Luke Cage – Season 2 Overall Review

Luke Cage S2

Luke Cage’s second season is a vast improvement over Season 1, or to be more precise, it’s like the great first half of Season 1, but across its whole 13 episode run. A fun new villain with a great, sympathetic backstory (as all good villains have!), an old villain who just keeps getting worse, and a great supporting cast. Let’s waste no more time and take a closer look at the season as a whole!

Synopsis:

Luke Cage, the bulletproof defender of Harlem, has become a celebrity, and the life is starting to change him, and not for the better. Meanwhile Mariah wants out of the illegal gun smuggling trade, and a new threat from Jamaica soon arrives in New York…

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

Luke Cage S2 3

Yeah… I think I’d just run if this pair was walking up to me like that…

Luke Cage (Mike Colter) – Luke Cage has become a hero to the people of Harlem, and he’s dedicated to keeping the image up and the streets clean, especially from the drug peddlers who have put his name on their latest creation…

Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) – Claire is still in love with Luke, though she is becoming increasingly worried about his tunnel-vision to do with stopping all the crime in Harlem…

Misty Knight (Simone Missick) – Misty lost her arm when she during the whole major fight with The Hand (ironically!) and she’s becoming content with staying retired… until some of her old cases become null and void due to her corrupt ex-partner’s past being revealed…

Bushmaster (Mustafa Shakir) – Bushmaster comes from Jamaica to join his Yardie brothers in New York. He has a grudge with the Stokes family, and he doesn’t care if their current head has changed her surname to Dillard…

Shades (Theo Rossi) – Shades is happy with his close relationship with Mariah, their criminal empire slowly growing, so it’s a shock to him when Mariah tries to “go legit” and take a big money pay-out…

Mariah Dillard (Alfre Woodard) – Mariah is still haunted by her family, stuck between trying to escape from their shadows and keeping their names alive. She sees a new opportunity to make legit money as a way to finally bring respect to her lineage.

Tilda Johnson (Gabrielle Dennis) – Tilda is the daughter of Mariah and therefore a Stokes descendent. She may not be on Bushmaster’s radar at the moment, but she may have already helped his mother’s enemy, unbeknownst to her…

James Lucas (Reg E. Cathey) – James is a reverend, and Luke Cage’s father. When Luke went to prison (falsly) he blamed his son’s actions for making his wife ill. The guilt still overwhelming, James wishes to correct the mistake and reunite with his son…

Plus more!

The Good:

Luke Cage S2 1

Ouch! I mean, not as much if he didn’t have enhanced, tough skin, but still… ouch!

While Luke Cage’s portrayal was hit and miss, the lead antagonists were great. Bushmaster, the super-powered Jamaican who wants nothing more than revenge against the Stokes family that was responsible for killing his mother, and indeed the last remaining Stokes (who is in the criminal game) Mariah Dillard, who starts off wanting to go legit and just retire rich while helping the community, but ends up falling from grace and living up to her family’s heritage. Bushmaster is especially great, his accent and demeanour are very unique, and that fact he gets his powers from a special flower from Jamaica called Nightshade, but the more he uses it the more damage he does to his mind, is a good twist. It’s all about how far he’ll go to get revenge, and his various fights with Luke Cage, and especially the big fight in Episode 12 where he takes on Cage, Misty Knight and Shades in a big brawl, were all great TV.

Mariah on the other hand was arrogant and unpleasant, and yes, the fact she reunites with her daughter purely for PR reasons isn’t the nicest thing in the world, but it isn’t until Episode 10 when she becomes properly nasty. The scene where she sets a relative of Bushmasters alight and watches him scream in agony before shooting him dead because he was taking too long was just… horrible. By the time she dies in Episode 13 you REALLY want her dead. Her daughter Tilda ends up doing the deed, going from innocent idealist to murderer due to her mother’s actions and the knowledge that she was the product of incest and rape, rather than the nice father she thought she had. The fact she ends up sympathising with Bushmaster and even helping him try to kill her mother says a lot, that she ends up doing it herself via poisoned lipstick is actually a sad admittance that she’s fallen down the same path she was fighting against. Her reaction to Luke Cage getting her family’s club says it all: look out in Season 3!

The other lead cast members are well served as well. Misty goes from resenting pity for losing an arm, to gaining her self-confidence, then gaining a cyborg arm, loving the police, leaving the police due to being tempted into being corrupt, then finally raising up in the police ranks after he friend and boss are killed. Phew! That’s a lot in 13 episodes, but it never felt too much, it flowed really well. Shades is his normal “gangsta” self, but isn’t liking the new Mariah and her soft, legit rich life outlook, but goes along with it anyway. His best friend (and prison lover) Darius “Comanche” Jones turns out to be a police informant which lead to a dramatic showdown where he ends up killing his close friend. When Mariah goes off the deep end Shades gets what he wants, but then soon gets too much of what he wants and ironically becomes a snitch himself, though after Mariah’s death he gets arrested anyway, the deal he made to be immune only counted if she went to prison. It was, again, a great journey.

Luke Cage’s father appears in the first two thirds, and slowly reconnects with his son, which is a nice story but doesn’t have any lasting impact. There is an episode with Colleen Wing helping Misty, and Danny Rand teaming up with Luke Cage, and they’re both really entertaining. Danny Rand especially is far better here than his own series.

Overall then the main story arcs work brilliantly, every character of any worth goes through a great journey that twists and turns into each other, with one exception…

The Bad:

Luke Cage S2 2

A loving mother and daughter… boy that would change quick!

Luke Cage is sadly the weakest link in Luke Cage Season 2. The first few episodes see him uncharacteristically angry against the world, or just plain angry, including punching a hole in the wall while arguing with Claire (who soon leaves, so not much to say about her in this overall review…) Luke has been shown to be nothing but a nice guy and very much against the kind of stuff he says in the episode (including using the N-word, which he had previously been strongly against) so it comes out of nowhere. Then in the finale he takes over Harlem’s criminal world and says things that imply he’s willing to do bad things to stop worse from doing worse, which while I can see the viewpoint, and I appreciated a visual Godfather film reference, it once again seemed out of place. Might make for a good Season 3, but it still didn’t feel very in character.

The only other bad I can think of is some of the musical performances go on way too long and focus on the musicians a bit too much. I don’t mind the odd performance, a lot of scenes are based in a club and all, but particularly in the opening few episodes you’re just waiting for the story to move on…

Overall Thoughts:

Luke Cage S2 4

One man stands in the middle of an armed group of men, and the group are clearly screwed.

Luke Cage Season 2 is overall really great storytelling and has some satisfying character arcs and fight scenes. Sadly the one character that is disserviced is the lead character himself, but even then a lot of episodes in the middle he’s fine… Overall, a strong entry in the MCU, though not a blow-away great one.

4 Star Watch

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