★★★★ – “Sweet Christmas; Luke Cage brings the punches.”
Marvel’s Luke Cage: Season One, created by Cheo Hodari Coker and starring Mike Colter, Simone Missick, Theo Rossi, Alfre Woodard, Mahershala Ali, Rosario Dawson and Erik LaRay Harvey.
Given superstrength and durability by a sabotaged experiment, a wrongly accused man escapes prison to become a superhero for hire.
Luke Cage is the third Marvel character to grace the small screen with their own series on Netflix, with Marvel’s Iron Fist being the last before the first season of Marvel’s The Defenders airs in August 2017. Although all are linked in some way and seem to be heading in the same direction, each series has a unique touch to set them apart.
When we last saw Luke Cage in Marvel’s Jessica Jones, he was in a bad place. As this series opens, Luke is back in Harlem looking for a fresh start; but with ruthless club owner Cottonmouth lurking in the streets, Luke is forced to hit back.
Firstly, Mike Colter is badass as Luke Cage. He fits the part and seems to have really grasped the character since his appearance in JJ. His brilliant performance clicks with the writing, ever evolving as the episodes roll out. Alongside Luke is the returning character of Claire Temple, played by Rosario Dawson who – as usual – has a wonderful presence on-screen and pushes the story to places only Claire could appropriately take it. Without the ‘sidekick’ persona, this series and the other shows prior to this wouldn’t be as fun.
Mahershala Ali is frustratingly likeable, even though his character is dangerous & unpredictable. Don’t mess with this guy. The writers play on this in Episode 2; Code of the Streets, after someone Cottonmouth greatly respects is killed. His dialogue is smart and Ali performs it all with undeniable skill. Theo Rossi plays ‘Shades,’ Cottonmouth’s right hand man and he’s just as unpredictable, yet you never see a soft side. He’s cold to the bone and will stop a nothing to get the job done right. Great performance by Rossi. Simone Missick appears as Misty Knight, a detective close to Luke who never really shines as a character until Episode 9; DWYCK, which focuses a large portion of the episode’s duration on Misty’s mental state, in most cases it’s a turning point for Missick as she develops her character, falling perfectly into place for the coming episodes, in which she plays a vital part in Luke’s story. Cottonmouth may seem like a threat for Luke, but then Erik LaRay Harvey shows up out of the blue as Diamondback, an enemy from Luke’s previous life. At this point, the show takes a U-turn from its original route and sets our characters down a new path.
I was always impressed with the cinematography in both Marvel’s Daredevil: Season One & Two and Jessica Jones, so I was expecting to be pleased with the visual direction in this series. Of course, I’m not disappointed; cinematographer Manuel Billeter captures the streets of Harlem beautifully. Every shot is as colourful and wonderfully composed as the last, utilising a yellow grade over the top as a finalising glisten.
Ali Shaheed Muhammad & Adrian Younge provide a gritty, up-beat soundtrack filled with punchy bass and funky melodies, creating a lush dream for Hip-Hop fans. The main theme becomes very catchy within just a few episodes and the score throughout the series feels largely important to the characters and story, especially the leading man; Luke Cage.
Originally, I wasn’t going to bother with Marvel’s Luke Cage, but I’m glad I decided to eventually. It’s definitely one of the stronger shows in the MCU, and although I believe all of these shows could do with some trimming (10-episodes may be a smarter and more efficient time frame) the slower episodes only develop the characters more. I can’t wait to see a second season, along with the use of Cage in The Defenders this August.
Verdict; Great storytelling, cool visuals and likeable characters. Sweet Christmas; Marvel’s Luke Cage brings all the punches.
Marvel’s Luke Cage: Season One – ★★★★ (8/10)