This article consists of nothing but Luke Cage spoilers.
Marvel’s Luke Cage Netflix series has finally arrived, and as is usually the case with these shows, it’s steeped in Marvel Universe history. We’ve been combing through these episodes looking for cool stuff, and pulling out a little more history and context for these characters for those looking to dig a little deeper.
I’m usually pretty good at this, but there’s always stuff that I miss. So here’s how this works. If you spot something I missed, shout it out down in the comments, or shout it right at me on Twitter (@wayoutstuff), and if it checks out, I’ll update this article. With your help, this will become the most complete guide to the Luke Cage Netflix series out there!
I’ve tried not to put spoilers for future episodes in individual entries, but if you’re down in the comments, beware, as there’s no way for me to control what you see, and I need you folks to help me spot what I missed the first time around!
So let’s get this started…
Luke Cage Episode 1: Moment of Truth
With tension building in the streets of Harlem thanks to ruthless club owner Cottonmouth, Luke finds it increasingly difficult to live a quiet life.
Right off the bat, you should know that music plays a more important part in Luke Cage than it does in any other Marvel Studios project, with the possible exception of Guardians of the Galaxy. Every episode is named after a Gang Starr track. So just to set the mood, we’ll kick off each entry with exactly that.
Let’s start with the major characters introduced in the episode…
– So, we may as well get this stuff out of the way up front. Luke Cage has been around the Marvel Universe since 1972. He was the first black superhero to headline his own title, in the pages of Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #1. He was created by Archie Goodwin, John Romita Sr., and George Tuska. While the early comics were kind of a blaxploitation pastiche, the Netflix version of the character owes more to the costume-free version we’ve seen in the comics of the last 15 years or so.
Still, the show is peppered with nods to some of the more notable elements of his comic book past, such as:
– Luke’s traditional yellow and black garb is teased by the color scheme of the hoodie you keep seeing him wearing on this show, too. We’ll get more into his old comic book look in a later entry, because it becomes really appropriate.
– Luke jokes that he “isn’t for hire” which is, of course, a jab at his first comic book series title, as well as how his team-up with Iron Fist was billed (they were the “heroes for hire”).
– Pops jokingly calls luke “Power Man” which is, of course, the superhero codename Luke went by in the ’70s, and that was also the title of his comic after it was changed. He also references other heroes “downtown.” I imagine this is probably a reference to the Avengers rather than Daredevil or Jessica Jones.
– The nightmares Luke is having are (unsurprisingly) related to his origin story, but this isn’t the place to discuss it, as it has potential spoilers for a future episode.
– Luke’s “I don’t curse” thing is markedly different from his comic book version. While 1970s comics wouldn’t allow Luke to use actual four-letter swear words, it was usually pretty apparent what he was actually saying/thinking, and “sweet Christmas” was only the start of it. See for yourself…
In the recent (and essential and hilarious) Power Man and Iron Fist comic by David Walker, Sanford Greene, and Lee Loughridge, Luke’s cursing has become such a problem that he’s had to start substituting less harmful, ridiculous words.
Anyway, this is a long way of saying that the comic book version curses like a sailor, but the TV version’s more low-key approach falls into the whole “black Superman” thing this show is doing so well. I’ll get into more of that in a bit when it becomes appropriate.
– Alfre Woodard’s Mariah Dillard is a far more, shall we say, nuanced version of the character of Black Mariah than the one who was introduced in Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #5 in 1973. That version of Mariah wasn’t a politician, and was ummmm…just not great, ok?
She recently showed up in Walker and Greene’s aforementioned (and awesome…have I mentioned that this comic is awesome?) Power Man and Iron Fist comic and wasn’t a complete embarassment. Ms. Woodard’s performance is where it’s at, though.
– Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes first appeared in Power Man #18 in 1974 (remember how I mentioned above that Luke’s comic book got a new title?). He was created by Len Wein and George Tuska.
He wasn’t a nightclub owner, but he sure was a natty dresser, just like his Netflix counterpart.
His primary trade was in drugs rather than in high-tech weapons, though. The comics version of Cottonmouth was more explicitly tied to Luke’s past than what we seem to be getting here.
– That Biggie portrait in Cornell’s office is based on the cover of the December 20, 1993 issue of Rolling Stone. The photo was taken by Barron Claiborne.
Misty Knight has been kicking around the Marvel universe since 1975 when she first appeared in Marvel Premiere #21. It’s worth noting that at the time Marvel Premiere was an Iron Fist showcase, so she really kicked off as an Iron Fist supporting character, making it a safe bet we’ll see more of her when he gets his own series.
Here’s a look at her comic book counterpart…
Tony Stark designed that bionic arm, so if they’re looking for an excuse to get a Robert Downey Jr. cameo into one of these things in the future, that’s the way to do it.
After her time with the NYPD, Misty eventually went into business for herself as a PI with her partner, Colleen Wing, who will also be showing up on the Netflix Iron Fist series.
But really, Simone Missick is so brilliant as Misty Knight that Marvel should consider giving her a Netflix series of her own one of these days, too.
– Frank Whaley’s character, Rafael Scarfe is indeed right out of Marvel Comics, and was, just like he is here, Misty Knight’s partner on the force. He was created by Chris Claremont and Pat Broderick and first appeared in Marvel Premiere #23 in 1975. He’s still kicking around, too.
So, Shades is a character with a publication history as long as Luke’s, dating all the way back to Luke Cage Hero For Hire #1 in 1972. And just like he does here, he’s got ties to Luke’s mysterious past. Something tells me that they won’t get around to giving him the laser-blasting sunglasses the character ended up getting in the comics, though. It’s probably for the best.
Right now, Shades is working for someone mysterious named “Diamondback.” This is a pretty major piece of Luke’s history, too, but if I reveal too much here, I run the risk of spoiling things later on, so let’s hold off for now. I will say this much: “Diamondback” isn’t the sometimes criminal/sometimes Captain America girlfriend who worked for Marvel’s Serpent Society.
One other non-spoilery Diamondback detail, though. The comic book Diamondback did indeed have a thing for weapons that appeared to be traditional, but had an explosive gimmick. In his case it was knives. Here, it’s guns and Chitauri tech.
And while we’re on the subject of Shades and his ties to Luke, we get a reference to Seagate Prison, which coincidentally also first appeared in Luke Cage, Hero For Hire #1. Despite what I wrote earlier, this isn’t the first Marvel Cinematic Universe reference to Seagate, which has already appeared in the post Iron Man 3 Marvel One-Shot “All Hail the King” which was included on the DVD and Blu-ray release of Thor: The Dark World. (thanks to Stuck In The Vortex down in the comments for correcting me!)
– Correct me if I’m wrong on this one, but I can’t find any comic book parallel for Pops. But his “always forward, forward always” saying is about as good a potential superhero motto as I’ve ever heard!
– The conversation in Pops’ barber shop is about the New York Knicks in the ’90s, and I have to say, they’re dead right about Pat Riley. Also note that John Starks is my favorite basketball player of all time.
– I love the rather specific way “the incident” (the big battle from the first Avengers film) is handled throughout this show. The other Netflix shows are set in Hell’s Kitchen, which was closer to the midtown battle and its devastation, and so have a more firsthand feel for the devastation. But Harlem is way the hell uptown, so you’ve got folks selling bootleg footage of the battles like they’re the hottest new movies. It’s a nice touch.
– I feel like it’s been ages since we’ve had any mention of Iron Man 2 baddie, Justin Hammer, but here we are with the mysterious “Justin Hammer tech” as the main driving force of this arms deal.
– We get a glimpse of Luke’s tragic ex, Reva Connors, here, but I’m not going to get into it until a later episode.
– It’s nice to see fictional Marvel Universe network WJBP-TV back for another round, and that’s Dawn Lyen-Gardner as Megan McLaren, a character who first appeared in Thunderbolts #1 back in 1997.
– One of the tracks Raphael Saadiq performs at the Harlem Nightclub is this gem, “Good Man.”
I’ll be listening to this for the rest of the month.
Luke Cage Episode 2: Code of the Streets
Luke is pulled deeper into the fight for his neighborhood when, as a favor to an old friend, he tries to help a kid who’s in trouble with Cottonmouth.
Here’s a little “Code of the Streets” for you…
Luke is reading Walter Mosley’s Little Green, about hardboiled detective Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins. What’s interesting about Little Green and how it ties into Luke’s origin is that in the previous book in that series, Rawlins endured a car accident and went into a coma. It’s in Little Green that he “returns to life” similar to how Luke abandons his previous life as a convict in order to become a hero.
There’s also a mention of author Chester Himes, the author of the Harlem Detective series of novels. According to Michael (not me, I swear!) in the comments, Himes was one of the authors that Luke Cage co-creator Archie Goodwin read when he was first putting the character together. The most famous movie based on these books is probably 1991’s A Rage in Harlem.
– Luke mentions that he’s from “Savannah.” I don’t know if this is a cover story or not, as the comic book version was born and raised in Harlem. But Seagate Prison is off the coast of Georgia, so maybe this is Luke’s little nod to his time there.
– Rob Morgan is here as Daredevil’s favorite punching bag, Turk Barrett. I absolutely love Mr. Morgan’s portrayal of Turk, and it’s awesome how even here, no matter what situation you put him in, ol’ Turk just cannot win.
– Luke getting his headphones on with some music to psyche himself up is kind of reminiscent of how Jessica went in for her assault on Kilgrave at the end of Jessica Jones season one. Luke was around for that, so he’d certainly remember if that’s the case.
Then again, everyone listens to music when they work out, right? And what Luke is about to do is kind of the superhero equivalent of a workout. As a side note, the tunes from this show are going to be the soundtrack to all of my runs and workouts for all eternity.
Luke Cage Episode 3: Who’s Gonna Take the Weight?
In the aftermath of a chaotic event at a favorite Harlem hangout, Luke heeds the call to action — and hits Cottonmouth where he’ll feel it most.
– We learn in this episode that Pops’ real name is Henry Hunter, and no, there’s still no obvious Marvel Comics equivalent here, although (thanks @polodarkwater on Twitter for reminding me!), he does have the traditional comic book double initial name (think Peter Parker, Scott Summers, Lois Lane, etc).
– The mysterious soul man singing in the Harlem Paradise is Charles Bradley, and the song, which is my new obsession and probably yours, too is “Ain’t it a Sin.”
Seriously, Charles Bradley, where have you been all of my life?
– The big brawl here is this show’s equivalent of Daredevil season one’s hallway fight. What’s nice about this is that it isn’t trying to duplicate it, it’s not an insane tracking shot, and instead of martial arts mastery, this is just a showcase for Luke’s brute force.
And, of course, the tune is Wu-Tang Clan’s “Bring the Ruckus” the first song from their classic debut album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). This is a brilliant choice, but there’s one problem: it prominently features the one and only word that Marvel’s Netflix shows apparently won’t say, so this a slightly sanitized version. It’s a little ridiculous, to tell you the truth. We had a guy impale his eye on a rusty spike in season one of Daredevil but we can’t hear “fuck” in a song? C’mon, Marvel.
The bullet-riddled hoodie is some powerful symbolism. It recalls the tragic murder of Trayvon Martin and it’s absolutely no accident that they’re using this to such powerful effect here.
– We get to hear Ms. Dillard’s “Black Mariah” nickname, and clearly she doesn’t care for it. And who could blame her, right? Do we need another example of how ridiculous her comic book counterpart was?
Luke Cage Episode 4: Step in the Arena
As he rescues a victim of Cottonmouth’s vengeance, Luke remembers his earlier life and the conspiracy that led to his superhuman strength.
So, this is the episode that finally goes into detail about Luke’s origin story. With a few details added, it’s a remarkably faithful interpretation of what went down in Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #1.
Lots of the little details are here, like Warden Stuart (who in the comics had a son who became a minor supervillain by the name of Stiletto), and, of course, Luke’s racist-ass tormentor, Billy Bob Rackham.
And it seems like this episode’s title track, “Step in the Arena” is a reference to the prison fight club.
In the comics, Dr. Noah Burstein’s experiments in the comics were an attempt to duplicate the Captain America super soldier serum (and don’t forget, from a Marvel Cinematic Universe chronological standpoint, this flashback almost certainly takes place before Cap was thawed out). Usually these Netflix shows are good about existing side-by-side with the movies without getting too tied up in their continuity, but this would be a nice way to tie that in. On the other hand, it’s more likely that this will be portrayed as some kind of extension of the experiments that created Kilgrave.
– The guy hanging around with Shades in prison is played by Thomas Q. Jones. And while I don’t think we ever hear his name on screen, he’s credited as Comanche (I never would have spotted this if Tyrone down in the comments hadn’t pointed it out first). In that Luke Cage, Hero For Hire #1 origin story, Shades was indeed accompanied by a young fella named Comanche. He ended up with a costume of his own and would annoy Luke at Shades’ side in the future, too.
– So, remember when I promised you that we’d get into the details of Luke’s comic book look? Well, now is the time. While this wasn’t my favorite episode (I found it a little too heavy-handed and talky), it features the most clever nods to that unfortunate ’70s costume I could possibly imagine.
Note when Luke emerges from the experiment:
Does the headgear and bracelets look familiar? And then, of course, he lifts that yellow blouse from some poor soul’s washing line after his escape…
– We finally get the story of how Luke and Reva met, and yes, she was there in the comic as well, although she had a different link to his past, and met a very different tragic end than what we got on Jessica Jones.
– I just want to point out how much I enjoyed the conversation about martial arts classics Five Deadly Venoms and Fist of Legend. For one thing, Five Deadly Venoms is freakin’ amazing and you absolutely need to see it. But it’s also a favorite of the Wu-Tang Clan, and we know that Luke is fond of them. I’m not sure I agree with the sentiment that Jet Li’s Fist of Legend is better than Bruce Lee’s original, but it’s totally worth checking out.
Luke Cage Episode 5: Just to Get a Rep
Cottonmouth strikes back at Luke by taking vengeance out on the people of Harlem, while Detectives Knight and Scarfe face an unexpected threat.
– So, after the events of episode 4, Luke starts operating in public, and lets folks know who he is. This is, more or less, the beginning of the “Luke Cage as street level problem solver” character, which is really how he was envisioned in the comics.
– Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple finally makes her big entrance in this episode. It’s about time. Claire was originally a Luke Cage supporting character, first appearing in Luke Cage, Hero For Hire #2 in 1972.
It’s great that they’re finally getting these two together, but there’s an awful lot of unnecessary exposition here on Claire’s part. It’s nice that the Marvel Netflix shows are mostly standalone, but this episode kind of bends over backwards to remind audiences that everything is connected, and it feels like a silly bit of set-up for The Defenders.
– There’s a full-blown garbage can beat down dished out here, and whenever I see that, I’m reminded of Sonny Corleone beating the living shit out of that wife-beating rat bastard Carlo in The Godfather.
– We get to hear a little of John Lee Hooker’s “It Serves You Right to Suffer” in this episode. Here, listen to it. A little of John Lee Hooker’s scary ass blues is always good for the body and soul.
While we’re on the subject of music, and since this episode is a little light on specific Marvel Comics stuff, at one point, there’s a rather philosophical line about how “there’s a bullet for everyone,” which reminds me of a Paul Weller song I’m rather fond of…
– Huge love to Michael Dunne in the comments below, who pointed out that when Luke refers to a couple of thugs as “Plug One” and “Plug Two” that’s a nod to the great De La Soul. In fact, I’m just gonna quote him here, because this is too good a catch for me to not give credit…
“As the members of De La Soul always hooked their microphones into the same input plugs in the recording studio, they became known as Plug One (Posdnous), Pug Two (Trugoy) and Plug Three (Maseo)”
It’s a crime that De La Soul aren’t filthy rich, so just go buy my favorite album of theirs, Stakes is High. Or any of their records, really.
– Did I hear somebody mention an “Office McClane?” As in, John McClane from Die Hard? I mean, he was NYPD, and had that unfortunate incident in Harlem at the start of Die Hard 3…anyway, did I imagine this?
– When Luke goes to visit Eddie Axton’s sports memorabilia shop, there are some old, blue lockers there. I wonder if the implication here is that they’re lockers from Ebbets Field, the stadium where the Brooklyn Dodgers played before they were sent out to LA.
– There’s a line here about how Luke needs to “help those in need.” I’m going to come back to this in the next entry, because it’s part of a larger point I’d like to make about how Luke is being positioned on this show.
Luke Cage Episode 6: Suckas Need Bodyguards
After cottonmouth and Scarfe’s bloody clash, Luke realizes that saving the community may turn former allies into enemies, and enemies into allies.
– That’s Trish Walker talking on the radio! Glad to see she’s back to business as usual for a bit. As we learned on Jessica Jones, she certainly doesn’t need a bodyguard…
– There’s a reference here to the Guardian Angels, who were a fairly prominent group in New York City in the ’80s when the city wasn’t exactly the best place to be. They were basically citizen patrollers with berets and windbreakers who would patrol neighborhoods and ride the subway (and trust me, you barely want to ride the subway here now, let alone back then) to help deter crime.
– Luke jokes that “I ain’t no hero, pay me.” And here we have the first indicators that maybe, just maybe, this hero could be for hire after all.
– Note that in the comics Rafael Scarfe never was the totally crooked creep he turns out to be here.
– OK, you have to stick with me here, because I’m going to off on a little bit of a tangent. This happens in this episode…
Any time a superhero gets caught up in something involving an automobile, it can’t help but recall Superman’s first appearance in Action Comics #1 in 1938.
Here, have a look…it’s not quite the same thing, but it’s a fine way to establish that your hero is stronger than just about anybody and can’t be hurt.
Now, consider this, Luke Cage’s powers of unbreakable skin and absurd physical strength are basically all that Superman had going for him in 1938, as well. And the earliest Superman stories showcased him very much as a hero concerned with protecting common people from low level criminals and corrupt officials. He wasn’t quite a “neighborhood” guy like Luke Cage, but he was very much a champion of the people.
But remember in episode 5, the line about “help those in need?” Well, in Action Comics #1, Superman is described as a “champion of the oppressed” (sound familiar?) and “a physical marvel who had sworn to devote his existence to helping those in need.”
Don’t believe me?
Anyway, I’m a huge fan of the early, Golden Age Superman stuff, and it’s quite possible that these parallels are accidental, especially since Luke has always been primarily concerned with local issues. I think it’s great, regardless.
Luke Cage Episode 7: Manifest
Mariah’s political career comes under fire, and Cottonmouth picks up information that could put Luke on the run.
– Luke is referred to as “Harlem’s Captain America” at one point. I wonder if this is a coincidence, or perhaps a slight nod to how his origin story was originally loosely tied to Cap’s (see my notes on episode 4). But the Captain America similarity also extends to Luke’s polite, no-nonsense, straight-shooting personality as a guy who doesn’t particularly care for bullies. He definitely has more in common with Steve Rogers than Matt Murdock or Frank Castle.
– I can’t find any Marvel Comics parallels for Domingo Colon, and I didn’t spot any obvious Marvel references in Colon’s Gym. If I’m wrong, please let me know!
– There’s a John Lee Hooker song quietly playing during the flashbacks, and it happens to be my favorite song of his, “I’m Bad Like Jesse James.”
Seriously, pour yourself a glass of something and listen to this, because it’s awesome. Unless my ears deceive me, it’s this live version of it, too…
Hoo-boy, and how about that ending to this one! Didn’t see that coming, did you?
Luke Cage Episode 8: Blowin’ up the Spot
Mariah campaigns to turn the city against Luke, and not even Misty or Claire may be able to save him.
Lots of things are blowing up in this episode, not the least of which being the Gang Starr tune that gives the episode its name…
– OK, so we may as well get this out of the way right up front. The guy quoting The Warriors (“Can you dig it!”) is Willis Stryker. Who, pray tell, is Willis Stryker? That’s the mysterious “Diamondback” we’ve been hearing mentioned since episode 1.
So, here’s the thing about Diamondback. He was Luke’s first non-prison foe in the comics, and he first appeared in (like many characters on this show) Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #1.
The comic book Diamondback was into gimmicked knives rather than hi-tech guns, but the change makes sense in the context of the show with Chitauri tech. Erik LaRay Harvey is playing Stryker/Diamondback here, and he’s got that broad-shouldered build pretty perfect, doesn’t he?
Carl Lucas and Willis Stryker did indeed have a long history together, and we’re likely to learn more about it here. When Diamondback mentions that Reva’s demise was his doing (even though Jessica Jones viewers know that isn’t the case), that’s a nod to the comics, as well. See, the comic book Reva Connors was a woman that Carl and Willis competed for the affections of, and she met her end in a crossfire because she was romantically involved with Willis and his criminal activities while Carl/Luke was in jail.
– You can spot a WHIH microphone when Mariah is speaking to the press. WHIH is another fictional Marvel Cinematic Universe news outlet. It’s also worth noting once again that the screen Mariah Dillard is way more badass and interesting than her comic book counterpart, and Alfre Woodard just absolutely owns it in this episode. The bit about not wanting to bring down the property value on a building where both Count Basie and Duke Ellington lived is a nice touch.
– This episode is perhaps a little heavier on the Luke-as-Christ symbolism than is strictly necessary. He says how it’s “my cross to bear,” and you might be able to read into the Claire Temple trying to perform surgery scene as a kind of “Thomas puts his hand in Jesus’ wound” bit. I mean, the explosive bullet is even called “The Judas” for crying out loud, and Luke’s physical punishment over the last episode or so is starting to feel like the Passion of the Christ.
But this also brings me back to the Superman parallels. Superman is another character where there are often Jesus parallels grafted on, but we do get another almost explicitly “Golden Age Superman” moment in this episode. When the scalpel bends as Luke and Claire try and dig the shrapnel out, well, that can’t help but remind me of another moment from one of Superman’s earliest appearances.
Judge for yourself…
Again, this might be coincidence, but I just see so much of the early, street-level Superman stuff in Luke on this show that I have to point it out! That along with his “I can’t be compromised, innocent people could die,” is right out of Supes’ earnest “other folks first” mindset.
– I do kind of love Claire’s scientific examination/explanation of Luke’s strength and invulnerability, though.
– Luke makes another “Power Man” joke this time around. Claire makes it sound like it won’t stick.
– Oh, and as an added bonus, Wilson Fisk’s lawyer from Daredevil Season 2, Ben Donovan is back!
Considering that Ben was initially created and appeared in Luke Cage, Hero For Hire #14, it’s a nice touch that he’s around for this show, too.
Luke Cage Episode 9: DWYCK
With Luke wounded and on the run, Misty faces a soul-searching interrogation. Mariah’s rise to power takes a dark turn.
Here’s the track that gives this episode its name:
– Diamondback references The 48 Laws of Power, but what he calls “the 49th law” is really basically the number one rule in superhero storytelling whenever anyone is presumed dead. If there’s no body, there’s no death (I’m paraphrasing here, cut me some slack). And sometimes even if you do find a body, there’s still no guarantee that anyone is staying dead.
– It’s nice to see that Diamondback also namechecks photographer Barron Claiborne when talking about the omnipresent Biggie poster.
– As the editor of an entertainment website, I had to get a chuckle out of the SEO joke when Claire is searching for info on Seagate Prison. An article pops up that’s “The 10 Most Notorious Prisons” which you just know some editor commissioned for traffic. I wonder what other Marvel Universe locations would pop up in there if that article were real…
– It would appear, based on what Dr. Burstein tells Claire, that the Seagate experiments on Luke really had nothing at all to do with trying to replicate Captain America’s origin story. I’m a little bummed about that, but I understand. Unless there’s more to this than what they’re telling us…
– Luke utters one of the rare “Sweet Christmas” moments we’ve had so far from him. See? Even in the face of certain death, he still won’t curse!
– Your ears didn’t deceive you, newguy02, it does indeed sound like they’re referring to Madame Gao and co’s activities in Hell’s Kitchen. The thing is, I still can’t figure out how all three of these shows join up just yet!
– @nukecage on Twitter pointed out that Misty and her interrogator share an exchange about lemonade that comes right out of the lyrics of the GangStarr song that gives this episode its name. Later on, Misty even has herself a can of Country Time.
– The Del-Fonics are playing at the Harlem Paradise! First of all, it’s always awesome to see The Del-Fonics pop up anywhere, but it’s also cool to see that even with Shades running things, they haven’t let the quality of the musical acts slip.
The cool and moody song they’re playing is “Stop and Look (And You Have Found Love)” which is kind of great:
You might also remember The Del-Fonics as a point of romantic interest in my favorite Quentin Tarantino movie, Jackie Brown.
Luke Cage Episode 10: Take it Personal
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.
Well, Luke certainly does “take it personal” in this episode, and you can’t really blame him…
But overall, it’s good that all of the Seagate/origin/Reva stuff is done. This series has been very good, but for whatever reason, whenever they start spending time on Luke’s origin story, things get a little too ham-fisted.
From a comic fan standpoint, though, this does allow Luke’s relationship with Claire Temple to take the romantic leap that it did in the original comics. More importantly, now that the mysteries of his past are out there, he’s moved on from Reva, and we’re done (after three episodes!) with the “shrapnel” story, things should be ready to get moving the way they should now for the show’s final act.
– Reva’s research on Carl Lucas/Luke Cage reveals the shared criminal past of Luke and Stryker, and that’s another thing that’s right out of the comics. The two did indeed run together, but the reason for why Luke went to jail while Stryker walked free has yet to be revealed on the show.
– I don’t recall Diamondback ever literally being Luke’s half-brother, but Michael in the comments (not me, I swear!) makes a really good connection that I wish I would have caught. Carl Lucas did have a brother in the comics, James Lucas Junior, who eventually became a supervillain named Coldfire. And how did Coldfire get his powers? Thanks to Dr. Noah Burstein.
– However, Diamondback framing Luke Cage for the murder of a police officer by dressing like him is some cartoon villain nonsense. I realize that’s a common trope with characters like Spider-Man, and obviously there’s a political undertone here, with people only seeing “a black man in a hoodie,” and that’s all well and correct. The problem is the execution in this episode feels like something out of an early episode of the 1980s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series, where they had to contend with (I shit you not) “The Crooked Ninja Turtle Gang” ruining their good name.
– I don’t think there’s any comic book precedent for Lonnie Wilson or Detective Dorsey, but I do love the way that kid stands up to the cops. For a second I got excited thinking it was the name of Spidey/Punisher villain, Tombstone, but nope, that’s Lonnie Lincoln.
– Mariah Dillard has become the most compelling character on the show, and it’s great seeing this show blur the line between legitimate social commentary with her doing essentially the right thing but for all the wrong reasons. The nice touch with this is how she refers to the rest of the Marvel Universe, and this (along with the stuff I mentioned earlier about folks selling bootleg videos of “the incident”) might be the most note-perfect “regular people” view of the MCU we’ve ever seen. Her references to Jessica Jones and other “power people” is just right on the money.
Luke Cage Episode 11: Now You’re Mine
In one bold move, a friend from his past puts Luke on the defensive, Misty in dire straits, and Harlem’s safety in jeopardy.
Let’s set the mood with some Gang Starr…
There’s not a whole bunch of Marvel stuff in this episode, which is just fine, because it might just be the best chapter of the series so far. Wonderfully tense, with great character moments, and some terrific music and cinematography.
– I did get a chuckle when after jokingly calling Boone “Obama” who responds, in typical hostage fashion that, “you can’t do this,” Diamondback shoots back with “yes we can.”
– One of Diamondback’s goons tells Lopes to “escort the nice nurse downstairs.” I could have sworn he said “Night Nurse.” Well, it turns out (thanks to multiple folks in the comments and on Twitter who have been checking this show out with subtitles), he does indeed say “Night Nurse!”
Remember before they revealed the character name as Claire Temple back when Rosario Dawson was first cast for Daredevil season one who we all thought she was Night Nurse? Man, those were the days…
– And speaking of Daredevil, Blake Tower finally makes an appearance! We’re in the home stretch, here, so any hope we have of seeing more supporting characters from other shows hinges on these last few!
– They’re really teasing Misty’s future, ummm…arm problems here. It will be interesting to see if this amounts to anything, or if (for now) it’s just a nod to her comic book past/future.
– Diamondback puts on Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man” to set the mood while he supervillain monologues to Boone. I’ve loved this song desperately since first hearing it on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack. Between this and the Del-Fonics appearance in episode nine, I feel the need to revisit Quentin Tarantino’s early films.
Luke Cage Episode 12: Soliloquy of Chaos
Misty digs deeper for the truth as the neighborhood power players throw the city into confusion.
Let Gang Starr tell you how it is…
So, once again, this episode is pretty light on Marvel Comics stuff, but that’s fine, because again, it’s heavy on the good stuff. As much as I love spotting the nerdy comics stuff on these shows, I like it better when they get down to business.
– The biggest reveal in this episode is that Shades’ real name is Hernan Alvarez. As far as I know, that was never revealed in the comics. However, SirStrangeFolk in the comments pointed out that the comic book version of Shades has a son…
…who is currently serving as the new Power Man in the comics!
It’s appropriate that we learn Shades’ name here, though. This is really Shades’ episode. It’s fantastic. From the moment Diamondback gets annoyed with his flunky wearing a pair of shades as if that’s gonna be his thing (“take those off”) to Shades’ near murder (I seriously have never rooted so hard for a Marvel villain to survive as I did in this moment), this was all about Mr. Alvarez. Theo Rossi is just delightful. I could watch an episode that’s just him and Simone Missick talking shit to each other.
– I almost missed Stan Lee’s cameo on this show, but thanks to the sharp-eyed Mr. Cesar Diaz in the comments, here it is, right outside the bodega before the robbery!
It’s also worth noting that Stan is always a cop on the Netflix shows, rather than the random/different people he is in all of his other Marvel cameos.
But speaking of cameos, I will take a Method Man appearance in every Marvel thing forever. Method Man is one of three “fuck yes!” moments in this episode (the other two being Shades snatching victory from the jaws of a garrotte defeat and the cop telling Luke that “more people are rooting for you than you think”).
Here’s Method Man’s “P.L.O. Style” which is the track Luke mentions as a fave of his.
Method Man shows up on real-life talk show Sway’s Universe (thanks SlimShady54 and Crackfinger!) to drop “Bulletproof Love” which sounds like a pretty hot track.
In fact, give it a listen…
– You know how I keep going on about the early Superman parallels on this show? Well, there are two more. This time, though, it’s less about late ’30s Superman and more about George Reeves’ 1950s Superman. The way Luke offhandedly, like he’s faintly annoyed, dispatches those two douchebags robbing the deli (with taps on the head), and then crumples up the guy’s gun feels like how George Reeves would roll his eyes at hapless crooks before smacking the shit out of them on The Adventures of Superman in the ’50s. Again, this may be coincidental, but trust me, I mean it as a compliment. It’s cool.
See also: Luke locking Turk in the dumpster and telling him “there’s food in there, too” with a smirk.
– We do get Stryker going “the full Diamondback” in this episode, which is pretty awesome. Check out his comic book counterpart for comparison…
Things are gonna get crazy in that final episode…
Luke Cage Episode 13: You Know My Steez
With all of Harlem bearing witness, Luke takes on the fight of his life in hopes of emerging as the defender his city needs.
Before I get into the Marvel stuff here, let me just say: this was a stunningly good finale, particularly after the fight ended. This is probably my favorite finale of any of the Marvel Netflix seasons so far.
I almost feel like a few more flashbacks with young Carl and Willis would have done the work of at least 15 minutes of earlier exposition. The offhanded way Carl says “you’re not a Lucas” and young Willis’ reaction was really great, and the show could have done a better job with these two. Young Carl didn’t curse, either.
– Isn’t it great that even in that big fight at the end, Luke still doesn’t kill Diamondback? That’s too good a villain to waste in this season. Hell, I’m still bummed that we lost Cottonmouth.
– I thoroughly enjoyed the “police procedural” fake out ending with Misty and Mariah Dillard. The whole “I know you did it, and we’re gonna explain how you did it” thing is right out of the final act of Elementary handbook (it’s the only procedural I watch, but you get the idea), and was perfectly appropriate for this show, especially since they subverted it. But for real, couldn’t you just see this show working as a procedural with Luke as a neighborhood problem solver and Misty as a P.I.?
– Claire keeps offering to call Matt Murdock, the “really good” lawyer that she knows downtown. I’m actually glad that he never actually shows up. This is Luke’s show, and he deserves to not have his spotlight stolen by Matt Murdock or Jessica Jones.
– Claire sees a flier for martial arts instruction…from Colleen Wing. We’re going to meet Ms. Wing on Iron Fist in 2017. Stay tuned…
– Misty shows up at the Harlem Paradise looking very much like her comic book counterpart. Does this along with her frustration with the confines of the system mean that she has already quit the force and gone into business for herself? We’ll find out next year!
– Diamondback ending up in the “care” of Dr. Burstein kinda calls back to that “Coldfire” reference from episode 10, too.
– What a song to end on. That’s the awesome (so awesome) Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings with “100 Days, 100 Nights.” Just go out and listen to everything they’ve ever done. Sweet Christmas.
So, once again, ladies and gents! This is only the stuff that I noticed, and I do realize that binge-watching this stuff isn’t always going to make me the most observant. If I missed anything, put it there in the comments or hit me up on Twitter (@wayoutstuff), and if it checks out, I’ll update this article and I’ll give you a shout.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to find myself a suit that Shades was wearing in his last scene. Thanks or reading…
Always forward, forward always.