Season 1, Episode 2 "Code of the Streets"
Steel yourself for a bit of blasphemy. I wasn't a big fan of Jessica Jones. It just didn't do anything for me, making the prospect of a Luke Cage series spun directly out of that series a bit daunting to me. Thankfully the first episode was a huge step in the right direction‚ which in my mind is away from JJ, and the second episode, even more so.
They might as well have put a countdown clock on Frankie Faison's Pop from the minute he showed up. He seemed too ideal and beautiful a soul to last in a weary world such as this, but his death at the end of this episode was no less poignant than if they hadn't telegraphed it from the start. I thoroughly enjoyed the scene where Cottonmouth (Mahershala Ali) comes to the barber shop to chat with Pop, but I don't buy for a minute that he really doesn't recognize his old cell mate Luke (Mike Colter), especially after his "eye for an eye" speech. There were a lot of interesting dynamics on display in that scene, though it really made me wish that the series was set in the 70s. I know that's impossible given Netflix's plans to assemble the Defenders next year, but there's a beating Blaxploitation heart in this series that the modern setting continuously squashes.
The entire Chico subplot just seemed like an excuse to show the power dynamics at play amongst the various villains in Cottonmouth's organization, but it resolved itself so quickly and unceremoniously that I wondered what purpose it served in the first place. Was it all just to kill off Pop? I'm assuming so since that's the only major change to come out of them shooting up the barber shop in the first place. I absolutely LOVED Cottonmouth's reaction to the news that Pop was dead, though. Mahershala Ali is not so covertly positioning himself to be the next great villain of the Netflix Marvel U.
Which brings us to the stupidest part of the episode! Misty Knight (Simone Missick) decides to hustle a bunch of kids in a game of HORSE so that she can get them to give up everything they know about Chico—Fucking Chico, man. They should've just named him MacGuffin.
Anyway, while there's a certain amount of awesome in seeing a grown woman sink every single shot she attempts in a game of HORSE with a bunch of hooligans, give me a break. The entire scene felt like a trick out of a 70s sitcom to show how "cool" girls can be by doing boys stuff. The payoff, however, when she goes to Pop's and flirts with Luke again, was almost worth the interminable set-up. Almost.
I also really dug the ending, which brought the episode full circle back to its opening, with Luke showing that he had taken Pop's advice and would be moving forward, not back. I don't want to be too harsh on the show just yet because it's clearly trying to find its footing and it's doing a damn good job of keeping things entertaining as it does. I just wish it didn't resort to ridiculous nonsense like the basketball scene while trying to gain traction.