Say what you will about the Iron Fist character on television and there is a lot to say. But one of the highlights of The Defenders was the interaction between Luke Cage and Iron Fist. The big brother/little brother dynamic that they had was great. Since the release of The Defenders, it has been a little vague on how the Netflix shows were going to proceed afterwards. The second season of Jessica Jones does not look to feature any of other Defenders. So it’s nice to see Luke Cage continuing threads from that series. Possible lead up to a Heroes for Hire? Luke does need a job after all. The big question is…what brings Danny Rand to Harlem?
Ever since 2015 and the launch of Daredevil, the Marvel Netflix universe has been slowly building towards The Defenders. A second season of Daredevil followed as well as inaugural seasons for Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist. Now the time has come for the four main heroes of the series to come together and take on The Hand. They are joined by a majority of their supporting cast members from their respective series to help flesh out this side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Does it succeed or does it fail?
Well this is not the same thing as The Avengers did for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In fact it’s a pretty underwhelming affair. The four heroes don’t even all meet up until the end of episode three. What ultimately drives the series down is a lackluster villain. The Hand has been present in both seasons of Daredevil as well as the first season of Iron Fist. Now they are front and center here with Sigourney Weaver playing the head or should I say the main finger of The Hand. Playing the steely villain who we meet as she is just learning that she is set to die in the next few months and so has to advance The Hand’s plans. Elodie Yung reprises her role as Elektra and last we left off with the character, she was dead. Needless to say, she is back and does not get to do…at first but her role ramps up as the episodes go along.
It has been a while since we’ve seen some of the main quartet that makes up The Defenders especially Jessica Jones. So the first two episodes helps to reestablish where these characters are since we last saw them. Luke Cage is being released from prison, Jessica Jones has not progressed that much, Matt Murdock has given up being Daredevil and is clearly suffering from trauma and Danny Rand is returning to New York after hunting down those responsible for K’un Lun’s disappearance. The first two episodes are unique in that each character has their background illuminated by the primary color associated with their character, i.e. Matt Murdock usually has a red background. As the characters slowly come together, the colors blend together.
This event series essentially focuses as an Iron Fist season two. Depending on how you felt about that first season, this could be a negative or positive. I was not a fan of that season but the cracks in the overall Netflix side of the MCU show in this series. It’s clear that there was no real clear plan about what would happen when this show happened. As all the loose ends from the previous seasons, don’t totally mesh with one another. Luke Cage and Jessica Jones since those two series were so separate, it is easy to plop them into a situation. But with everything we learned about The Hand from Daredevil and Iron Fist, it is a mess and doesn’t totally make sense.
The main four actors; Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock/Daredevil, Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones, Mike Colter as Luke Cage and Finn Jones as Danny Rand/Iron Fist reprise their roles. The actors all do a fine and even one in particular do a better job in their role. Finn Jones is probably the most improved as this show is much improved and better written so he is able to match the material. His chemistry with Mike Colter is great and makes you want to see a Heroes for Hire show. The bond between the very secretive Matt Murdock and Jessica Jones, whose job is to invade people’s privacy, is also noteworthy. The four do really spark when interacting with each other.
The supporting cast for me was a little unnecessary for me. While it was nice to see some pop in and out, there seemed to be too much time. I still can’t believe Karen Page is a top reporter. The only ones who were necessary were Colleen Wing, Claire Temple and Misty Knight who basically could be considered Defenders. Special mention goes to Stick, played by Scott Glenn, who reprises his role. Playing the very pragmatic and ruthless blind man who knows more than he lets on. Stick is also an example of making things up as they go as some revelations by the character don’t really make that much sense in retrospect.
The action scenes are pretty much on par with Daredevil season two. It is cool seeing the different fighting styles in the heroes. Daredevil is a brawler with martial arts training. Iron Fist is pure martial arts. Luke Cage has fighting experience due to be a former marine and cop. Jessica Jones just relies on her super strength more than anything. When all four are in fight scenes together, it’s fun watching them mix and match. Luke Cage and Iron Fist seem to have the best fighting chemistry as they compliment one another very well.
Out of all the Netflic Marvel shows so far, this would probably be somewhere in the middle. The shorter episode count definitely helps as there is not that much padding. But the muddled plot and lackluster villains really drag down the season. It does a good job of helping to redeem Iron Fist and hopefully that wave continues into that character’s second season. The conclusion obviously helps set up the next phase (minus The Punisher) of the Netflix Marvel shows. So it does it’s job and now that the characters know one another, more crossovers would be appreciated. So it’s the end of phase one and onto phase two. The future is exciting.
The first trailer for The Defenders has been released and it says a lot yet doesn’t say much either.
- We know Sigourney Weaver is playing the big bad but we still know nothing about her other than she is either working with The Hand or she’s their boss
- Luke Cage will be released from prison and finally have that “coffee” with Claire Temple
- Jessica Jones will interfere with a case Misty Knight is working on and who is her lawyer…Matt Murdock.
- Elektra is back from the dead and putting the hurt on Matt.
- Best friends in the comics, Luke Cage and Danny Rand, will not be immediate best friends on the show.
- A quick shot of Colleen Wing
- An homage to the fist breaking scene in Luke Cage is reversed where Danny’s fist actually hurts Luke.
- Daredevil’s mentor, Stick, looks to be the one who helps really unite the team together. Telling them that they “need to get their shit together” because the “war is here”.
- Another hallway fight this time big enough to have four heroes duke it out with a group of baddies
- The group of heroes bonding (aka snarking) at a Chinese restaurant
To commemorate the 14th feature film and the eighth year of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Here are my top 16 heroes:
1. Captain America
2. The Falcon
3. Bucky Barnes
4. The Incredible Hulk
5. Black Panther
7. Luke Cage
8. Jessica Jones
10. Doctor Strange
11. Ant-Man / Giant Man
12. Scarlet Witch
15. Ghost Rider
The sixth episode of Luke Cage and the first major character death has arrived. So long Detective Rafael Scarfe. Frank Whaley is an actor I’ve always seen in stuff ever since I can remember, a true character actor. When he was promoting the show at San Diego Comic Con, it was easy to forget that he was playing the only major white character on the show. It would be easy to peg him as being a racist or corrupt cop and while the latter turned out to be true, he really defied expectations. He had a great rapport with Misty that never turned out to be disingenuous as the two greatly cared for one another. Despite finding out her partner was crooked, Misty shedding tears as she was losing her friend seemed authentic and never forced. We also learned that Scarfe was something of a sad clown. That his young son killed himself by accident after Scarfe left his gun unattended and the fact that we see his apartment and a picture of him and presumably his ex-wife. Scarfe was an unexpected surprise and will be missed.
Now to the episode proper, Cottonmouth is on his wits end thanks to Luke Cage. After a tense confrontation with Scarfe where the detective tries to extort the crime lord, instead of cutting his losses or outright killing him, he just leaves the detective wounded and in the wind. It’s a stupid mistake that Mariah calls him out on and one that does come back and bite him by the episode’s ends. Luke and Claire also reconnect as it turns out that Luke doesn’t even remember Claire from their meeting in Jessica Jones. A concussion would probably do that but they instantly click which turns out to be a good thing as a wounded Scarfe goes to Luke for help.
The thrust of the episode revolves around helping Scarfe and vice versa. Coming clean about his deeds in helping Cottonmouth and noting that he’s kept notes of all the misdeeds that crime boss committed. But Luke and Claire also have to keeo him safe as people are after the detective. The show does a good job of realizing that nothing and no one can hurt Luke Cage so hurt the people around him. That is what’s going to keep the suspense going. But ultimately the two fail in their attempt to save the detective but have put a hurt to Cottonmouth and his organization.
Mariah also gets more chance to shine as her connection to her cousin is brought up in a televised interview. We have seen that Mariah wants the best of both worlds. She sees herself as a politician but can’t seem to shake her criminal family legacy. When confronted with her family history, Mariah does not take it well at all. Sure the reporter was obviously trying to get under her skin but the fact that Mariah knows these questions will come up and still does not act “presentable” shows she may not be cut out for the world of politics…at least the city hall kind.
The fall of Cottonmouth has arrived and it’s only the sixth episode of the series. It is clear that something big is going to happen and soon. But what that is, is unknown. There is frequent mention of Diamondback who is the arch enemy of Luke Cage in the comics. No doubt that this character will play a role in the series but of what sort? Either way Luke has a new ally, and possible love interest, in Claire. So things are looking up for Luke but for how much longer?
Welcome back Claire Temple. The now former nurse who always seemed to be be caught up with super powered people has entered the world of Luke Cage. Following the events in Daredevil season two involving undead ninjas and losing her job in the process, Claire has returned home to Harlem. Though she does not interact with Luke in this episode, she knows that he is in the area due to the increased publicity that Luke has received following the previous episode. Claire has been touted as the character that will link all the Marvel Netflix shows together and it looks like another key piece of the puzzle has been laid out on the table.
But now that Luke has hurt Cottonmouth’s operations, Cottonmouth is broke and that makes him more dangerous. Knowing that he cannot kill Luke, Cottonmouth figures the best way to get rid of his problem is by having the people of Harlem do it. Extorting more than usual amounts and robbing people per the “Luke Cage tax”, the people are Harlem are none too happy about Luke. One person especially not happy is Misty Knight and with fair reason. She sees that the people of Harlem are suffering due to the war between Luke and Cottonmouth. It’s implied to be further complicated by Luke and Misty’s possible feelings for another. But Luke is still working for the people as we see that he owns up to potential problems caused by him and works to help those who are suffering because of him. Shades is also aware of who Luke Cage is now and just may have the weapon to beat him.
This episode is highlighted by the funeral for Pop. In it, we are given two eulogies delivered by Cottonmouth and Luke. We see the dichotomy between the two as Cottonmouth embraces the man that Pop used to be, someone who resorts to violence. Luke highlights the man that Pop died as, a man who made mistakes in his past but wanted to help the people of his community. The interesting thing is that common thread between the two as both men say that they want to help Harlem. But while Cottonmouth goes about it from a position of power, Luke wants to do it with the people. This scene really highlights both Mike Colter and Mahershala Ali as we’ve seen both men resort to violence but can be more tactful and charismatic when they have to be.
Another strong episode for Luke Cage. We’re finally starting to see the man and hero that Luke Cage is and feeling more comfortable both as a man and hero. We’re also starting to see the crumbling of Cottonmouth as he has never been challenged in this way. Gangsters are one thing but a bulletproof and super strong man that he knows nothing about is another thing. One can’t help but get the feeling that another shoe has to be dropped as this is only the fifth episode. Something big has to happen soon.
The fourth episode of Luke Cage is finally the origin of Luke Cage. There have been hints here and there throughout Jessica Jones and this series that Luke Cage was framed, a lab experiment, a fugitive from the law and “good at finding people”. Here we find out that all those were true and in fact more to the story. The man known as Luke Cage was formerly Carl Lucas and a former Marine and police officer and sent to Seagate Prison after being framed for a crime. We also see how he met Reva, his now deceased wife, who was the prison therapist.
This is all intercut with things that are happening in the present. Luke is trapped underneath tons of rubble along with his landlady and struggling to find a way out without killing them both. Misty and Scarfe are trying to put the pieces together as to how Luke keeps getting involved in these things as well. This is a relatively slow but important episode as most of the episode is focusing on the past. We see how Shades and Luke know one another and also explains why Shades does not immediately recognize Luke due to a (bad fake) beard and long hair. Also learning that Luke is the son of a preacher and that’s where he derives his new alias.
Other than the bad fake beard, it was another strong episode for the series. In one episode, we see what shaped Luke into the man that he is today. Also seeing that even though there are some slight differences due to circumstance, he is still the same man before he went to prison, when he was in prison and after he got out. While we see how he got the name Luke Cage, we also see that he has now revealed himself to the public. No longer a hero working in secrecy but one ready to be the hero that Harlem needs and deserves.
The third episode of Luke Cage is where things finally get up and going. I have yet to mention Mercedes ‘Misty’ Knight. A detective whom Luke had a one night stand with in the first episode and is basically after the same thing that Luke is after. This episode is really the first one where she shined for me. Her familiarity with the community helps carries more weight for her as a police officer especially during a game of HORSE at the local basketball court. The dichotomy that she has with her partner, Scarfe, is an interesting one. Scarfe is an older white detective while Misty is a younger black woman. It’s clear that they play that fact up during their interrogations but it’s also apparent that it is something of an act for Scarfe. But Misty Knight really shines and it’s apparent she is the deuteragonist in this series.
But after the events of the previous episode, Luke Cage is out to make Cottonmouth, and by extension Mariah Dillard, out to suffer. Knowing that the best way to hurt a crime lord is through their money. This is probably the best use of Luke Cage and his abilities. Luke knows that he is a bull in a china shop so using this keen ability to bust up Cottonmouth’s stash houses all with the intent of him putting all his money in one location, which just happens to be Mariah’s office. This culminates in Luke taking down the “fortress” in Harlem all while shrugging off the numerous attacks coming his way. It seems that it would be hard to make a fight with tons of non powered people against a man who is like a tank exciting but the creative team behind the show make it work. All set the tune of Wu-Tang Clan’s “Bring Da Ruckus”
The only fault that this episode really suffers from is a twist towards the end. A character make a face to heel turn that was pretty predictable. In fact, I thought the twist was going to be that this character was not corrupt as it was pretty obvious. But this character has thrown a wrench in Luke’s plan and so Luke may have won the battle but he is far from winning the war against Cottonmouth. But now thanks to this character knows that Luke Cage is responsible for all his trouble and what better way to retaliate against a bulletproof man than with a rocket launcher to Luke. It was a literal explosive cliffhanger as we know Luke can shrug off many things (and since he’s the main character we know he’ll live) but it looked to be a more direct hit than anything and who knows he might be worse for wear.