reached the excitement overload phase of the show. I’ll admit that Luke Cage’s pacing issues (which Daredevil and Jessica Jones both suffer from as well) occasionally made it hard to let the next episode roll, but now that we’re diving head first into the thick of the action, I’m looking forward to the next episode before I’m even finished with the one I’m watching.
The beginning of the episode features Misty ripping Luke a new one (which is really a coded warning that his name isn’t in the clear yet), and another cop letting Luke go after he escapes police custody because he believes Luke is innocent. This was a huge help to me as a viewer. Over and over again, we’ve seen the story of the misunderstood hero on the run (i.e. Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War, and even Daredevil and Jessica Jones to an extent), so seeing that there are a handful of characters on Luke’s side helps to make the story world feel more realistic.
Diamondback and the rest of the bad guys proved to be a bit annoying in this episode, however. Three times in the same episode, we are teased with some kind of super weapon that allegedly Luke can’t even stop, but they won’t show us what it is. I realize that this helps to build hype and suspense for the finale, but by the time the end rolled around, I felt like I was watching an episode of “Scooby Doo” and I had to work to reveal the mystery. Not to mention, when the weapon is finally revealed, it’s just a big bomb. And no, Luke can’t stop it per say, but he did get himself and another person out of the building successfully, so really what was the threat?
I also found it completely irritating that Domingo decided to try and take on Diamondback. Since the beginning of the series, he’s needed help from Cottonmouth, so what made him think he could take on Cottonmouth’s boss on his own, after watching Diamondback kill his allies. It’s slip-ups like these that put a wedge between the MCU and more realistic works of fiction, but in the grand scheme of things, those can be overlooked because the rest of the show is so realistic.
The big cameo of this episode comes from Method Man of Wu-Tang Clan fame. He’s present in a corner store that Luke swings through (and by swings through, I mean stops a violent robbery, of course), which is followed by a sweet moment of mutual adoration between the two. Not only was it an awesome way to embody the “Wu-Tang-ification of the MCU,” but Method Man would later provide us with a new rap about what it’s like to be a black hero. This small scene killed two birds with one stone: it brought back the music, and it brought racial issues back into the spotlight. The last episode left me wanting more musically, but this one gave me everything I’ve been hoping for since episode one. One of my biggest complaints about the last episode was the lack of anyone addressing Luke’s race (which is so important right now because of the current political climate surrounding race), but it was completely rectified in this episode. The song was catchy and meaningful, which is exactly what we are asking for in Luke Cage.
The next thing to address is the thug the MCU just can’t shake: Turk. Despite being a relatively irritating character in Daredevil, Marvel brought him in on this project to help with establishing the timeline, and then they literally threw him in a dumpster and locked him in it. I have to say, I feel bad for the guy—he’s been through a lot—but I’m getting tired of seeing him. Hopefully, once he’s had his fill of encountering (and having his ass handed to him by) superheroes, he’ll disappear for a bit. That being said, I always appreciate an MCU crossover character, so I’ll give him a few points. For now.
I did enjoy, however, the opportunity to see Luke twist the dumpster after throwing Turk inside, however; it’s different than anything we’ve seen him do before. Luke’s power set is pretty straight forward, much like the Hulk. Once you’ve seen Bruce Banner turn into a green monster and smash stuff, you’ve seen it all. Similarly, once you’ve seen Luke punch through a wall, throw a guy across a room, or deflect a bullet, you’ve seen it all. Seeing him use his powers in more practical ways helps to keep them fresh, as well as to keep us interested in Luke.
I gave Shades a hard time in my last review, but I’m finally coming around to the character. He’s able to get out of jail scot-free, take on three thugs after being nearly choked to death, and then convince Mariah Dillard to team up with him and take Diamondback down. Finally proving why he’s around, Shades has increased exponentially in importance to the series, and now, I can’t see it taking place without him.
In one of the more sentimental scenes of the episode, Mariah and Shades discuss the night that Cottonmouth died. Shades reveals he was at the club that night with the intention of killing him, but Mariah beat him to it. The discussion takes place outside of a church, whose sign blazes brightly in the night. This is a reflection of the inevitable sin that was to be committed that night, and not only was a sin to be committed but one of the seven deadly sins: wrath. Ironically (and also intentionally), wrath was mentioned earlier in the episode by Diamondback, who referred to his giant bomb as such. This shows parallels between Diamondback and Mariah, despite the fact that she’d deny ever being similar to him.
FInally, because the barber shop hasn’t been through enough yet, Diamondback drops a grenade in front of the building, blowing up the front end, while Luke, Misty, Bobby, Mariah, and Shades are all inside. In one of Luke’s more telling instances, he reaches out to cover everyone, including his adversaries, reminding us that Luke doesn’t really want anyone harmed, he just wants the problems solved. In strolls Diamondback, wearing his Nintendo Power Gloves and a shock-absorbent, bullet-proof costume, effectively making him one of the MCU’s classic copy-cat villains. While I would have liked to have seen him take on Luke in a different form, I know that we’re in for a good show, and I’m looking forward to the finale.
4.75/5 – I really wanted to give this episode a perfect score, and I came very close. Unfortunately, the strange choices made by the villains early in the episode, and the strange choices made by the writers concerning the villain at the end of the episode made me dock the episode a quarter point. Had they not drug out the anti-climactic bomb, and turned Diamondback into Luke Cage 2.0, this episode would have been perfect. What was worth the 4.75 points I gave the episode were the awesome cameo from Method Man, the shift in Shades’ character, and the raw reality presented in most of this episode, which all proved that Luke Cage deserves a top spot in the world of television, just like it’s Marvel counterparts.
- What is a Marvel property without a Stan Lee cameo (check it out at 17:41 as a cop on poster outside of the corner store)?
- The entire corner store sequence was amazing. They were able to bring in a celebrity central to Harlem, provide comic relief, and Luke literally bopped the robbers on the head. There is no better verb for that sentence, he actually bopped them unconscious.
- “There’s something powerful about seeing a black man that’s bullet-proof and unafraid” –Method Man.
- Luke was referred to as “The Hole-y Hero” on a television newscast. That joke never gets old.
- “That was a close shave” –Bobby. Last time, I said that the show’s comedy often felt awkward, but I feel at this point, they’ve found their comedic groove, and I like it.
- “Sometimes you have to reach across the aisle to get things done” –Mariah. Could this be a hint for modern America?
- “What are you a pimp storm trooper?” –Bobby. Because we were all thinking it.