Monday, July 2, 2018

TV Review: Luke Cage: Season 2

Luke Cage has always been different from its Marvel-Netflix counterparts by tackling real-world issues affecting the black community and featuring what could arguably be T.V.'s most badass soundtrack. 

The second season continues on with these traditions and even adds more diversity and flavor with the inclusion of one of the season's antagonists, a worthy adversary for Luke Cage - a Jamaican purveyor of the dark arts; the capoeira master John "Bushmaster" McIver; played with such intense passion by the incredibly talented Mustafa Shakir. You will see a lot of Jamaican influences this season and I'm not just talking about the accent but the music and lifestyle as well. 

Driven by the strong belief that Harlem is his birthright, the Bushmaster is hell bent on taking what is his-and that is everything that Mariah Dillard (Stokes, Mariah Stokes) who is played by Alfie Woodard owns and loves. It must be said that Woodard delivers powerful performances in this season, that I think are even deserving of an Emmy nomination. Woodard is on fire and you know that she just loves playing the villain, or the Queen of Harlem" as she sees herself.  

Despite of his witty comeback of "This is my show" Luke Cage is sidelined to make way for growth from the diverse characters which join in the second season. We have a badass Misty Knight (Simone Missick) She has to come to terms with the loss of her arm and in the process is reborn like a phoenix from the ashes with her new bionic arm (thank you Danny).

We already talked about how Alfie Woodard brought a fiery Mariah in this season, her performance will give you chills but we should also talk about Theo Rossi's Shades who has gone from Mariah's goon, to lover, to partner-in-crime and in this season, just a real significant character and I must say, while their characters and actors were just so-so for me in the first season, I have so much respect for them now and I'm just glad that they were given really meatier arcs and lines and scenes. Can we also say hello  Tilda Johnson (Mariah's estranged daughter) played by the also talented Gabrielle Dennis. A quick Google search also hints that Tilda (is also known as Nightshade in the comics) and could therefore bring more to the table (possibly season three maybe?) and I'm looking forward to seeing that. 

While the season features a lot of strong performances and a big highlight on its characters, I really can't say the same for the Power Man, his journey this season just isn't that convincing for me. Even his struggles with his "anger" just felt "meh" and wasn't really a driving force or interest in the story. I found the Stokes-Bushmaster grudge, which appears to have a deep seated family history and goes back a couple of generations have more appeal and interest. 

Unfortunately Claire Temple played by Rosario Dawson and who is Luke's love interest also feels a little "out of steam" - she is of course the factor which ties all the Marvel-Netflix characters together and well, I'm afraid you can be the glue that holds characters together for so long. 

Aside from that, there is a lot to love about season 2 of Luke Cage-from the acting to the character development, to the music, to some of the stunts which were performed plus a delightful cameo from the Iron Fist himself, especially since he is less annoying here and we see more of a build on the relationship between Luke and Danny, which is an effective way to acknowledge their "Defenders"     

I almost jumped out of my seat during the "Godfather" reference, it was a big surprise and I think that its a good way for the season to come full circle, in Luke Cage's journey and I just can't wait to see how things will go for the third season (there should be one!) Season 2 ends with so many exciting possibilities for its characters and I want to see where they go and if you feel that way, then you know that the story works.    

I love how they ended the season with a voice over from the late Reg E. Cathy (he passed away before Season 2 aired) who plays Luke's father (James Lucas). They used a conversation that the Reverend James Lucas has with Luke, which I think is a beautiful exchange and I think speaks volumes of what the season is all about. 

"Your strength is from God, Carl. I have no doubt in my mind about that. 
But with that kind of power comes its share of pain,"

"Science? Magic? God? That power flows from within. From inside.   What comes out when that pressure is heaviest? That's the real magic. That's what defines being a man. That's what defines being a hero."

The screen then fades to a photo of Cathy with the words: "Forward, always". 

8/10 Season 2 of Luke Cage is #NowStreaming on Netflix. 

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