Luke Cage: Take It Personal – Do What You Know (Review)

Mike Colter as Luke Cage

Luke Cage continues to be a rich tapestry of Marvel lore that offers up brilliant backstory with an R&B beat. “Take it Personal” reveals more about Luke’s own beginnings, before Seagate, and offers up one of the best flashback sequences in the series thus far.

As Luke visits his father’s old church he has memories of his mother and Willis Stryker’s mom. In the last part of the flashback, Claire calls his name and both women turn and look at the superhero. This splendid touch added volumes to the scene and the power of Cage’s memory.

Mariah is going full speed ahead on her Luke Cage campaign. After her talk with the barking mad Stryker, who Misty has now identified as the man who killed the cop and took her gun, Dillard is now on track with Diamondback’s plan.

The episode starts with Claire and Dr. Burstein working frantically to resuscitate Cage whose heart stopped beating at the end of episode 8. Temple improvises while Burstein dithers with possible solutions and offers reasons why her way will not work.

Claire gets control by telling the doctor that “sometimes you have to throw science out and go with what you know.” She throws an electric heater into the vat of acid and electrocutes Cage back to life.

While Luke comes out of the operation pretty much healed, his mental health and well being take a beating when he learns that Reva lied to him. A lot.

After a few flashbacks at the church Cage realizes that Willis Stryker is his half-brother. Willis’ mother was the reverend’s secretary and he was older than Luke by a couple of years.

The police department have become aggressive, Stryker’s fear tactics worked after he killed a cop, and young Lonnie Wilson was beaten badly by a detective. These occurrences set off a trigger in the local community. The councilwoman holds a rally in Cornell’s old nightclub, now under new management with Stryker in charge, and fans the flames of Harlem, unrest.

Misty learns from Domingo that Stryker is the new threat on the streets, this is after the facial recognition software identifies the man, and she heads to the club to arrest Diamondback.  Detective Knight is joined by Cage and he saves her life when Stryker shoots her.

Luke tries to get Misty out of the club but he is surrounded by Stryker’s men who are shooting at Cage and the cop. The end of the episode sees them both trapped behind the bar.

It remains to be seen as to whether Luke will be taken in by the police when they respond to the event in the nightclub.  (On a sidenote: Misty now knows that Cage is, or was, Carl Lucas.)

This episode further enforces the Marvel tie-in with the first Avengers movie by pointing out that the Judas bullets are made from Chitauri metal fragments left over from the thwarted invasion of New York City.

There is someone else who knows who Luke really is, Dr. Burstein. He has a copy of the thumb drive that Claire took. It seems fairly certain that the doctor will crop up again, despite Cage’s warning and Temple’s assertion that if she had Luke’s power she would have done him serious harm.

Luke Cage is streaming on Netflix with all 13 episodes available right now.

Cast:

Guest starring Michael Kostroff as Dr. Noah Burstein, Darius Kaleb as Lonnie Wilson,  Cassandra Freeman as Patricia Wilson and Justin Swain as Bailey. 

Luke Cage: DWYCK – Misty Knight (Review)

Mike Colter as Luke Cage

Luke Cage “DWYCK” focuses on Detective Misty Knight for a good portion of the episode. Cage and Claire Temple’s journey to patch up those wounds made by Stryker’s Judas bullets take up less time but are the highlight of the episode.

Knight’s interrogation and counseling sessions end with the new precinct head giving her back the badge (but not her badge. Ridley is quick to point out that the shield belongs to the department and the city, not to Knight.) and gun. Her instructions are to bring Cage in, never mind  Mariah Dillard or the man who took her gun, Stryker.

It looks like the bond between sorority sisters is strong, perhaps as strong as Luke, when he is not being shot at with those explosive rounds from Stryker’s gun.  Diamondback, aka Stryker, is not wasting anytime in taking over Cornell’s business in Harlem.

While taking out most of Domingo’s henchmen at the meeting Dillard called, he tells Stoke’s cousin that she is not “out” at all.  Stryker is just getting started and it seems that Shades is not overly enamored at his bosses takeover move.

Claire and Luke hunt down the doctor who changed him in prison.  It looks like Reva had a lot more to do with Cage’s change than he realized.  The secret of this invulnerability has to do with abalone shells being part of the mixture melded into Luke’s DNA.

The doc’s idea for removing the bullet fragments in Cage’s body is centered around immersing the strongman into a vat of heated acid. Luke’s screams of agony are un-nerving.  Claire tells Luke that if the pain is too much to make a fist.

After a second immersion into the acid, Luke’s heart stops and as the machine he is attached to flatlines, Cage’s hand forms a first and then relaxes.

“DWYCK” is, for the most part, a slow episode. It does give the viewer an in-depth look at Detective Knight. We see what drives the strong willed cop and why she lashed out at Claire Temple.  In essence, the death of her partner Scarfe and the sudden appearance of Stryker shook the capable detective to her core.

The episode also shows us the strength of Claire Temple.  It is Temple who forces Luke to focus on a solution, no matter how painful, to the shrapnel in his body. She also  shows an enormous amount of faith in Cage. This not only endears her to us, the audience, but it will clearly form an unbreakable bond with Cage.

At the risk of banging the drum too often, we will sing Marvel’s Luke Cage praises yet again. Netflix have delivered what may well be the best Marvel adaptation yet. (Closely followed by Jessica Jones.)

Luke Cage is streaming on Netflix right now. Head on over and get turned on to this gritty “mean streets” comic book hero.

Cast:

Luke Cage: Manifest – Whoa (Review)

Mike Colter as Luke Cage

Luke Cage “Manifest” takes things to the next level with a shocking death and the fact that Cage can be hurt…badly.  Much of episode 7 dealt with the backstory of Cottonmouth and Mama Mabel.

It is ironic that Claire Temple rips a strip off of Cage at the start of the episode and tells the big man that nothing can hurt him, “So what are you afraid of?”

This turns out to be pretty far off the mark as Diamondback shoots Cage with a Judas bullet and it messes Luke up a lot.  It does hurt him and because of his unique condition Claire cannot dig the shrapnel out of his body.

Before the fateful wounding of Cage, Harlem is given a good shake by a  changing of the guard, so to speak.  Captain Betty Audrey is shown the door almost before Cottonmouth is released from jail.

Her replacement, Inspector Pricilla Ridley, has history with Misty and seconds after her arrival Detective Knight takes the first jab. “I hear they were calling you Inspector Gadget…”

On the other side of the street, Mariah has been removed as the councilwoman because of her cousin. Cottonmouth tries to make things right with Diamondback by delivering the guns he killed Scarfe for.

Cornell calls for a parlay with Cage.  The crime boss reveals that he knows what Luke’s real name is and all about his past as Carl Lucas. He warns Cage to back off or he will tell the authorities about his criminal past.

Shades has a word with Mariah and hints that she is capable of much more than she thinks. After planting that seed it could be said that Shades set the stage for what happens to Cottonmouth.

Luke decides to pack up and run rather than be forced to work for Cornell. Claire reads Cage the riot act and tells him to take a stand. She then storms out of the room.

Cottonmouth apologizes for being off with Shades. He then tells Diamondback’s enforcer about Luke and the news is not well received.

There is another flashback to Cornell and Mama Mabel.  His Uncle Pete took him to an audition and then went to Spanish Harlem.  Mabel is pleased with Cornell.

Luke finds out where Domingo Colon hangs out and goes to collect the guns.  (“I’m about sick of having to buy new clothes”) Before he goes to grab the shipment, Luke asks if Domingo has a sweatshirt in XXL.

Misty learns that Cage’s past is too clean. It looks like the cops have worked out that Luke Cage is an alias. Mariah goes to confront Cornell after learning she is no longer a councilwoman.

There is another flashback. Mama Mabel forces Cornell to shoot his Uncle Pete for betraying her to the Puerto Ricans. It is also revealed that his uncle molested his cousin. Cornell shoots Pete dead.

Mariah and Cornell argue and she brings up Mama Mabel.  Cornell claims that Mama Mabel treated Mariah differently.  He then tells his cousin that she wanted Pete to molest her.

She bashes Cornell in the back of the head with a  wine bottle  and he falls from his office window onto the dance floor. Mariah follows up by taking a microphone stand and using it to kill Cornell.

Shades shows up and calms Mariah down and starts the process of framing Luke Cage for Cottonmouth’s death.

Misty and Luke have a short talk about Scarfe, after he texts the detective to hand over the guns he got from Domingo.  They talk about Cornell and Knight takes the weapons back to the precinct.

Luke and Claire spend some time bonding and Cage is shot with the Judas bullet. He touches the wound and he is bleeding. As Claire approaches him, Luke starts bellowing in pain.

There are two shocking moments in “Manifest.” The death of Cornell and Luke actually being harmed.  With the first six episodes proving that Cage was invincible the bullet wound was a jaw dropping moment.

Cottonmouth’s death at the hands of his cousin was surprising  as was his telling Mariah that she “wanted” Uncle Pete to molest her.  It will be interesting to see just where things go from here.

In one episode we have lost the local “big bad” and shown that Luke is not  as bulletproof as he thought.  Shades stepping in and consoling Mariah, raises the stakes and now Diamondback, who knows who Luke really is, will be the new big bad.

Luke Cage is on Netflix and all 13 episodes are available to watch right now.

Cast:

Guest starring Danny Johnson as Ben Donovan.

Luke Cage: Suckas Need Bodyguards – Not Done Yet (Recap/Review)

Mike Colter as Luke Cage

Episode six of Luke Cage “Suckas Need Bodyguards cranks things up a notch or two. Scarfe tries to get more money from Cottontail who punches his bought cop and then shoots the man with his own gun.

Stokes’ cousin, Councilwoman Dillard is not impressed that Cornell shot a cop. She is furious with her cousin. Mariah recommends that he sell the club and get out. She also asks what he means to do about Luke Cage.

Mariah then gives Cornell some tips about how to take care of Cage.

Before she expresses her displeasure, and offers her cousin some advice,  Dillard continues her publicity campaign  machinations. Cage stops by to mock Stokes’ partner in crime.

Luke then meets with Bobby Fish to talk about Pop’s barbershop and he tells Bobby that as soon as Stokes is in jail, he will leave Harlem.  Cornell calls Perez, his other bought cop and tells him to sort Scarfe and Luke Cage.

Claire Temple hunts down Cage at the diner where he is eating with Bobby. She talks about the shotgun blast that should have killed him and tells him that he is amazing.

Luke explains that he does not want to be different.  Cage pays up and leaves Claire sitting at the booth.

At the precinct, the captain tells her people to stop the gossip and get on with finding Scarfe. Perez and the captain ask Misty what she may know.  Captain Audrey asks Knight and Perez to find her partner and to learn what he was up to.

Claire and Cage walk and talk all the way to Pop’s barbershop and find the door unlocked.  They go inside and find Scarfe about to bleed out. Misty and Perez go to her partner’s apartment and she does that crime scene thing again.

The Lieutenant says she is weird but Misty explains that she can “see” crime scenes from photographs as well. Meanwhile Claire patches Scarfe up. She removes one bullet from his body but the other has damaged the liver and is beyond her reach.

Luke learns that the crooked cop has evidence on Cottonmouth back in his apartment.  Knight and Perez are staking out  Rafael’s place but Luke gets in without being seen. While he looks for the incriminating information, the two detectives realize that someone is in the apartment.

The two cops rush up the stairs to find out who it is. Being caught in Scarfe’s apartment does not fit in with Cages’ plans. He finds the evidence and  lo the the windown.

Scarfe refuses a hospital and Luke asks him about Chico. The Lieutenant initially lies but then crumbles and tells Cage that he killed Chico. Luke then decides to take the seriously wounded cop and the evidence to the police.

Temple calls her mother who delivers a catering van and a warning to Luke, do not harm a hair on Claire’s head. The couple then try to get a dying Scarfe to the cops and keep him away from Stoke’s goons who want to finish the job.

Mariah is set up by Thembi. The reporter easily outmaneuvers the good publicity diatribe from the councilwoman and ends up getting kicked out of Dillard’s brownstone. She does try to get one more quote from Mariah when the news of Stokes’ arrest comes over the wire.

This episode allowed Luke the chance to take on more gun wielding badmen from Cottonmouth’s stable of thugs.  The villains never seem to figure out that filling Cage’s shirt with holes will not stop the man.

“Suckas Need Bodyguards” also shows off Misty Knight’s detective skills. She outs Perez as being on Cottonmouth’s payroll with a pretend call from Scarfe.  The lieutenant then tries to shoot Knight but fails. Perez ends up in cuffs.

Scarfe dies and Cottonmouth has been arrested but the gangster with the big dreams may not be down and out just yet. Captain Audrey tells Misty that the city officials are treading lightly around the gangster.  Plus Mariah dropping those ideas on how to take Cage out of the picture may mean she might step up to the plate if Cornell does go down.

Cage is convinced that he is finished with Cottonmouth and he hopes to do a quick fade from Harlem. However, if the captain is right, Luke is not done yet.

Luke Cage continues to look at the grittier side of Marvel.  This series and Jessica Jones both provide a seedier look at crime fighting. The move away from spandex and capes is a welcome alternative version of superheroes that reaches the parts that the others miss.

The series is streaming on Netflix and all 13 episodes available to watch now.

Cast:

Luke Cage: Step in the Arena – Beginnings (Review)

Mike Colter as Luke Cage

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.

He escapes.

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.

Cast:

Guest starring  Parisa Fitz-Henley as Reva Connors, Craig muMs Grant as Squabbles, Michael Kostroff as Dr. Noah Burstein and Chance Kelly as Albert Rackham.