Marvel’s Luke Cage
NetFlix Original Series
Season 1, Episode 12: You Know My Steez
Air Date: 30 September 2016
Starring: Mike Colter, Frankie Faison, Simone Missick, Theo Rossi, Frank Whaley, and Alfre Woodard
WARNING: SPOILERS – review written for those following the show who have watched episode thirteen through its completion!
And so we come to the final chapter. It’s been a ride. It has not always been exciting. It hasn’t always been perfect. There has definitely been some stumbling along the way. While my overall takeaway from the series is positive, I just felt there were some strange choices they made along the way that leaves me feeling like the whole first season does not knit entirely together as a singular, cohesive, solid story. But, oh well, let’s make this discussion about the final episode.
Episode 13 opens with a scene of a young Carl Lucas being taught to box by William Stryker. Ostensibly because someone fronted Carl in front of a store after a football game or something. Whatever the reason, we are clearly telegraphed that what we are about to experience is the repeat of a battle that has been brewing for many and many a year.
The fight was pretty damned righteous. But there really is no need to discuss much of it. It was awesome, and I loved it. Natch?
What bears discussion in this episode is the really weird pacing of the whole episode. What we get is a 15 to 20-minute fight scene and then what amounts to a 40 minute or greater dénouement. So that’s ok; it’s a choice, and it has been done before, or at least similar arrangements have definitely been done. What’s bothersome in this take is that I wish more would have happened. And that it would have been cleaner, tighter, and sharper. Probably shorter, too. I was originally excited when I saw how much time was left in the episode after the last blow was landed. I was jazzed to see what I thought was going to be a ton of resolution and unpacking of pent up feelings. But it was anything but.
And, yeah, sure, we got some of that. But not often and not enough. Mariah and Shades continue their macabre Bonnie and Clyde bit, and I mean, dat shizz gets really dark and heavy this episode. While the two of them have murdered in the past, it has always been a rapist, or a thug on the gang payroll, or Cottonmouth himself. This is the first time that we directly witnessed their brutality visited on an innocent woman. And the lead up to it is fraught with tension as we had to sit through a total “will he or won’t he” scene as well as forplay beforehand before we could move on. And then we get the absolutely biggest creep-show that I’ve seen in a while, as Mariah kisses Shades in one of the outro scenes. I still feel like I need to take a shower. This is like Mrs Robinson kissing Jeffrey Dahmer in a Woody Allen movie. Just…uuuuugggghhhhhhhhh.
There were a few other parts that did not work as well as I would have liked, either. I kept wanting Misty Knight to just tumble over the edge, turn in her badge and gun, and resign from the NYPD. I’m not really sure why they kept taking her so close to the precipice of fulfilling her comic book legacy. In fact, I’m not sure why they did not go ahead and lose her arm so that she could get the bionic one earlier this season when Diamondback shot her. And while Simone Missick’s performance in this episode were great, I felt that her leave-off fell short. I’m not sure why you do everything with that character but put a bow on it and then just walk away without fully showing your commitment to telling her story.
I also was not a fan of the final final ending, which results in Luke Cage getting arrested…again. This is starting to become a running gag on the show, sort of like it was on the A-Team. In an era where shows are doing a thing, then saying that wasn’t what happened, only to turn around and do it again “but for real this time”, with the result in the true realization of a given character’s fate being met with viewer sarcasm, this just seemed like the incorrect approach. There’s another show out there that did the same thing, did something to a character, took it back 3 or 4 episodes later, only to then yank the rug out from under us at the start of the following season. The one thing we did get out of this sequence was confirmation of Luke and Claire’s love for each other, and confirmation that the file proving Carl Lucas’ innocence (the mess that landed him in Seagate in the first place), thought to have been lost in the fight at Pops’ Barbershop, is intact and in good hands.
Another over-telegraph that happens is that we get the 15th instance of someone commenting on how hard it seems to be to keep Pop’s old shop a barbershop and that maybe Luke should do something else with it. Just make it the damned Heroes for Hire offices already. Enough with the foretelling.
Overall, I just felt that the lengthy dénouement gave them time to goon up a lot of things that they did not need to mess with. There are 2 years between these shows, too, as NetFlix is only deploying 2 new seasons of Marvel shows per year. So with Iron Fist and the Defenders in the queue for 2017, and Punisher somewhere after that, we won’t see Season 2 of Luke Cage until 2018 at best. Maybe 2019 if they do another Daredevil or Jessica Jones season first. With it all over now, I really liked Luke Cage Season 1 as a whole, but it’s a bit of an acquired taste, and I can see how it is not for everyone. It speaks to minorities more than anything, and African Americans quite specifically. It is timely and appropriate after the shit year that this country has had with regards to race relations. I find it spiritual and uplifting, but it is not the best super-hero show that has been done. I am hoping that the production team comes back after tightening up script writing, fight choreography (which is already pretty sharp now after a shaky start), and villain development. That all being said? Season 2? Can’t wait.