By Robert Ernest (@thatRobster)
This review is spoiler-free.
Luke Cage is back!!! And he’s definitely back with a bang. Season 2 builds upon a pretty decent first outing of this Marvel man of steel and the result is an altogether extremely enjoyable viewing experience.
Trying my best to keep this relatively spoiler-free, we’re back in Harlem and it’s pretty much business as usual. Luke has continued protecting the people of the city, he’s in a pretty serious relationship with Nurse Claire and life is looking pretty good for him. Unlike Jessica Jones, Luke seems to be enjoying the attention he’s attracted and with sponsorship deals coming in and continuous gushing from his adoring public, he doesn’t have much to complain about. I really liked the added presence of social media this season and mixed in with Luke’s interactions with the public, it kind of makes the show feel more realistic.
Things aren’t so rosy for Mariah Dillard when the season kicks off. She’s enjoying a very, very creepy romance with Shades, but is completely broke. It’s not long before she puts plans in motion though and finds her way back on top. Mariah is taken on quite a journey this season. She’s advised to approach her estranged Daughter, Tilda, in order to raise her Oprah-esque profile. Having Tilda around presents a whole heap of extra problems for Mariah and to say their relationship is complicated would be an understatement. Mariah finds out the hard way the value of positive parenting and revisiting her past is an extremely painful experience for both mother and daughter.
The potential villain for season 2 is Bushmaster, who arrives in Harlem seeking revenge on Mariah due to years of a family feud revolving around rum. I quite enjoy a nice rum and coke but what unravels between them is monstrous. Bushmaster adds a great deal of backstory and depth to Mariah and his role is very complex. I was instantly reminded of how impeccably well this show has been cast. Each character, no matter how small their role, adds so much to what plays out. Alfre Woodward who plays Mariah acts through her eyes. She’s able to give us the perfect combination of crazy/ panic/ insanity/ control all at once. Mike Colter has taken himself to that place where he just IS Luke Cage, and like the actors who play our favourite Marvel heroes in the movies, I could never imagine anyone else taking on the role. I can’t fault him. He gives the character layers which leave him contesting many of his actions.
There is two stand out people for me though. First is Theo Rossi who plays Shades. He’s amazing. He’s gives us a character with so much light and dark that you really feel like you should despise him but find yourself willing him to do well. Or at least I did. He goes back and forth between good and bad and makes you question if some horrific actions could come from good intentions. Shades’ relationship with Mariah is integral and gripping throughout every episode. Theo gives his all to the character, he leaves nothing out and it’s like you can see right through to the sole of Shades. I loved his story arch.
The second is Simone Missick as Misty Knight. The show may be called Luke Cage but it would be nothing without the strong-willed, no bullshit, badass Detective Mercedes Knight. Reeling from the events which played out in The Defenders, she’s adjusting to life without her arm. She’s been outcast and totally sidelined at work and has been made to feel pretty useless. That is until she spends an eventful day with Colleen Wing (Iron Fist) involving alcohol and bar brawls. Colleen brings back that fighting spirit in Misty which is rewarded by being offered a brand new bionic arm courtesy of Rand Enterprises. She’s even more badass with it and Simone takes the character from strength to strength.
Following on from Colleen’s visit we are also given cameos from Foggy (Daredevil) and Danny Rand (Iron Fist) who turn up during the season to help Luke. Oh, and of course Claire Temple features pretty heavily. It was great having these characters show up. It made sense and it really gave that Marvel universe feels to the show, which I felt was missing from Jessica Jones 2. I especially enjoyed the episode with Danny and I really like the relationship between him and Luke. There was a very good fight scene with the two of them too.
Overall I felt like season 2 was a huge triumph. Luke Cage has turned out to be a programme that anyone would watch and enjoy, not just Marvel geeks. I felt like it showed off just how incredibly strong Luke Cage is, much more so than we have previously seen. New cast members, Gabrielle Dennis and Mustafa Shakir as Tilda and Bushmaker were fantastic additions. There were scenes of graphic violence and an underlying comedic tone throughout which were in equal measure and balanced the show out nicely. There’s also a fantastic soundtrack and some fun guest appearances at Harlem’s Paradise from hip-hop legends such as Faith Evans, Jadakiss and Ghostface Killah. A very interesting and surprising ending completely leaves you needing more. This season taught us that the past will haunt you. Sometimes it will come back to bite you on the ass and sometimes it will bring you peace.
On a side note, I completely appreciated the ‘This Is Us’ reference made between Shades and his pal, Comanche. Bravo!!!