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Luke Cage: You Know My Steez

“Sometimes backwards to move forward. Always.”

I’ve got a friend who’s a fight-scene snob. Don’t even get him started on Buffy. Suggest Daredevil—maybe that hallway scene, eh?—and he guffaws. “Americans just don’t know how to do fight scenes,” he says. (He’s American.) And now, whenever I watch a Big Fight Scene Moment, I think of him: how would he say it measures up?

The BFSM at the opening of this episode might not pass my friend’s muster, but it passes mine with flying colors. Watching Luke Cage be superstrong is part of the appeal, and the cuts between past and present were fun. But I also liked the crowd cheering him on. Everyone had an opinion: the cops, Misty, Claire, Mariah, the Harlem denizens we’ve gotten to know over the past thirteen episodes. But it all boils down to what Claire said: “Remember who you are.”

And who is Luke Cage? He may “rep” Harlem, as one man says, but he is not his brother’s keeper. He is his own man, aware of the past, but even more aware of the necessity of moving forward, moving in the direction of life (to paraphrase Cheryl Strayed) rather than regret. Good thing he likes Cuban coffee. Good thing Claire likes him back, because that was the cheesiest of all pickup lines.

There’s a bit of a wrinkle, of course. Luke’s past still exists, even if he’s looking towards the future. He may not be in trouble in New York, but he’s still a fugitive, and the Marshals have come for what’s theirs.

Does that spell the end of Luke’s journey? Probably not. The File of Innocence still exists, and is in Bobby Fish's safe hands. Luke is supposed to be in the upcoming Defenders series. And the moral of this episode—“It’s our responsibility to push forward…Never backwards, always forward, forward always”—hints that Luke will move past his own past pretty quickly.

Will Mariah? As convincing as Mariah's mock-sadness was, Misty Knight had a preponderance of evidence, not to mention her Will Graham ability to reconstruct crime scenes in her mind. I’m a little surprised that Priscilla cut Mariah loose so quickly, even with Candace’s death, but I suppose that sets up Mariah for a future big-bad role with Shades as her sidekick.

Maybe this sets up Misty as a vigilante in her own right; she is convinced the system is broken, and that’s step one on the five-fold path to freelance justicing. So there is forward movement, even if we don’t get a tidy bow on everyone’s story.

Sweet Christmas:

• Great news! Claire Temple survived.

• And she carries Kleenex in her coat. I’ve always wanted to be the sort of woman who always has a Kleenex.

• “Most of these guys wear Spandex. Who would have thought a black man in a hoodie would be a hero?”

• Mariah fiddling with her earrings in the interrogation room reminded me of some of the weirdest advice I’ve ever gotten from my great-aunt: If your shoes pinch, wear uncomfortable earrings so you don’t think about how much your feet hurt.

Full confession, guys and gals: I didn’t love Luke Cage. I thought the first five or six episodes were pretty awesome, but Stryker was not my bag. Mysterious reappearing brother who framed Carl Lucas, setting him up to go to Seagate, where he became Luke Cage, who can only be killed by Judas bullets manufactured by Stryker is…too much, I guess. I liked Cottonmouth and Mariah as villains; they felt grounded. Stryker did not.

So it’s hard for me to rate this episode, or even the second half of this season. How many Files of Innocence would you give it, out of four?

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)


  1. Disappointing.

    The big fight between Luke and Diamondback... that was so stupid. We knew already that Diamondback ignores reason when there is a chance for violence, but as soon as he sets the general direction, he manages to be somewhat smart about this. Hostage crisis at the club was good, and pretending to be Luke was a smart idea. Attacking Luke head on, by himself — that was the stupidiest thing he ever did.

    And it wasn't really him fighting. It was the suit. So... why was Luke fighting him? Why didn't he try to attack the suit? For starters, to rip out that thing, whatever it is, on the back. I kept waiting for it to happen (and my "kept waiting" is a clear indication that the fight was too long), and we were fed some strange line about anger — is the suit powered by emotions? It's odd.

    And why the hell won't the SWAT team leader just take a shot? I understand he dislikes Luke, but wouldn't it make him an accessory to murder, if it happens that Diamondback kills Luke?

    OK, moving on. Priscilla is absolutely right: Misty killed Candice. Because putting Candice in Claire's apartment was a stupid idea. And another stupid idea is not blocking the SIM card after losing the phone. I understand that she had a lot on her plate, but this is a basic precaution. Block the SIM, and, if the phone supports this, erase it remotely. Because of this two stupid, stupid, stupid things Candice is dead and Mariah walked.

    Luke openly admitted at the police station that he broke into Cottonmouth's vault and NOT being immediately accused of breaking and entering? He really needs a lawyer.

    Overall, while Luke Cage was definitely better than Daredevil and Jessica Jones, it's still not quite good. And yes, the first half was near-perfect, but then... sigh.

  2. Well, I absolutely love Mike Colter, so there's that. I liked the beginning of the season and the end, but it really fell down hard in the middle. I wasn't blown away by the fight with Stryker, who never worked as a character for me (and I was very unhappy about that last scene with Dr. Burstein about to create a Stryker-monster).

    But I did like the scene in the police station where everyone stopped to listen to Luke. I liked Luke and Claire as a couple, and the coffee. And Misty in that dress stalking Mariah and Shades, who have unfulfilled potential as serious bad guys.

  3. Overall, I liked it. It was never going to be a great season finale because Diamond never worked as a villain. But I liked that they took care of him early on so the remainder of the episode tackled things I actually cared about.

    The fight would've been better if the brother versus brother thing had been done well. Luke should've known Stryker was his brother from the get-go, the whole "I'm only putting the pieces together now" didn't work at all. But the crowd cheering for Luke saved the BFSM. Like Billie, though, I'm very unhappy that Diamondback is set to return.

    I agree with migmit that it was very stupid of Misty not to block the SIM card, or at least warn Candace about it. Sloppy writing there. It would've been better if Misty hadn't noticed she had lost her phone. In any case, whenever Misty takes Mariah down, it will be so worth it and I want to see it happen.

    I'm not sure why they needed to take Luke away if the File of Innocence is right there, but I enjoyed Luke's resolution to close all the loose ends instead of running away. The final montage was gorgeous and brought back the charm the first half of the season had in spades.

    The season: like everyone else, I think the first half was amazing. Cottonmouth's death was a terrific game changer and set Mariah into a great path as a villain. But Stryker paled in comparison to everything else the show was doing and brought the season down. The first two or three episodes after centered on Stryker were not very good. Two of those episodes ended on the same cliffhanger (Luke gets shot) for crying out loud. The final episodes were an improvement, though. As a whole, the season had plenty of good character development and created a gorgeous world in Harlem. I love the show's tone and I'll definitely watch season two when it comes out.


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