One of the problems that Marvel’s shows on Netflix have always had are the season finales. They are often anti-climactic, and the final battles are hardly worth the 13 hours of footage that came before them. While Luke Cage exercised a similarly anti-climactic final fight scene, it certainly offered the most unique finale of all of the first seasons of the three shows that have debuted so far.
Early in the episode, we see Luke and Diamondback continue their smack down, and in a very cliché manner, the opponent with the upper hand often changes until Luke sums up the strength to knock out Diamondback and his power-pack with a single, fly-through-the-air-and-land-smack-on-your-back punch. The fight scene is beautifully choreographed, and the scenes being cut with flashbacks of young Luke and Willis training in the ring evoke nostalgia, despite the fact that the audience has never been there. It seems as though Luke could have defeated Diamondback easily from the beginning, similar to how Jessica took out Kilgrave, which downplays the villain a bit, but as the finale carries on, it’s revealed that Diamondback wasn’t the big baddie of the series after all; it was Mariah.
Throughout the episode, Mariah is the only one (save for her new ally—and apparently lover—Shades) that can outsmart the situation in which she is stuck. She gets arrested by Misty, so she calls the press to reveal Luke’s true identity. She’s charged with Cottonmouth’s murder, so Shades kills Candace, their only witness. By the end of the episode, she’s back on top at the club, seducing Shades, and acting as the powerful and manipulative Empress her grandmother groomed her to be. Being the first major female villain in the MCU, she certainly sets a high standard, and it will be interesting to see how the other female villains measure up to her cool, calculative brand of evil in the future.
Luke and Claire’s relationship mounts in this episode, as they finally kiss after several episodes of flirting. Their relationship is one that makes sense in the MCU, but I hope that it doesn’t have an effect on the future of The Defenders. By that, I mean that should they break up, I hope no one walks away, or if they stay together, I hope no one gets special treatment, but most of all, I hope Luke and Jessica Jones end up together again.
Luke being perfectly honest and cooperating with the police in Harlem and on his way back to prison is the perfect testament to his character. It’ll be few months before we see Luke again, so leaving us with the image of him being perfectly respectable and gentle is exactly the way he should be remembered and exactly why we love the character, and to Marvel, I tip my hat for that awesome placement of character.
Even though almost all hope seems lost, the ending montage of the show leaves us with some hope: Bobby finds the file that will clear Luke’s name. Obviously, we knew he’d get out—it’d be hard to be a Defender from prison, but Bobby being the reason he gets out really caters toward the Harlem community the show worked tirelessly to build. Of course, that hope is pretty much squashed when it’s revealed that Diamondback is being cared for by Doctor Burstein, who has apparently resumed practice and will likely experiment on Willis with his full consent.
What made this finale so fantastic is that Luke won, but so did the bad guys. Cottonmouth is still the only major villain to have died the entire time, and it’s heavily implied that Diamondback will eventually return, but in the meantime, Mariah and Shades will run the Harlem underground. As we all know, shows and movies often end with the villains being completely extinguished and the hero is not thrown back in prison. Luke Cage offered a refreshing change in the fact that none of that happened. And to top it all off, I wasn’t left feeling that the show was incomplete, it was nicely concluded. I said in my last review that I occasionally was bored with the show, and had it ended before this episode, I wouldn’t have been that thrilled by the prospect of a season two. While we have no idea if that will ever happen, after seeing those final three episodes, I am now definitely hoping it will.
5/5 – I’ve been a stickler in my last few reviews, but here I have almost no complaints. I have to admit that it was a bit anticlimactic, but at this point, I kind of expected that, so there was no letdown. I was also a bit disappointed that Misty’s arm didn’t find a way to fall off, begging for a bionic replacement, but we still have time for that. That being said, the set up for a potential second season, and for The Defenders, made up for the lack incredible fight scenes. The music was there, diversity was represented, the performances were incredible, and as usual, the show was produced with unrelenting excellence and beauty. They’ve done it again, folks. Now we can only wait for the next installment of the Netflix corner of the MCU, which will come in the form of Iron Fist on March 17, 2017.
- [Spanish] “Always” – Claire. As much crap as she gave Luke for being corny, we say Claire take a real turn in this episode as she fell for Luke. She never even acted so enamored with Matt Murdock, which makes this line of dialogue (and honestly, so many more) so utterly meaningful and frankly, adorable.
- “I got you.” – Misty. Another instance of one of Luke’s lines being recycled, Misty proved once and for all that she’s on Luke’s side now, and forever.
- Bobby is unsure what to do with Pop’s old barbershop, could it potentially become the HQ for The Defenders in the future? Or maybe Claire’s hospital for powered people? So many possibilities!
- “Most of these guys wear spandex. Who would’ve thought that a black man in a hoodie would be a hero.” – Aisha. If this doesn’t just sum up the attitude of the show as a whole, I don’t know what does.
- “I know a really good [attorney]” – Claire. Again, I love these little acknowledgments that the rest of the MCU exists, assuming she’s referring to Matt Murdock or Foggy Nelson.
- “I hear that Cuban coffee is particularly robust.” – Luke. I couldn’t finish this review without mentioning this line. Whether you think it’s cute, funny, creepy, or corny, it’s definitely… noteworthy.
- Claire picks up the number for self-defense classes by Colleen Wing. Iron Fist, where Colleen will make her MCU debut, is the next television show to fascinate over, so we might as well start looking forward to it now!