Luke Cage S2 - TV Review
In Three Words: Relationships, Learning, Morals
It took me a long time to watch every episode of this show. Partly because of other commitments, partly because this show was something that was worth properly chewing over. I'll be honest, from what I thought was going to happen at the beginning of watching, to my thoughts after I finished, they're remarkably different.
There are many positives to this show and in particular this season, Cheo Hodari Coker took Season 1 and really built something out of that foundation season. The chief gripe everybody had was killing off Mahershala Ali's Cornell "Cottonmouth" Stokes midway through S1. I think even Coker would say that if he could see the future and watch Ali collect an Oscar, he'd do everything to keep Cottonmouth in the show.
But then again. Looking at Season 2. I didn't miss Cottonmouth at all! Don't get me wrong, Ali was amazing portraying him and it was one of my favourite things about the show, but they really knuckled down on everybody else.
The main theme for this show and in particular this series, is relationships. How everybody is connected to somebody in some way. It's actually quite an achievement to have this many characters get their moment to find and speak their truth. As Luke & Claire's relationship took a backseat, it was a great opportunity to meet Luke's father (played by the late, great Reg E Cathey) and really get to know Luke more as a person. He spends a good amount of the show trying to figure himself out.
Alfre Woodard's Mariah Stokes Dillard also had a family member come into the frame, the last one in fact, her daughter Tilda. (Gabrielle Dennis) Tilda really was a breath of fresh air for this series and without her, Mariah wouldn't have been such a potent villain. More potent than I anticipated!
And Bushmaster... Oh man. Never has a show made Reggae music so ominous. When you see Bushmaster kick Luke's ass with that silky smooth back-flip kick to the chin, you can't help but to scrunch your face and go "Oooo!" like Smokey in "Friday". Big up to Mustafa Shakir. He really took Cottonmouth's place as primary villain and made it his own. Dare I say, it was very Killmonger-esque. In the quality of character, the depth of character and the ideals of the character that make you stop and actually say "Well, he's not wrong..."
And it's true! What the Stokes did to his family was horrific, its that brief backstory that reinvigorated my interest in the later episodes.
And since I half mentioned that I lost interest, let me expand on that before we continue with the relationships...
Even though every episode held weight. I still find 13 episodes too long. I love this show from a theme standpoint. The music, the characters, the messages it gives. It's beautiful! But thirteen hours is just a couple too many for me. That is just my opinion and admittedly it's a very loose one. If you asked me what episodes to take out, I'd be hard pressed to find any. But it did seem a bit long to me.
Or maybe that is just how I've been feeling the past few months. Take that how you want.
Back to the relationships. The biggest one that got the TV bloggers talking was Shades & Comanche. Everybody points at the scene where they sat in Pop's Barbershop and basically admitted they had a sexual encounter in prison. Honestly, I liked that particular arc. It wasn't forced, it was very original, well explained and had affects on the overall story. It wasn't a gimmick and if you're about that life, gives you a great example of how layered masculinity truly is.
With Claire gone for the majority of the series, the show needed somebody to be a link to the overall "Defenders" narrative. Misty Knight became that through her arc. Trying to deal with her partner being dirty, losing her arm in "The Defenders" and then gaining a totally boss bionic arm through Colleen, (Iron Fist's partner) it was a good part of the show, especially if you root for Misty.
And since I mentioned Iron Fist. Yes... He's in this for a couple of episodes. And believe it or not, I enjoyed his participation! Luke and Danny's chemistry is actually fun and temporarily brightened up the show a little. Their moment of fighting together with a heavy(!!!) Wu-Tang backing track was a highlight for me.
That is another positive. The action is way better this time around. Obviously having Luke flick people in the head is funny, but it's not always satisfying. So having him fight Bushmaster several times, having Misty fight with (and without) her arm, there was a healthy dose of action and everybody had their unique fighting style.
The biggest positive for me (and the reason why I'll always watch) is the theme and the music... OH the music! As we know, every episode was dedicated to legendary Pete Rock & CL Smooth which is a great way to pay homage. But the music interludes are so great. Stephen Marley, Rakim, KRS-One to name a few! That is probably the first time millennials have ever seen Rakim perform on their screen, in HD. But even though I enjoy them & realise how good they are as a episode structuring tool. It only works if the rest of the episode is at a fast pace. It doesn't quite work when we've been watching scenes of Luke talking around, maybe one scene of action and then getting the music acting as an intermission.
I think that is the chief problem with this show. The pacing is very slow. Don't get it twisted! The narrative is great, the characters are amazing, but the pacing is a little too methodical for my liking. It's not a time issue, it's more micro than that...
With that said, I watched the final frame of Luke suited & booted feeling satisfied. When you really immerse yourself, you root for Cage & Misty, you hate Mariah and want her to fall but at the same time, you're fascinated at how much of a snake she can be. In the moment, you don't know whether she is being truthful or not. It's only until the final episode you know her true feelings. You root against Bushmaster but by the end of the series, have the exact same feeling you did towards Killmonger.
I underestimated this show at the beginning. I'm not going to do that again. This show gets very dark at times, combine that with the slow pace you might be hesitant to continue. But the fact that they give time for every character to have their moment, you have to respect that. There are many shows that don't give characters the attention they deserve.
I don't know where this show is going to go next. But you know I'll be there to find out. And you should too.