Hit the jump for the reviews..
Episode 1: Moment of Truth
After meeting Luke in Jessica Jones we find him working hard to stay afloat in Harlem by working a couple jobs, one for a friend named Pop in a barber shop, and another at a local club owned by Cottonmouth a local gang boss. Mirroring the pilot of Jessica Jones, again we see Luke in another sex scene showing how different this will be than the movies we see in theaters from Marvel. From the beginning we get the sense that Luke has some serious trouble with his past haunting him, even having it stop him from being that hero we know from the source material.
Pilot episodes are always tough, introducing many characters and making them strong in just 45 minutes, but by the end of those minutes Luke along with characters like Pop, Detective Knight, Black Mariah and Cottonmouth stand out.
Worth noticing: The way the creators make Harlem feel is terrific. The music they bring in to the club and just the show in general really helps with the tone they are trying to get across (and it’s like that throughout the entire season!).
Episode 2: Code of The Streets
After the heist in the pilot pulled by some of the younger adults that we met at Pop’s barber shop, the investigation continues on who did it and why. Detective Knight and Scarfe start to show how important they will become to the show, and Knight struts her stuff making her one of the most badass female characters in the show. In the midst of this Luke is learning more about Pop’s past, finding out that he and Cottonmouth were actually friends as kids which is why they both respected each other when Pop asked for a Parley. Against his bosses wishes, Cotton’s right hand man Tone, shoots up Pop’s barber shop killing him and injuring his estranged son Chico. Which in turn makes Cotton kill Tone by throwing him off a roof because he did the opposite of what he asked.
After the history lesson given by Pop the theory of Marvel makes bad villains seems a little less true. Cottonmouth is starting to become a great villain in showing his calm demeanor and inability to control himself as we saw when he killed Tone.
Episode 3: Who’s Gonna Take The Weight?
Definitely the most action packed episode of the season thus far, Luke takes his rage out on stash houses belonging to Cottonmouth, putting him and Black Mariah in serious trouble. Previously Luke was adamant about fighting against Cotton, he wanted to stay out of trouble, but after Pop’s death he was motivated to do what Pop had always wanted Luke to do, clean up the streets of Harlem. Taking notes from the Daredevil hallway fight from season 1 and even some notes from the season 2 stairway scene, the action montage of Luke’s fight against Cotton’s men is definitely one of the most fun moments of the season so far. To end on a bad note we find out that Scarfe is a crooked cop working for Cottonmouth and he kills Chico with his tie (we also later find out that Lt. Perez is dirty too).
Overall it’s great to see Luke become the hero we thought he would, fighting against a horrible gang boss, and bringing up even more questions to the future of Harlem. Just hope that they can come up with an even better cliffhanger than Luke getting blown up by a rocket shot by Cottonmouth, which will be hard.
Episode 4: Step in The Arena
The most interesting episode of the series so far, we’re taken back through Luke’s past in Seagate prison, while Cage and his land lady are stuck in rubble after the cliffhanger from episode 3. Learning his real name (Carl Lucas), that he was ironically bullied by a white security guard into fighting for money in the prison and its where he met shades for the first time, a lot of lose ends to Luke’s past are tied up. This episode shows a lot of Luke’s character, even introducing us to the wife we knew he had even back in Jessica Jones, fighting resembling that Punisher fight in the prison during season 2 of Daredevil and showing us how Shades beating him to a pulp was actually how he was experimented on…he was going to die anyway and no one survives the experiments. The episode ends in present day with Detective Knight finally learning the truth as Luke lifts hundreds of pounds of rubble off himself, clearly dumbfounding the firefighters and officers.
Not one of the most action packed episodes so far, but it helped move the story of Luke seem more solid. Showing how good of a fighter Luke was even before the indestructible skin shows how badass he is. And lets not forget that easter egg of his original costume.
Episode 5: Just to Get a Rep
In marvelous fashion we see Claire for the first time since Daredevil who of course gets her purse stolen. Don’t worry she ran him down and beat the crap out of the thief, because she’s that cool. Bringing in one of the most relatable characters into the show just when Luke’s life starts to take a turn into celebrity was a breath of fresh air. Her thoughts on how effed up their world is is refreshing and it’s even more cool to see her and Luke interact like they’ve known each other for years (banter and all). In a most cliché but still terrible way Cotton decides to not go after the un-killable and decides to then go after the people of Harlem. Luke quickly retaliates and helps those in need, even making some thugs run away with their tails between their legs. After a few confrontations Luke finally meets Cotton (along with Shades) at his club, who then beats up the thugs Cotton had waiting for him. Which lets shades finally realize by recognizing his fighting style, that it’s his long lost prison buddy Carl Lucas (uh oh).
In a more action packed episode than usual, it’s awesome to see Harlem deal with having their own resident guardian angel. After getting more and more on Cotton’s nerves with every episode Luke finally gets him pissed. And we get pissed to as we find out that Lt. Perez is crooked as well. Lets just hope those Hammer tech guns Shades shows Cottonmouth, which blow up after embedding themselves inside a person, don’t show up anytime soon. Side Note: Lets not forget the amazing callback to Luke Cage’s original costume, even if for ten seconds. And the fact the Luke looked extremely like Kimbo Slice (RIP).
Episode 6: Suckas Need Bodyguards
The episode opens with an easter egg to Jessica Jones, with her best friend Trish Walker talk on her radio show while Luke jogs around New York. With no dignity left Scarfe meets up with Cottonmouth for a gun drop only to ask for more money which doesn’t sit well with Cotton who in turn shoots Scarfe almost killing him (and don’t forget about Mariah who is practically caught on TV being sided with Cotton since their cousins). Luke and Claire are still hanging out after last episode, talking about what Luke can do for the city only to find Scarfe bleeding to death in Pop’s barber shop. Claire, being her nurse self tries to help him but we can guess as an audience pretty quickly that he isn’t going to make it. Finally after what seemed like forever Detective Knight finds out about not only Scarfe but Lt. Perez (who she kills), Scarfe dies in her hands as she cries over her dead partner just after Luke stops a speeding van with his body saving Claire.
With Luke and Claire’s relationship blossoming (she really makes his heroic side show) and Detective Knight finally coming to Luke’s side by the end of the episode, Luke’s call to arms is finally not a one man job. With the death of Scarfe and Lt. Perez though wondering what will happen at the police station is more up in the air than ever.
Episode 7: Manifest
At the end of last episode there was two cops dead, and Cottonmouth was going to jail. The jail didn’t stick as the police had no evidence against him. Mariah on the other hand, even with her snafu from last episode with the interview is still planning on getting Harlem back on its feet using drug money (to one in Harlem’s knowledge). Her transition from politician is slowly starting. Back on the good side the police are (of course) thinking that Luke has something to do with what is going on since he has been at every scene.
In a much slower and dialogue driven episode, we see Luke open up to Claire telling her his past, Knight still getting on Luke’s nerves about how no one knows anything about him and one of the biggest twists in the show so far. We even get to meet Diamondback for the first time (who shades works for, and gave Cotton Harlem), just before he leaves us with an even bigger cliffhanger than the rocket blowing up Luke
Episode 8: Blowin’ Up The Spot
After Diamondback shot the bullet that pierced Luke’s skin, Claire spends the entire episode trying to save his life and learns more about what makes him so special in the process. In more history lessons we learn that Diamondback is in fact Willis, an old friend of Carl Lucas who seemed to be with him just before Carl went to prison and is the reason he was treated so horribly inside. Knight though still a good guy is more pissed than ever and whats answers to the millions of questions looming over her head. Claire is questioned by her at the police station but doesn’t betray Luke who is shot again by Diamondback just after Luke tells him he ‘loved him like a brother’ and is told that Willis is his brother.
With a huge surprise to see Luke hurt at all you’re kept at the edge of your seat during the relentless chase by Diamondback to end Luke for good. The only light at the end of the tunnel is seeing Claire do anything to protect Luke and Knight get mad about being in the dark.
Episode 9: DWYCK
With an episode revolving around Luke and Claire hunting down a cure while Knight is put through a rigorous interrogation its very fun to watch. While Claire waits to see if Luke shows up or is found dead she starts looking for a cure that might give them some way to get the shrapnel out of his body, she learns about Seagate Prison. Luke shows up just in time as the wounds begin to become infected, and she takes him to try and find the doctor that gave him the powers in the first place. Who has the brilliant idea of putting in an acid bath so his skin can become soft. In Harlem Knight is interrogated by a police shrink to try and get he to talk about Cage and what she may know. While we do know a whole lot about the detective it isn’t until now we get to see her really show us how she thinks and how she was shaped to the woman we know her to be. On the other side, Mariah’s rise to power with Shades and Diamondback next to her, takes a windy turn as Diamondback kills three gang leaders.
Another interesting episode, learning more about Knight and seeing Luke try to survive makes this great TV. By this time in the show you shouldn’t be able to stop watching, even if you have to wake up in 3 hours.
Episode 10: Take It Personal
Harlem is turning against Luke. While Luke is still with Claire after being healed by the Seagate doctor, Black Mariah is using her new found power to turn the city against the hero and you can blame thtat all on Diamondback. Since his Hammer bullets worked, Willis shows his smarts by saying that now they can repurpose the material they are made of and put them in regular guns. Machine guns, pistols any guns they can get their hands on could potentially kill Luke. Not only that but he uses some other technology that gave Diamondback super strength and the ability to kill a cop with one punch under the Luke Cage name further hurting Luke’s image. Luke comes back to a huge rally against him at the club with Diamondback watching on, only to see Knight get shot by Diamondback.
After a great string of episodes this one was a little bit of a let down. But again with another great cliffhanger and more to add to Luke’s journey to save Harlem the hunt for more is still on.
Episode 11: Now You’re Mine
An episode taking place in just one place Luke tries his best to keep Knight alive while Diamondback and Shades argue over what the plan is to take down Luke. After a long wait and the police still confused on who is to blame, Luke has a decision to make. In the end Claire and Knight both take down shades and Luke saves the hostages only to be last seen getting into a police vehicle.
Even in just one place a ton of stuff happens. Diamondback kills another with the technology that gives him super strength, Knight is saved by Luke and Claire, and Luke saves an old friend that was about to killed by Diamondback. And he had the choice the run.
Episode 12: Soliloquoy of Chaos
In a heated battle between brothers, Cage fights Diamondback who is in a yellow and greenish suit (and a helmet that may remind you of a certain helmet from Arrow) that looks a little funny but still packs a punch. Amidst the fight we get little flashbacks of Willis and Luke boxing together as teens, showing us that Luke became such a great fighter because of his brother he didn’t know he had. Mariah is finally caught but of course set free because Shades killed another witness, Luke, Claire (who kisses Luke), and Knight still have work to do.
A season finale that wraps up lose ends but also creates more questions, leaving room for more in seasons to come, finishes this great show in spectacular fashion. Claire even mentions that she knows a good lawyer to help Luke get out of jail time after finding out about his old life, which was a great final easter egg for the show.
Episode 13: You Know My Steez
In a final battle that pits Cage against Diamondback, we get to see our hero finally have someone who could hurt him in a fist fight. Amidst the great fight we get snippets of flashbacks to Cage’s and Willis’ younger years together boxing showing us that the very man he was fighting was the one who taught him how. Luke ends up still standing in the end only to be arrested and interrogated along with Claire, who both decide to come clean. Surprisingly his old name comes back to haunt him and (at first) we think he is going back to jail for escaping the first time as Carl Lucas.
In a season finale that wraps up most lose ends but then leaves you with even more questions about Mariah (who was also arrested but then let go because a key witness was of course killed), where Luke is going and what will lead up to Luke joining The Defenders. Leaving room for more but also satisfied, for now.