Luke Cage is Netflix’s third original Marvel series after Daredevil and Jessica Jones. Mike Coulter as Cage was introduced in Jessica Jones. He has an affair with Jones’ private investigator until he discovers something from her past that connects them. I loved Jessica Jones but Luke Cage was a show I got lost in. Daredevil had Hell’s Kitchen. Cage has Harlem and it is not just a setting but a character. Every person is motivated by their place in Harlem. They love their music, their history, and their place in it. And I did too.
Like most superheroes, Luke Cage is a good man made extraordinary by life’s circumstances. He leads a quiet life in Harlem. He helps Pop (Frankie Faison) in the local barbershop, which is a go to place for all its residents, including the gangs of Harlem and their illegal deals. These crimes lead to Luke trying to save kids who have gone down the wrong path. This turns into a war between Luke and Cottonmouth (Mahershala Ali) and his councilwoman cousin Mariah Hillard (Alfre Woodward). Cottonmouth runs guns and drugs but not because he wants to. He is a classically trained pianist who was put in this life at a young age and knows no other way. He will not be disrespected and his anger leads him to make bad decisions and put his club Harlem Palace at risk. Shades (Theo Rossi, aka Juice from Sons of Anarchy) steps in to help Cottonmouth. He is the true villain of this story as emotion does not affect his actions. He radiates cool. Helping Luke are two strong female characters: Misty (Simone Missick), a cop who knows there is more to Luke than he lets on, and Claire (Rosario Dawson), a nurse from Hell’s Kitchen. Both are smart and not damsels in distress, which is refreshing.
Harlem is a proud and strong city, just like Luke Cage. Historical figures such as Crispus Attucks, Jackie Robinson, and Walter Mosley are mentioned throughout the 13 episodes as reminders of what everybody is fighting for. It doesn’t matter if you are a criminal like Cottonmouth, or the much beloved Pops, or hero Cage, it is known that history is a big part of who they are and they need to always fight for it.
The scenes where we are reminded that Cage is a bulletproof is when he is being shot at by the bad guys or the guys we have come to known as good guys, the police. This is a black man in a hoodie who keeps his head down. In this day and age, that is regarded as suspicious behavior. The irony is not lost that he is trying to save the people of Harlem and is initially attacked for it.
The music of Luke Cage stands out due to its part in Harlem Palace. Cottonmouth’s club is not only a place for people to come to dance, drink, and listen to music. His dealings are done in his office that overlooks the acts performing, with his portrait of Biggie always behind him. Faith Evans, The Delfonics, and Charles Bradley are all a part of the musical lineup. My favorite cameo I won’t give away but I knew I could use it to make my husband watch the show later on.
Do yourself a favor and check out Luke Cage as your next binge. It has a story with purpose, characters that are not just black and white, and music with history. And a superhero.
I hope you have a go to list of things that make you happy and you get to enjoy them over the weekend. Thanks for reading!