Marvel’s Luke Cage
NetFlix Original Series
Season 1, Episode 6: Suckas Need Bodyguards
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 six through its completion!
It’s tough to be a hero. Things are always conflicted. When you try to save people, they appreciate you. Fail to save one, and you might just be made out to be a villain. This episode starts with a bang. Literally. Scarfe gets more than he bargained for when he tries to squeeze Cornell for a cool $100,000. Believing that he has Cottonmouth in an unfortunate bargaining position, he miscalculates the mobster’s ruthlessness. Scarfe winds up a bloody mess on a New York dock.
Luke is readying himself for his own departure, though not of this mortal coil. He talks with Fish about his intentions to leave Harlem as soon as he is done dealing with Cottonmouth. There are nice allusions to Heroes for Hire, as well as a nod to the other heroes in the Marvel Universe and the fact that most of them maintain secret identities behind masks. And Cage makes his re-connection with Claire Temple, which has been building for a bit. Misty Knight, alerted to Scarfe’s disappearance, begins the investigation alongside Lieutenant Perez, who turns out to be not quite the sterling cop that we may have thought him to be.
What I really like about this episode, despite the fact that this is, unfortunately his final episode, is the background we get into Scarfe’s life. His broken marriage, his dead son, and his overall take on life. Scarfe also makes some degree of an effort to come clean in his dying hours. It is marginally redeemable. And I marked his departure from the show with a skosh of regret. After he is shot by Cottonmouth, he winds up at the barbershop seeking asylum, and Claire and Luke set about the business of trying to save his life.
I also liked Misty and her slow circling of Perez until she snares him and gets him to confess his own culpability. But the most notable thing in this episode is the major step up in Alfre Woodard’s performance. Maybe it is because she finally was given enough meat in her script to really act. There is a moment that seems to hint at some mental instability in her, when she screams at a fallen picture of Mama Mabel. We also see the more sinister side of her in a brief scene with Stokes, where she enumerates several methods for Cottonmouth to try in an effort to murder Power Man. It gave me downright chills.
And there are actually two traps that are set in this episode. The second one is set by a Harlem news crew for Councilwoman Dillard, leading her through a maze of questions that ends in an accusation of corruption and criminal collaboration alongside her cousin Cottonmouth.
Despite Luke and Claire’s best efforts, Scarfe doesn’t make it. He dies a block from One Police Plaza. But his valiant efforts result in Cottonmouth’s arrest. The authentic urban soundtrack in this episode is particularly on point, especially in the climax and in the following dénouement. It syncs up perfectly with the sorrowful scene of Scarfe’s passing as Detective Knight arrives just in time to see him depart. The final closing scene is touching. Luke believes that he is done and talks with Claire about his own departure. And he and Claire have a witty scene and banter. It feels like a mid-season finale, which is a nice directorial effect, given the alternate format in which NetFlix shows are presented. I’m looking forward to more, but I am also glad that this episode did not end in some knuckle-tight cliffhangar. Pacing is good in terms of arcs in this show, and if the performances of Woodard and others who have lagged continue to improve, it looks like we are in for a solid bridge in this middle of the epic first season.