In an era where the world is enamored with black culture, streaming and cinema audiences alike have seen ethnocentric films demolish box offices and create a conversation about new projects being developed for the masses.
In 2016, Netflix added “Luke Cage” to their Marvel hero run that includes “Daredevil” and “Jessica Jones.” From the beginning, the title character shared similarities with his Netflix counterparts as a detective type, with superpowers and a heart of gold. However, the feeling of the show is completely different.
The unequivocal blackness of “Luke Cage” resonates throughout, from the titles of every episode being named after a song by legendary rap group Gang Starr, to the smooth soundtrack.
Every scene of “Luke Cage” is perfectly orchestrated, with smooth transitions and the occasional foreshadowing of the most juicy bits. The show would also be impossible without the casting. An amazing dynamic exists between the actors that ultimately makes “Luke Cage” a standout series.
Mike Colter delivers a determined and stoic performance as Luke Cage, and seems to be a living embodiment of the character. Alfre Woodard descends into darkness as Mariah Dillard. Finally, Mahershala Ali gives a charmingly ruthless performance as Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes — one of the best portrayals of a villain in any comic book medium.
Two years later, Netflix released the second season almost immediately after the fallout of “The Defenders,” with Luke Cage back at Pop’s Barbershop in Harlem.
Season two doesn’t disappoint. Woodard offers a captivating performance as Black Mariah embraces her family’s legacy of crime. This development leads viewers to a new face in the series: John “Bushmaster” McIver, a villain driven by righteous sense of vengeance.
Mustafa Shakir gives a great performance as Harlem’s new villain. At times, I found myself rooting for Bushmaster’s cause, due to the tragic nature of his revenge — as ruthless as it may be.
Neither of the villainous ways of Bushmaster nor Black Mariah compare to the trials Cage faces, A rash decision jeopardizes a close relationship, and the hero-for-hire begins down the path of self-doubt. Moral conflicts begin to surface, tugging a vulnerable Cage in various directions, ultimately leading him down an unthinkable character change that most won’t see coming.
With an amazing lineup of legendary musicians to set the mood, incredible performances by the cast, and the same feel of smoothness throughout the second season, “Luke Cage” is definitely a binge-able watch, providing interesting growth to one of Marvel’s best characters.