Bingefest — ‘Marvel’s Luke Cage’

Luke Cage.jpg
On Bingefest, Geek Spectrum will watch a just-released series, and then offer you, the reader, their impulsive first thoughts immediately following their viewing. First up — Marvel’s Luke CageMajor spoilers may be discussed, so read at your own risk.

EPISODE 1 – “Moment of Truth”

For a series that has its hero’s name in big, blocky letters, focusing on a hero with killer punches and impenetrable skin, the first episode is less focused with trying to land as many hard-hits as possible, and more with trying to warm up and wrap its hands in bandages, the way boxers do before a big fight (anyone remember what the exact, technical name for that gauze is, by the way? My mind is drawing a blank here). It has no need to establish a sort of origin story; the most we get is a retelling from Luke himself in the episode’s first ten minutes, and a flashback scene to when he was receiving a hell of a beating in prison, and it looks like beatdown was both pre-superpower and hurtful as hell, considering that, from the looks of the flashback, Luke was trying his utmost best to protect every inch of his body.

Apart from not needing an origin story, it also focuses on the cast of characters, good and bad, that will be joining us for this season of terrorizing-neighborhoods-that-our-hero lives in. Alongside Luke, we have Pops, namesake and owner of the barbershop that Luke works at; we have Mercedes “Misty” Knight, NYPD detective and, from the looks of it, Luke’s primary romantic interest… at least for this season; “Cottonmouth” Stokes, the big baddie of the season with big plans for the neighborhood of Harlem; Mariah Dillard, councilwoman and cousin to Stokes, with her own plans to improve Harlem… which may or may not be supported by Stokes’ villainy; and Shades, who may have to step in and lend Stokes a hand due to people sabotaging Stokes’ criminal empire plans (one of whom worked in the nightclub that Stokes owns and manages)… and who may have had a hand in Luke becoming a super, but in a bad way.

The photography of this series is very crisp and colorful, and it definitely gives Harlem it beauty it deserves. Though, and this is usually a criticism I maintain regarding the MCU’s Netflix output, the production staff really ought to keep the cameras either on a better Steadicam or a tripod, as the handheld photography, particularly in dialogue-heavy scenes, can get really distracting.

I also noticed that some of the writing, while in no way bad, does have the occasional really-corny line that sets off a wave a cringe for the rest of the scene it’s in. It’s not a criticism that is new in the MCU canon, rest assured – I noticed that throughout the entirety of Daredevil‘s second season run, the writing could also be very cringe-y in regards to some of its lines and dialogue.

Other than that, though, the show does a very good job of setting up its playing pieces. Rather than take the Daredevil season 1 route and wait until a few episodes in to show us the main villain, it comes ahead full-on and shows the audience that it will be Stokes who will be giving Luke and co. a hard time for the reminder of the season, which really raises the anticipation levels for when the two finally go toe-to-toe. Not only that, the show makes it very clear that, apart from the fact that Stokes is grabbing at the opportunity for New York’s underworld needing a new face following Fisk’s imprisonment, he is very different from Stokes; a criminal with a very different agenda and different ways of approaching his goals. Stokes also feels less like ticking time bomb waiting to go off at any minute, and more like an emotionless speeding car who will knock anyone down or over and not waste any time or emotion over what just transpired.

The soundtrack and music is also very lovely and combined with the scene-to-scene transitioning, it makes the show very aware and in-debt to its 1970s entertainment predecessors. Also, those final five minutes in the form of Luke kicking ass in his landlady and her husband’s restaurant were an absolute delight. Coupled with that last shot of Luke walking into the dark Harlem streets wearing a hoodie, and it becomes immediately apparent to the audience that the show is not messing around.


EPISODE 2 – “Code of the Streets”

If there’s one thing this show is succeeding at already, apart from short but gut-punching action sequences, is its ability to draw parallels between characters, and how well they choose to flesh out and develop key traits of these characters. Take Misty Knight for example. In episode 1, the only things we come to learn about her, apart from her being a cop, is how patient she is when it comes to getting her perp. In this episode, we learn that not only is she patient, but she’s also an investigator with a keen eye and a sharp attention to detail. She’s not also not afraid to lay down the law and deliver some much needed street-smart justice, demonstrated brilliantly when she outsmarts and outplays one of the neighborhood kids at the basketball, and then adds insult to injury when she reveals that, surprise, she used to be pretty famous on the courts before she became a cop. Knight’s partner may make a couple snarky comments here and there, but it becomes apparent to him and the show’s writers that he knows better than to overstep his boundaries and disrespect Knight. Knight is a presence that commands respect, and she won’t take any less.

Characterization also shines in the way the show demonstrates parallels between cousins Stokes and Dillard, and the way they approach success and respect as black people. Stokes, who has already shown that he is isn’t afraid to do what’s necessary to keep his empire afloat, gives his reasoning that in this day and age, sometimes respect can’t just be waited for; it has to be demanded. Dillard, in contrast, cites centuries of black people being treated wrongfully, arguing that successful figures of black success didn’t die so that black people could continue being seen in a negative light. Neither completely negate the other’s path to restoration – if anything, there’s a lot of mutual respect between the two cousins. The two are more bothered with whatever path the other takes, at that, but neither completely disregard the progress that the other has made so far with the choices they have made, and the show makes it clear to point out that Dillard, although she would like to restore Harlem with as few dead bodies as possible, she has no problem watching Stokes conduct his dirty business from the sidelines.

The show not only has much to say about modernity in the age of the superhero, but also about blackness and the many different forms it takes. Basketball courts, barbershops, nightclubs, and characters that refused to be characterized or recognized by cliches so often affixed in other shows that “require” the token minority character.


EPISODE 3 – “Who’s Gonna Take the Weight?”

Impulsive review forthcoming.

EPISODE 4 – “Step in the Arena”

Impulsive review forthcoming.

EPISODE 5 – “Just to Get a Rep”

Impulsive review forthcoming.

EPISODE 6 – “Suckas Need Bodyguards”

Impulsive review forthcoming.

EPISODE 7 – “Manifest”

Impulsive review forthcoming.

EPISODE 8 – “Blowin’ Up the Spot”

Impulsive review forthcoming.


Impulsive review forthcoming.

EPISODE 10 – “Take it Personal”

Impulsive review forthcoming.

EPISODE 11 – “Now You’re Mine”

Impulsive review forthcoming.

EPISODE 12 – “Soliloquy of Chaos”

Impulsive review forthcoming.

EPISODE 13 – “You Know My Steez”

Impulsive review forthcoming.

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