Marvel and Netflix are launching their new original series Marvel's Luke Cage today, September 30, with 13 original episodes. The superhero series developed by Cheo Hodari Coker exists in the same Marvel Cinematic Universe as the Avengers movies, but is more closely tied to fellow Netflix Originals Daredevil and Jessica Jones. Because we're so excited about the show, we're going to recap each episode every hour as we go through and watch: you can check out our recap of the premiere, episode 2, episode 3, episode 4, episode 5, episode 6, episode 7, episode 8, episode 9,episode 10 and episode 11. And needless to say, spoilers for Marvel's Luke Cage past this point!
If Episode 10 was about table-setting, the penultimate episode of Luke Cage is all about clearing the table to get ready for the big finale. With Diamondback (Erik LaRay Harvey) in the wind, Luke (Mike Colter) captured, and everyone else's fates up in the air, there's a lot of business to get through before we can wrap up the season. Luckily, this packed hour plus delivers all that -- plus an incredibly powerful musical sequence! For real.
Picking up where we left off, Luke is taken in by the police, but escapes due to a helpful tip from Misty (Simone Missick) -- who is firmly in his camp after he saved her life last episode. On the run, Luke tries to track down Diamondback by manipulating the perpetually put-upon criminal Turk (Rob Morgan), making another guest appearance over from Daredevil.
But first, Luke saves Method Man from a bodega robbery, and they trade hoodies. And then Meth goes on Sway's show and raps a new song called "Bulletproof Love," as the people of Harlem don bullet-hole ridden hoodies in solidarity with Luke Cage. It's a stunningly powerful sequence, not just for Method Man's song, but the visuals of the African-American community donning the holey hoodies and proudly displaying them to passing cops.
The sequence is so effective, I'd be sort of shocked if it doesn't start getting adopted in real life. We've already seen hoodie marches and protests in the real world, but the statement of dressing like Luke is pointed to the maximum point something can point.
Or, as Method Man says, "Bulletproof always gonna come second to being black..." before continuing, "There's something powerful about seeing a black man, who's bulletproof, and unafraid."
That's certainly going to play into whatever hero moment Luke has by the end of the series, as he faces off with Diamondback. The short version? The erstwhile Willis Strycker has removed all of his allies, but upgraded to a powerful super-suit. As he prophesied a few episodes back, this is basically his suicide mission. He's going to kill Carl Lucas, or die trying.
And while Diamondback is downsizing his team, Luke is growing his own. By the end of the episode, he's (sort of) teamed up with not just Misty, but also villains Shades (Theo Rossi) and Mariah (Alfre Woodard), who want his protection in exchange for information that could clear his original name (that would be Carl Lucas) of the crimes Diamondback framed him for.
What's so wonderful about this episode is that it manages -- like most of the series -- to balance these disparate elements. Having an insane looking super-suit and Method Man and Sway discussing Black Lives Matter in the same hour shouldn't work ... but it does. Given everything the show has built up over the past 12 hours (approximately), it's earned the right to veer the tones wildly. Whatever happens in the final episode, Luke Cage has managed to make incredibly powerful statements in the midst of incredibly entertaining set pieces.
That's no small achievement, and though we tend to judge a TV show (or movie, or book, or any piece of entertainment) by how well it sticks the landing, this show deserves a ton of credit for saying a lot, but never preaching.
As Diamondback and Luke might say, let's finish this.
Easter Eggs and References:
- If you were wondering when Stan Lee would show up, this was the episode! Though "The Man" hasn't physically shown up in the Marvel/Netflix shows, he's made spiritual cameos. Here, his famous face appears on a poster outside the bodega where Method Man is robbed. "See a crime? Report it!" says Stan's smiling face; and if we could read the small print, I'm sure it would add, "Excelsior!"
- The ridiculous super-suit Diamondback is wearing at the end of the episode ("What are you, a pimp stormtrooper?" quips Bobby Fish) is pretty close to Diamondback's costume from his first appearance in the comics, in Hero for Hire #1 and #2. Minus the helmet, mind you.