"Luke Cage" Season One Talkback (Spoilers)

Yojimbo

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Please note, this thread may contain spoilers and references to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This thread is for members to speak about all 13 episodes or the majority of them at once.

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Series Talkback

Friday, September 30, 2016 @ 12 a.m. on Netflix
Website: https://www.netflix.com/title/80002537

A hoodie-wearing, unbreakable ex-con fights to clear his name and save his neighborhood. He wasn't looking for a fight, but the people need a hero.

Cheo Hodari Coker: Writer and Executive Producer
Starring: Mike Colter, Alfre Woodard, Theo Rossi, Rosario Dawson, Simone Missick, Mahershala Ali, Sonia Braga
Filming: September 2015 to May 2016
Release Date: September 30, 2016
Home Entertainment Release: November 27, 2017 (U.K.); December 12, 2017 (U.S.A)
Social Media: Twitter,
Sources: Reddit 9/20/14, Newsarama 12/22, IGN 3/3/15, Newsarama 3/31, SpoilerTV 6/26, CBM 8/1, Deadline 8/21, CBM 8/26, CB 9/2, CBR 9/2, Deadline 9/2, CBR 9/3, LC Tweet 9/3, Deadline 9/9, Marvel 9/15, Marvel 9/16, CBR 10/12, CBR 10/12, BF 10/23, CBR 11/24, CBR 12/14, CBR 12/29, IGN 1/17/16, CBR 1/20, JJ Tweet 1/25, Marvel 2/1, CBR 3/11, McGuigan Tweet 3/19, EW 4/3, CBR 4/13, CBR 4/13, CBR 4/21, CBM 5/18, CBR 6/24, Deadline 6/28, Marvel 6/30, CBR 7/18, USA 7/19, CBR 7/21, Newsarama 7/21, Coker Tweet 7/29, CBM 7/30, CBR 8/3, CBR 8/6, CBM 8/9, CBM 8/19, CBR 8/20, CBR 8/23, CBM 8/24, CB 8/31, CBR 9/6, CB 9/7, EW 9/9, CBR 9/16, CB 9/16, CBR 9/21, CBR 9/22, CBM 9/23, CB 9/25, CB 9/27, CB 9/28, CBR 9/30, CBR 9/30, CB 9/30, CB 9/30, CBR 10/3, CBR 10/3, CBR 10/3, CB 10/6, TVShowsOnDVD 12/6,
Filming: CS 9/16, CBM 9/24, CBM 11/16, CBM 12/3, CBM 1/31/16, CBM 3/28, CBR 5/25,
Teaser/Clips: Marvel 3/18, NF YT 7/21, NF YT 7/21, CBR 8/9, CBR 8/28, CB 9/7, CBM 9/12, CBR 9/20, CBR 9/26, CBR 9/29,

This thread is for members to speak about all 13 episodes or the majority of them at once.

#1.01: "Moment of Truth"
#1.02: "Code of the Streets"
#1.03: "Who's Gonna Take The Weight?"
#1.04: "Step in the Arena"
#1.05: "Just to Get a Rep"
#1.06: "Suckas Need Bodyguards"
#1.07: "Manifest"
#1.08: "Blowin' Up The Spot"
#1.09: "DWYCK"
#1.10: "Take It Personal"
#1.11: "Now You're Mine"
#1.12: "Soliloquy of Chaos"
#1.13: "You Know My Steez"

(Should be up in the next 3 hours or so.)
 
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Gold Guy

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I'm already on episode 6. I'm impressed; this show is strong. It has intimate character moments on the level of Daredevil or Jessica Jones; heck, it might put even more emphasis on the characters than those two shows. Luke Cage, who I liked in JJ, has grown on me even more. He's incredibly likable.

Surprisingly, this show may have the most MCU references so far. Aside from the obligatory Avengers referneces, we get a few Justin Hammer name-drops, obvious Jessica Jones connections, and a sub-plot from Daredevil season 2 is continued. The first few minutes of episode 6 has a cameo that had me smiling.

Like most of the MCU series, the villains are strong; Cottonmouth is intense, though I'm not sure how I feel about his politician cousin yet...

Anyway, I'll be done with the season in a few days.
 

the greenman

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Okay, finally finished this week. Great series from beginning to end, slightly above Daredevil S1, (mind you I never watched JJ. not interested, might try though). As a fan of blaxploitation films 70's-90's, they hit alot of cords. For me the black writers talk was amazing to see ever on film. I read some of those guys who wrote Never Die Alone and Cotton Comes to Harlem, and kinda wish Tarantino would take a stab at those like he did for Elmore Leonard's Rum Punch. . . Then again errrr nah. l loved the villains in this, they were just realistic and yet cheesy enough to get by. Dillards mother looked like original Black Mariah, as she seemed inspired as an evil Maxine Waters (wrong coast). Woodard is a great underrated actress. Colter was okay for me, but . . . I'll just say I will always love Wesley as Blade anyday over Colter's Cage. Just me. The references were fun, though the "sweet christmas" was just about to wear a little too thin. Loved Misty, though I thought we were gonna get the bionic arm. hmmm, maybe in Defenders. Marvel must really really love The Wire. At least seven or eight actors are in Marvel films. Can you name em all?

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Freddy

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I just finnished the last episode.

Unfortunately, this is the weakest Marvel Netflix show to date. The first half was pretty solid crime drama, but the writers seemed to have trouble with keeping the pace up the last 6 episodes and the series kinda stumbles to the end. I don't want to call the series bad, but both Daredevil and Jessica Jones raised the bar so high, that it is hard not to feel little disappointed.

Cottonmouth was really effective villain and the philosophical conflict between him and Cage was perfect, but once he dies, everything goes south. Frankly, Diamondback is hammy cartoon villain, who doesn't gel with the tone of rest of the series, and all the plot twists about his history with Cage come out of nowhere and feel like twists just for the sake of having twists. I'm sure that Diamondback could have been great, if he and his rivalry with Cage had a whole season to develop, but now his story-arc was too rushed. I can't help, but agree with the popular opinion that Cottonmouth should have been the main villain throughout the whole season and Diamondback in turn should have been saved for season 2.

It also really annoyed me how the villains were one step ahead of the heroes more thanks to their plot armor rather than for being actually dangerous. Sure, the corrupted system helped them a lot, but they keep escaping at the last second, dodging rain of bullets and finding important evidence too many times. I'm not saying that everything should be easy for our heroes, but the adversity must come from a natural place or the inner logic of the story doesn't work. Compare this to Daredevil dismantling Fisk's empire piece by piece or Jessica trying to capture Kilgrave alive, while avoiding his powers, and you see what I mean.

I don't want to bee too negative, since the show has numerous genuinely great moments and elements. The first half was really good, the main characters are compelling, all the little winks at the comic book fans (like Luke Cage's classic costume) were appreciated and, even though Daredevil's Opening Theme is still by personal favorite individual piece of music, this show had overall the best soundtrack out of all Marvel Netflix shows. Plus, Luke Cage's cultural significance to black people can't be belittled.

My thoughts are maybe little mixed and without a coherent thread, but that kinda sums up the whole show. Better than most of your average tv-shows, but by no means a homerun.
 

the greenman

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I just finnished the last episode.

Unfortunately, this is the weakest Marvel Netflix show to date. The first half was pretty solid crime drama, but the writers seemed to have trouble with keeping the pace up the last 6 episodes and the series kinda stumbles to the end. I don't want to call the series bad, but both Daredevil and Jessica Jones raised the bar so high, that it is hard not to feel little disappointed.

Cottonmouth was really effective villain and the philosophical conflict between him and Cage was perfect, but once he dies, everything goes south. Frankly, Diamondback is hammy cartoon villain, who doesn't gel with the tone of rest of the series, and all the plot twists about his history with Cage come out of nowhere and feel like twists just for the sake of having twists. I'm sure that Diamondback could have been great, if he and his rivalry with Cage had a whole season to develop, but now his story-arc was too rushed. I can't help, but agree with the popular opinion that Cottonmouth should have been the main villain throughout the whole season and Diamondback in turn should have been saved for season 2.

It also really annoyed me how the villains were one step ahead of the heroes more thanks to their plot armor rather than for being actually dangerous. Sure, the corrupted system helped them a lot, but they keep escaping at the last second, dodging rain of bullets and finding important evidence too many times. I'm not saying that everything should be easy for our heroes, but the adversity must come from a natural place or the inner logic of the story doesn't work. Compare this to Daredevil dismantling Fisk's empire piece by piece or Jessica trying to capture Kilgrave alive, while avoiding his powers, and you see what I mean.

I don't want to bee too negative, since the show has numerous genuinely great moments and elements. The first half was really good, the main characters are compelling, all the little winks at the comic book fans (like Luke Cage's classic costume) were appreciated and, even though Daredevil's Opening Theme is still by personal favorite individual piece of music, this show had overall the best soundtrack out of all Marvel Netflix shows. Plus, Luke Cage's cultural significance to black people can't be belittled.

My thoughts are maybe little mixed and without a coherent thread, but that kinda sums up the whole show. Better than most of your average tv-shows, but by no means a homerun.

Well, the series may not be in your 'wheelhouse'. It is clearly based on Blaxploitation films and tropes, which is where the comic derives from. So if you are not a fan of those films, you probably know what to expect with this. Same as 'Jackie Brown', Tarantino was deliberately making a Blaxploitation film, yet people wanted a kinda Pulp Fiction part 2, and it met with less than stellar reviews because of that. So you're critique is not surprising. Now, we'll see if Iron Fist is actually based on the 70's-80's Shaw Bros. Kung-fu films (that even inspired Wu-Tang Clan), like Kill Bill did.

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Freddy

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Well, the series may not be in your 'wheelhouse'. It is clearly based on Blaxploitation films and tropes, which is where the comic derives from. So if you are not a fan of those films, you probably know what to expect with this. Same as 'Jackie Brown', Tarantino was deliberately making a Blaxploitation film, yet people wanted a kinda Pulp Fiction part 2, and it met with less than stellar reviews because of that. So you're critique is not surprising. Now, we'll see if Iron Fist is actually based on the 70's-80's Shaw Bros. Kung-fu films (that even inspired Wu-Tang Clan), like Kill Bill did.

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I admit that I'm not too farmiliar with the blaxtoitation genre, but I don't think that my criticisms has anything to do with the tropes of said genre.
 

the greenman

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No, I do understand your criticisms. The idea of having Diamondback in the second half is kinda weird. However, the aforementioned genre often had two villains ultimately a "The Man" as the final antagonist. Checkout "I'm Gonna Get You Sucka" and "Black Dynamite" for parodies of the genre. Some of the silly tropes in this were absurd, i.e. firing a rocket into a five story tenement. However, in all those films the music was and is excellent. How bout The Hughes Corporation in 'Blacula'. . .

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hobbyfan

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I'm up to episode six. Watching @ my bro's house every other weekend, two eps at a time.

Having read some of the original Hero For Hire books that form part of the basis for this series, I get the story being updated for modern sensibilities, using 90's R & B stars like Faith Evans as musical guests. IMPO, Pop was killed off too soon in the story. We (my bro, his roomie, & me) all thought Luke would go with the yellow shirt and jeans once he had the headband. I wonder if they'll use costumed villains like Chemistro in season 2........
 

Fone Bone

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Note for the Mods:

I post my reviews on several different websites and forums and some have different swear filters or rules for profanity. If you see any asterisks here, it's not because I was trying to break a rule. It's because the spell-check on Toon Zone doesn't account for that. I DID go through the review a final time to make it acceptable strictly for Toon Zone. But I will acknowledge I might have missed something.

Luke Cage: The Complete First Season

I have only seen four Marvel Netflix seasons so far, but out of them, Luke Cage: Season 1 is the best. I’m not sure why that is. It doesn’t have the best hero. It doesn’t have the best villain. It doesn’t have the best premise. And yet, I like more of the characters on this one show than I do in the entirety of the rest of the Netflix Universe. There are a few annoying characters, but I don’t personally like any of the other villains from the Netflix shows as much as I like Shades. And I’m not rooting for Daredevil or Jessica Jones the way I am Luke in the season. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t wear a mask and actually has to accept the consequences of his actions. But Jessica Jones doesn’t wear one either. Maybe it’s to do with the fact that he walks down the street in broad daylight and says his name, or at least the name he is currently known as.

Cornell Cottonmouth Stokes was a wonderful villain. Mahershala Ali played the hell out of him and made him complicated, likable, and someone you instantly enjoy seeing Luke knock down a few pegs. The one misstep of the season was killing him off halfway through, and replacing him with the villain Diamondback as the Big Bad. They did that because Diamondback had a personal relationship to Luke (he’s his half-brother), but the season never really recovered once Ali left the show. Diamondback is a garden variety psychopath, and nowhere NEAR as interesting as Cornell.

Theo Rossi is amazing as the enforcer Shades. There is something absolutely warm and genuine about the man along with the menace. He is rooting for Cornell for part of the season, and once Cornell goes off the deep end, he’s rooting for his cousin Mariah. The thing I like best about Shades is the thing Diamondback hates about him. He’s honest and gives the correct feedback, regardless of whether or not his current boss is a psychopath and would potentially kill him for saying it. His reputation seems to be more important to him than his potential loss of life, which is fascinating. He is also one of those villains like Red Reddington from The Blacklist who will just as often to use carrots to get what he wants as sticks. And I love the kinds of villains who inspire loyalty simply by treating their men well. By the end of the season, I got the impression that his men weren’t actually WORTH being treated that well, but Shades is still alive and in power, so he must be doing something right.

How is Mike Colter as Luke Cage? He’s definitely better here than he was on Jessica Jones. There is a hopeful positive vibe to Luke now that was completely absent in his dour and damaged version from the previous season. Maybe it’s because he’s not being Kilgraved. Or maybe because unlike Jessica Jones, the people he is protecting are people he actually believes DESERVE to be protected. I don’t know. I just know I like him better as the main character on his own show than as the love interest on a previous show.

Best episodes are the episode packed with a ton of stuff (Who's Gonna Take The Weight?), Cottonmouth’s best episode (Just To Get A Rep), his last episode, which despite being dumb for killing him off, was admittedly great (Manifest), the penultimate episode of the season (Soliloquy Of Chaos), and the very interesting season finale (You Know My Steez). Here is something amazing: There is only one episode in the entire season I dislike. The very first one (Moment Of Truth)! And it amazes me rewatching it that it isn’t even better in hindsight. It’s just slow, nothing to do with superheroes, and boring. That is NOT how good genre shows EVER work, but Luke Cage is a very different kind of show than most genre shows. Hell, they spent the first 15 minutes of the season finale on the climatic fight scene of the season, and spent the other 45 minutes on non-action related wrap-up. Whatever else Luke Cage: The Series is, it’s not a series that follows most other genre series’ playbooks and conventions. Season Overall: ****1/2.

Moment Of Truth:

Rewatching the season is very interesting. The first season of this show definitely went down as one of the best Netflix Marvel seasons ever, but the Pilot? Absolutely boring, and nothing going on in it. I was kind of hoping upon rewatching it to find some hidden continuity set-up crucial to the enjoyment of the rest of the season, but nope, the first episode is plain boring. It does a couple of things right (which we'll get to). Mariah Dillard is quite a memorable character. Forget her supposed disdain for the N-word. She uses that word disparagingly enough when she loses her professional filter. But nothing gives you a clearer idea of the character's mindset than to have her go through a group of kids and give them hugs and validation, and then instantly be given sanitary gel when it's over, with a disgusted look on her face, when no-one else is looking. I don't much like the first episode. But a GOOD first episode of any given show will give a character a defining moment like that to immediately show you why they suck or are awesome. I won't give the episode much except for making me hate Dillard right off the bat for a superficial reason. I will also give the show this: Most genre shows do not bother giving women characters memorable introductions, or scenes in the episodes they debut in. Much less women of color. I hate Mariah and I ultimately dislike the episode. But it did an amazing thing for that specific character that I don't see other shows ever bothering to do for their female characters, heroes or villains. And as boring as the episode is, I will not dismiss that fact. I also love rewatching this to see that Mariah rolls her eyes when Domingo declares her Uncle Pete a good man. I didn't see that the first couple of times. The other character that made a good first impression was Shades. To be fair, his favorable impression to me lasted all season. Shades is a very interesting character to me, because he always acts like every single room he enters is the precise place he wants to be in that moment. People tossing barbs and side-eye at him doesn't register at all. He simply ignores the haters and powerfully argues for his agenda. Part of me was rooting for Wilson Fisk on Daredevil. But practically all of me was rooting for Shades simply because he was the character who simply did not give an eff about what anyone thought. There is a lack of vanity to the character's ego that is 100% refreshing, especially since it's a white guy walking into Harlem and taking over. I should hate Shades. But Theo Rossi makes it so I don't. I notice the Netflix shows refer to The Battle Of New York as "The Incident". I wonder why Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and this show never compared notes. Luke claims he never curses. Jessica Jones would dispute that. I love the idea that Al Pacino is entitled to free haircuts and that "Scarface" gives him a "ghetto pass". Cottonmouth's first scene was interesting, because it's the cleanest and smoothest the character is in the entire season. His cool (and the furniture in his club) gets progressively less cool (and more destroyed) as the season goes on. I laughed at the last guy standing at the end (Sugar) after Luke asks him if he wants some saying "Man, I don't even LIKE these n-words!" Shameek saying "This s-word works!" hints that the character is very stupid. I suspect that if he and his friends hadn't held up that truck, none of the bad things that happened in the season would have ever happened. Maybe Diamondback would have went nuts anyways. But that would have been a future problem on definite hold if Stokes hadn't spiraled at all. And if that truck hadn't gotten held up, he wouldn't have. I love that after Shameek spits blood in Cornell's face, Cottonmouth laughs, thanks him, and tells him he can finally hit him like a man before beating him to death. I love the visual of Cottonmouth in front of the Biggie poster. He is positioned by the camera in such a way that it makes it look like HE'S wearing the crown. Pop telling Luke at the beginning that he gave up cigarettes and the paranoia when he got out, but never got over the pacing was a very interesting character moment. I don't know if the creator of the show has ever been in prison or not, but that's the kind of insight you'd only have if you or someone you love had suffered that experience. Luke was kind of an ass to Misty this episode, to be honest. The "Your dress is too small" thing is the appropriate response to her saying his suit is too small. But he's going on guessing she's one of Cottonmouth's "girls" before deciding she isn't because she's "too old". Bobby Fish says that some people have it, and some people don't. And Luke obviously has it, because nobody else would get away with saying that. Frankly, I don't think Luke should either, but that's me fighting into the wind about how women are treated on television. It's interesting to notice upon the third viewing that Luke protects Candi when she goes upstairs, and it is clear she finds Cottonmouth and his men gross, which is probably why she's so upset she has to lie and say she was one of Cottonmouth's girls later in the season. The revulsion was properly set up here. I like Pop saying that if he didn't have to pay Luke in cash, he could pay him more. He's a good boss in the way the guy who tells him that since he pays him under the table he can pay him whenever he feels like it. And it's cool that the name Power Man is brought up in the very first episode. To be honest, I was extremely disappointed in the Pilot, but thankfully, that's the only episode I really was. **1/2.

Code Of The Streets:

That's more like it! A lot to absorb and enjoy this episode. Let's start off with the Swear Jar. I think it is counterproductive. Because nobody, not even Pop, actually ever stops swearing. They seem to just be randomly putting money in the jar for no reason. If it actually stopped the swearing, it would have value. Also, who gets the money? Pop? Then what difference does it make if Pop actually has to put in a dollar? Second thing: Day-Off Turk Barrett. I love that he's the kind of guy who plays chess in a barbershop when he is not being a hoodlum. He tells Bobby Fish that just because he's named Bobby Fish doesn't mean he's Bobby Fischer, and Fish tells him just because he's named Turk doesn't mean he's Turkish. Then Fish goes on about banging Turk's mother, and Turk says that he can't rattle him by saying something like that. And Fish is like "I ain't tryin' to rattle you. Everyone knows your mother is a well-known ho." Excellent snap there. And yet, Turk cannot be trusted by anyone. I adored Cottonmouth throwing Tone off the roof, telling Turk he could collect his money from Tone on the pavement, and Turk saying he was going back to Hell's Kitchen where it was safer and the people were less crazy. Of course, he said it in a much more uncouth manner, and didn't use the word "people." I love Cornell screaming at Tone that his name isn't Cottonmouth. After hearing the origin of the nickname, I can see why he hates it. It's especially unfair because he has all his teeth now. The worst thing about crappy nicknames is they stick forever, even if they are no longer true. I felt Stokes' rage in that moment. Which brings me to my one problem with the episode: The warp-around. Luke Cage seems extremely offended to be called the N-word by a black youth holding a gun to his head, especially one doing so in front of a building named after Crispus Attucks. But then he calls the kid that precise word when he loses his temper. I do not know why he was even angry about that in the first place if he's going to call the kid that. To be fair, he's still grieving Pop, but one of the most insufferable things about this show is that it has various "serious" characters like Luke and Dillard decrying how demeaning the word is, and then they use it themselves when they get angry. I'm white, so I don't actually get or appreciate the etiquette of how the word should or should not be used between black people, but it strikes me as a bad idea to use characters to say how demeaning the word is and then have them say it themselves. I think that is something a person who raises the objection should be able to keep credibility about, and be absolute in that specific conviction. That is a particularly strong stance for someone to take to just turn around and do it themselves. What's especially frustrating about Luke is that this all happens in the same scene within a space of 60 seconds. I wish the show would have the characters who are outraged by the word not use it when it suited them. Pop's death was amazing. I can think of no better final words for a person than "Always forward". I already have last words planned in case of a sudden death, but that is definitely a cool option to think about. I love that Cottonmouth is legitimately upset at Pop's death. It's his own fault (Tone worked for him) but the thing I appreciate about Cottonmouth that I didn't about Diamondback, is that Cottonmouth (correctly, I think) believes there should be rules about this sort of thing. Which is why I regret they killed him off halfway through the season. Frank Whaley, former teen star, has build up quite a good current career as a character actor. He does not have the looks of Robert Downey Jr. or Anthony Michael Hall, so he won't ever be handed a leading role anymore, but he's done solid work in the stuff I've seen him in over the past five years. One of the reasons Scarfe being dirty is such a shock is that before he kills Chico in the next episode, Whaley plays the character as extremely straight-laced, empathetic, and professional. He's a white cop in Harlem and until you see him kill Chico, he totally seems like a good guy, which is crazy. I like that he does not think Misty betting a free get out of jail card for a non-violent felony against a youth for information by playing a game of Horse is a good idea. I like that, because by him recognizing that fact, he seems like a MUCH cleaner cop than she is. I mean, I know she knew she was going to win, and would never have to pay up, but if she had lost AND decided to keep her word, I'd definitely consider her dirty. Speaking of Misty, wasn't it hilarious how she was trying to pretend she and Luke just met, and he wasn't helping her at ALL in trying to hide the truth? I think Luke's reaction to that is hysterical, and frankly the correct one, because her doing that, even if it's done out of embarrassment for being unprofessional, is actually insulting. Why should Luke help her insult him? The answer is he shouldn't. For the record, I think Luke actually let her off easy by his standards. As this season and Jessica Jones proved, Luke is The Kind Of Guy Who Doesn't Like Being Lied To By Women. I love the sly look he gives Pop as he's pretending to read the book while Pop is mentioning how many people got beat down at Genghis Connie's the other night. It was quite cute and endearing. By the way, Chico is an idiot and even Luke thinks so. "Are you kidding me with this?" seems like entirely too mild a rebuke for a kid to take that bag of money into the front room because there is no TV in the back. I love that after Cornell "fires" Luke, Luke states he quit before he walked through the door. And Cottonmouth laughs. Which is why I love him. He has a sense of humor that none of the other Marvel Netflix villains so far have had. He laughed simply because Luke said something funny. Which is awesome. Scarfe is so old he knows who Barney Miller is. One of the best things about the episode is that Luke flatly refuses to get involved with Chico. And Pop refuses that refusal. He cashes in his chit, and lets Luke know in no uncertain terms that this "favor" isn't so much a favor, as it is services rendered. He is not allowed to refuse it. This is not voluntary. And as badly as that favor turned out for Pop, I loved his demand in that moment. It says something that he can talk to Luke that way, while knowing what he is, and knowing Luke will immediately fall in line. Scarfe says that Pop is a bad judge of character. Maybe. But he also knows precisely the amount of respect he gets from everyone in the neighborhood. Which is the coolest thing about him. I mean, it has to be. How he got the nickname "Pop" is actually super cheesy. So Pop has to be hardcore in an entirely different way as well. I love that Luke makes Cottonmouth pay for the haircut. Which actually makes sense. Which make Tone tossing the money on the floor even more appalling. Did I mention Tone sucks? This was a great episode. ****.

Who's Gonna Take The Weight?:

Wow, a LOT happened in that episode. It was pretty packed. It's a bit hard for me to unload everything, but I think the thing in the episode that garnered most of my attention is the rest of the black characters' reactions to Detective Raphael Scarfe. He seems to be treated like an honorary black person by Misty. Honestly, were I Cottonmouth, and he ironically called me a good "boy", I'd actually raise a fuss, but Scarfe seems to get away with racial insensitivity no other white guy in his place would get away with. I mean, even if people would decline to call someone like Scarfe a racially insensitive ass to his face, they'd complain about him behind his back. But nobody does. Which is weird to me. He does a Miss Daisy joke (truly awkward), talks about brothers being afraid of a woman with a gun to Misty, and does a Chico and the Man reference that only he understands. But for some crazy reason everybody loves this wannabe enough to give him a free pass. And on some level, I do too, which feels wrong. Which is precisely why it hurts so much that he turns out to be dirty. Honestly, him giving it up for vigilantes was the huge tip-off, but the smart thing about that opinion is that it could also hint that he will become a friend of Luke's in the future. And you are shocked when he strangles Chico, and it actually hurts a bit. Scarfe seems to be living Quentin Tarantino's fantasy of not being called on his racial shenanigans because Samuel L. Jackson finds him funny and endearing. Everybody in this episode is Samuel L. Jackson around Scarfe. Man, he is very lucky nobody on this show is Spike Lee to him. He deserves a lot more shade than he gets. As does Tarantino. The other shocking Scarfe moment wasn't even malevolent. But when he smacks his hands together as the show does a smash cut of Dante's shooting, it was a true jolt. I should have suspected there was something sinister about the guy just based upon that. And what is up with him hating the Celtics so fiercely? I don't follow basketball, but I think that is very weird. The Celtics haven't been relevant in decades. Expending hatred on them suggests a far more formidable team than they currently are. Mahershala Ali is such a wonderful actor. When Luke promises to take him down himself, his joyous laughter at the notion is just the best, and reminds me that Cornell is NOT all bad and never was. I love Mariah saying she's the face on the money. I think this episode was significant because it gives us the first hint that Mariah is a bit mentally unstable. It did not come out of nowhere upon rewatching this. I love that Fish refuses to lie and say that Pop beat him at chess. Fish is awesome. Changing the truth of the past just because Pop is dead fixes nothing. That is a very wise insight and made me instantly like Fish. I also love him telling Luke he is out of money for the swear jar, and Luke tosses him the duffel bag filled with hundreds and is all "Here ya go.". The look on his face was priceless. Stokes telling the mortician that nothing humbles a man like gravity was a dead-on insight. Seriously, Tone sucked. Just burn him and forget about it. I love the woman junkie saying the guy in the hoodie was "fine". If that wasn't the actual tip-off to Misty that it was Luke, I'd be surprised. Speaking of which, Luke did something in this episode that truly revolted me. I thought it was beyond creepy when he offers to take Misty back to his place, and leers at her while doing so. It would be one thing if he was seriously trying to flirt, and honestly had zero game. I'd forgive that. No, what Luke is doing is embarrassing and humiliating a woman by making her feel inferior sexually, and trying to instill shame because she had the audacity to have consensual sex with him the night they met. I think by most metrics, Luke's a good guy. But that was such an incredibly scumbaggy thing to do, that I'm wondering if the writers even understood exactly how scumbaggy it was. The misogyny here would not be the first for a comic book franchise, and I am a little alarmed that the writers perhaps think Luke sexually harassing a woman is a legit mind game instead of super gross. But it would NOT just be this show that engages in stuff like this. It still makes me shudder in revulsion though. The scene of Luke striding through all those machine gun bullets was awesome. I don't know what specific rap song is playing, but it sounds utterly terrifying to this lame-ass white guy, and makes Luke seem absolutely hardcore and fearless. I loved that moment. I also loved Domingo's passive aggression with tossing the candy and wrappers on the floor. He's talking about plover birds and crocodiles with a steely calm that I'd feel a heck of a lot more comfortable with if he weren't a foot and a half shorter than Cottonmouth. Still, Cornell does not push back on this rudeness. He just needs to get himself a Spanish dictionary. I love that line because it suggests deep down, Cottonmouth is DUMB. And I love whenever the show portrays his intelligence as a bit rough around the edges. This episode had a ton of stuff going on in it. I think that's a very good thing, especially considering it was only the third episode ever. ****1/2.

Step In The Arena:

It seems crazy to do a tell-all flashback episode in Episode 4. Except, we just spent an entire season with Luke on Jessica Jones already. In reality, it's about friggin' time. All things considered, I think Luke was being too hard on Reva later in the season. We saw a brief scene of her and Dr. Burstein alone, not from Luke's perspective, and she seems to truly care about him. He also never saw the desperate expression on her face as she begs Burstein to save his life. And most unfair of all, Luke already suspects Reva knows more than she is saying. And Reva says here she promises she'll tell him everything eventually. Now Reva's word is not actually worth much (no matter what Squabbles claims) but that doesn't mean she was lying then. In fact her saying that is a tacit admission she had previously lied to him. And she might have genuinely planned to tell his everything before Jessica Jones killed her. Again, I think Luke is far too unforgiving. I get why Luke seemed so angry at Jessica last season on her show. I think he's giving Reva an unfair shake here. I like Luke stating to her that he "may have said a few words past necessary". What a great and cool way to put that. I get why Luke hasn't been recognized as Carl Lucas yet. Carl Lucas seems to be channeling Ted Kazinski in grooming. It makes sense once Luke shears that off, he's unrecognizable from the bum he was. Speaking of shaving, I love the gag of his crushing the shaving cream canister. But that raises a question. How is it that his skin is unbreakable but his hair can be easily cut? I'm pretty sure hair is a part of the epidermis, although it's admittedly been a few years since biology class. I love that he doesn't want Squabbles for a trainer because he prefers Jet to Bruce in Kung Fu movies. I didn't know Lisa Bonet had a daughter. I am out of the loop, and considering this is a flashback, I suspect I am several YEARS out of the loop. You can tell at the beginning that Luke is new to prison when he tells Squabbles he can probably find a lot of other friends in a place like this. No, Carl. You can't. It's prison. That's why it sucks. I groaned that we got the classic costume and the lame catchphrase "Sweet Christmas" for two seconds. It was two seconds too long. God, that costume was an eyesore. Even Luke thinks he looks like a damn fool. The prison warden Rackham is a piece of work. Has there ever been a fictional prison warden who isn't a total monster? And I don't count the minimum security prison warden on American Dad. He was specifically nice because the show was making fun of the trope of all of the rest of those guys being abusive buttholes. I don't ever picture a convict saying to Rackham, "I get it, all right? You're the good guy and I'm the criminal!" Did I mention I love American Dad? I raised my eyebrows when at the beginning of the prison flashback, Luke clearly couldn't take a punch, and he started to bleed. That was when I knew this wasn't just a flashback into a part of Luke's past. This was going to be The Definitive Origin Story Flashback. I think that aspect of it was mostly successful. I think Luke puts his gifts to Connie best when he simply states, "Let's just say I'm really strong." That was like the perfect reveal line. It's understated from what is going on, but it's also not too much to scare her. I love that line, and I love that Luke is the kind of guy who speaks so precisely and chooses his words so carefully so as not to either alarm or raise flags for the wrong people. We never really got the idea that Luke was smart and cunning on Jessica Jones, especially since the finale said he'd been a season long puppet of Kilgrave the entire time. But Luke is the kind of guy who knows exactly when to reveal information to whom. So when he turns around at the end, and says to the camera for maximum effect "My name is Luke Cage," you realizing for this guy, timing is everything. I love how he picked the name. It was kind of taking the long way around to pick it, but I like the Bible verse and Luke's father's quote about a man who wants to be free can never truly be caged, because it makes the name a lot more explicitly tied to Luke's identity, than had he simply Keyser Soyzed it. Which again goes back to Luke being the type of guy who puts thought and deliberation into everything he does. Luke Cage's selling point to me is not that he's the strong, unbreakable superhero. Those guys are a dime a dozen. It's that he's the cunning one that everyone underestimates. And considering he doesn't wear a mask, that is all the more impressive. ****.

Just To Get A Rep:

Considering how light on the superheroics that was, it was still pretty riveting stuff. Mahershala Ali did some phenomenal acting. I should really be praising Mike Colter more than I am, but Cottonmouth and Shades just rock my socks off. What's interesting about Cottonmouth is that he's making some pretty blatant mistakes. The guy who read the Percy Sutton book talking about "benign neglect" (Coco) is actually right. At that point, if Cottonmouth had left Luke alone, he might have stepped off. He was not fully committed yet. He was still the guy who has to be dragged into being a hero. And then he shoots Coco for being right. I love that he laughs afterwards and is genuinely lightheartedly amused at the notion, as if he didn't just murder a guy in front of his own crew. Amused look: "Yeah, okay." One of the things I liked about Cottonmouth (and there were a lot of things I liked about him) is that he tended to see the humor in the absurdity of the situation. Any other mob boss upon hearing Luke talking about taxing him for the next suit with bulletholes would be pissed at the implied disrespect. But it's a funny joke, so Cottonmouth laughs instead. Cottonmouth is not quite as nuanced as some of the other Marvel villains like Kingpin, but he's definitely more relatable and likable than most. Which is why I thought Diamondback was a lousy replacement for him in the second half of the season. The second mistake Cottonmouth made is so stupid, that I can't believe he made it. On paper "The Luke Cage Stupidity Tax" sounds effective. It will put the fear of God into people. I actually laughed at the notion. But the notion ONLY works if the Stupidity Tax is waged on behalf of a person who cannot fight back, and would do better to just tuck their tails between their legs and take off. Luke Cage is friggin' bulletproof. He is SO not the "Meek exit" guy. Instead of the Stupidity Tax driving people away from Luke, they become personally indebted to him when he fixes it. Before the tax, the fight between Cottonmouth and Luke probably didn't really interest any normal non-criminal citizens very much. But now, because Luke made sure to stand by them when it counted, they are invested in him beating the guy who took their stuff in the first place. I freaking love the funeral. And it shows the biggest selling point of the entire series. Everybody on Daredevil and Jessica Jones just talks and talks and talks. Both of those shows involve lawyers and snoops respectively, so chatty dialogue is understandable. But Luke Cage: The Series makes a scene riveting because the characters AREN'T always talking, and you have to guess what they are thinking entirely by their expressions. Colter excels at this (for the record) but Ali and Theo Rossi are literal Gods at the silent reaction. Look at Rossi's initial reaction to recognizing Luke Cage. He literally says two words: "Carl Lucas". And yet the performance gets across every angle Shades is feeling. He's confused, surprised, scared, a little bit personally offended, and worried for the future. And all he says is "Carl Lucas" and I still got all that. Which is the selling point of the show for me. I love Shades. I do. Cottonmouth seemed to shoot the benign neglect guy at the drop of a hat, but Shades speaks far harsher truths during the episode, and you kind of wonder why Cottonmouth doesn't warn him too or threaten him to back off. Does he fear Diamondback so much as to not be willing to even throw the slightest shade at a guy who represents him? Or does he simply respect the hell out Shades' brief work for him, and realizes the guy is looking out for his best interests? What amazes me about Shades is that he is. He works for Diamondback, but he's rooting for Cottonmouth (at least at this point). He seems genuinely happy when Cottonmouth puts together the idea to get back the guns to Domingo entirely on his own. "My man." It sounds condescending coming from a white man, but he's actually glad Cottonmouth is finally using his head. I loved Cottonmouth's reaction of seeing the footage of the gun. He laughs and he's all, "That's the illest thing I've seen!" To put it mildly. Even funnier was his incredulous look upon Shades handing him the pricetag of the guns: "Per bullet?!" This is what happens when Justin Hammer allows Chris Rock to set his prices. Speaking of which, I take this reference to mean that Hammer is out of prison at this point. Wouldn't surprise me. He's a snake. Shades tells Cottonmouth that this is the gun you'd use to kill Jesus. Calling it the Judas is especially appropriate. Obama is mentioned in the rap at the beginning, which seems to me to be a continuity mistake, as in the MCU, Matthew Ellis was President when Obama was supposed to be. Who knows? Maybe he was elected in 2004 and only served a single term. The "Iron Man" Obama poster in Iron Man 2 had to come from somewhere, right? This show also tends to have more celebrities in it than most MCU projects, TV or film. Usually the most famous cameo in any given MCU project is Stan Lee, but Luke Cage not only has famous rappers at Cottonmouth's club, but people like Dapper Dan here show up too. I like that Cottonmouth refuses to give up the club because he views it as a historic black achievement. I think he is probably overthinking that idea. It would be a historic black achievement if he himself didn't create the club and run crime out of it. Because he's a criminal, any black achievement he tries to claim is simply put, tainted. The club is not worth as much in black history bank as Cottonmouth believes it is. I love that Luke still uses the swear jar. But the explanation at the funeral about it still didn't make sense. At all. I loved Luke humiliating Cottonmouth at the funeral. Because Cottonmouth's funeral speech was practically the one flawless thing he did in the episode. It was a uniting speech, while casting all blame off himself, and he even warns about foreign elements and strangers coming in and messing with things. And since Luke IS actually from the South, he's not wrong. Instead, Luke gives one of those inscrutable looks the camera adores Mike Colter for, and gets up and demolishes the notion that we have to accept help from bullies, because they aren't really our friends. Maybe Luke isn't convinced he's actually a friend yet either. And yet he's stilling holding the ring as Aisha's face lights up. What else would you call him? I think there was far less superheroics in this episode than normal because most of the criminals aren't actually stupid. Luke calmly brings up a violent incident he participated in that the criminals either saw or were on the other side of, and they just step off immediately. Which is what should be happening ALL THE TIME in superhero shows. Usually a character doing that is played for laughs on say, Arrow. But in reality, it's the only smart move for a non-superpowered person to make. On some level I don't think the human criminals in Superman are all that bad. They fight back, no matter how stupid it is. We can hate them for that, but we can also appreciate that they'll be on the frontlines of The Earth Resistance when Superman decides to become a Justice Lord and take over the Universe. In reality a crook walking away from a Luke Cage, knowing what they do in hindsight is perfectly normal, and it's weird that other superhero properties treat that as an exceptional circumstance. And finally we get to my complaint about the episode: Misty Knight. Is this really a fan-favorite character in the comics? Because she totally sucks. I cannot stand her. If she had just been wrong about Luke, you just chalk it up to the show trying to create romantic friction. But she puts her ass on the line to defend Scarfe for no good reason whatsoever, and put her own career in jeopardy by doing so. Her entire defense seems to me to be, "Don't worry about it. Scarfe totally vouched for himself to me. It's nothing." Which is like the stupidest mindset for an actual detective ever. Misty Knight can read a crime scene pretty well. But when it comes to reading PEOPLE, she sucks. And I say that as an Aspie. For the record, I'm guessing the reason Misty wasn't fired for incompetence after vouching for Scarfe is because the Captain's cohort Perez is dirty too. She actually got fired for that, and the Inspector came in, but I'm thinking perhaps the only reason Misty still has a job is because all of the important cops in that area were all dead or in jail. They have to keep SOMEBODY, even if the Captain is made an example of. It's not like they have a ton of cops lining up to patrol Harlem. I think the most detestable thing Misty does in the episode was telling Luke to stay away from the funeral. How dare she? Who does she thinks she is? I hated her in that moment. When Aisha finds the crumpled up gun in her purse, I love her face lighting up at that. Her heart was pretty much Luke's from that point forward. Here is something dumb: they sort of went with the idea that if you make an impression, you'd better make sure they spell your name correctly. Which strikes me as a stupid moral for this particular character. Who is gonna misspell "Luke Cage"? And if someone is actually dumb enough to do so, are those idiots people worth expending any worry over? Luke's full name is simplistic, even by comic book superhero standards. Ain't no-one gonna misspell it. I got the precise amount of satisfaction of Luke telling the hoods that the next person who spoke his name is somebody he'd be coming for that the writers obviously hoped I would. That is awesome. I love that Scarfe eats a vegetarian sub when he interrupts Misty talking with the cops about him being dirty. Just because a vegetarian lunch automatically makes him seem benign to Misty. The show does a TON of little detailed crap like that which is one of the things I love about it. I love that we got some wrap-up with Pop's son he talked about in the second episode. I am especially tickled to learn that Pop had visits with a regular lady friend that we never witnessed, and only found out about after the fact. I like that Claire's mother doesn't like her spinning salt-shakers because she's superstitious. That is another random quirk real bored people have, and the show is great at the observational stuff. Eddie says that as bad as things were, back in the day, people still helped old ladies with groceries and had a certain amount of respect. I'm with Luke in thinking he's probably misremembering things, or not seeing the current goodness of people. It's not actually insightful to either Luke or me. Eddie's notion that baseball is a game that is passed down between father and sons is a very interesting one to make however, and makes me slightly regret I don't follow the sport. But only slightly. Because it's super boring. The guy who Aisha shot was the same guy who told Luke he didn't even like the n-words Luke just beat up in the very first episode (Sugar). And the constant vibe I get from this poor sap is "I hate this life and I am only in it because I'm trapped." When Stokes shoots Coco for the benign neglect lesson, Sugar had a look on his face that said "I didn't sign up for this." And that is the look of misery as Sugar is being led away in the ambulance. Not all of Cottonmouth's goons are brash and stupid like Zip and Tone. Some of them, like this guy (and Turk Barrett) actually possess nuance. They are the most interesting of the gang members. Really great episode here. ****1/2.

Suckas Need Bodyguards:

Here is something interesting about the hot mess that is Mariah Dillard: She sucks under pressure. She sputters, she runs, she yells. I'd say she's really bad at her job at being a politician, but it's kind of average as far as the real world works. Still, it is fun to see her squirm. I was not surprised by the ambush. The fact that she was said she's stupid. But she did note something else interesting: Just because Luke is bulletproof doesn't mean he can't be killed. Can he drown? Does he burn? Can he be poisoned? Does he love anyone that can be used against him? This particular kind of craftiness and her lacking of cunning on-camera suggests she would have been better off being a criminal all along. And she uses the n-word, just to show exactly what a low-class hypocrite she is. Speaking of stupid, I saw Stokes shooting Scarfe coming a mile away. Why didn't Scarfe? It's one thing to squeeze a guy for extra money. It probably wouldn't be worth shooting him over. But he is being extremely disrespectful and flippant to Cornell, so Cornell was probably looking for a way to simply shut him up. Dumb. Also dumb is the fact that Misty still didn't know Scarfe was dirty, even at the beginning of the episode. She is literally the worst detective ever if she still doesn't believe it. Interestingly, I'm betting the sole reason she wasn't fired after this fiasco is that she personally brought down Perez. Which is more than her idiot captain could say. I love Claire immediately setting the limit that she was not going to sleep with Luke at the end of the episode. Ironically I don't think this is a rule she ever intended to be inflexible about. But it is the proper rule for that moment, after that offer of coffee from a noted orange juice drinker. Fish is right that "I ain't know hero," is a good slogan. Adding "Pay me" to the end of it mostly robs it of its coolness, but I think it's also kind of the right idea. I felt Claire tied things less into Jessica Jones than Trish Walker's voice cameo did. Trish notes that the only citizens who talk smack about Luke are those who haven't met him. If her listeners were smart, they'd realize that meant that she had. I think the thing that bothers me the most about Dillard, is that there seems to be a seething undercurrent of sexual tension between her and Cornell. I'm wondering just based upon the looks she gave him here whether she was secretly in love with her cousin. There might have been a larger reason she killed him later on for accusing her of enjoying incest. She just might. But maybe he's wrong about who she'd enjoy it with. Maybe not from the uncle. But I think Cottonmouth spoke a truth about how she saw him that she's rather kill him for than admit to herself. That's my theory anyways. I love Misty's last scene with Scarfe. She's happy and comforting to see him, but she also lets him knows she's pissed, and that if he survives he'll have to explain himself. He didn't survive, but I love that as kind and nurturing as she is to her dying partner, she didn't allow him to die thinking he was off the hook with her. Which suggests their friendship is much deeper than we suspected. I liked learning about Scarfe's dead son, because it does explain something weird about Scarfe's deadpan nature that I didn't notice until Misty pointed it out: He's ALWAYS cracking jokes, but he never really smiles. That's normal for wisecracking TV detectives (Lennie Briscoe wasn't a warm and fuzzy guy either) but Scarfe seems unusually dour, especially considering he actually cracks more jokes than Briscoe or Horatio Crane. But he never seems to enjoy making Misty laugh, which is something that most guys like Scarfe would appreciate. Unless he is an entirely sad and broken person for a reason we are just finding out about. What's weird is that I somehow enjoy the agony he is suffering when Claire works on him. But I'm just as sad as Misty that he died. Mike Colter did another round of great "Guess what I'm thinking?" expressions this episode, first when he strangled Scarfe, and second when Scarfe tells him where the evidence is in his apartment. His mind is working a mile a minute, and his face betrays neither mercy nor vengeance, so you are just as anxious as Scarfe to ultimately learn what his final judgment will be. I love Claire's mother saying she doesn't care about the van, but that if Luke gets a scratch on Claire, she'll kill him. Do you know what I think? I think she should actually care about the van. She should be properly pissed it was destroyed. It amazes and annoys me on some level she gave him and Claire an ambulance (they also trash) and a third car later in the season. Vehicles cost serious money. She should be madder at that than she is. But that was a great visual of the punks lighting up the van, opening it, and seeing Luke had punched a hole in both it and the building adjacent to it, and escaped through it. I am little amazed and shocked that the gang members followed the order to go into the hole and follow Luke and Scarfe. Personally, I do not go into small spaces when I do not know where they lead, or what is at the end of them. It is very lucky these toughs seem to have a lack of imagination, because sane people would not have entered the building through that hole for any reason. Who is to even say it wouldn't collapse? I somehow think this show would be less entertaining if it had smarter villains. Speaking of which, can you believe that dirtbag white dude with the long hair casually dropping the n-word and his black buddy not smacking him upside the head for it? Was this episode written by a white person? Because it seems incredibly tone-deaf for that. That's the Jimmy from Pulp Fiction moment that Quentin Tarantino loves and nobody else does. Totally. I love the implication that Mariah hates her own reflection because she believes she is turning into Mother Mabel. I'd be more impressed with Misty's trick on Perez with the phone at the end if I didn't believe it would never have worked on somebody that was even SLIGHTLY not-a-moron. Again, this show would be a lot less entertaining with smarter villains. I love when he rushes her to try to get the gun, she just lets him have it. It was kind of cathartic, and the expression on Simone Missick's face was, "You did NOT just do that!" One of the few awesome moments I believe Misty earned this season. Love Mariah telling Luke she'd ride his ass. She is not the cultured socialite she pretends she is. It's interesting that this episode and the next are entirely about taking Cottonmouth down. Because he's killed at the end of the next episode, making Luke's entire goal for the first half of the season moot. I think it was a mistake to permanently get rid of an amazing actor like Ali. But the entire arc of the first season suffered for it too. I don't know what the answer is since Ali wasn't available for the whole season. But I do know the decision to kill him off makes the season weaker in hindsight. I will talk in a later episode about the unusual amount of positive testimonials and affirmations strangers give Luke to radio stations and the like, but for now, I'll just say I liked the episode. And Mariah is an idiot. Thought that bared mentioning too. ****.

Manifest:

I will concede this is technically a great episode, and perhaps the best episode of the season. But they should not have killed off Cottonmouth. It would be one thing if Diamondback were a better villain, but Cottonmouth was cool, and Diamondback's just a garden variety psychopath. Cornell matters to the Narrative because He Has His Reasons. And judging by the flashbacks, they are good ones. Diamondback is just an evil sociopath with a previous tie to Luke. The series is much worse for him taking over as Big Bad. But I kind of got how bad things were getting for Cottonmouth when Shades went to see Mariah on his own. He lost the faith in Cottonmouth by doing that, and I truly believe he had previously been rooting for him. But once he shot Scarfe, Something Needed To Be Done. Her killing Cornell is what he was ultimately hoping for with that visit, but I don't think he was actually expecting it. It was a pleasant shock, and Theo Rossi delivered every inch of it. It is amazing the amount of warm affirmation Theo Rossi is able to convey with the character. It is so weird to see a second tier hoodlum act like the conscience of the entire operation. But that's what Shades is. He doesn't serve Cornell, he doesn't even wind up ultimately serving Diamondback. It's what's best from the criminal element in Harlem. I hate the criminal element in Harlem, but I like the idea that Shades is looking out for them the way Luke does innocent people. I love Cottonmouth's amused reaction to seeing Mariah blow up on TV. I especially loved Councilman Boone coming to her house to try and get her to resign. Because he asks her how much of what they were saying is true. I kind of don't think he believed it deep down, and just saw it as the political opportunity is was. But Dillard can't give him ANY assurances the story is bullcrap? I see why he's rubbing things in. And in case I didn't hate Dillard enough, she insults him for being biracial on his way out. I sort of like the riveted look on Fish's face as he was watching Luke and Claire's argument at the beginning. It's interesting that Shades is concerned Cottonmouth scared Luke off, and he was right to fear that, because only Claire got him to stick around. I don't have a problem with the name Carl Lucas that Cornell seems to, but it IS ordinary, and you'd kind of figure that the first thing Carl would do in creating an alias is create a cooler sounding one than his actual name. And that's that moment. For the record, I don't care if Mariah seems to have weird sexual boundaries around her relatives. And she might. Cornell may be right she flirted with Uncle Phil. But that doesn't matter. She was just a kid and he had no right to do that to her. She was an underage victim whether Uncle Phil "got the wrong idea" or not. And Cornell claiming she had any power or responsibility for her own molestation shows that as empathetic to The Family as Cornell tries to seem, he simply does not get families, or how they are supposed to work. I don't care if he's pissed. He's supposed to support Mariah on that point at least. Do I think he deserved to be killed for it? Of course not. But it was a pretty loathsome thing to do, regardless, so I see why Mariah got so spooked. And if she DOES see her cousin in an untoward way on any level, he's just pretty much told her unknowingly how he feels about that. Completely nuking her complicated feelings for him. Cornell is a great villain. But he is constantly doing things that are not in his own best interest. But I DO get on some level why he said something so cruel in the first place. Mariah was the one who brought up the junkie mother, and the fact that his parents didn't want him. What he said was a little bit worse, but I don't think he would have said it if she hadn't thrown down like that. I love Mama Mabel in the flashback complaining to keep the noise down because she had white people in the front room. Maybe she shouldn't have cut off a dude's finger then. She said something super smart, on a show where a LOT of characters seem to say super smart sayings "Pigs get fat. Hogs get slaughtered." See, I thought Matt Murdock was supposed to be the well spoken lawyer. While every single major character on the show is about to come up with great allegories like that. Mama Mable being so against drugs is interesting, because it sort of hints that if she ever lived to see Cornell's alliance with Domingo, she might have wound up killing him for it. Great to see a young Pop in the flashback, and I liked learning Cornell and Domingo hung out once when they were kids. Speaking of Domingo, I thought it was hilarious when Luke told him he was pretty sick of always having to buy new clothes. And then he forces Domingo to give him a properly fitted hoodie after he steals his guns! That was so funny! I also laughed at Cottonmouth telling Luke to bring his dishrag to the parlay. Cottonmouth will never let him live that vocation down. Luke said something interesting at the parlay. He says that Cottonmouth won't snitch. And Cottonmouth's perspective is "There IS honor among thieves. But you aren't one of us." I always thought the snitching rules were far more inflexible and fixed than that, but Cottonmouth sort of made a good case for a loophole just then. I love Luke protesting he was framed and was innocent to Cornell saying that. Cornell's response says everything, and is why I love the character: "Aren't we all?" And that's pretty much all it really comes down to in the end. Luke's cause is righteous, and he IS innocent of the crime he was sent to prison for. But he DID escape from prison and that is a crime in and of itself. And his protestation that he is innocent is the exact same thing Cottonmouth says. And like him being unable to prove without a doubt Cornell's guilt, he is also unable to prove beyond a doubt his own innocence. By Cornell saying that, he was pretty much correctly pointing out that ultimately it was his word against his. And that's how reasonable doubt with no evidence is sown in the first place. I love that Shades hearing Cornell threatened Luke with that specific thing freaked him out. I sort of got the idea right then that Shades knows if Diamondback is going to be unhappy, HE'S going to be unhappy. As much as Diamondback wound up sucking, he did have interesting first words: "A Judas for a Judas." That not only ties into the betrayal he feels from Carl, but it's also Biblical, and the kind of thing Diamondback would quote at people too. Speaking of Biblical, I liked Cottonmouth saying people thought Luke walked on water, and Shades wryly asking, "Can he?" I love that moment because it means the bad guys still haven't done the proper research on Luke to correctly identify his strengths and weaknesses. The fact that they still don't seem to know anything for sure is a mark against all of the villains. Misty blaming Luke for all of these problems at the end to his face is the precise reason I dislike the character so much. I love rewatching this and realizing it was Shades who put the line in Mariah's head that you never know what someone is capable of. Because it was ultimately Mariah parroting that line like a moron, and seeming completely guilty, which is what got Candi to turn against her in the first place. Mariah is dumb in that she doesn't quite get that that's an opinion you don't offer to non-criminals. Great episode, but it made the rest of the season less interesting as it went along. ****1/2.
 

Fone Bone

Matt Zimmer
Joined
Jan 19, 2004
Messages
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Location
Framingham, MA
Blowin' Up The Spot:

I'll say one thing for Diamondback: He makes an immediate impression. The "Can you dig it? Oh, Carl! Come out and plaaaay!" thing, and the "N-word, I AM your brother" line as blaxploitation music played were both quite memorable, as was Luke tossing him across the theater. When Claire described how she previously saved Luke's life by relieving brain pressure by putting a needle through his eye socket, his expression had two phases. First, he is very glad that he was asleep for that, and is just learning about it now. Second, he realizes she MIGHT have to do it again, and he'd probably be awake during it this time. Not fun. I like that Candi sort of pauses once Misty asks if she was one of Cottonmouth's" girls". A mortified Candi later tells Mariah that she didn't like Cornell, and would never sleep with him, and now the idea that she did is on the record. Am I the only person who felt like Mariah's "comfort" to her of being a "businesswoman" was probably the least comforting thing she could have been called in that moment? Because Mariah isn't breaking down the frame she's given herself by feeling like a whore. She's reinforcing it. I think Mariah was totally cray this episode. For a politician she sucks at her job. She was throwing all kinds grief not only against people who had power against her like Misty, but those who were trying to help her like Shades. She's barely denying she's guilty and her "You just never know what some people are capable of," thing to Candi shows that she sucks at hiding her guilt. That pretty much telegraphed it as did her making "Take that, b word!" eyes to Misty upon being warmly greeted by the Inspector and being told she was free to go. As careful as Shades is cautioning her to be, I kind of don't think he actually should need to explain to her that in a murder investigation, you should at least try not to ACT guilty. I understand why she shellacked Shades for calling her a b word, even if it was intended in a loving and playful manner. That's not something a guy should get to do. My problem is that considering the Godsend he is acting like, that is not a person you want to start barking orders at. Shades was great. I love when he was talking about how DNA evidence is both a friend and an enemy, and how when she asks him if he believes she's in shock, and that's why he's talking to her like a child, he absolutely lights up and says, "I want you to win!" I love Shades. I love that when the gangsters that Cottonmouth sent out of town come slithering back to grab power after Stokes' death, that Shades is the kind of guy who hands them a wad a bills, and tells them to buy new clothes. What, are they supposed to argue with that? Shades is amazing gangster because he uses carrots with his men as often as sticks. Diamondback never deserved his loyalty. Speaking of which, I am annoyed at the both times Luke apologizes to him here. Because after seeing his actions in this episode alone (much less the rest of the season) I think Willis is the kind of guy who had it coming,, no matter what it was Carl left him holding the bag for. Diamondback wants to know why Luke betrayed him, and why he and his father never considered him a part of their family. It's because he's the guy who blows up ambulances with exploding bullets. That's all the reason Luke would need to cut that dirtbag loose. Speaking of exploding ambulances, can you believe Claire's mom gave her and Luke a third car after that? She's crazy! I love that upon Misty choking Claire, and the Inspector walking in on that, that Priscilla immediately offers to press charges against Misty for Claire if she is so inclined. This is not the fetid organization of rank corruption that it was before Scarfe and the other dirty cops were taken down. And Misty sort of realized in that moment that even if she believed herself a clean cop, the new dynamic means that she will never be afforded the same protections she used to be. For the record, Misty is right to be flipped out. She should be taking time off of work. Diamondback pretending he was going to execute her was horrifying, and was easily the worst thing anyone has ever done on this show. He actually laughs and asks her to beg for him. Another reason I am all out of patience for Luke's lame regrets. Also for the record, Misty is an idiot for still focusing the investigation on Luke. She boldly declares to Claire that she is on the hook for providing a false alibi and obstructing justice. She triumphantly says that's hard time as if she's got her over a barrel. It never occurs to this cretin that those charges won't stick to Claire because she's telling the truth. I cannot stand Misty Knight. Do you know what I absolutely hate about Mariah threatening to kill Candi's entire family if she talks? She actually bothers to namedrop Duke Ellington and the fact that he lived in the building. She actually is still trying to pretend she is this cultured person she never was, and has this intimate connection to black culture and Harlem. She thinks she's still a woman of the people right before somebody hands her the sanitary gel. And that's infuriating while she's planning a to kill an innocent girl and her entire family. I thought it was very interesting that Misty's line about "rapport" tied so heavily into her relationship with Scarfe. Priscilla obviously didn't know that, but if she did, she perhaps would have been concerned ahead of time. Interesting episode, but the second half of the season was not as good as the first. ****.

DWYCK:

"I'll murderize everybody!" Pretty much fed up with Diamondback's screwy ass. The thing I liked in the episode was him asking Shades why he shouldn't put a bullet in his head right then and there. And Zip enters and says that it won't help him kill Luke Cage faster. And suddenly you see the value of Shades giving these guys that wad of bills to get new clothes in the last episode. Now they have his back (for now). I think Domingo is a bit fearless to call Diamondback crazy to his face and wonder aloud why he wasn't killed. "What are you doing, man? Are you crazy? You're going to start a war! Why am I even still alive?" And that's one of the things I like about Domingo. He may not be unflappable in this scene. But he is also not simply silent, and accepting this as normal in any way, shape, or form. I love the police shrink. I love that he's overweight, middle-aged, unattractive and totally awesome all at once. For someone who claims to see things, I pegged the shrink before Misty finally got it at the end. The guy wasn't there to break her. She already did that. He was there to see if she could be fixed. And once Misty understands this guy legitimately just wants to help her, everything lets go at once. And I think that Misty should not be let back on the force because she roughed up Claire. But because she's a terrible judge of character for a detective, sees a friend in Scarfe, and enemies in Luke and the shrink. And I think that's probably why I find the character so annoying. She doesn't necessarily have to always be right for me to root for her. But can she at least ever have a legit point? Can she at least ever approach a situation in what passes for a reasonable manner without alienating people who are innocent and would be willing to talk to her if she'd listen? It's not just the roughing up suspects part of the job which is what makes Misty's emotional baggage so damaging. It legitimately hinders her in correctly identifying murderers and guilty parties. It doesn't matter how well you can profile a killer and every step of the crime if you still come up with the wrong guy. I cannot be the only person who sees that. I did like her and the shrink briefly bonding over closed coffee places before they got started. Misty said something interesting to him. She claimed he wouldn't ask about her emotional state if she were a man, and he says he would. What's interesting is that she's right and wrong. She's right that men cops get free passes for aggressive behavior that women cops don't. But personally? I can see this guy asking the same thing from a dude. He's precisely that kind of shrink. Misty is right that the system sucks, and is stacked against women. But that isn't necessarily true of EVERYONE in the system. She asks why everyone is ragging on her for not seeing Scarfe when nobody else did either. And his response was right. She was the one closest to him. Interestingly, her justifications are legit. Scarfe wore poor people's clothes, and didn't flash around money and women. If he WAS on the take, he kept any money he was stealing well-hidden. Misty is pretty dumb for not putting it together. But it's not like a bum like Scarfe was ever the first person someone would expect of getting extra money on the side. He still ate veggie subs, for Pete's sake! Claire's relationship to Luke is interesting because she clearly likes Luke personally. She was on Matt Murdock's side more often than not, but on some level she strongly disliked him, and believed he brought her nothing but trouble. I think she likes Luke personally enough to be willing to put in that specific effort. Yeah, she'd do the same for Matt. But she'd be complaining the entire time about how much he sucks. Now he DOES suck, and I think her telling him that would be true, but she doesn't say that to Luke because she doesn't think that about him. And he is NOT going to die in her mom's car. What a great and endearing moment. I like the moment where Mariah sees the policecam footage of Luke and says "That's amazing." I like that moment because if her assistant Alex were smarter, he'd take note of that being weird. Instead he's apologetic for showing her the face of her cousin's killer. It did not seem to register to him at all that she thought he was amazing. She quickly got back into the proper grieving "character", but part of the reason Mariah gets away with the crazy stuff she does is because the people in her life LET her get away with it. Diamondback always quoting various hardcore Bible verses reminds me that he is nothing more than a warmed over Samuel L Jackson if Jules Winfield was stupid instead of insightful. This is the negative side of making a black gangster a Bible thumper. Jules made it work. Willis does not. There was a moment that I think the producers wanted to impress me with for Mariah, but instead it made me think less of Diamondback. He seems very surprised and impressed that she didn't flinch when he killed all those guys. And it's the fact that he's surprised which is why he is a lousy villain. This ain't Mariah Dillard's first rodeo, and never was. A properly menacing mob boss would have went in there already knowing that, not just randomly popping off people to make a statement about how scary he is. There is research and homework involved in running a criminal enterprise. The fact that Diamondback is so incurious and puts in no work and effort shows why he is such a weak villain. There are varying degrees of Lannister calculation. Tyrion and Tywin are examples of Lannisters who think crap like that through. I'd almost call Diamondback Cersei for his dull-witted incompetence, but his incuriosity is much more aligned with Joffrey. And once you see those parallels with a ruler who causes chaos simply because everyone refuses to tell him "No," you kind of see how weak a character Diamondback is, and always was. When Mariah was talking to Willis about selling guns to the cops to deal with the new threats, again the writers wanted me to be impressed with her. Instead, I'm wondering why that no-brainer never occurred to Diamondback in the first place. How dumb is he that this obvious idea needs to be pointed out to him? I found Mariah's scene talking to Cornell's body pretty moving. The looks on Shades' face as Stryker said he liked the song was pure frustration. This nuttiness is apparently the new normal. And it sucks. Claire and Luke are smart to instantly mistrust Dr. Burstein. He is helpful as anything, but he was far too interested in finding out how Carl Lucas was still alive for me to believe he actually shared the exact same goals. And judging by the season finale, that mistrust was warranted. He will be trouble in the future. It's interesting that the first thing Domingo does when he sees Mariah is offer condolences. And she's a little surprised and totally forgot that she was supposed to pretend to be upset. Again, I would sympathize more with Mariah's plight in trying to make herself look innocent to the cops, if every single facial tick and character moment didn't telegraph she was guilty as sin. Luke seemed disturbed by the notion of the needle in the eye socket last episode. He seems equally unhappy about the needle through the mucas membrane, and the hot acid bath for similarly obvious reasons. That was funny. I found Claire comforting him quite moving. I don't know if they have great sexual chemistry yet. Haven't seen enough of that. But they have great PERSONAL chemistry. Luke's cheesy "'Sup, Doc?" shows that Claire was right all long. He IS corny. I would have liked the episode more if Willis and Misty weren't so busy annoying the crap out of me. ***1/2.

Take It Personal:

Wow, the cops in Harlem suck. Beating up a kid for no reason? Even though Mariah is actually behind it, She Does Have A Point. Do you know what I love about that particular kid? He lists off all of the things the police did wrong when they brought him to the station. What I love about this kid knowing every inch of his rights, is that it isn't because he's a career criminal who is working the system. It's the opposite. He's a good kid whose mom is studying to be a lawyer. I like that the series allowed the smart kid to know his rights because he was a budding social justice activist, instead of bad guy who knows how to exploit the loopholes. And this show is specifically amazing for having random characters like that. Luke Cage: The Series gives the Harlem residents personalities and histories beyond what most other shows would even consider worth bothering with. That is why this is such a special show. I liked Domingo's scene with Misty. He wants to give her Diamondback, but seems a little too afraid to outright do it. I also thought Luke holding Misty in his arms and telling her he had her at the end was cool. That was such a great moment. I also like Claire telling the doctor that if he had done to her what he did to Luke she would have killed him. It's interesting that Burstein becomes increasingly unhinged as the episode progresses. Because he was the one in the beginning of the episode actually worried about Luke's health and safety. It amazes me how quickly that turned around. I was bummed that the series retconned Reva into a villain, and said Luke stopped loving her. There has GOT to be more to the story than that. And as I noted earlier in the review, from what I've seen there probably is. I love that Claire thinks Luke is corny. I like that the people that Luke has saved stick up for Luke and refuse to believe he's a killer. I also am very interested that Mariah's rival Damon Boone instantly knows there is something wrong with the Luke Cage story, and that she's just using it to get back on top. I was a little surprised to learn that what Jessica Jones did to Kilgrave is still considered controversial. I thought it was settled she was taking out a mass murderer. Ever notice how non-superpowered bad guys in the Marvel Universe always refer to superheroes as "menaces"? I never really hear that word outside of Marvel movies, TV shows, and cartoons. Stryker is absolutely detestable in this episode. Diamondback's framejob of Luke shows he is truly stupid. Misty poked holes in it immediately, and for the right reasons. Luke is on the run, and supposedly kills a cop in broad daylight while announcing his name to everyone? Stryker is so crazy and stupid he never stops to consider if the story will hold together with the police, much less a court of law. It's not remotely plausible. He assures Mariah he has taken care the problem. In reality, he has made it much worse. Nice episode. ****.

Now You're Mine:

I cannot get over how much I hate Diamondback. He's the kind of fundie nutjob who highlights every single passage in the Bible. Effective use of Son Of A Preacher Man though, which again ties into another Pulp Fiction parallel with the character. Shades was my hero this episode. He crapped out by the end (loved Claire stomping on his sunglasses) but he was so great because he's the only guy willing to say true things to Diamondback. First off, unlike Mariah's overreaction to being called a b-word by Shades in an actual loving manner, "Whatchoo talkin' 'bout Willis?" was clearly done entirely out of disrespect. But Shades has no respect left for the guy. Diamondback's like "Do I look shook to you?" and Shades is like "No. And that's the problem." And later on Stryker tells Shades he looks terrified, and Shades says that because he's clear-headed! That was so awesome. But the capper was Diamondback sussing out whether Shades would be willing to testify against him in court, and Shades is like "Of course not! Tell everybody on the stand that you didn't even have a plan? Can you imagine how stupid we'd both look?" I like the main reason Shade refuses to snitch is because he'd look like an idiot if he did. Claire's scene fixing Misty's arm made me cringe. Easily the grossest and hardest to watch thing in the entire season. I love that Misty does not want to die the same way as Scarfe. That is the particular death she fears happening to her. The arm wound is interesting, because if the viewer knows the comic book history, you might think this is how she loses it. Frank Castle is mentioned, and Blake Tower from Daredevil makes an appearance. I would not like to imagine the Punisher with Judas bullets. Not one bit. Blake's perspective of not wanting to use those guns because criminals would eventually get ahold of them is the correct one, and I respected him for voicing that fear. And I think that fear is going to permeate season 2. I kept sensing that Willis was looking for sympathy from Boone for his tale of woe, and my reaction is, "Screw you for expecting that.” None of that justifies what he's done. And none of it justifies the fact that he enjoyed every second of it. None of his actions were actually a proportionate response for his sad lot in life. And the fact that he seems to enjoy killing and frightening so many people means that the idea that he was "a good boy” is complete nonsense too. Maybe the reason Reverend Lucas gave up on him is because he sensed what a monster he was before everyone else did. That would not surprise me at all. I will not deny that the story he tells to Dusty Springfield in the background IS dynamic. Mostly because every intimate detail he revealed seemed to alarm Boone. And eventually, Boone frantically asks why he is telling him this. And he already knows why. The look on Diamondback's face said even HE knew Boone knew why. Every word Stryker confesses to him is a nail in Boone's coffin. But as honest as Diamondback claims he is being (the honesty is why Boone had to die, after all) Willis strikes me as the kind of guy who would lie about multiple things in this story to anyone he told it to. He claims he killed the kid in juvie he did in self-defense, and that he had no other choice. I suspect that's a lie. Because if somebody comes at you with a shiv, you don't HAVE to kill them to incapacitate them or to stop them. The fact that Willis chose to become a killer on his second day in juvie lock-up speaks volumes about Willis' character, whether the other guy started it or not. Claire’s idea to tell Sugar in the club that Candi was her best friend was absolutely brilliant. If Sugar were smarter, he’d notice how surprised Candi looked at that suggestion, but to Candi’s credit that the dumbfounded look only lasts for a split second, and then she rolls with it. But it was so smart because the idea that her best friend was hurt gives her unearned leeway she would not get if the goons understood she was helping a stranger. It’s one of those smart things a smart superhero or sidekick would do to protect innocent people that does not involve superpowers at all. It’s the same kind of smart move as when Virgil Hawkins pulled the fire alarm at the school when a monster was attacking it on Static Shock. It’s a real-world, non superpowered way to navigate an impossible life or death situation for civilians. Misty claims Claire is good at her job. Well that moment proves that Claire was better at something that should have been Misty’s job too. Obama is again referenced, which again makes me wonder about the continuity of Ellis. I also find it interesting that the two people Luke directs Claire to trust are not only Misty, but also Bobby Fish. That is very interesting to me. I liked Sugar calling Claire Night Nurse. God, I hate Diamondback. He sucks. But it's still interesting to me that as righteous and Biblical as he claims to be, he still knows Friday and New Jack City like everybody else. Because he's a person. Luke saying that he always liked Dana and was sorry about her passing was nice. And Willis saying he never could stand Etta and that she was a b-word is the precise difference between the characters. And I kind of got that that was the point Luke stopped trying with him. It's not just talking smack about mother that is unforgivable (although as a black man, that is much more so than for a white guy). It's because he chose that moment of grace from Luke to do it. Which is another reason I loathe the character, and resent him getting as far as he did. I love Claire getting the jump on the guy in the stairwell, but the truth is, it's not THAT hard to trip up a guy running down stairs. The only challenge is avoiding him on the way down. Her and Misty taking out Shades with Misty in such bad shape was far more impressive to me. Mariah is not seen fleeing the scene because the producers would have to pay Alfre Woodard for an extra episode for a wordless or one-line cameo. I don't always notice every single time a TV show takes the least expensive way out. But the fact that we DIDN'T get to see Mariah's panic and confronting the shouting media after that mess shows that we were robbed of a little juicy drama just to save the show some money. ****.

Soliloquy Of Chaos:

There will be comic book fans who will see Method Man’s Ballad Of Luke Cage about as cheesy as Vanilla Ice’s “Ninja Rap” from the second Ninja Turtles film. I disagree. First off, the song itself isn’t terrible. Second, there is no equivalence between Vanilla Ice and Method Man. One is an embarrassing stain on popular culture, one has actual musical cred and is legitimately gifted. So even if the song DID suck more than it did, it simply would not suck as bad as if it were Vanilla Ice. It simply couldn't. By design. It won’t be selling any singles, but it is not embarrassing to listen to, which is kind of amazing considering what it is about. And even if I actually thought that the song is corny and cheesy, and makes the Marvel Cinematic Universe seem dumber than it is, even then, the truth is the song is the correct thing for the narrative the show is trying to tell. There will Marvel fans who roll their eyes at how many eyewitnesses talk up Luke Cage on the radio. After all, Daredevil and Jessica Jones were never "desperate" enough for this level of affirmation. Why do the producers always need to have other characters say how awesome Luke is? And I think it sort of goes back to why the character exists in the first place. Luke Cage is a symbol of black empowerment. When the guy on the radio says “There is something about a black man who is bulletproof and unafraid,” that’s pretty much the entire character and the entire show. And even if the people fanboying Luke on the radio and creating raps for him would strike a certain segment of fan as perhaps desperate, to me, that’s what empowerment is all about. Standing together, standing up for Luke. Being an entire city that wears hoodies with holes in them. And if a snobbish fan cannot grasp that idea just because they think the idea of a Luke Cage rap is silly, I think they are probably watching the wrong show, or at least watching this show for the wrong reasons. The rap completely fits everything the story is trying to do and say about this particular bulletproof black man. I’d have to be crazy to object to it. The episode is better for it. That will probably an unpopular opinion, but I will wear the hoodie filled with holes when voicing it. The radio segment interests me, because it isn't shown as perhaps a group of black people making excuses for a criminal. They are using logic and reason to figure out that he actually isn't one. It's really interesting to watch that dynamic knowing what we do about Luke. Theo Rossi was SO amazing in this episode. It floors me that the bad guy runner up is a better actor than Mike Colter. But he is. I busted out laughing at the extremely clever and intricate way he found to say “Lawyer” at the end of his interrogation. Like the Inspector, I just wanted to smack him. And how great is he for not cracking up or breaking character before delivering that perfect joke? It's precisely the fact that he worked at seeming concerned and credible which is why the rug being pulled out under Priscilla is so funny. And when he’s getting choked by Zip, surrounded by four guys in the elevator, I was like “There no way he’s getting out of that. None.” And yet, he DOES! So awesome. And he got himself some new sunglasses for it too. I am a little underwhelmed about his real name being Hernen Alvarez, but that’s the thing about nicknames. They are always cooler than the actual name. Turk was also interesting to me in this episode. I love his warning to Zip, especially because it went unheeded, and Turk turned out to be totally right. I think part of Turk’s disgust is that Zip is still there after Stryker chokes him in front of a group of criminals. Turk’s perspective is that Zip needs to get some self-respect and not work for a person that singularly crazy. His perspective is This Is Not Normal. And he’s totally right. It's also interesting that while Zip doesn't know who Icarus is, Turk does. This season of Luke Cage sort of gives us a different perspective of the character we never got on Daredevil. Here he plays chess and reveals that he's actually pretty smart and well-read. And the character is better for having those facets now. It's pretty much why I think this is the best Netflix season of the four I have seen. Because it gives the guy Daredevil randomly punches previously unforeseen layers. And that's cool. I get why Luke threw Turk in that dumpster and enjoyed every moment of his sniveling in there. Because there are used baby diapers in there, man! At least he's got stuff to eat. Turk seems to really be freaked out by Luke's supernatural powers. He was never this scared of Daredevil, even if he probably spent his encounters with him far more hurt than being stuck in a dumpster. Because being lifted up into the air like a ragdoll is far more frightening on a primitive base-level than someone breaking your arm. I love Bobby Fish’s outrage over them messing up the barbershop again, until things get real and he’s all, “Never mind, man. Be my guest.” That was hilarious. This episode had a ton of hilarious and funny moments like that, and the stick-up with Method Man. The robbers can’t decide if they should keeping robbing the place, or asking Method Man for his autograph. By being in that convenience store, Method Man pretty much did Luke’s entire job by distracting those knobs while Luke laid them out. I love that he knocks the crook out by lightly tapping his head. It is again corny that Luke is a fanboy of Method's, but that’s the empowerment of the show. For the record, Fish's explanation as to why he played chess by himself made no freaking sense. The shoot-out between Domingo and Diamondback was absolutely sick. I loved it. One of the best action sequences on the show so far. I think Domingo knew what was coming. Just based on the idea that the city would be his, he should actually be excited and eager at the idea of taking out Diamondback in that meeting. But his boys have to convince him, and when he consents to the plan, there is a resignation in his face, rather than reassurance. It's technically the correct move. But I think he rightly suspects deep down that he is going to die for it. Domingo has a very wry demeanor usually. The fact that it was completely absent for that moment spoke volumes to me. For the record, Diamondback is precisely as stupid as I say he is here. He tries to kill Shades because supposedly Shades is disrespectful, and talks back, and tries to rise above his station. That's stupid! I'm not a gangster, but even I know that's dumb. Because that is Shades' entire selling point! He gives who he works for the best advice possible, because he doesn't censor the truth, even if it would be easier for him in the long run because he's not upsetting his killer of a boss. The well-being of the boss' mission is more important to Shades than his own potential personal welfare and safety. Basically Willis wants Shades dead for the reason he is actually valuable, and why any other gangster would kill to have a guy like this working for them. Shades tells Zip to never question his loyalty. And it's the fact that he puts himself on the line with psychopaths so frequently, just because he's trying to help them, that says that Shades is definitely a person you want to have loyalty from. He's not the guy you get three other losers to kill in an elevator because you think he's just a random goon. Because he isn't. He's actually scary good at what he does. So, yeah, Diamondback is stupid. Too stupid to appreciate the rare gift that was handed to him. He might have won the season if Shades was still on his payroll, and he actually listened to him. Listening to Candi repeat Mariah saying "You just never know what some people are truly capable of," reminds me of precisely how stupid Mariah was to say that to her in the first place. She think Candi is too dumb to appreciate the subtext of what she's saying and "secretly" admitting. In reality, the fact that she said something this obvious in such a theatrical manner means that there IS no subtext. The only interpretation is that she's guilty. Mariah worries about what she is turning into. She doesn't want to become Mama Mabel. I don't think she will. Because Mama Mabel was smart, and seemed to be able to cover her tracks well enough. Mariah's last name should actually be "Dullard". This episode is bound to get a bunch of incoming crap from certain fanboys because of the rap. But I think it was entirely appropriate. ****1/2.

You Know My Steez:

What does that episode title even mean? Very interesting choice to have the first 15 minutes be the climatic fight scene of the season, and then spend the back 45 minutes doing wrap-up. But make no mistake: The good guys ultimately lost the episode, in every way that mattered. Diamondback will be having superpowers soon (whose bright idea was THAT?) and Mariah skated despite being the hottest of messes in interrogation. This chick used to be a politician? She’s talking about n-words always stealing equipment and dead whores with no self-awareness of how low-class she sounds. She actually calls Misty "Trick" as if it's a legit insult, and she doesn't sound like the trashiest person on Earth. Even Misty is amused at how far the Councilwoman devolved in that moment. She is just the worst. I loved Shade’s reaction to her frankly awful kiss. His bewildered expression seemed to say “Whaaaaaat?” Speaking of weird expressions, I love the look on Claire’s face upon Luke saying he preferred robust Cuban coffee. It said, “Okay, I don’t want him anymore.” I also laughed at when the cops asked Luke what kind of coffee he likes, and he tells them they just set him off from a hot dark blend. Claire is right. He IS corny. When Misty rails against the system not working, I love Ridley’s perspective: The system works when you work inside it. Misty was the one who chose to hide Candi without telling Priscilla, because she didn’t trust her. Her death is on her as much as Shades. I love the moment that when Claire hears Candi has been killed, that she jumped in fear that something bad had happened to her mother. Which is the correct reaction. The one win the heroes seemed to gain was Bobby Fish finding the folder. But he was the only good guy smiling by the end of the episode. I’m going to call b.s. on the episode about something, and it is something that bothers me fiercely. In the flashbacks at the beginning, Willis is portrayed as warm and loving to Carl as a kid. I’m calling b.s.. That is bad writing. Full stop. And the worst writing the show did the entire season. The writers were the ones who chose to have Diamondback do the psychopathic things in the season he did. They can’t now say that he used to be a sweet kid. That’s not how sociopathy works. It’s something you always have or never had. It’s not something that develops. I can almost excuse the idea that perhaps Luke was misremembering a warm relationship with Willis when there was none, but no, the series is actually saying Willis used to be a nice guy back in the day. That is terrible writing. And for a show that traffics in heroes and villains, to get that part of their villain that 100% wrong is a black mark against the season. Love Misty going up to Stryker on the stretcher and saying “What’s the matter? Not going to move? Not even a little?” I don’t feel like that was exactly an equal comeuppance for what Willis did to her, and what he actually had coming to him. But it made me smile anyways. I love that Shades admits to Mariah that he was going there that night to kill Cottonmouth before she beat him to it. Like I said, Shades is fearless. Let's talk a little more in-depth about the flashback. I liked the little touches like that Luke dislikes swearing, and that's why he both respected the swear jar, and has the stupid Sweet Christmas catchphrase that he does. I also thought it was a very nice touch that his boxing gloves were the same color yellow as the dishwashing gloves. That was very good symmetry. I think the kids they cast as young Luke and Willis were miscast. The kid who played Luke looks nothing like Mike Colter and the kid who plays Willis, while having some similar facial structures is a complete mismatch for Erik Laray Harvey's distinct voice. And I might as well talk about the fight, or at least the surroundings of the fight more in-depth too. I didn't like the cheering and running commentary. And that was pretty much the only authentic seeming thing the season did that I disliked. Yeah, people hoot and holler like that as spectators (The Jerry Springer Show comes to mind). But they sound so stupid. That guy telling Luke to kick Willis' ass for talking about his mother sounds extra stupid because he doesn't understand the stakes at all. The "Luke! Luke! Luke!" thing was a bit much, and it was ironically the only empowering thing in the season that was a bit much. Probably because I didn't actually believe the moment, which is another rare thing I didn't feel. There are things I liked about the beginning. I liked the dude telling his cameraman buddy about seeing Luke and Claire that a brother deserves some discretion to get him to lower the camera. What a great way to put that. I also like Luke later on saying that Harlem was a shining beacon to the world. Whenever I here Mariah say something like that, it sounds preposterous as long as she is the one selling the idea. And it IS true, so it's unfair that Mariah gets to sully that message. But when Luke says it, he's not only right, but he's genuine and actually believes it, and isn't just mugging for a camera. And that's what I loved about that moment. Shades' lethal text to Candi is the precise reason I refuse to text. I don't trust who could possibly be on the other end of the phone. Without hearing a voice I recognize, texts strike me as every bit as unreliable a source of confidential communication as email. You never actually know WHERE that stuff is going to end up. How did the club get rebuilt so fast? I get they wanted a musical montage at the end, but maybe they should have thought of something else if they WERE gonna wreck the club that bad a couple of episodes ago. I liked Luke comparing authors and books he likes with the cops at the end. There were two moments in the episode, that summed up the season, and the series for me. The first is the last line spoken by Luke that sometimes you have to go backwards to move forward. And that's what the ending is about. The other striking moment to me was when Diamondback is beating on Luke, Misty tells the white cop to save him, and the white cop says, "No." That moment, pretty much said everything, not only about Luke, the show, and the season, but it said everything about the black experience with the police. Even a bonafide hero cannot trust the police to help him when he needs them. And the refusal here is conscious and premeditated. Which is also another experience that black people have to go through. And it was incredible for that. I thought that moment was thought-provoking and fabulous. It made me angry, but it made me angry for the right reasons. Very interesting finale, that the show probably can get away with simply because they drop all of their episodes on Netflix at once. If we had gotten this finale on a weekly series, I would not tolerate it. As it is now, it’s a VERY interesting way to end the season. ****1/2.

Off-Stage At Harlem’s Paradise:

First special feature on one of the Blu-Ray sets of the Marvel Netflix shows. So, anyways, Jeph Loeb is an idiot. He instantly knows Mike Colter is Luke Cage. So far, so good. Then he tells us he prays to God he could act. Were I Colter, I’d be offended. I’ve seen Colter in stuff before this. I know he can act. Loeb not knowing who a black actor is is entirely consistent with the mindset of the people who make these kinds of shows in Hollywood. I thank God he wasn’t showrunner or the creator of the show, because despite the fact that he is wise enough to know that this show carries a bit responsibility on itself in the current political climate, he doesn’t seem to be the kind of guy willing to educate himself on the themes explored personally. Which bums me out. I laughed at Theo Rossi’s story about the Revolver. Cottonmouth is definitely multidimensional, and even if they didn’t have Ali for the whole season, they still shouldn’t have killed him off. Diamondback sucked. It’s cool that the creator of the show would rather people have a negative reaction to the show, than no reaction at all. That’s the proper mindset for fiction, but it’s also a mindset I don’t see too much of Hollywood following. Why else would Michael Bay still get work if the people in charge of greenlighting movies didn’t believe audiences tolerated mediocrity? An even better question is why all of those blockbuster audiences DID tolerate mediocrity in the first place. Getting a reaction is not necessarily a safe wish for a show, particularly a superhero one. But shows with creators with that sensibility are always better than shows with creators unwilling to rock the boat or take chances. Without exception. Interesting featurette. ****.

Blu-Ray Menus: Fully animated and kinda funky. ****1/2.
 

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Judging by David Kaye and Michael Donovan, ''Xiaolin Chronicles'' is somehow connected with ''Skysurfer Strike Force''. What do you think?
Judging by the renamed Shen Gong Wu, ''Xiaolin Chronicles'' is essentially ''what if 4Kids Entertainment rebooted Xiaolin Showdown''. Do you agree with me?
The innocent shall suffer. Big time. :moon2:

I just want to say that I totally called it that Diamond White could voice Moon Girl 3 years in advance.

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