Marvel’s Luke Cage is one of the company’s best shows to date. Released on Netflix on Sept. 30, it was so popular that it caused Netflix to crash, and the hype is justified.
Set in Harlem, it follows the story of the eponymous bulletproof, hoodie-wearing hero, who was first introduced last year in Jessica Jones. This series explores more of Luke’s backstory as a wrongfully imprisoned convict as well as his present battle with a notorious Harlem crime family. While Luke Cage is an action series at the core, it also deals with the serious topics of police brutality, gentrification and mass incarceration.
I thought Luke Cage was excellent on a range of levels, and would say it’s better than any of Marvel’s other TV shows, except for the first season of Daredevil. Cage himself was a compelling protagonist, and the supporting characters such as Pops and Detective Knight added more depth and interest to the story as well. Rosario Dawson also reprises her role as Claire Temple in the show. Claire was largely taken for granted in Daredevil and Jessica Jones, and as one of my favorite characters in the Marvel universe I was thrilled to see that she was given more screen time and appreciation in Luke Cage.
The villains of Luke Cage were no less stellar. I don’t know if any villain will be able to top Daredevil’s incredible Wilson Fisk, but Cottonmouth and Mariah Dillard came close. They were both ruthless and tragic, as their backstory revealed how they had been trained into violence from a young age. Mariah was one of the most complex characters in the show; I found myself both rooting for her to succeed and also wanting her to be brought to justice. I wasn’t as fond of ‘Shades’ Alvarez, but I’m interested to see what direction the next season takes him.
The character of Luke Cage was created in the ’70s and it was hard to swallow that the character’s main conceit—being bulletproof—is still so revolutionary. Luke Cage was a hero for his time when he was first created, and today he is still a hero for our time. The show’s creator, Cheo Hodari Coker, did a wonderful job of pulling Cage into the present day and making his story meaningful against the modern political and racial issues that surround us.
Luke Cage felt more political than most of Marvel’s shows, which I liked. I’m not typically a huge action fan, so if a show doesn’t have more going on behind the fighting, I tend to get bored. It also provided a much-needed boost of diversity to Marvel’s universe. Its nearly all-black cast was the opposite of most of its movies and franchises, where Sam Wilson, James Rhodes or Claire Temple serve as the token character of color.
Besides its political undertones, Luke Cage was visually appealing as well. It did a great job taking advantage of the Harlem location to provide atmospheric visuals and music. It made the setting truly believable. Each of Marvel’s Netflix shows are about a different part of New York, and, in a way the city, is as much a character as anyone else in a show. In the same way Daredevil and Jessica Jones brought us to Hell’s Kitchen, Luke Cage introduced us to Harlem.
Ultimately, I thought the series was a great addition to the Marvel franchise and was worth the time commitment it took to binge-watch. The Atlantic believes the series was too long and too slow to start, and while they have a good point, I personally enjoyed every episode and didn’t begrudge the side-plots and gradual buildup. It was a great arc and I hope Cage will be back on our screens soon.
Contact CU Independent staff writer Carina Julig at firstname.lastname@example.org.