Season 1, Episode 13: "You Know My Steez"
Luke Cage episode 13 starts in a flashback with Luke getting pointers from Willis on his boxing. Cut to a fistfight with Luke and Diamondback in present time. I know Steve mentioned it in the last review, but can we again talk about Diamondback's costume and how ri-fucking-diculous it looks? This show has NO superhero costumes, and the first one in this series looks completely and utterly ridiculous. Let's do a little exercise, shall we?
Things Diamondback looks like in his costume:
-a first season Power Rangers villain
-a really, REALLY big Daft Punk fan at Burning Man
-a moderately big Star Wars fan at Burning Man
-A flight suit fetishist with a gimp helmet
-bad cosplay of Bombshell Hawkgirl
-An extra on the remake of The Last Starfighter who brings his own wardrobe (and also who has never seen The Last Starfighter)
Things Diamondback does NOT look like in his costume:
-a legitimate threat
-a person who should be taken seriously at ALL
Luke's losing the fight pretty bad, but I'm almost positive it's mostly because he's having a hard time beating the crap out of someone who looks that silly. It's the same theory I have as to why a bunch of heavily armed Stormtroopers couldn't take down an army of teddy bears armed with sharp sticks in Return of the Jedi—it's hard to put your fist into something so pathetic. And holy crap, is Diamondback pathetic. His whole life of crime, his whole vendetta against Luke, comes down to "WAAAH DADDY LOVED YOU BEST." Ugh. Kill this wiener and resurrect Cottonmouth already so he can slap the shades off of Alvarez's face and get back to ruling with Mariah the way he should.
Speaking of Mariah and Shades (I still have a hard time typing that seriously), they realize Misty fully plans to arrest Mariah and hightail it out of there before she can, with some hope Mariah can still make it out of this unscathed. Turns out she can—Shades steals Misty's phone and lures Candace out from her safe place at Claire's mom's house, and when Misty is interrogating Mariah he puts a bullet in her brain. With nothing but the recorded testimony of a dead woman, Misty is forced to let Mariah walk out of the precinct, even though she knows it was Mariah that killed Cottonmouth.
Am I bad for kind of being excited that Mariah got off? I mean, I know she's the big bad villain here, and she throws Luke under a bus in this, but I still kind of love her character. Luke has been cleared of charges and he's free to go—and he's about to get busy with Claire after dropping some lukewarm (see what I did there?) coffee pickup lines, but he gets arrested. Turns out that Mariah outed him as Carl Lucas on TV, and he owes the state of Georgia some time. Claire promises to call this lawyer she knows in Hell's Kitchen, and I think we all know who that is—Foggy Nelson, because fuck that softboy Matt Murdock. (I may still have anger issues from Daredevil season 2.)
We end on Doc FrankenBurstein with Diamondback on his operating table, so hopefully there's a horrible accident or at least he gets powers without his budget 80s sci fi gimp suit.
Overall, I thought Luke Cage had a solid open that was horribly derailed after the showrunners killed off Cottonmouth. They blew their load too early when they ended Cornell's run halfway through the arc—Cornell Stokes was a rich, nuanced complex villain and he was replaced by a cartoonish one. The team-up between Mariah and Cornell could have upped the stakes significantly and created far more drama than Willis Stryker's one-note pony attack. Luke was also a little too untouchably "good guy" to really be an interesting character, though I loved Mike Colter.
There were parts of this show that I really loved, though. I loved how unabashedly political Luke Cage was. The way the showrunners incorporated music in the show was incredible and I can't stop listening to Jidenna's "Long Live The Chief". The characters that really shone, the strongest and most interesting characters, both heroes and villains, were women—give me a show with Mariah as the primary antagonist with Misty and Claire teaming up against her, and I will watch the HELL out of that. Especially if Misty gets her metal arm.
I'm looking forward to Luke Cage season 2 more than I look forward to Iron Fist, that's for sure. Always forward. Forward, always.
Steve, any last thoughts on the series before we lay this to bed?
STEVE: I tend to agree with most everything you said. The show started and finished strong, but sagged terribly in the middle and felt at times as if it wasn't going to end. I've never seen the debut season of a show shuffle its feet so much, but overall the good outweighed the bad. The soundtrack was fantastic and the performances were all very good. The direction was strong, and the feel of the series consistent across all 13 episodes—despite clearly losing its way narratively from episodes 7-11.
I would give this episode an A- and the season overall a B. There's plenty of room for improvement, but there's also a solid foundation on which to build. Now let's give Luke as much nuance and shades of grey as the rest of the characters on the show.