Ever since the unexpected critical success of Marvel’s “Daredevil,” its follow-up season and the first season of “Jessica Jones,” people have been clamoring for another dose of Marvel content from Netflix. However, many fans were wondering if Luke Cage as a character could carry a show on his own without Jessica Jones (Kristen Ritter) or her supporting cast. Well, it gives me great pleasure to say that not only can Luke carry a show all on his own, but his show, “Luke Cage,” might just be the best of the Marvel Netflix shows so far!
The great thing about the Marvel Netflix shows is that they have truly pushed the boundaries regarding adult content in comic book media. “Daredevil” was a high concept gritty noir story with Hard-R violence, “Jessica Jones” was a trashy detective thriller which tackled issues like PTSD, and now “Luke Cage” is a down-to-earth urban crime story with a protagonist with superhuman abilities dealing with gritty, realistic issues. This show had a lot to live up to, not just meeting the high bar set by the previous shows, but being the first Marvel project to star an African-American lead and predominately black cast. “Luke Cage” succeeds at delivering a stellar urban crime story woven together with a character piece about a man just trying to do good in a rough neighborhood. The story takes place in Harlem, and it showcases just what makes it such a unique place. Though it has its issues, it’s ultimately a place built on its history and it’s those who respect that history that eventually rise above it. Having an urban setting means that “Luke Cage” has a stellar soundtrack which is peppered with classic jazz, R&B, and even some energetic rap.
But setting and soundtrack aside, the most enthralling aspect and true heart of the show is Michael Colter as the title character. We learned a little bit about Luke and his backstory during the events of “Jessica Jones,” but as he was only a supporting character the show didn’t have enough time to give him the attention he deserved. However, now that he has the spotlight the audience gets to see him in full for the truly layered character that he is. Luke gets put through the emotional ringer in this show, and Colter succeeds at showcasing a wide variety of emotions, from confident, to heartbroken, to emotionally closed off, which is appropriate given the nature of Luke’s abilities. Luke is unbreakable. His skin is literally indestructible and this makes him unique when placed alongside the other heroes in this section of the Marvel cinematic universe. Luke doesn’t have a fancy suit of armor or a magic hammer; he doesn’t even have the fancy costume or flight that Daredevil or Jessica Jones have. All he has are his fists, his will and his wit, which is all he needs. The villains in this show run the gambit from brutal psychos to more subdued schemers. These villains make perfect foils for Luke and his everyman persona, as they push the hero to his physical and emotional breaking point. The action scenes are also a treat, with brutal fist fights and drag’em out brawls that will leave the biggest action aficionado happy.
“Luke Cage” is one of the best seasons of Netflix programming to come out this year, alongside the first season of “Stranger Things” and the fourth season of “Orange is the New Black.” “Luke Cage” is an excellent show and proof that Marvel is still the reigning champ of the big and small screen. Eat your heart out DC!