HARLEM NIGHTS: LUKE CAGE S1E5 – “Just to Get a Rep” REVIEW

Marvel’s Luke Cage
NetFlix Original Series

Season 1, Episode 5: Just to Get a Rep
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 five through its completion!

Rep. Cred. Kudos. Any number of terms that synonymously reference the regard with which an individual is held, how reverentially they are referred to, both in person and behind their back. It’s an important thing to various stripes of people. Athletes of all walks. Professionals in the office space. Media content creators online. And especially on the grid-like squares of space known as “the block”, or the ‘hood. For some people, it is life.

In episode five of Luke Cage, we deal with this subject, as you could reckon that it is an essential element of life for one Cottonmouth. The turn here, is that now Luke Cage cares about it as well. Since the series’ start, Cage has not been greatly concerned with his rep. He’s wanted to stay off the radar. An irrelevant. But as of the end of episode 4, where he reveals his name to the press, Luke is now firmly planting his feet as a member of Harlem society, and as he tells one Misty Knight at the end of this episode, he “…ain’t going nowhere.”

This episode is my favorite so far. I love the pacing. We start off with Cage putting on his ass-kickers and basically just stalking the blocks of Harlem and whuppin’ ass every other corner.
Cottonmouth had it in his mind to put the squeeze on the people of Harlem as retribution for Power Man coming to their aid. As the wails of lament reach Luke’s ears in Pop’s Barbershop, he sets about the business of putting each transgression aright. Pretty much every henchman on Cottonmouth’s payroll gets laid low. As a byproduct, we get several reveals. Scarfe is not the only one who is dirty, LT. Perez is as well. And Scarfe, despite being in Cottonmouth’s pocket, turns out to be just as interested to be rid of the troublesome mobster as Cage would be. It makes me wonder if he and Perez are not really on Cottonmouth’s payroll, but Diamondback’s. Or maybe are even members of some rogue SHIELD cell who has taken on a mission of maintaining a balance of power by unauthorized means. Whatever the case may be, it is clear that they are not just onboard to do Cottonmouth’s bidding without having some will of their own.

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We also get a couple drops further integrating the show with the greater MCU. Claire Temple returns home to Harlem from one Hell’s Kitchen, referencing events from Daredevil in conversations with her mother. And Shades drops a possible solution to Cottonmouth’s Power Man problem by revealing a means of getting his hands on Hammer Industries technology. Nice touches.

What makes me love this episode is the wonderfully smooth transition from super-hero curb-stomping to the more dramatic and character-driven second half of the episode, which features a dialogue between Luke and a shop owner’s father who has become a drunkard, as well as a set-piece at Pops’ funeral. These two vignettes perfectly illustrate what I discussed in my episode 4 review, about this show focusing on the struggle between the light and the dark, and how it all boils down to the battle to gain influence over the people in between who have yet to choose a side. At Pops’ funeral, Cottonmouth delivers a powerful speech that, if it weren’t for the viewer’s awareness of his mobster underpinnings, could be seen as a highly influential speech that could motivate Harlem citizens to align against Luke Cage, a Harlem outsider. Then Colter stands up…and on his way to the dais to speak, hesitates. For a moment suspended in time, I thought we were going to see the old Luke Cage, the one who does not want to be a part of anything outside of himself, and that he was going to sit down. But he moves to the podium, and his speech had my eyes tearing up at one time. The scenes show the strength of the show’s writers, but also make me shake my head as to why they have not nailed down good script-writing for Alfre Woodard’s character. Incidentally, I am scoring this episode as the strongest of the show so afar, and, again, the trend continues that it is one in which Woodard is not in the episode.

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If there was any question of the huge potential of this show, it has pretty much been quelled by “Just to Get a Rep”. Claire Temple looks like she’s going to be a wonderful addition to the show, especially as she appears ready to commit to the notion of becoming the Night Nurse. Colter’s performance gets stronger each episode as he gets more comfortable as Power Man, and the show’s writers are apparently feeling imbued with the same sense of confidence. Forward. Always.

 

 

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