REVIEW: Luke Cage – Season One (2016)

Release Poster - Netflix

Release Poster – Netflix

The following is a season review of the first season of Marvel’s Luke Cage, a Netflix exclusive.

The Marvel Television-Netflix relationship is wonderful. I’m a big fan of most Marvel characters, and I’m always in line for the next big Marvel movie. The first Marvel Television show – Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – didn’t grab me like I was hoping it would. I’ve seen some episodes of it that I enjoy, but I haven’t found the time to revisit the show.

Marvel’s Agent Carter – another ABC show – was more for me. But I have yet to catch up on all of the episodes in season two. While I love the Agent Carter-character, her show isn’t must-watch television. The Netflix-Marvel shows, however, are. 

In 2015, the first season of Daredevil blew everyone away. It was darker and more mature than anything the company had done before. They followed that up with the first season of Jessica Jones, which was intriguing, more different, and, at times, pretty creepy.

This year – when the second season of Daredevil premiered – we were given another season of must-watch television. Daredevil expanded the somewhat small Netflix-Marvel universe with an excellent anti-hero, and the season was so much better than anything Netflix and Marvel had released together before.

Now we have Marvel’s Luke Cage, which centers around, probably, the greatest supporting character in the first season of Jessica Jones. Back when I was reviewing the first season of Jessica Jones, I was always so impressed with Mike Colter, who plays the titular character of the show I’m reviewing today.

“Even though he doesn’t appear in every single episode, Luke Cage just might be my favorite character in the show who is not named Kilgrave. I thought Mike Colter did an amazing job as Cage, and I cannot wait to see him in his own show. I thought that Ritter and Colter worked really well together, and I hope they can play alongside each other in both Marvel’s Jessica Jones and Marvel’s Luke Cage.” – Marvel’s Jessica Jones: Season One Review.

Marvel’s Luke Cage takes place some time after the events of Marvel’s Jessica Jones: Season One. It revolves around Luke Cage (played by Mike Colter) – a man with super strength and unbreakable skin – who is trying to escape his past as a convict by laying low in Harlem. He tries to become a hero for his neighborhood when a local nightclub owner and a dirty politician is tearing the community apart.

The first season of Marvel’s Luke Cage probably has the most references and easter eggs of all the Netflix-Marvel seasons, so far. And it’s not just to Jessica Jones or Daredevil, there are some pretty cool references to the Marvel Cinematic Universe too.

Another great thing about this season is the use of music. A specific nightclub is important to the plot of the season, and along the way we see artists perform there. There are some pretty memorable pieces of music played, and, as a whole, the soundtrack for the season is really solid.

And then there’s Mike Colter. I’ve mentioned him already here. I’ve even quoted my review of Jessica Jones here. But I have to say that Mike Colter makes this show work. That isn’t said to undermine the other performances here, though.

Alfre Woodard is always solid, as is Mahershala Ali. Frankie Faison steals every scene he is in, and both Rosario Dawson and Simone Missick are enjoyable to watch in this show. But the super charismatic Mike Colter is something else. Colter, the titular hero of the show, is something special.

So, it’s fair to say that I really did enjoy a lot of Marvel’s Luke Cage. I’m also interested in a second season if that means we’ll see the core Defenders-characters crossing over. But I did have a lot of significant issues with the first season of the newest Netflix-Marvel show.

Let’s just start with the first thing that annoyed me. When you binge-watch a show, you end up watching the show’s title sequence over and over again. I really liked Jessica Jones‘s title sequence, and Daredevil‘s title sequence is fantastic.

So, when I started the first episode of Luke Cage, I was expecting something pretty cool. But it really isn’t. The show’s soundtrack, as I mentioned, is great, but the song used for the title sequence did nothing for me. The look of the sequence was also just really bland and boring.

But hey, you can skip title sequences so that was never going to be a dealbreaker for me, or anyone, really. The story in Luke Cage is really slowly paced. The writers and directors let the characters breathe, and that can be wonderful, but this show doesn’t have the kick that both Daredevil seasons had, nor does it feel as scary as Jessica Jones sometimes did.

Luke Cage stands out as the slowest of the three Netflix-Marvel shows. Therefore, I wouldn’t recommend this for people that prefer to binge-watch a show over a weekend. I could definitely see a lot of people losing interest pretty quickly actually.

The final issue that I want to highlight is a reoccurring problem for the Netflix-Marvel shows. The overall season structure. 13 episodes are often too much for the stories that the writers of these three shows want to tell. It was a problem for me with the first season of Daredevil, but especially so with both Luke Cage and Jessica Jones.

This season should’ve ended right around the halfway point. Something significant happens right around here, and after you lose a specific character the show doesn’t work as well, which is a shame seeing as Mike Colter was terrific from start to finish. Personally, I’d rank this as my least favorite of the three Netflix-Marvel shows, so far. But there is a lot to enjoy here.

B

– Jeffrey Rex