Netflix Summary: Luke gets closer to the truth about Reva and her part in his fate, while Mariah wrestles with the morality of her new role. Misty hunts for Luke.
After reviving Luke, Claire proposes setting off an explosion in the acid bath to replicated the conditions of the experiment. It is only after this that she is able to successfully extract the shrapnel from Luke’s wounds.
Mariah meets with Diamondback at his base of operation where he reveals his plan to sell the Judas bullets, a plan that does not sit well with Mariah at all.
Diamondback dons a metal glove and kills a police officer with a single punch, convincingly framing Luke for yet another murder. Although Misty remains unconvinced she has a hard time convincing anyone else on the force of that. But the police are not the only ones in a rage over this incident. Mariah is also furious. The attention that Diamondback has brought to Harlem has set off a chain reaction and Mariah is not happy about what has happened to her city.
With cops on the war path tensions are running high and they are cracking down on the citizens of Harlem. Their pressing leads to the young boy Luke protected at Pop’s Barbershop being brought in for questioning. He insists that Luke is a good man and wouldn’t kill a cop but no one wants to hear that either.
Back at Dr. Burnstein’s residence, Luke learns the truth about Reva’s involvement with the experiments done to him at Seagate Prison after watching her video files. He learns that Reva’s therapy sessions were meant to separate the regular inmates from potential test suspects and that Luke was their most promising subject. Burnstein tries to convince Luke to continue to work with him on the experiments because his power hold the secrets to potential immortality but Luke becomes enraged and destroys Burnstein’s barn before leaving. But Burnstein’s barn isn’t the only thing falling apart. While Misty finally pieces together, through facial recognition, Diamondback’s identity, the boy who was being interrogated is beaten badly. This gives Mariah and his mother, a friend of Pop and soon to be lawyer, a case to indite the police department and push Mariah’s anti-Luke agenda. Outside the station, Mariah rallies against the violence against the black men in their community and focuses the blame on the police’s inability to bring in Luke Cage. She plans to organize a rally at Harlem’s Paradise where she will unveil her plan for the Judas bullets. But Misty knows that something doesn’t smell right.
She goes to Chico Domingo’s boxing gym and asks him about Diamondback. Although he is close lipped about specifics, he does mention that she should check out Harlems Paradise, as it’s under “new management”. Far away from Harlem, Luke and Claire return to Luke’s boyhood home in Georgia where they examine his father’s old church, which is abandoned and in disarray. As he walks through the familiar pews, he recalls the hostility between his and Willis’ mother and comes to face the truth. Willis really is his brother.
Mariah holds her rally at Harlem’s Paradise. Misty and Luke both show up. Misty sees Diamondback and follows him upstairs. Diamondback shoots her but Luke arrives just in time to save her from being killed. A gun battle ensues and Harlem’s Paradise devolves in to chaos.
Luke Cage has, to this point had a few of the biggest highs and deepest low points of my Marvel/Netflix watching experience. I loved the relationship between Cottonmouth and Mariah, I thoroughly enjoy Misty’s bullheaded tenacity, and I grow to enjoy the new relationship between Shades and Mariah more and more. However, I’ve never been a huge fan of Luke Cage’s character nor Mr. Coulter’s performance of said character and as the finale looms closer and some of the biggest, most heart wrenching revelations having already been brought to light, I realize that this is a problem that will never be rectified. The title of this episode is “Take it Personal” and I’m beginning to do just that.
I will start with my issues first so I can end on a high note.
Ok. There’s no getting around it. Claire is going to be a main player and love interest for Luke in this series. I had a bit more leniency on Claire because I knew she was a transplant from another series and, like Nick Fury in the Avengers, would show up in all the Marvel/Netflix series, tying them all together. But now that that she has surpassed the point of an Easter Egg tie-in character that stays for a few episodes then leaves to go back to her own series, I have to be a bit harsher. I HATE the idea of her as the love interest and I am annoyed with her need to be everywhere and involved in everything.
Her presence lends itself as a crutch, allowing the writers to keep our hero passive. Luke allows the plot to move around him, rather than be truly proactive. By comparison, Claire is much more active. Claire is tough, street smart, no-nonsense, with a super convenient skill set that makes her invaluable, and a killer right hook. She always seems to know the right thing to say to motivate Luke, she always knows someone who can conveniently get them what they need, and though she plays at ‘hard to get’ she obviously has deep feelings for him that resolve her to follow him anywhere. That may sound great and all but, in my opinion, all that makes Claire is a Mary Sue. A perfect girl. She has a few lines of dialogue with her mother about her ‘calling’ but other than that she has no real development. You never see her trip and fall, you never see her fall short of what she needs to do, she came in super abruptly, so anyone who is unfamiliar with her in Daredevil has little reference to her character, and her strong feelings for Luke (and his feelings for her) seem to come out of nowhere. What’s more, the fact that Claire is a transplant from Daredevil is symbolic of one of the main issues this story addresses. As Cottonmouth said in his ill received speech at Pop’s funeral, Harlem is being besieged by outsiders. His words seem extremely relevant now. Luke Cage, a show with so much promise, seems to be getting watered down by it’s own outsiders. Characters like Claire, Diamondback, and even Luke himself (who made his debut in Jessica Jones), seem to be the most contrived and out of place elements in the whole show.
Speaking of contrived, the Reva bombshell reveal also seemed to serve no real purpose. Other than the fact that it seems to negate the flashbacks of Luke at Seagate as well as undermine the heartache Luke experienced at her death in Jessica Jones, the reveal that she was involved in the experimentation on Luke the whole time seems to serve no real purpose other than to give Luke permission to let her go, convince the audience that he was only in love with the ‘idea’ of her (implying that any feelings he shows for Claire or Jessica down the line will be the real deal), and giving both Luke and Claire an excuse to angrily leave Dr. Burnstein’s home after he helped save his life.
But that wasn’t the only contrived plot element this episode. Not by a long shot. And I’m sad to say that my girl Mariah was involved in this one.
Now one of the big draws to a show like Luke Cage is it’s willingness to use a superhero lens to shed light on social justice issues in the black community. I mentioned in my last review, that the show’s kowtowing to the police department can be a bit unnecessary but this episode brings it to a new, and unrealistic level.
When a police officer is killed, the whole department mobilizes and begins to crack down on the citizens of Harlem trying to get info on Luke Cage. Believable enough. This leads to unrest in the community and flared tensions on both sides. Still fine. Caught up in the heat of it all, a detective brutalizes a young black boy, Lonnie, in order to get answers on Luke’s whereabouts. Also fine. But this is the wrong black kid to rough up. His mother is not only a lawyer but a friend of Mariah Dillard, and
Lonnie’s beaten face becomes a symbol which Mariah can use to stoke up the flames of hostility in the community, a move that she is forced to make because of Diamondback. I can still dig it. So what does she do with these flames of hostility? She convinces people that the problem is the black man the police were searching for, Luke Cage. In fact, this whole thing could have been avoided and the black and Latino members of their community would be safer if the police didn’t feel so impotent in dealing with these freaks, if they only had deadlier heavy artillery… and the crowd agrees…
You expect me to believe that a group of angry black Harlemites would look at Lonnie’s beaten, bloody face and say, “yeah, the police need bigger guns”. AWE HELL NAH! Miss Mariah would have been booted right off her soap box. A man with impenetrable skin I can buy. This, I cannot. They were better off keeping the ‘need to militarize the police and give them super bullets’ thing a political matter between Mariah and the police department. Something that the community fears and plays on Mariah’s conflicted feelings working for a maniac like Diamondback who cares little for her community. But instead they went with the more bombastic approach, which makes sense considering who’s plan it was.
Oh Diamondback… you make me miss Cottonmouth SOOOOOOO much! He and his plans are so over the top, it makes me truly wonder how a clown like him could have made it to the position he is in. When Diamondback dons that power glove and kills the police officer, then goes out of his way to scream over and over that he was Luke Cage, my draw dropped. Literally. It dropped. I let out a painful groan. For sure, no one would buy this stupid act. Who kills a police officer in broad daylight for no apparent reason and then shouts his name for all to hear, just to run off in to hiding? No one! No one does that! No one would believe someone would do that! But it worked! And I was ready to turn the series off. No more. No more reviews, no more nothing. I do not appreciate my intelligence being insulted in such an overt way. If the intention was to make me hate Diamondback, congratulations, you did it! But not for the right reasons. I mean, seriously, shooting up the “Anti-Luke” meeting being held at your own club? Shooting a police officer in front of all those people? Really? How? How are you our main bad guy? How are you what comes after Cottonmouth?I need Mariah to wake up and realize that she has the potential to be far more dangerous than Diamondback and his daddy issues could ever hope to be.
This leads me, of course, to the characters that keep me watching this show, in all honesty. Mariah and Misty. Despite her role in the “militarize the police” plan that her community would realistically never go for, Mariah’s conflicted feelings made this plot line far more believable and also further rounded out her character.She is not all lip service. Mariah does not wish to acquire power if it means that the city of Harlem must become collateral damage, but her hands are tied. Meanwhile, Misty, freshly back on the beat knows that something is amiss but her hands are tied as well. She must pursue Luke even though all signs point to the mysterious man who held her at gunpoint. It is only because of her dogged determination that she pursues Diamondback and quickly comes to the realization that Luke had to go all the way to Georgia to to find. It makes Luke and Claire’s little pilgrimage all the more pointless when the info was that easy to find. Seriously, does Claire have no convenient hook-ups in the department that she could have used?
I’m ready for a Misty Knight spinoff. No crossover characters required.