I’ve been a fan of Luke Cage since his original Power Man days back in the 70s. One of the first comics I clearly remember reading as a kid was Power Man & Iron Fist #50. This is is a character I’ve loved and followed for nearly 40 years off and on.
So when I heard it was coming to TV as a series, I was really excited, far more than I was for Jessica Jones and nearly as much as I was for Daredevil. That Iron Fist was following it up made it all extra special.
But there are ways to do this series right and ways to do it really, really wrong. Let’s see which way they went as I look at the first season of Luke Cage.
Now I’ll be honest, I really hate shows where you get a bunch of black characters acting like assholes. That’s not meant to be racist, but seriously, outside of Luke Cage himself, every black character in the series was a jerk. Sure it might be realistic, speaking of the ghetto, but that’s not the image of black society that we ought to be putting on the small screen, or any screen for that matter. Black men acting like thugs, calling each other racial epithets, engaging in random violence for the sake of violence, and then having the black community celebrate that portrayal is ridiculous. And then they complain how they are portrayed in the media? Fuck you all.
This is especially true of one early episode where they had a song that called out niggers about 50 times in the first minutes of the episode. It was at that point that I started to tune out.
The other issue is that even though these Netflix series tend to be slow burns, this one struck me as ridiculously slow. In fact, if you remember back to my review of the first season of Daredevil, I couldn’t get through the episodes fast enough, I burned through the whole season in a couple of days. Jessica Jones and the second season of Daredevil went much more slowly, and then there is this show… that I just stopped watching at all after the first handful of episodes. It took me months to sit through them all, and that was only when I had nothing better to watch. It just dragged, right up until the very end. That’s why it took me so long to get this review out. We had the last four episodes to watch and it was between forcing ourselves to get through them or watching reruns, and this show only barely won out.
But this could have been a really cool series. I think Mike Colter is good as Luke Cage, although he was certainly better in Jessica Jones than I think he was here. He’s not the best actor in the world, he certainly is wooden at times, but I think he’s got the look. And Simone Missick was the perfect Misty Knight, although I was really wanting her to lose her arm and quit the force by the end of the season so we could get the comic version. Rosario Dawson, sorry to say, didn’t impress me all that much. She was better in Daredevil. I don’t think for a second she needs to fall for every superhero she meets, it cheapens the character. She’s good enough on her own, she doesn’t need some man to prop her up. But the rest were all forgettable, especially the bad guys. I like Mahershala Ali as an actor, but Cottonmouth was just crap. Like all of the villains in this series, they were portrayed as smart, but kept acting stupid. I mean, early on, all of his advisors are logically telling Cottonmouth to drown Cage and he’s going “nah, I got this!” How stupid are these people? The absolute worst was Willis Stryker, who played the mastermind behind all of the machinations against Cage, then in the end shows up in a suit of powered armor to beat the crap out of Cage in the middle of the street. It was just dumb. All of the villains let their emotions get in the way of their intellect.
This just wasn’t my kind of show, which is a shame because I love the character, I just hate what they did with him. Believe it or not, you can have a series set in a ghetto without every single character being a complete raving asshole psycho criminal. I know that’s hard to believe but it’s true. I couldn’t sympathize with any of them. I didn’t feel sorry when they got shot because mostly, nobody in the show cared either. It was just something that happens on the streets of Harlem. Oh well. If it’s not a big deal to the characters in the show, why should it be a big deal to me?
If this comes back for a second series, I hope they make some serious changes. Get Luke to his Heroes for Hire days. Get Misty with her golden arm and Colleen Wing. I know this was an origin story of sorts, but make Luke a legitimate hero, not just someone who is trying to survive, reluctant about protecting people. This should have been better than it was. Make it better.