Monday, October 03, 2016

Marvel's Luke Cage on Netflix

© by Gerald So | G_SO at YAHOO dot COM | 6:00 A.M.

Mike Colter reprises his Jessica Jones role of tough-skinned Luke Cage for Cage's own 13-episode series leading up to next years Defenders event. Written and produced by Cheo Hodari Coker (Southland, NCIS: Los Angeles. Almost Human, Ray Donovan), the show has instant street cred, distinguishing itself from the more fantastic Daredevil and Jessica Jones. Looking to keep his strength mostly secret, Cage works at beloved Pop's barbershop and fills in for a friend tending bar at Harlem's Paradise nightclub.

Club owner crime boss Cornell "Cottonmouth" Stokes (Mahershala Ali) isn't pitted against Cage to begin with, thanks to their mutual respect for Pop. The balance is tipped when two of Cottonmouth's employees try to rob him. One of them, Chico, seeks refuge at Pop's, but the man Cottonmouth sends to kill him goes overboard, shooting up the entire shop. Luke is able to shield Chico, but Pop is killed.

Like Jessica Jones and Daredevil Season 2, Luke Cage runs into pacing problems. Episode 4 unnecessarily goes into the backstory of how Luke got his powers in prison, and yet Luke's showdown with Cottonmouth results in Cottonmouth being arrested by Episode 6, at which point I double-checked that there were thirteen episodes in all.

In the second half, Luke's old nemesis, Willis Stryker (Erik LaRay Harvey), reemerges with armor-piercing bullets, one of Justin Hammer's knockoff Iron Man suits, and a penchant for melodramatically quoting the Bible to justify himself. By the end, new masterminds rise to power, and Cage decides it's time to answer for his criminal record. Sorry to spoil that, but I think it's a flaw in most of today's gritter takes on superheroes. The point of superhero stories is that good still overcomes evil and wins. Dress your story in so much grit that you fail to make that point, and your story fails. In a world as naturally gritty as Cage's, it's even more important to show that good wins. I didn't want to wait for next season or The Defenders to see it.

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