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Luke Cage Season 2 review: A hero’s story where villains are the winners

Luke Cage Season 2 review: Marvel and Netflix return with yet another addition to the franchise, proving they can do sequels well even on television.

tv Updated: Jun 22, 2018 14:01 IST
Soumya Srivastava
Soumya Srivastava
Hindustan Times
Luke Cage,Luke Cage Season 2,Luke Cage Review
Mike Colter and Mustafa Shakir in Luke Cage Season 2.

Luke Cage Season 2
Cast: Mike Colter, Alfred Woodard, Simone Missick
Rating:3.5/5

The idea of a bulletproof black man in the United States was incredible as it is but would you believe me if I said Luke Cage one ups itself in its second season? Marvel was at important crossroads after doling out suckers like The Defenders and Iron Fist but finally seems to have got its groove back on with the second season of Jessica Jones in March and Luke Cage now.

Of course, the tone is still completely different from the Marvel movies we have always loved, and now also respect. While that will eventually make things blurry if the two worlds were ever to collide, right now, we should simply enjoy each for what it offers.

A far cry from the stretchy suits, hammers of thunder and battles with aliens, Luke (Mike Colter) is still walking the streets of Harlem in bullet-riddled hoodies and pushing his steely fists in the faces of Jamaican ganglords. He is a hero who doesn’t shy away from the love of his people which often manifests itself in requests for selfies. Old women offer him coffee and kids show him the scars given by their abusive fathers. Sure Iron Man waves to the crowd and they go wild but this is where we get a deeper, clearer glimpse at what hero worship actually looks like.

Marvel's Luke Cage.

However, things are not all calm in Luke’s loved-up new life. Harlem is still OD-ing on drugs, sold in his name, his vengeful father has returned to remind of a childhood he doesn’t want to remember and his girlfriend (Rosario Dawson) just does not agree with his definition of a hero and how he chooses to use his powers. ‘What does it mean to be a hero,’ is again a question yet another superhero is struggling with.

The question springs to life when a Luke 2.0 (Mustafa Shakir as Bushmaster) comes strutting into his home, asking for the throne to Harlem. He seems to be inspired by the villain in a recent blockbuster in the same universe, Black Panther’s Killmonger, but this one is more sinister.

He says he has been wronged by destiny and claims the throne is rightfully his by the virtue of the family he belongs to. He is the first person to give a real challenge to Luke and with him as his adversary, he realises what it really means to be a hero. Sounds too familiar?

However, he is not the only villain to deserve a pat on his back for their evil ways. Mariah (Alfre Woodard) and her boy toy Shades (Theo Rossi) jolt you back in attention every time they are together on screen. There is something very inspired by Breaking Bad about Shades. While he is indeed quite trigger-happy, he is never pulling it for the fun of it. His kills are motivated by the reverence he has for his woman and are never random. He is perhaps one of the most prudent characters on the show, always thinking of the possible threats and potential friends. So, it is an even bigger shock when a man so restrained doesn’t tolerate any disrespect towards his mistress.

The entire season is told through the histories of broken families, the motivations to bring them together now and to protect them from a bleak, violent future. Claire wants Luke to forgive his father because she could not forgive her own. They want to be a family together but a threat that looms large on them will not let them dream of that future. Bushmaster wants to avenge his family and rule the world in its name. Mariah wants her daughter back to secure a future free of crime and risk. Her daughter is ready to forgive her for the past she put her through, oblivious of the disappointment the future would hold.

This saga of the families is enveloped in a sweet cocoon of one the best television show soundtracks I have ever heard. The smoothest blues play over the harshest fist fights, the couples swing to the silkiest jazz, the hero patrols his streets under the mist of thick hip hop tunes. It may have taken 13 episodes to finish the season but considering how almost every scene was wrapped in spectacular music—with the singers like Gary Clark Jr making long appearances with 2-3 song sets in each episode—you would mind none of it.

Luke Cage 2, like its first season, is still slow. However, I would prefer to call it laidback rather than lazy. You pull back in your chair, log into Netflix and wait for the warm tunes and cold punches to take over. 13 hours will swim by.

The author tweets as @soumya1405

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First Published: Jun 22, 2018 13:57 IST