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Luke Cage hits it out of the park in fantastic second season

This post contains spoilers for all of season two of Luke Cage. You’ve been warned.

Normally, I make sure to finish the Marvel/Netflix shows within 48 hours, but this time, I was out of town celebrating Midsummer. With my mom. So, I had to sneak in a few episodes here and there on my iPhone after she’d gone to bed. I’m kind of amazed I actually got five episodes in before getting home on Sunday (when I finished the rest). But this show was so good, right out of the gate, that I couldn’t stop watching. Even on my iPhone. And I’m rewatching it in the background as we “speak.”

The first season of Luke Cage was mostly solid, but there were some missteps. Killing off Cornell Stokes so early on meant that there was a big void to fill for the rest of the season, which would have been find if there had been anyone worthy of filling those shoes. Diamondback wasn’t it. Unlike the second season’s Bushmaster, Diamondback was not scary as much as cartoonish. Bushmaster is genuinely frightening, in the creepy kind of way that is best communicated by twitching as if possessed while absorbing bullets (you know exactly the scene I’m talking about). That, and his gripe with Mariah has a greater ring of truth than Diamondback’s obsession with Luke.

There was also plenty of silliness in the first season that would have seemed completely out of place in the second. As much as a part of me enjoyed the frankensteinesque scenes where Claire takes Luke to the old prison doctor for an acid bath bordered on silly. And, they made a Mary Sue character of Claire (and I’m not one to throw that label around lightly). The second season gives us more of a grown person’s superhero drama, with well-developed characters and so many layers.

Bushmaster being shot at close range, as seen in the first episode of the second season of Luke Cage on Netflix

Some things that this season has in common with the first one bears mentioning too. First of all: The music. It’s like its own character in this show. If you’re not catching yourself bobbing your head along to the music while watching this show, you’re not doing it right. Secondly, they’re both incredibly good-looking There’s some pacing issues, but nothing like what we saw in the first season. Contrary to what some reviewers have had to say, I think this season fills out its thirteen episodes nicely. It unapologetically allows itself time to breathe, and I never minded spending all that time with these characters. But, rather than going on in typical review style, I’m just going to list some of the things that stood out to me – big and small – or that i just plain appreciated.

All the connections…

This is the first season that really makes use of all the richness that living in a shared universe can provide. Matt is mentioned. Repeatedly. So is Jessica. Danny appears in a significant guest appearance spanning an entire episode, not to mention Luke making use of his Rand connections in the episode leading up to it. Colleen also makes a major appearance. As does Foggy, who is also mentioned several times off-screen. Even Karen Page gets a mention. Blake Towers, first introduced in Daredevil season two, shows up. As does Turk who has apparently switched to selling (legal) drug paraphernalia. Did I miss anyone?

More than being just fan service, these appearances makes sense considering the shared history of these characters. Of course, as a Daredevil fan, it’s nice to see that Matt’s (not real) death has not gone to waste but has made an impression on people.

Luke gets a hand from his lawyer friend Foggy, as seen in the fifth episode of the second season of Luke Cage

Shades and his relationships

Shades is the bad guy we love to hate, and then hate to admit that we love. Let there be no doubt about it, he’s a pretty shitty human being. He killed Candace in cold blood last season. But, there are not only rules to his madness that makes him hard to brush off as just another psychopath, he actually sells us on the notion that he cares about people deeply. At least some people. It really speaks to Theo Rossi’s abilities as an actor that we can watch him kill his best friend (and former boyfriend), and almost feel sorry for his loss. And his devotion to Mariah feels equally real. Forget Shades being simply a boy toy for his sugar mama, he really loves her. Enough to lose his cool and kill a guy point blank for badmouthing his girl.

Even more interesting is the fact that Shades seems to actually want to go clean, putting him and Mariah on opposite paths as the latter takes a turn for the meaner.

Luke gets his hands dirty

Just like Matt Murdock in the Netflix show, Luke is gradually being pulled deeper into the world of his alter ego. And, just like Matt, he is finding it harder to separate his civilian life from the persona of the hero he created. As the increasingly disillusioned Claire herself, puts it “You are more like Matt than you want to admit.”

But Luke Cage here, particularly at the end of the season, also reminds us of many of the Daredevil stories better known from the comics. Over the years, Daredevil has repeatedly been forced into situations where he’s had to make deals with the devil, often in the form of the Kingpin. And, he’s had to put himself at the top of food chain on more than one occasion. Both the King of Hell’s Kitchen story arc, by Bendis and Maleev, and Matt’s takeover of the Hand at the end of Brubaker and Lark’s run come to mind. I’m sure there may be Luke Cage stories to draw on as well in this regard, but I’m not familiar with them, and this is a Daredevil blog. So yeah, I see a lot of parallells.

Mariah going full Kingpin

Mariah kills a fellow inmate, as seen in the final episode of Luke Cage, season two

While Shades actually seems to want to be turning over a new leaf, at some point at least, Mariah is gradually accepting her fate in ways that are strikingly similar to Wilson Fisk’s in the first season of Daredevil. At first, we bought into the notion that she desired nothing more than to shed the baggage of the family business. She was always ruthless, but like Fisk, she’d been able to talk herself into there being a legitimate end goal. However, eventually, she sheds the Dillard identity in favor of the Stokes legacy and goes full psycho. When she personally sets a man on fire, even Shades seems taken aback by her cruelty. By the time we get to the scene of her killing a fellow inmate, I was pretty much floored. Now, it may seem like a waste that she herself had to die at the end, but she went out on such a high note that it’s hard to feel deprived of anything.

Amputation by Photoshop

Remember when Forrest Gump came out and everyone was amazed by how Gary Sinise’s legs could be made to disappear on camera? Of course, I have to remind myself that many of my readers are young enough to have been in kindergarten at the time, or not even born. But I do remember, and it was kind of a big deal. Which is why I have to marvel at how far that kind of special effects technology has come (and yes, I know it ain’t Photoshop specifically). Misty’s missing right arm looks extremely natural.

While we’re on the topic, I love that her new bionic arm looks slightly more like what you’d expect from a real prosthetic than its comic book counterpart, or Bucky’s arm for that matter, even tough it is functionally very sci-fi.

In closing

We don’t get much in terms of solid information on how much time has passed since Midland Circle, but it seems reasonable that the events of this season takes place over the course of a couple of months, and begin a couple of months after Defenders. I’m basing the latter assessment on where Misty seems to be in her recovery.

Meanwhile, I’m just intent on enjoying Luke Cage for what it brings to its own little corner of Manhattan. As mentioned, I’m already watching it a second time, and I’m very sure that won’t be my last. It’s just such a well-crafted ride. There are so many more things I would have liked to touch on, such as what happens with Luke’s relationship with Claire, and his father, as well as the guest appearances by Colleen, Danny, and Foggy, but I wanted to get this post up before real life swallows me up again.

What did you guys think? Let us know in the comments!

Christine Hanefalk

Christine Hanefalk

Based in Stockholm, Sweden, Christine is a die-hard Daredevil fan who launched The Other Murdock Papers in 2007 to share her passion for Matt Murdock and his friends with other fans.

13 comments

  1. and this is a Daredevil blog. So yeah, I see a lot of parallells.

    Like when Bushmaster ripped off a page of Fisk’s book in reciting that ominous story to the cops transporting him to jail.

    Or Atreus Plastics, the company Mariah is investing in, have been the owner of one of the trucks from Fisk’s escape attempt. And they’re being bought out by Glenn Industries, which means Heather Glenn probably exists in the MCU in some form, though she might not ever cross paths with Matt.

    “We don’t get much in terms of solid information on how much time has passed since Midland Circle, but it seems reasonable that the events of this season takes place over the course of a couple of months, and begin a couple of months after Defenders.”

    Certainly, we know Matt isn’t yet back, given remarks by Claire in episode 1 and Foggy in episode 5. (Realistically, I would hope Matt’s recovered by this point; one headcanon I had is that he is, and Karen’s been hiding him)

    I’m thinking we might have a bit of a pass-through from Luke Cage to Daredevil season 3 in the form of Rosalie Carbone, given that what we saw of her in the last two episodes is clearly indicating that she’s going on to play a big part in the next chapter of the New York underworld’s history that will be steered by Fisk.

    On the subject of Luke Cage, one has to give credit to how they incorporated so many comic book easter eggs in pretty ingenious ways. Like with Piranha Jones getting his nickname from being a Wall Street shark. Cockroach having his signature six-barreled shotgun “Josh”. Or Benjamin Donovan, crooked lawyer of Mariah and Fisk, finally being called “Big Ben.” And D.W. Griffifth being an avatar for the Heroes for Hire fanbase.

    I do wonder what they’ll have planned for Shades, given how loved he is by the fanbase. I wonder if he’ll get himself experimented on as Comanche had suggested in episode 2, or he’ll get a new rabbi with Fisk or one of the other gang leaders.

  2. Overall, I loved the second season of Luke Cage. I finished the whole season by Saturday evening and have re watched a couple episodes already. I was thrilled to see and catch up a bit with Foggy, Claire, and Colleen. I also actually rather liked Danny here too, more than I did after Iron Fist and the Defenders. I actually feel a little better about/slightly excited for Iron Fist season 2.

    My two complaints are:
    Luke and Claire not getting back together by the end. Perhaps this is just the Marvel/Netflix season 2 trope – separate main character from loved ones.
    A few scenes were a little too graphic for my tastes. The guy being burned alive and in an early episode an eye being stabbed out (I was eating lunch while watching this, so perhaps that contributed to my discomfort).

  3. The Luke and Claire separation, I think, was more a result of Rosario Dawson’s leaving to go film Jane the Virgin.

  4. Another thing: I love the use of colors in the episode with Danny. Here, both of their “theme colors” are on display and they are also wearing the color associated with the other character (Luke is wearing a grayish green T-shirt, and Danny is wearing a yellow button-down shirt).

    There is also prominent displays of purple and red when they go to the warehouse later in the episode. Very much a nod to absent friends.

  5. I agree. It was a very good second season, but the coffee innuendos were a bit silly. I was impressed with the tie-ins as well. I even liked Danny this time around. Emmy for Bushmaster!!! He was great.

  6. This season dug deep into some poignant themes like revenge and rage. Luke felt more human. The first season, Luke often felt more like a symbol than a fleshed out character. This season, he reckoned with his own manhood and anger in ways that made him feel fully realized. The scene where he put a hole in the wall at Claire’s apartment was truly riveting. Also, Luke’s character as a public hero is a humorous and entertaining take on a superhero in the MCU, and it works well to evolve the character as he tries to find out who he wants to be as a hero.

    Bushmaster is one of those characters where his motives can be seen as perspective, wrong from Luke’s but were they really wrong from Bushmaster’s? I loved that. He had great charsima, style, and a bravado that was electric. It will be interesting to see him return as an anti-hero of sorts.

    A standout scene I have to mention is Mariah divulging Tilda’s true parentage, particularly her real father. Alfre Woodard deserves an Emmy for that scene alone. Masterful performance.

    The ending was surprising but I enjoyed it. The decision Luke makes is one that I’ve felt he has had to contemplate, given his sherriff methodology when it comes to his protection of Harlem. Loved The Godfather symbolism too.

  7. One thing I’m worried about is how the events of this season will have impact on Daredevil season 3. Luke just drove organized crime out of Harlem, and that’s probably all headed to Hell’s Kitchen, where Wilson Fisk will be operating. We also know that Annabella Sciorra will be reprising her role as Rosalie in Daredevil season 3, making me think she’ll either be an ally or enemy of Fisk’s (she mentions working with the Russian mafia, which implies she may have once worked with Anatoly and Vladimir). And with Mariah dead, Big Ben no longer has to be shared between her and Fisk, so I can’t imagine him not bringing up the events of Luke Cage season 2 during Daredevil season 3. I could also see Karen bringing up the events of Luke Cage season 2 to Matt, since she’s probably scouring the crime beat awaiting the day that Fisk gets out, she covered the Rum Punch Massacre for the Bulletin, and she probably covered Bushmaster’s attack on Piranha’s party.

  8. Definitely much superior to Season 1. Great story, plot twists, character development. The weak point is Mike Colter. I’ve said this before, but he just doesn’t carry his series the way that Charlie Cox and Krysten Ritter carry theirs. He lacks the charisma and acting chops. Fortunately the terrific supporting cast makes up for the relative void at the center.

  9. @Christine: “We don’t get much in terms of solid information on how much time has passed since Midland Circle, but it seems reasonable that the events of this season take place over the course of a couple of months, and begin a couple of months after Defenders. I’m basing the latter assessment on where Misty seems to be in her recovery.”

    There is another possible clue in episode 11: the West Indian Day Parade takes place in this episode. The parade is a real event that takes place on Labor Day (early September). If it also takes place on Labor Day in Luke Cage world, the timeline might look something like the following.

    Daredevil season 2 ends in December, around Christmas. Near the end of episode 13, Karen is working on Christmas Eve, trying to write her article. The Defenders series takes place “several months” later, according to Charlie Cox. At the beginning of episode 3, the recovery of Elektra’s body and her reanimation are said to have occurred “some months” earlier. So we can estimate that The Defenders series takes place sometime in March or April. If the West Indian Day Parade in LC season 2, episode 11, takes place on Labor Day like the real-life event, this means that five or six months have passed since the events at Midland Circle. Adding on however much time passes in the last two episodes of the season, it’s at least six months since Midland Circle by the end of LC season 2. This is consistent with Christine’s analysis, above.

    As far as I can tell, none of the characters who appear in LC season 2 know that Matt survived. If he remains “dead” for all of Iron Fist season 2 (as seems likely), he will have been gone for quite some time. If things play out this way, I only hope Matt has a very good reason for staying “dead” for so long, especially if Foggy and Karen don’t know he survived.

  10. @Martha: They never said onscreen exactly how long after DDS2 that the events of The Defenders are set. Probably less than six months, going by what we see in the outdoor scenes, since Daredevil Season 2 ended at Christmas, and The Defenders does not look like it takes place in summer.

    I’m more likely to believe that The Defenders takes place around late October, going by the outdoor weather, making it ten months after Daredevil Season 2. The Punisher Season 1 takes place in November, according to dialogue, and 11 months after Daredevil Season 2.

  11. Since they mentioned Glenn industry so often – do you think Heather is going to appear in future seasons of DD or Luke Cage?

    1. I think it’s probably just a fun little Easter egg. They needed the name of a company and looked for one from the comics. I love stuff like that though. 🙂

  12. Yeah, an Easter Egg. I mean, technically, this wasn’t our first time seeing Atreus Plastics, since, as I said above, one of their trucks was used in the Daredevil season 1 finale during Wilson Fisk’s attempted jailbreak.

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