Review Blog – Luke Cage

I finished watching series 1 of Luke Cage at the weekend. And… overall I really enjoyed it. But it had some issues. Massive issues that had me trying to explain the insanity to my girlfriend who I think was maybe more content to gloss over them and watch the damned show.

First of all LC was a slow starter in much the same way as Jessica Jones. The first episode was very much a scene setter, showing us the Harlem the characters lived in and introducing us to the initial cast of major players. Not a lot really happened but that was kind of okay. This isn’t why it was a slow starter. For the first 6 or 7 episodes there is literally nothing that can harm Luke. He wanders through his story trashing the villains because what the hell can they do. He was so invincible that I found myself more interested in the villain, invested in his struggle to take down the hero rather than the other way around.

When there finally is something that can harm Luke, it’s a magical McGuffin. It’s Kryptonite. It’s dull and lacks imagination. I honestly believe it would have been far more interesting if they’d looked for other ways to hurt look. As Mariah said “Does he have gills?”.

For the most part I found the characters to be interesting and engaging. Luke himself was a bit dry near the beginning, acting very preachy and without any humour, but towards the end he lightened up a bit even as the plot was getting darker. Some of the best moments were him spouting “Sweet Christmas.” or Luke and Claire’s corny flirting. It made the characters feel more real and brought a few much needed smiles.

Mike Colter played the part of Luke Cage excellently. I’m not a comic book fan, but he looks the part as far as I can tell, and he certainly felt like an unstoppable man mountain. He really shined during the more intense moments and the the moments of levity as a lot of the action was him walking forwards, squinting while people shot at him.

I really enjoyed Mahershala Ali’s performance as Cornell ‘Cottonmouth’ Stokes. I thought he portrayed a deeply nuanced man trying to play gangsta very well and especially so when he was up against a hero he couldn’t even touch. I was honestly far more invested in his struggle than I ever was in Luke’s because it felt more real. Cornell was out of his depth and a man who never really wanted to be what he was anyway. I would have much preferred him to be kept as the villain for the entire series.

Alfre Woodard’s Mariah Dillard was… off. Something about the performance never gelled for me and I found her completely unbelievable the entire way through. There were points where I wondered if they’d just replaced her with a cardboard cutout.

I could go on about each character in detail but I won’t. I will say that I really enjoyed Misty Knight, Shades, and the evolution of Claire Temple from bit parter on DD and JJ to major player.

I had a major issue with the big bad, Diamondback. I don’t think it was anything to do with the portrayal, but more to do with the character himself. Nutbar, pseudo-evangelical, murderous psychopath. Honestly he was a dull-as-shit cliché and his… evolution actually hurt the finale as it just turned into a boring slug fest with no actual stakes. I understand that it was a metaphorical battle for the soul of Harlem… but it felt like a pointless punching match to me with no real tension.

The soundtrack was awesome. I loved it from the dramatic percussion work when Luke starts getting all unstoppable, to the musical interludes at the club. There’s is nothing else I can really say but I loved it.

There’s going to be a few SPOILERS up ahead so you have been warned.


Some of the dialogue was just cringe-worthy and it seemed to change from episode to episode almost as though each one was written by someone else. One episode had Luke talking about the idea of a person about 3 different times and 3 different people. The first time was fine but the other two felt forced and had me rolling my eyes. There was also far too many “Are you ready? I was born ready.” moments.

Some points in the story just made no sense. None. I’m used to handling science with a bit of blind acceptance when it comes to superhero stories… BUT! In order to surgically remove the bullet fragments from Luke, they put him through the same procedure that made him bulletproof to temporarily unmake him bulletproof. WHAT?!?!? Willing suspension of disbelief only goes so far and this is right up there with freezing laser beams (sorry Flash, had to be said). Just No! It was a thinly veiled attempt to get the scientist doctor guy to rediscover the process so he can make more of Luke for a sequel.

The magical bullet McGuffin’s themselves are never actually explained. Luke is bulletproof. The bullets are made from some alien alloy… so what? Why would that matter? They’re still metal and fired via conventional methods. Why can these suddenly penetrate his skin? Sorry, I’m not the type of person who just accepts things and moves on, I’d at least have liked them to try to explain it more than just “Alien metal… deal with it.”

At the end of the day, despite some major issues, I really enjoyed Luke Cage and it’s another excellent show to add to the Marvel-Netflix roster. I’m looking forward to a second series and I’m looking forward to seeing more of Luke in the Defenders.

Rob J. Hayes is the author of the acclaimed The Ties that Bind trilogy and the upcoming Best Laid Plans duology. You can find out more on his website here.