Luke Cage is still the best thing about Marvel on television at the moment. “Step in the Arena” takes us back to the hero’s beginnings. The backstory is re-lived by Cage as he lies under the rubble with Connie Lin.
We learn that he was a cop named Carl Lucas who was set up to take a very long fall. A sadistic and greedy prison guard named Rackham forces Luke to fight other convicts. While the big man is winning the experience is destroying him.
Cage meets Reva, his future wife, and she is responsible, more or less, for his condition. Luke, back when he was Carl, makes one friend in prison; Squabbles. The man has his corner for the fights and has Carl’s back.
The beginnings backstory is told in flashbacks as Cage works steadily to save Connie Lin and himself from being crushed by the rubble. Lin is amazed at Luke’s strength.
She tells Cage that when they get out he will have to explain how he got that way. Outside the remains of the building that Cottonmouth destroyed, Misty Knight continues to wait for survivors. She knows this is where Luke lives.
She and Scarfe check CCTV footage and learn that a rocket did all this damage. Knight heads back to the site and Scarfe calls Cottonmouth.
In the backstory portion of the episode, it is clear that Cage/Lucas was always a “good guy.” Although he had initially lost hope when Rackham forced him to fight. Reva helped Luke find himself again.
She was also responsible for having him treated when Comanche and Shades beat Luke nearly to death. Luke’s plan to take down Rackham ends when the sadistic guard finds out. (Prison guards beat Squabbles to death for the information.)
Luke is put into a machine that should speed up his healing process. Rackham comes in and sabotages the device which then makes Luke indestructible. The thing explodes killing Rackham, who shot Dr. Burstein and Cage beats a hole in the prison wall.
Reva and Carl meet up and he comes with with his new name. He choses Luke as his Christian name, based on his father’s favorite passage from the Bible, and Cage to signify his beginnings. It should be pointed out that like anyone who choses an alias, the initial match:
Carl Lucas / Luke Cage both have the letter C and L.
Reva erases any trace of Carl Lucas and the new hero has a fresh start and a new partner.
This episode featured a bit of humor in the prison as Squabble’s and Carl prepare for the first fight. Talking about Kung Fu films Lucas is perturbed when Squabbles states a preference for Jet Li.
Carl snorts and starts doing push-ups instead of working the bag. “You’re not allowed to be my corner,” he says.
Luke Cage has become a firm favorite from the Marvel Universe. For those not already familiar with the hero from comic books this origin’s story helps to define Luke.
The show is an earthy alternative to the fabulous Avengers storylines on offer via the big screen. Like Jessica Jones, Luke Cage is a down to earth hero set against the underbelly of the city, a gritty and more urban landscape with no aliens or SHIELD in sight.
Luke Cage is streaming on Netflix right now. Head over and check out the indestructible force that Marvel have on offer.
- Mike Colter – Luke Cage
- Mahershala Ali – Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes
- Simone Missick – Missy Knight
- Alfre Woodard – Mariah Dillard
- Theo Rossi – Shades Alvarez
- Frank Whaley – Rafael Scarfe
- Cassandra Freeman – Partrica Wilson
- Jacob Vargas – Domingo Vargas
- Ron Cephas Jones – Bobby Fish
- Jade Wu – Connie Lin
- Thomas Q. Jones – Comanche