The Marvel series on Netflix have been some of the most impressive superhero television series ever committed to the small screen. Daredevil season 1 and season 2 kicked off the universe on the streaming network, followed by the equally as entertaining Jessica Jones. The latter series also introduced Mike Colter as Luke Cage, who was destined to get his own series.
That time has come, and Marvel’s Luke Cage premiered over the weekend — but how does it stack up against what has come before? I have mixed feelings about this series, since there is a glaring problem with it, but here’s the good news: It was a lot of fun to watch.
Let’s start off with the good. As with any television series, the main character needs to be likeable or at least sympathetic, no matter who they are. Narcos pulled that off with Pablo Escobar, who was a monster of a human being. Colter’s Luke Cage is, by far, the most likeable of the Netflix/Marvel Defenders superheroes. He doesn’t have as broken a personality as either Matt Murdock or Jessica Jones, which means he’s a lot more fun to hang out with.
The supporting cast is fantastic as well, with Rosario Dawson again reprising her role as Claire Temple, aka, Night Nurse, weaving in and out of all the series. In Luke Cage, she finally becomes more active rather than reactive, which is a wonderful change of pace and gets the most character development since season one of Daredevil.
Special mention needs to be given to Simone Missick as Detective Misty Knight, whose story runs parallel to Cage’s. What could have turned into a distracting storyline became equally as compelling ,and Missick could easily get her own spinoff series.
Mahershala Ali as Cottonmouth had the ability to reach a more complex villain like Vincent D’Onofrio did with The Kingpin — I can’t help but feel there was a missed opportunity there. Erik LaRay Harvey provided a very different kind of villain as the scenery chewing Diamondback, which I found distracting at first, but it did fit in with the overall tone of a Blaxploitation series. Watching him quote the Bible, The Warriors, or the 48 Laws of Power with gleeful abandon was both hilarious and creepy.
The real star here is the music, which really set the tone for the show. Executive producer Cheo Hodari Coker cast the music as brilliantly as he cast the actors to portray the characters, which inhabit Harlem, giving the show its own unique flavor.
Where Coker drops the ball has to do with the plot. The series starts fairly slow, and the first half of the season quickly becomes a repetitive tit-for-tat between Cage and Cottonmouth. Diamondback was a lot of fun as a demented past connection for Cage bent on revenge; but there were far too many plot holes, coincidences, and hats for the character to wear in order for me to think he was well thought out. He was a mob boss’s boss and lone hunter, and had military connections to Hammer Industries, and… well, I don’t want to spoil that part.
There were other plotholes or badly thought out character decisions that I can’t believe weren’t caught in the writer’s room. One of which happens near the end of the series, with the introduction of Luke Cage’s file that seemingly came out of nowhere, and could prove that he was framed. This was supposed to be used as leverage to convince him to team-up with an enemy to take on a mutual bad guy… and they brought the file with which to parlay with Cage. Now, take into account it was the only thing they had, and they are not superpowered like Cage — so what’s stopping Cage from just taking it?
Luke Cage is probably the most fun of all the Netflix/Marvel series with probably the most likeable cast. As entertaining as it was, the weak plotting seriously hurt the series. I hope they fix the problems with the next season because it has a chance of being one of the best.