Luke Cage: Season 2, Episode 1 – “Soul Brother #1” Review

I’m entering, with a bit of trepidation, into season 2 of Luke Cage. When I started this blog, I initially reviewed both Luke Cage and Jessica Jones. I really enjoyed those shows and watching them made me want to explore the other Marvel Netflix shows. However, I found Daredevil season 1 hard to get through and I never finished. I had no interest in Iron Fist either, but attempted – and only managed to watch a single episode before putting down the remote. Having not finished Daredevil or Iron Fist, I didn’t find it wise to dive in to The Defenders. However, when Jessica Jones Season 2 came out, I didn’t have much of a problem following along, so I figured that Luke Cage would be the same. Yet, I came in with trepidation, not only because I didn’t watch The Defenders but because I found season 2 of Jessica Jones severely lacking – so much so, that I didn’t bother reviewing it on the blog.

I found that the story, without a villain as devilishly sinister as Killgrave meandered aimlessly, and relied too heavily on the things that made Jessica Jones stand out the first time around – making things I used to appreciate about the show, too much to take. Specifically, it’s feminist slant, it’s development of female friendship, and it’s mentally and emotionally fractured main character. By the time it was over, I was tallying up all the overt uses modern feminist storytelling, I hated Trish, and I couldn’t understand why anyone actually liked Jessica at all. I was fatigued and more than a little disappointed.

And so I feared, that Luke Cage, may follow suit, turning the things I loved about the first season in to obstacles to overcome. Cottonmouth and Mariah, were by far my favorite parts of the first season, and I loved it’s modern blaxploitation style, and focus on black issues. Would they jump the gun and overdo it this season?

Having watched the first episode, I have my concerns, but I’m willing to give it a shot.

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Luke Cage season 2 picks up from the events of The Defenders. Luke is out of jail and back in Harlem and more popular than ever. This increase in popularity, however, has become a bit of a double edged sword. Although he gets more respect from the people of the neighborhood, from the media and even more agency with the police department, it also has a number of drawbacks that seem as though they will play a major role in the season. Namely, the fact that there is an app for finding him, a new drug on the street bearing his name, and far more expectations from the people in the community, for Luke to fix it’s many problems.

As the season opens we get to see Luke taking down drug dealers and reveling in his newfound popularity as a preacher practices giving a sermon about the dangers of relying on one man. This preacher turns out to be Luke’s father (apparently not dead) and now relocated to Harlem. As one might expect, Luke does not take too kindly to his father’s presence in Harlem, and their animosity towards each other reveals a side of Luke we didn’t get to see very much of back in the first season.

6e7959dc-luke-cage-season-2-photo010-1528224997080_1280wBy all accounts, season 2 Luke seems like a far departure from season 1. He is more aggressive, more obsessed with “the job”, more testy, more petty, and yes, even more arrogant than he was before. Perhaps being sent back to prison, after everything he did to save the city from Diamondback, disillusioned him. Maybe the pressure of having an entire city idolizing him has affected him. Maybe the realization that the Judas bullets no longer seem to affect him has made him feel untouchable, even god-like. Perhaps he’s fed in to his own hype. Maybe a combination of all those things? Either way, they have made him more complex, and I’d say that’s a good sign, but we shall see how they approach this. Undoubtably, there will be a point where he falters, and his newfound bravado will be his undoing.

Misty Knight returns this season, eager to get back to work after loosing her right arm during the events of The Defenders. After a heart to heart with Claire and turning down an invitation from Luke to team up, Misty goes back to the police station, ready to resume her work. But not everyone is thrilled to see her come back. I must confess, I wanted to like Misty a lot more last season, but it was hard due to how she was written after the first few episodes. She just came across as a bitter person who gets put into horrible positions that everyone (especially Luke) just seems to shrug off. This season, she has a new reason to be bitter, and is set to be in more horrible positions that everyone will just seem to shrug off. The lady lost an arm! And she’s not quite over it. I do like that, at the very least, Luke and Claire are squarely on her side now.

21-luke-cage-201.w710.h473Then there’s Mariah – and I must say, this broke my heart to pieces. Mariah is trying to get out and go legit, but she needs $20 million to do it. In order to get in with a combat plastics manufacturer, Mariah employs – what appears to be, the skeeziest, most red flag waving accountant and gives him full power of attorney. She plans to sell her guns and arms connections to one of three potential clients, in exchange for the cash. Her right hand man, Shades, doesn’t seem very fond of this idea – which doesn’t bode well, but Mariah seems almost oblivious to this. She is single-mindedly focused on going straight and preserving her legacy.  Also, she and Shades appear to be a very intimate couple, which makes everyone around them (including Shades and the audience) extremely uncomfortable. Seriously, Shades looked like he’d been taken hostage and the whole display was just sad. Between the “going legit” plotline, the accountant she hired, and the fact that Shades seems to have had it ‘up to here’ with being Mariah’s boy toy, I have a bad feeling they are going to completely neuter my girl this season.

Please don’t do it. Prove me wrong!

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Overall, the season seems to be starting off okay – but if I had to say, the standout moment was the introduction of Bushmaster. His scene where he fights against Nigel and his men, had me literally screaming and squirming in my seat. He is riveting! Now, as long as they don’t kill him off half way through the season, we’re golden.

I wouldn’t say the season started off super strong. It had a few choice moments but overall, it was to get the audience re-acquainted with it’s characters and the world. It definitely has my interest. I see the same elements I saw in the first season; the nods to blaxploitation in the music and style, the injection of books and fashions from black artists, the love letter to Harlem and the people in it. But I can also see that they are going to be telling a different story than they did last season. Characters like Luke and Mariah seem nearly unrecognizable and that can be either a great asset or a severe miscalculation.

Time will tell.

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