Direct Beam Comms #43
Luke Cage – First episode – Grade: B-
I’m a big fan of the Netflix Daredevil series but for whatever reason was never able to get into the Jessica Jones show and only ever watched a few episodes. But when a Luke Cage series was announced a while back as a sort’a spin-off to Jessica Jones I was intrigued enough to watch.
Here’s the thing, the story of Luke Cage is so-so, but whenever the character of Luke Cage (Mike Colter) is on-screen it’s pretty great.
This third Marvel Netflix show follows the titular character who works days sweeping hair in a barbershop and nights washing dishes at a restaurant in order to get paid on the sly since he’s in hiding, from what is never quite clear. Cage was in prison and suffers nightmares from his time locked up and is now trying to turn his life around. Enter Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes (Mahershala Ali) the requisite bad guy in a really nice suit who’s working with elected official Mariah Stokes (Alfre Woodard) and is funneling ill-gotten gains into her campaign. But when one of Stokes’ deals goes bad he’s willing to do whatever it takes to get his merchandise and money back.
All of which is stuff we’ve seen before. It seems like in these superhero TV series the “bad guy in a really nice suit” has replaced the costume wearing villain as the main nemesis to the show’s title character. I’m not sure if it’s a budget thing where the series producers think they can’t afford showing things like CGI villains like Ultron or waves of Chitauri soldiers or if they just think that having costumed super villains is corny. But for whatever reason they keep going back to having the main baddy of the season be a powerful criminal boss. Which is fine, but it tends to get really old really fast. Even Daredevil, which has arguably the most famous bad guy in a really nice suit Kingpin, only did this in their first season. The second had Daredevil facing off against the likes of zombified ninjas!
So it is a bit of a disappointment to see much of the plot of Luke Cage trudging down that same well-worn path. Still, whenever the show’s about Luke Cage and not Cottonmouth’s criminal empire it’s pretty great.
This version of Luke Cage is this super-powerful guy who’s able to lift a washing machine like it’s nothing, take a punch in the face that ends up breaking the the hand of the person throwing it and even catch a bullet at one point. But at the same time he’s on the run not wanting to expose his identity and be found out and is even sensitive to boot.
But, with all these powers and a neighborhood that’s being overrun by Cottomouth’s goons it’s a shame that Cage isn’t able to do something about it which is pretty much where the first episode ends.
Looking back on the episode now, I think its main problem is that we spent as much time with the villains as Cage. And while I could see this being something that’s done later in the season I’m not sure it works here. Ali is great as Cottonmouth but I don’t think that character can carry a show as much as he’s given to carry it in the first episode here. Colter as Cage, on the other hand, I think can carry this show. I just hope in future episodes we spend a lot more time with Cage and not as much with the bad guys.
The Siege of Jadotville trailer
The Reading & Watch List
- Stars Getting Rich Off Fan Conventions: How to Take Home “Garbage Bags Full of $20s”
- Frank Darabont to Seek More Than $280 Million From AMC at ‘Walking Dead’ Profits Trial
- Awesome 80s Bedrooms: Goonies Edition
- Out of This World: An Oral History of ’ALF’
This week in pop-culture history
- 1923: Charlton Heston of Planet of the Apes, Soylent Green and The Omega Man is born
- 1949: Sigourney Weaver, Ripley in Alien, Galaxy Quest and Avatar is born
- 1959: The TV series The Twilight Zone premiers
- 1987: Near Dark opens in theaters
- 1988: The movie Alien Nation premiers in theaters
- 1999: The TV series Roswell premiers
- 1999: The TV series Harsh Realm premiers
- 2000: The TV series Dark Angel premiers