What do you really know about Misty Knight? Maybe the basics, like how she lost her arm while trying to save others from a terrorist attack. You might even know that she was a police detective for years before that. It’s been over 40 years since we were first introduced to Misty Knight and yet we know so little about the character from the time before she lost her arm and received her bionic one. How did Misty deal with such a traumatic event, who helped her, what makes Misty who she is? Luke Cage Season 2 continues fleshing out the beloved character, giving insight to how the hard-nosed detective handles the loss of her right arm and ultimately who she is.
Mercedes Knight, created by Tony Isabella and Arvell Jones, made her first appearance in Marvel comics in Marvel Premiere #21 (1975). She had a run in with Iron Fist while trying to track down her missing friend Colleen Wing. We get a glimpse of this headstrong woman who can hold her own against Iron Fist in combat. She’s also an extremely loyal friend. Misty Knight’s origin story was summed up in two pages of Iron Fist #6. While on duty as a detective, she loses her arm while attempting to save others from a terrorist bomb, clearly showing that Misty is selfless. But who was she leading up to the terrorist attack? What makes her this selfless person?
Luke Cage season one was a bit of an introduction to Mercedes Knight, the detective. It revealed that she played basketball at Temple University and that she spent a great deal of time with her father at Pop’s barbershop.The comics had told us little to nothing about the relationship between Misty and her father. Season one also fleshes out who Misty Knight is as a police detective – how she processes a crime scene is similar to how she envisioned plays on the basketball court. Misty is also tenacious, which is displayed in her pursuit of Mariah Dillard. By the end of season one, she’s having major internal conflict within herself when it comes to how the law works and her role within it, a conflict made even stronger when she finds out her partner was a crooked cop. She no longer has control and that is something Misty struggles with. A character trait that is true to her in the comics, but now understanding her past as a point guard, her need for control and to run things smoothly starts to make sense.
The Defenders didn’t offer up much in the way of character development for her. However, we do get to witness her courage and act of selflessness when she protects both Claire and Colleen, which results in the loss of her right arm. She loses her arm in a similar fashion to the comics, which leads perfectly into season two. There is even foreshadowing as to how Colleen will be key in helping her adjust to her new life.
Luke Cage Season 2 continues Misty’s journey, presenting an in-depth look at how she handles life after losing her right arm. In a scene from episode 202, Misty and Claire are working together in her physical therapy session. When Misty doesn’t catch the ball Claire bounces her way, she tells Misty she is off balance. Misty doesn’t think she is; she retorts with, “it’s just a ball.” Claire’s observation of Misty foreshadows her entire arc season two arc – she may appear physically appear, but is rather more unbalanced mentally. Misty has to come to terms with who she is as a police detective in her post-Scarfe world.
After the Midland Circle incident, Misty was awarded a tax-free 3/4th pension, but she declines it and comes back to the police force. It’s clear that her career is very much a part of her identity, of course she wouldn’t be able to just let it go. Misty deals with colleagues who express ableist behavior towards her, as well as some of her own internalized ableism.
In a key scene from episode 203, Misty and Colleen have a conversation while sparring that sheds some light on how Misty is truly feeling. Her identity as a star basketball player is brought up to make a connection to how the loss of her right arm is affecting her mentally. She reveals that as a point guard, she was able to see everything on the court, relying heavily on her right hand for her handling of the basketball. This is an analogy for how she processes crime scenes. The loss of her arm plays a heavy role in the mental fog she feels because she no longer has the appendage she relied on.
Similar to the reveal in Deadly Hands of Kung Fu #33, Colleen plays an integral part in helping Misty cope with her disability, and the two develop a powerful friendship in the process. In one of the best action scenes from this season, Misty and Colleen take on a few men in a bar, showing how Colleen wants Misty to realize she can still hold her own, right arm or not. It’s a great moment that shows the budding relationship between Colleen and Misty. Colleen being the one to call Misty out on her crap and hold her accountable. The realization seems to play a key role in her finally accepting help from Danny Rand, ultimately agreeing to the prosthetic arm provided by Rand Corporation.
Misty may have found semblance of balance with the addition of her bionic arm, but she’s still finds herself walking a tightrope between Scarfe and Captain Ridenhour. The character Cockroach acts as a the wind to push her over the edge and almost does. He is one of many criminals that were freed because of Scarfe’s corrupt involvement with their cases. Misty is still struggling with the fact that as his partner, she may have helped put away many more innocent people. She almost plants evidence on Cockroach after his bruised and battered girlfriend tells Misty that she doesn’t think there is anything the police can do to stop him. This plays into Misty’s internal conflict with how the law works. She ultimately decides against planting the evidence because she realizes she doesn’t want to be Scarfe. The turmoil still lingers, however.
In episode 206, Misty is on the verge of spiralling way out of control. She is upset about the way the law moves and how nothing seems to be getting done in terms of taking down Mariah Dillard. Misty has a conversation with an old colleague that has a profound, leading her to confess to her Captain Ridenhour about going to Cockroach’s to plant evidence. Misty can do things by the book and deal with the frustration of feeling like nothing is getting done, or by going about things the way Scarfe did and ultimately ending up like him. She wants neither and turns her badge and gun in. Later, it’s Ridenhour’s death that brings everything full circle for Misty. She is thrust into replacing him as police captain and it’s in this role she can finally see everything for what it is.
In episode 209, Misty makes a deal with Mariah that involves granting her amnesty so that they can get Bushmaster into police custody. This is something that Misty doesn’t want to do at all – she really wants to take Mariah down. However, she realizes that this is the bigger play that could ultimately still help her put Mariah away. She conveys this to the police chief, who is astonished by the suggestions since it comes from Misty, but she too, notices her growth. The Misty Knight of season one would have never considered such a deal. It’s in this moment that Misty finds the balance she’s been searching for.
Both seasons of Luke Cage finally give us a fleshed out Misty Knight. They present a woman to us that is complex, career driven, passionate, headstrong, intelligent, selfless, and honorable in her own way. All traits that may have been present in the comics, but getting to know who she was prior to her bionic arm and after she receives it does this iconic character justice. It’s an origin story 40 years in the making, and to have it play out on the small screen is poetic for one of the most amazing women in the Marvel Universe.