Luke Cage (2016) – Hero or zero?

After my reviews of Daredevil and Jessica Jones on Netflix it would be silly not to take a look at Marvel’s new series Luke Cage. You might remember him from his brief time in Jessica Jones (in more ways than one) but if not let’s get up to speed. Luke is a big bullet-proof dude with super strength who lives in Harlem in New York. When local gangsters hurt someone close to him Luke fights back and kicks ass.

Aside from the mobsters Luke’s greatest adversaries were the moths.

Well not exactly. Luke is actually I bit of a wimp. When you want him to smash in heads and throw hoodlums through walls, instead he mopes around a bit mumbling that he’s “not a hero”. Now, I’m no saviour of humanity but if I was bullet proof and super strong I’d be more proactive than he is. Actually I’d probably spend my days punching through walls and seeing how many miles I could throw cats but at least I’d be productive. Luke is happy to let his town go to shit and complain about the burden of being bad-ass as fuck.

This about as active as Luke gets.

If this makes the show sound terrible it’s worth pointing out that the supporting characters in Luke Cage are actually pretty interesting. Mahershala Ali is great as mob boss Cottonmouth, Theo Rossi oozes charisma as enforcer Shades, and Simone Missick is excellent as detective Misty Knight. Best of all though is Alfre Woodward as crooked opportunistic politician Mariah Dillard. She steals every scene she’s in and is the most interesting character in the whole show. All of these guys cast a big shadow over our dull, goody two shoes, hero, Luke Cage. Which isn’t ideal when the series bears his name. That’s not to say lead actor Mike Colter is bad in it, he’s likeable enough, but he’s given nothing inspiring to do.

Welcome to the world’s unluckiest barbershop.

As usual for a Marvel TV series the production design is excellent. The show looks great especially if you can see it in 4K and the editing and direction is of a high standard across the whole season. Then there’s the music. If there’s one aspect of Luke Cage that I can’t fault it’s the soundtrack. From Miles Davis to Ghostface Killah the tracks that make up the playlist for the show are perfect. Sadly the main character doesn’t fully deserve such a cool fanfare.

Things pick up when Rosario Dawson appears but it’s too late by then.

So where does Luke Cage rank among the recent Marvel TV output? Sadly it can’t hold a candle to the brutal, dark, violence of Daredevil or the world-weary, sardonic, personality of Jessica Jones. The central character just doesn’t fit with the kind of plot threads that are going on around him. In fact the world of Luke Cage would be much more suited to an anti-hero like The Punisher. There’s no credible villain for Luke to take on, and even if there was he’s so inactive Harlem would be in ruins before he got off his ass. I really wanted to love Luke Cage but a confused storyline and an ill-equipped hero make it just a competent albeit watchable superhero yarn with a fantastic soundtrack and some excellent actors. Give it a try but don’t expect to be blown away.


Have you seen Luke Cage? What did you think. How would you spend your time if you were bulletproof and super strong? Let me know in the comments below.

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  1. I’m sorry to report that I couldn’t make it through the whole season. It got boring and I abandoned it pretty quickly. Totally agree with you on Alfre’s character as well as Luke Cage himself. Can’t help but wish the actor had more to do!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Finished up the season just a few days ago. Completely agree about the soundtrack, plus I like the pacing and how they feature live music. I felt like it was doing pretty well until Cottonmouth’s death (RIP), but after that things started to unwind and get a bit sloppy. Also, Rosario Dawson is gorgeous, but her character is completely flat with no backstory (she basically just follows Luke around). I felt bad for the actress who plays Misty, because it felt as though the show’s producers wanted to add a “hotter” actress to the mix. And finally, regarding Luke Cage himself, I feel like they skewed toward respectability politics instead of complexity. But at the end of the day, how complex are any of the Marvel superheroes, really?


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