Friday, April 12, 2024

Luke Cage Battles for Harlem’s Soul, and His Own

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Whether you’re at the end of the series already or you’re just itching for some discussions,  here’s a recap of the last 4 episodes of Luke Cage.

Episode 10: “Take It Personal”

The Marvel Science™ experiment continues, but Luke is slowly fading away. Claire makes a last ditch effort to raise the heat and add salt water, and even Burstein disagrees…at first. But in the name of science, he has to try, damnit. The solution finally works, and Claire successfully extracts the shrapnel from Luke. What an opening sequence.

Back in Harlem, Mariah and Diamondback strategize over the mass production of Judas bullets to fuel the hunt for Luke, and to prepare for any other superpowered human. Makes me wonder if the bullets will appear in any other part of the MCU. Mariah tries to hold on to one last tiny shred of dignity and wants to resist, but she prooooobably should’ve done that about 2 episodes ago. Not like she had the option, though. Life goes fast when you mingle with top criminals.

As a possible means of drawing Luke out once more, Diamondback had to be so damn extra and kill a cop, all in Luke’s name. He uses an amped up glove to punch a hole in a cop while screaming “I’m Luke Cage! Luuuuuke Caaaage!” Couldn’t help but laugh a little as he announced Luke’s name all over the damn place—that’s not obvious at all, no. Also, please tell me that someone else is reminded of this when seeing Diamondback’s superpowered fists: 

Meanwhile, Luke’s regeneration pulls through as predicted and he wakes. Burstein is going on the classic mad scientist route after rediscovering his lost “accident”, thinking of all the good he could do with his newfound research. Cage, however, is intent on getting him away from it as soon as possible. 

Misty defends Luke and tries to find Stryker, but racist cops try to smoke out Luke, resulting in Lonnie—a kid that hung out in Pop’s shop—getting beaten after an interrogation gone wrong.  And so the small fires begin, as Mariah gets a hold of this and never wants to let go.

Claire finds footage of Reva talking about Luke being in the ring during Seagate…before Luke told her anything about it. Damn, even I got caught off guard. Turns out, she was 100% in on the experiments (which I didn’t think she was ever completely innocent to, just not an active participant).

Luke gets betrayed
How dare you, ma’am???

This puts her in a league of disgusting that is on Rackham’s level. Gross. In a rage, Luke destroys the newly reconstructed lab, Burstein’s computer included.

Claire and Luke make a little field trip before heading back to Harlem, which causes Luke to relive some things he couldn’t have understood when he was little. Now, it all comes roaring back to him, and hits him like a Judas bullet. I can’t believe that “Luke, he is your brother” works here, but it does. The personification of “holier-than-thou” is indeed Luke’s old bestie/half-brother. Now that the trip down memory lane is over, Luke and Claire head back to Harlem. 

In the meantime, Mariah has organized an anti-Cage rally and goes full Crucible witch-hunt mode. She uses Lonnie (who defended him) as fodder to grab Harlem by the throat, and force it to act. It was like she used Black Lives Matter to also say “find this dude that has nothing to do with the movement”. Ah, politics. She even addresses Jessica Jones killing Kilgrave, making him out to be the victim.


If anything, it shows that Mariah knows how to spin a story. Damon Boone sees right through her and calls her out on it. Bad move, because she’s in her prime, and has some very powerful friends.

Misty arrives to the rally too, and the show pulls us full on into second act conclusion mode (or do I just watch too many musicals?). She spots Diamondback, and he does the same. Luke also arrives at the same time, following Misty. He’s not fast enough though, as Misty gets shot by Diamondback shortly after confronting him. Now, I’m pretty irrational, but if I saw that dude he would’ve been shot on sight. Now we all know why I’m not a cop. 

It looks like she’s been shot in the arm (hint hint for my comic fans?) and he would’ve done worse if Luke hadn’t intervened. This is small potatoes, but I’m seriously confused that Diamondback kept shooting as he saw Luke there. Why do the people in this universe keep shooting if they know it’s not going to hurt Luke? Or maybe he suspected differently.

A shootout occurs in the final minutes of the episode, where Luke and Misty end up behind the bar they met.

Overrun by Diamondback’s people, it doesn’t look like there is anywhere to go. I can’t worry about Luke too much- Diamondback is the only one with a Judas on hand, and he wouldn’t use it yet- but Claire and Misty are in some grave danger now. 

Episode 11: “Now You’re Mine”

We’re still amidst gunfire as Diamondback’s goons keep chasing Cage through Harlem’s Paradise, shooting up the whole place. Mariah is gonna be piiiiiiissed…

Cage and Misty manage to barricade themselves in the kitchen and then below it, while Diamondback rounds up the rest of the hostages to fabricate a situation where once again, Luke is at the center.

Claire is included amongst the hostages, and nothing better happen to her, I swear…

Shades is starting to fear Diamondback due to his recklessness in this situation. He has every reason to, seeing as Diamondback is basically improvising this entire scheme. As over the top as he is, Diamondback has a pretty good penchant for composition in hostile situations.

Outside Harlem’s Paradise, a standoff ensues. Inspector Ridley is leading it and is facing multiple issues—the task force wanting to go in, Mariah trying to sell weapons to said Task Force, Misty shot and bleeding out inside—she’s got a full plate.

Inspector Ridley- Luke Cage
That’s that “tired of your bullshit” face.

And inside, the hostages are forming a plan, namely, Claire and Candace, the hostess that framed Luke. The former is nursing the latter’s ankle and Claire spins an easy tale to get underground to Luke and help in any way she can. She even gets a Night Nurse shoutout!

Meanwhile, Diamondback has Damon Boone (you know, that politician that Mariah hates) as his main guest for the evening. He is speaking for the hostages and tries to bargain himself out of Harlem’s Paradise as well. Diamondback (speaking as Luke) releases a few hostages to keep things interesting, but Boone stays behind. Diamondback decides to regale Boone with his own origin story, one that includes his first kill and his mother’s death.

Inspector Ridley smells something rotten in the state of Harlem, and Mariah Dillard’s perfume closely trails it. Madam Councilwoman is in talks with the mayor to put the smaller, mass-produced Judas bullets in the hands of the CCPD. Tonight. Now THAT is unrealistic as hell. 

Diamondback makes a grand announcement that he will kill a hostage every 10 minutes to get Luke out of hiding. He ultimately has to leave Claire and Misty to end this, and WHOO is that tension thick. Claire has no reason to help Misty other than being the wonderful being that she is, but she doesn’t make it easy on her. That arm wound is looking pretty bad…and I’m not going to say anything else about it, la la la la….

After Diamondback finished monologuing in his “normal” grandiose way, he kills Damon Boone and sends his body outside as a message to the police, all on Luke’s behalf. So generous, that one is.

Below the Paradise, Shades happens upon Misty and Claire, and they kick his ass in what has to be the best type of bonding session ever.

KnightNurse ship sails…

Upstairs, Luke knocks out the lights and Sugar as well, freeing the rest of the hostages…except Candace, who Diamondback uses for bait. He uses his last Judas after leaving Candace to die, and misses. At least he’s a consistently bad shot. Luke is surrounded and consequently arrested, and Diamondback gets away…which says even more about the police detail. What, nobody thought about manning the back entrance?

Misty is determined to declare Luke’s innocence upon evacuating, but the damage is done, and Luke is in cuffs. Please don’t tell me that the next two episodes will be “paperwork”.

Episode 12: “Soliloquy of Chaos” 

As the way-too-eager cops arrest Luke, Misty has one more chance to relay him his information. He’s surrounded, the cops have Judas bullets, and Diamondback has escaped. Cool.

So Luke does what he thinks is the most sensible: immediately breaks out. Thankfully, he comes across the one cool cop that knew Pop, and he is let go to take down Diamondback for good.

Our villain-that-isn’t-Cottonmouth has gone into hiding, working with Zip and Turk to get more of the Gospel of Judas out there. Meanwhile, Domingo wants to take out the man playing God and the Devil, and as most people in this show want-control it all.

Shades is arrested after the hostage situation, and Priscilla interrogates him to no avail. No way was he going to ever give anything up, but he does a good job of frustrating the hell out of them. Misty gets a call from Candace, and she has something important to say. She tells Misty as much as she can remember, and while she can’t put Mariah to the crime, she saw Shades. I’m already mad because although Misty tells her to go into hiding, considering the police detailing in this show she’s dying soon. Just being real with y’all.

Luke unintentionally builds his name up in the streets again, stopping an armed robbery and saving Method Man in the process.


Y’all think I’m kidding.

Luke and Meth adorably geek out over one another, as I would if I were to meet a superhero or one of my IRL faves. I’m sure that was just all Mike Colter. Anyway, after rejecting being a Hero for Hire AGAIN, he jets with Meth’s jacket (they wear the same size, even cuter) in order to kill suspicion, but all these holey jackets give him away in about 10 seconds.

Afterwards, Method Man makes it onto Sway’s radio show, and praises Luke’s actions. He then releases two of the more realistic quotes of the series: 

“Bulletproof always gonna come second to being black.”


“There’s something powerful about seeing a black man, who’s bulletproof, and unafraid.”

The resonance of either quote has not been lost to our generation, and to be honest this is what I was expecting from the show in general. Then we get a freestyle, and I’m geeking out for real. We see a montage of black men wearing jackets filled with holes, the streets rallying for Cage after Meth’s endorsement.

Harlem’s streets are finally behind him, and the manhunt has become that much harder now that bullethole-filled jackets are in. Even Trayvon Martin gets a shout-out, which strikes a chord. To tell the truth, the scene is partially haunting due to recent events, and partially what I’ve been waiting for this whole season, all wrapped up in a freestyle. It’s the kind of unapologetic blackness I was waiting for. And Meth mentioned him as a Hero for Hire for the 3rd time…I’m just so ready for it, you guys. I want the Defenders NOW *slams fist on table*.

Aaaanyway, Luke eventually reveals himself at Pop’s shop, now manned by Bobby Fish, right after the cops raid the place. Rude. Bobby encourages him to leave, but Luke is finally resolute in finishing what…he didn’t really start, actually. Bobby helps Luke track down Turk, one of the best yet inconspicuous ways to find Diamondback. This results in a hilarious snippet of Luke taking out the trash…and keeping it there.

In the interim, Shades gets busted out of his expectedly short stay at the station. While Zip is leading him to Diamondback, he quickly learns that this is an assassination scheme instead. It’s a close call, but Shades breaks free and does not spare Zip.

Diamondback gives Mariah a call and gives her the (assumed) news of Shades’s “release” from his department. He demands her loyalty, and pays her back for the damages to Harlem’s Paradise. For what it’s worth, Diamondback’s smile is almost as daunting as Cottonmouth’s laugh. Kind of reminiscent of the Joker. Either way, Shades appears in her home shortly after, unsolicited AGAIN. The pair do some quick strategics to reach across the aisle, to offer Luke Cage his freedom in the form of some files. 

So remember when Domingo was talking about taking out Diamondback? Yeah, me neither, but that’s what happens in the next scene. Diamondback once again uses his Wild West style draw to fight back against the hostile takeover. First Misty fell for it, now Domingo. Will y’all just shoot the dangerous man please!?

A short time later, Luke finds Domingo dying, and since Diamondback’s power fist is the thing that did it, Diamondback entrenches Luke further. This has to stop, and this is surely the beginning of the end.

The episode ends where this season began: at Pop’s. The whole gang is there, negotiations, shootouts and all. But it’s time for the final battle between brothers, and the episode ends with them charging at one another. And not for a hug.

Episode 13: “You Know My Steez”

We start the episode in the past—a scene with a young Willis Stryker prepping Carl Lucas for a fight.

It feels strange to have this kind of backstory in the last episode, but somewhat appropriate to reach into the past to resolve the present. Speaking of which, Diamondback and Luke begin their knockdown drag out fight, which eventually moves into the streets.

The people are still for Luke though, which is a welcome thought.

After Mariah and Shades escape the fight at Pop’s, the former comes up with a plan to be arrested by Misty. She has a way to “spin things”, so we’ll see what she’s up to soon enough. And we do. She exposes herself in the open, but just long enough to get the message out about Cage’s real identity, in literally the most unsubtle manner ever. Like, I cracked up after that line, what kind of delivery?

Those rogue cops keep coming in and trying to intervene and I swear they lack all common sense. Please leave the force before you get tangled up in them, Misty.

After a long, kinda drawn out fight, Diamondback is put in his place by Luke. All in all it was kind of anti-climactic, as Luke literally just waited for Diamondback to get tired and then strike. The villain looks like he’s paralyzed as he’s arrested, but I guess we’ll know by next season.

Bobby Fish and the rest of the crew survey Pop’s shop, making the observation that it may not want to be a barber shop anymore. Instead, it may still be the home of something…great. (Maybe like a headquarters? HMM???) Of course, Misty STILL has to bring in Luke for questioning, but at least the councilwoman is heading to the same place.

Luke meets inspector Ridley, in order to clear his name. She asks if he would like a lawyer and CLAIRE KNOWS A REALLY GOOD ONE BUT OF COURSE HE REFUSES AND I’M SAD. Like, not even Foggy??? Damn.

Luke goes to confession, and releases himself of all charges against him, giving us a rousing speech in the process that he must accept his fate as a “hero”. I think he also accepts himself as a true resident of Harlem now, and not someone who moved there on somebody else’s behalf. It’s his city now.

In the interrogation room, Mariah is lying her ass off to Inspector Ridley. I haven’t said anything about Alfre Woodard’s performance in this show but I was already a big fan of hers, and this scene especially is stellar. A good actress playing a politician that’s kind of a bad actress. I’m digging it. Anyway, of course she denies any involvement with Diamondback’s plan. Until Misty comes in ready and willing to bust her ass. She basically unravels Mariah’s story, one point at a time, forcing Mariah to unravel as well. She even says n*****s and starts cursing, which I find to be a turning point for her character. The decorum is down, and Madam Councilwoman is turning into Black Mariah (the name of the character she was based off of).

Just when it looks like Misty is about to win, it’s a rude awakening when Bailey interrupts her interrogation. It turns out that Misty’s missing phone ended up in the hands of Shades, and he lures Candace to her death, right before a confession from Mariah. Without Candace to back up her story, Mariah is set free, and becomes enemy number one for Misty…right alongside the justice system she used to love so much. It looks like Mariah has truly embraced who she is as well.

But one more charge comes for Luke: the one where he’s still an escaped convict. That seed Mariah planted during the fight has come to fruition in record time. Two agents come for him, and Luke decides to go willingly. Before they take him away, Claire gives him a farewell kiss—well, kisses.

Damn, nobody gets a coffee date this time around. After their little love fest, Claire once again nudges that she has a lawyer friend…and Luke doesn’t turn her down this time. Be still, my heart. I might finally get to see this. 

In one last “where do we go from here” montage (backed by Sharon Jones’ 100 days, 100 nights), Luke is going back to Georgia. Misty is dealing with the fact that she may have caused Candace’s death, and her trust in the system. Claire takes a phone number for martial arts lessons…and my boyfriend had to point out something for me here:


Peep that name. Colleen. Wing. I am READY, LORD.

After looking at the shop, Bobby Fish finds the files that Luke thought Shades and Mariah took with him…which may bring him to Harlem as quickly as he left. Especially with that seemingly rapid-fire justice system they got there.

In something like an anointment, the Biggie painting is removed (*sob*) and replaced with a painting called “Red Kings”, by black artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. Her queenship of Harlem just rose to new levels, and it looks like the Stokes family will start anew as well.

She also, you know…plants one on Shades in an act of power. That was steamy if I ever saw it. As for Shades himself…I still have no idea what he could be up to. Perhaps he wants to be the king, or he simply lives to serve.

One last revelation begins in Misty, as we see her come back into Harlem’s Paradise with a GIANT nod to her comic inspiration. Does that mean the badge goes with her? Who knows.

and besides Luke speeding off in the car…we get to see Diamondback…with Dr. Burstein. Uh oh.

Well, that’s the show! Corny lines, boppin music, and all. In a bit of an afterward, I’m overall pleased with what I got. Yes, some parts were too slow and misplaced, but if I got the chance, I would audition for Luke Cage in a heartbeat, if I don’t join Wakanda’s alliance first (*wink wink*). My rating is for the entire season, and maybe I’m biased but I enjoyed the first season quite a bit. I’m also pleasantly surprised by the last episode, if only for the ending. It looks like Season 1’s finale has set up something for us to really look forward to, if you take the time to look at all of the little clues.

What do y’all think? Let me know in the comments, and I hope to write more about Luke soon!


Images courtesy of Netflix

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