Luke Cage Season 2
Luke Cage (Mike Colter) lives in a rough world. Luke Cage Season 2 sets up the dichotomy between past evils and deep-rooted moral murkiness with Cage’s position as a potential savior.
Marvel and Netflix continue to stream brutality and rawness that makes Luke Cage hard to watch at times. I hope that no place in the world, let alone in the United States, exists at the level of dysfunction portrayed by Cage, but I know I’m probably wrong. There are places that are this cruel, this dismissive of humanity, this driven by power as means to overcome history, this achingly hurtful of even the closest and most loyal.
As lead finds it difficult to penetrate Luke Cage’s tough exterior, his interior remains malleable, conflicted. Season two constantly challenges Cage to remain on the best side of the available choices. His choices eventually drive his emotional support and threaten his sense of place and belonging. Making that ability to stay centered difficult.
And Season 2 also introduces John McIver, “Bushmaster,” a character who not only challenges Cage’s definitions of right and wrong but who at moments overwhelms him so that even his physical advantages become liabilities.
Does Luke Cage represent the truth? Probably not. But it does paint a metaphor for perceptions that all audiences need to grabble with. We live in a world of history and consequences. Luke Cage is as much a story about the circumstances that led to its present, as it is about navigating that present.
Within the 13 episodes people break, alliances fray, evil turns in on itself—Cage draws good into a thin veil from which permits evil to shine through. Drugs aimed at discrediting Cage, gun running aimed at legitimizing many past lives, fickle turns of faith, branding and funding, a father’s attempt at redemption, information as weapon and a jealously for power that drives main characters to the edge of destruction.
It took me a couple of days to watch Season 2. The end of each episode left me wanting more, even the ones where Cage confidant Danny Rand arrived to dispel sage advice.
Alfre Woodard shines as a study in unhinged. She vacillates between leaving the world of crime, a world she perceives as a necessary evil propping up Harlem. She wants to transform into a legitimate business, but her tainted worldview ultimately bleeds over to even on her attempt at legitimacy. Eventually, she embraces her deepest soullessness while still building her own narrative as the necessary cornerstone of Harlem’s stability—a narrative that plays out as the vacuum of her presence unleashes a turf battle that crosses boroughs. Woodard should be considered for an Emmy.
From a production standpoint, there is nothing second rate about this second-tier superhero saga. The acting, special effects, occasional humor and gritty realism combine to deliver a first class experience. When watching Luke Cage I suggest you listen. When people start to talk about their family history or their personal history, intellectual and emotional resonance explodes. Everybody in Luke Cage does something stupid for very human reasons, which make the characters relatable.
But Cage is far from perfect.
The show does say things about race, equality, politics, economics, but it often does say them more than it portrays them. America has created fragmented realities. Luke Cage attempts to highlight one reality through fiction, but it needs to dig even deeper, play down the big bad and go to the day-to-day strife, hardships, redemptions and joys. Com—ic book-based material often feels obligated to be grandiose. Netflix offers an opportunity to create small, meaningful journeys that can leverage the hard-skinned immutability of a central hero to highlight those around him. I hope a season three will find a way to tell smaller stories with more personal transformation and impact.
In the meantime, I wouldn’t mind having a friendly drink with Simone Missick’s Misty Knight and Jessica Henwick’s Colleen Wing. If good and evil blur in Luke Cage, being on the right side of a bar fight with Knight and Wing is something you can count on.
If you have a Netflix subscription then you need to watch Cage. The show may not be the best reason to get a Netflix subscription, but it’s a worthy one to justify your ongoing investment.