Luke Cage Season One
released OUT NOW! 2016 | 15 | SVOD Showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker Cast Mike Colter, simone Missick, Mahershala ali, rosario dawson
Although not credited in the cast list, the real star of Luke Cage is Harlem. The latest Netflix series makes it look like a brilliantly vibrant, creative, colourful, culturally important must-see stop on anyone’s grand tour. Even with all the random ultraviolence. Though some viewers might need a phrasebook to translate lingo like “You know I ain’t calling no po-po. Then he bounced.”
Admittedly, you get the feeling this is a rose-tinted view of the place; an idealised Harlem. What you can’t deny is that Marvel and Netflix haven’t abandoned their usual stomping ground of Hell’s Kitchen for purely aesthetic reasons. Luke Cage is black to its core; it’s about black issues; its soul is pure soul music; it’s achingly topical. The current real world clashes between cops and racial minorities are reflected here, and in no way does it feel trite.
The amazing thing is that it does this while being the most superhero-y Netflix show yet. Sure, there’s the requisite quota of grim and gritty, as Luke Cage reluctantly steps out of the shadows to free Harlem from the grip of a gangster dynasty headed up by nightclub owner Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes (Mahershala Ali). But there’s also more comic-book-style fun, quipping and superheroics.
So while the series is effortlessly cool and has street cred, it’s also adorably geeky. There are loads of Easter Eggs for Marvel fans to pick up on; if hearing Misty Knight being told at one point that she might lose her arm makes you smile, there’s plenty more like that to enjoy.
As Cage, Mike Colter is great at conveying a guy who’s torn between world-weary victim and tough guy who just loves bashing things. The villains are first rate too. Jessica Jones’s Kilgrave is a tough act to follow, so Luke Cage has gone for quantity instead, giving us a colourful range of psychopaths, from the coiled-spring Cottonmouth, to the gloriously bonkers Mariah Dillard and the unsettlingly creepy Shades (Theo Rossi). There’s also somebody else, who it’d be a spoiler to mention, who’s an oddly one-note, one-grudge baddie – but even he’s only a failure on Netflix/Marvel terms and is better than most of the MCU villains. There are some fantastic roles for the female good guys too; Rossario Dawson’s Claire Temple finally gets a decent chunk of the action, while Simone Missick’s gutsy Misty Knight makes you wish Netflix would commission a Daughters of the Dragon series right now.
There are the usual Netflix pacing issues. A few episodes towards the end are artlessly padded and plod. Occasionally the attempts to give the show a ’70s blaxploitation vibe feel a little self-conscious. But ignore such quibbles and let this black magic cast its spell over you. Dave Golder
All of the series’ episode titles are the names of songs by influential East Coast hip hop duo Gang Starr.
His trampoline broken, Karl desperately tried other ways to get in the air.