Netflix and Marvel have had a joyous relationship for over a year now; Daredevil and Jessica Jones have both received unanimous praise for their more mature look at the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The newest addition to the Netflix/Marvel line-up, Luke Cage, continues this trend but can’t quite live up to its predecessors when it needs to the most.
The series focuses on the titular character, Luke Cage (Mike Colter); a man with super strength and impenetrable skin. He is a gentle giant of sorts, and Colter perfectly captures Cage’s caring politeness in the starring role, but also conjures up ferocity when a backside needs to be kicked. Cage feels protective of his people in Harlem, New York, and when the dirty hands of the underworld come out from the shadows, he is forced to become a reluctant hero. Although there are numerous villains spread across the thirteen episodes, Mahershala Ali’s Cottonmouth almost steals the show, but some mid-season shocks prevent this. Ali plays the role in a charming yet tough manner that allows the character to be likeable when needed to be, but also intimidating to remind us of his gangster persona.
To accompany the impressive cast is a head-bopping soundtrack that harmoniously matches the atmosphere of the show. The music highlights the African-American culture that the show takes place in. The fact that each episode is named after song titles by iconic hip-hop duo, Gang Starr, really shows the character of Harlem and the people that inhabit it.
Where the season disappoints, however, is its inconsistency. Some episodes are very plainly written and only serve to provide unintelligent exposition. This is especially the case around the middle of the season and because of this, the ‘play next episode’ button that pops up during the end credits isn’t as tempting as it should be.
Despite this, it is definitely worth slogging through as the final few episodes really pack a punch. When it wants to, Luke Cage conveys a message of great relevance. Black communities and police forces across the US have a strained relationship at the moment, and Luke Cage delicately handles this subject with maturity, shining light on a rather dark situation. Indeed, the character of Luke Cage is black, and the show is proud to show this. Sure, there are several archetypes of African-American characters, but none of them ever become stereotypes. For that, Luke Cage should be applauded.
Although the show isn’t as bulletproof as its title character, there is a lot of enjoyment to be found in the first season of Luke Cage. If a few wobbly episodes at the halfway mark can be forgiven, the season is a soulful and welcome addition to the Marvel universe on Netflix. If your new favourite phrase isn’t ‘Sweet Christmas’ by the time you finish episode thirteen, I will be amazed.
Written by Tom Durrans