Season 1 Episode 10: "Take It Personal"
For a series that started off with such promise, Luke Cage has really taken a nosedive thanks to their villain bait and switch. Cottonmouth was a nuanced villain and Mahershala Ali gave a subtle performance that meshed well with the series' low key vibe. Now we've got a villain in Diamondback (Erik LaRay Harvey) who is just carving up a nice big slice of ham every second he's on screen. It's mostly disappointing because killing Cottonmouth only served to further the character of Mariah (Alfre Woodard), who is now also taking a backseat to Diamondback's scenery chomping antics.
I like the notion of his plan and I think there's an opportunity for some real commentary about the public's fear and distrust of the black community, but it's jettisoned so that Diamondback can throw on a hoodie, grab his magic alien glove, and go around attempting to frame his "brother" Luke (Mike Colter). The whole Judas bullet subplot, as well as Diamondback killing an innocent cop, have interesting real world parallels and feel like they have relevance in a world where Black Lives Matter and other social movements are in the news almost constantly. The problem is that either the writers, the producers, the suits, or some combination of the three are constantly saying, "But this is a comic book property, we've got to make it over the top and silly." Hence the Diamondback conundrum.
I have a hard time laying this whole problem at the feet of Harvey who is a fine actor, but does he have to be so cartoonishly portrayed as a being of pure evil whose hell bent on taking revenge on his brother Luke, who had no clue they were brothers until Diamondback told him. It's just dumb and really feels like a precipitous drop in quality compared with the first half of the series.
Meanwhile, Luke is finally back to his normal self, thanks in no small part to Claire (Rosario Dawson) improvising some bonkers shit to bring him back. The two then travel from Georgia back to Harlem in time for the rally at Harlem's Paradise where he can spring into action and save Misty (Simone Missick) from Diamondback, leading to one of the most ridiculous cliffhangers of all time. The episode just ends with Luke telling Misty that he's got her after shielding her from further gunfire. I know it's a TV series and there's another episode waiting for me, but the episode kind of just ends before anything is resolved.
I really want to give the show the benefit of the doubt because it started out so strong, but it's heading in the wrong direction. The cheesiness of Diamondback's behavior doesn't mesh well with the serious socio-political undertones they're trying to put on the table. Thankfully Mike Colter, Rosario Dawson, and Alfre Woodard are keeping me engaged, but the rest of the show seems like a wash at this point.