“Sweet Christmas” is right. The first season of Luke Cage was released on Netflix Friday (Christmas came early!), and it has taken me all weekend (and then some) to come to grips with this incredible show.
In the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement with numerous protests erupting all over the nation against racial profiling and inequity, the Defender with unbreakable skin comes in just in time to add kindling to the fire, and show-runner Cheo Hodari Coker brings to life a fresh narrative unique to the stereotypical Marvel audience.
I feel the need to address something important about the essence of the show. As a white person, I have had the privilege of always feeling represented by at least one character in all Marvel productions, namely because most of their shows and movies have been produced with a white audience in mind. Watching Luke Cage was different for me. It did not offer me the comfort I’ve come to expect from Marvel – in fact, I cannot recall a single white character more prominent than any black characters. This portrayal of the Luke Cage story, brilliantly coordinated by Coker, is a giant success for Marvel.
As the company’s first show about a black superhero, had Luke Cage been developed with major concern for how to make the show palatable to white people, I would have been quite disappointed. It’s sort of like when SNL poked fun at white people listening to Beyoncé’s Formation for the first time:
(But, seriously, some people are reacting this way. LOL.)
Luckily, Luke Cage was no disappointment. Complete with genuine Harlem dialogue and upbeat jazz, the cultural significance of this show (a black man standing tall and unharmed by bullets being shot at him) is something we’ve needed from television (and from Marvel) for a long time. Here are some of the most memorable scenes from the first season of Luke Cage that stood out to me:
Episode 1: Repertoire between Luke and Misty
“Dumb men like little girls. Me? I ponder a woman.”
Not only does the scene at the bar start the chemistry between Luke and Misty off strong, it’s just plain sexy. It also introduces the maturity of the characters’ relationship.
“It was really great to not have to be concerned with aging myself down for once,” Simone Missick (Misty Knight) said in an interview.
Episode 2: Cottonmouth symbolically borrows Biggie’s crown:
“You know what draws your eye when you look at that? The crown. You know why? Because everybody wants to be the King.”
This chilling scene, punctuated by the beating of Shameek, provides a glimpse into the mysterious mind of Cornell Stokes.
“Cottonmouth is not the person he wanted to be,” Mahershala Ali, who plays Stokes (AKA Cottonmouth), told EW. “Cottonmouth is the result of having to react to his circumstances. He had to, in some ways, take control of the situation and own his circumstances. But as a result of that, he became a person he didn’t intend to become.”
Episode 3: Bulletproof man, hole-ey hoodie
Luke puts is hoodie up and braces himself against a rain of bullets, only for them to tear through his hoodie and ricochet off his skin. He then proceeds to bad-ass his way through the pawns in the building.
“Definitely one of my favorite scenes is Luke’s assault on Cottonmouths ‘fortress’ where he kept all the money, taking on all those men with ease. The way he used that couch like a baseball bat to knock them out was awesome.” – Reddit user Guitars4Hire
“The world is ready for a bulletproof black man,” Coker declared at Comic-Con.
Episode 5: Claire’s no damsel
Upon introducing Claire Temple into the series, we see her walking down a street in Harlem when a man grabs her purse and takes off. Rather than scream for help, Claire sprints after the mugger, catches up to him, kicks his ass and reclaims her purse. I think the most badass part of this entire scene is when she later meets her mom for lunch and apologizes for being late because she had to stop a dude from robbing her – y’know, like a daily accomplishment.
Never change, Claire.
Episode 6: Misty’s no damsel, either
Misty outsmarts her temporary partner and records him spouting off the truth. Then, when attempts to overpower her, she regains control and directs him to cuff himself to the car.
“You’re too smart for your own good,” he said.
“Yeah, I’d rather be a smart-ass than a dumbass, now give me your gun,” she replied.
“I wanted Misty to be a real woman,” Coker said in an interview. “I wanted her to be assured and confident and a character that wouldn’t necessarily be self-conscious. Someone that could be a good detective but at the same time also be sensitive about what it means to be a detective in a place like Harlem.”
So yeah, Misty is amazing.
Episode 7: Mariah lashes out
Just when we begin getting flashbacks of Stokes’ childhood and backstory, our main villain’s life is unexpectedly cut short. Stokes’ cunning words push Mariah Dillard too far and she pushes him back in retaliation – off the balcony of his club. Mariah’s passionate screams as she murders Stokes fill in some pieces about her own backstory and the weight she’s carried since her younger years, not unlike her cousin’s experiences.
Episode 8: Diamondback and Luke face off
Because of Luke’s wounds, Willis Stryker (“I prefer Diamondback!”) is able to match his strength and be the first character in the show to pose a real threat to Luke during hand-to-hand combat. Stryker provokes Luke by throwing insults at him about his mother at him while they fight, and makes the bold claim that he is Luke’s brother.
“In a sense, this is a game to him,” Erik Laray Harvey, who plays Stryker, said about his initial appearance in the show. “I think the smile is just the mask he wears with everyone. It’s not genuine. He’s not trying to be nice or to befriend anyone. He smiles through his pain.”
Episode 10: The truth about Reva is revealed
When Luke and Claire find Reva Connor’s recorded notes about the events at Seagate on her hard drive, the pain and heartbreak on Luke’s face is palpable. We were already familiar with how passionately Luke could feel about someone, but this heart-sinking scene reveals just how deeply he loved and cherished the idea of Reva. Honestly, Mike Colter’s acting is a blessing to the world of (online) television.
Also episode 10: That little moment between Luke and Claire…
At the beginning of the show, I was shipping Luke and Misty pretty hard. But, that tiny almost-romantic moment between Luke and Claire by the sea, when Luke moved in close only to fish Clare’s keys out of her pocket… that got me good.
Episode 13: The final fight
Luke and Stryker face off again, and while Luke was fully recovered from his wounds left by exploding bullets, this time Stryker is suited up in his classic Diamondback costume. Luke, of course, remembers his training from when he was young, and successfully takes Stryker out after letting him land enough punches to tire him out.
And, of course… the final moment between Luke and Claire
To think, this whole time I was expecting Luke and Misty to come out of the rubble! Luke and Claire’s adorable chemistry boils up and shoots them out of the friend zone in the last episode, and Claire stops Luke just before he’s taken back to prison (!!) to share a passionate kiss. *Heart eyes*
Even without knowing The Defenders is within sight, the ending of Luke Cage teases that this is not the last we’ve seen of Harlem’s bulletproof man.
“I don’t plan on hibernating,” Luke says in the back of the police car. “I was innocent before and I’m innocent now. I’ve got work to do.”