Marvel's Luke Cage - Season 2 Review
Bulletproof vs. Bullet-eating
Following the second seasons of Daredevil and Jessica Jones, the team-up of The Defenders and the debut of The Punisher, Marvel's Luke Cage gets another run at cleaning up Harlem.Marvel continue their strong run on the Big and small screen with the second season of Luke Cage, flooding the market with hot properties that fans simply lap up. From Black Panther to Avengers: Infinity War to the upcoming Ant Man and the Wasp, with Jessica Jones continuing the small screen Defenders run.
The market should be saturated, but there's always room for another Netflix binge, and Marvel's Netflix shows - however flabby they can get - are still all slick productions with colourful comic-book characters and well-constructed stories.
Thankfully less entrenched in 70s stylisation, but still quite drawn out.
Out of all of the so-called Defenders (however disappointing that actual first team-up mini-series was), the front runner - much like the Cinematic Universe's Iron Man - is the one that really surprised and wowed audiences, securing fans for the others.
Jessica Jones offered something different, proving that Marvel know how to do their small screen villains, but Luke Cage and Iron Fist were less well-received, with the former a 70s-styled blaxploitation-esque Harlem gangster drama that took a little getting used to, whilst the latter went full kung-fu ninja, pitching a protagonist with the social experience of a child which, also, took a little getting used to. Still, whilst not as obviously effective as Daredevil, they all had their merits and were all quite different from each other.
However season two of Daredevil introduced an interesting new element that changed the mix - The Punisher - who ended up proving the best of the whole lot, particularly when he was given his own excellent series to play with. This left the bar pretty high for the second season of Jessica Jones, with Jessica taking a while to find her footing with David Tennant to butt heads with.
Luke Cage arguably has an even tougher task in his sophomore year, with the first season's pretty generic villainy slowing down the proceedings until things got a little more interesting at the end.
Season two picks up with Luke a bona fide hero, with his own fan club following his every movement, running a mini-decathalon to show his skills off, and enjoying his time inspiring the good and scaring the bad on the streets of Harlem.
His relationship with Rosario Dawson's Claire is blossoming, his barbershop is relocating, his now one-armed cop buddy Misty (Simone Missick) is rehabilitating, and his gangster enemies are still reeling, with Theo Rossi's Shades and Alfre Woodard's Mariah wondering what to do with their enterprises.
Mustafa Shakir's interesting new villain immediately shows his potential threat to Cage with his display of his own drug-assisted power: absorbing bullets. But his true threat doesn't manifest until a lot further down the line.
The team-up here is much better than in the Defenders.
Whilst Luke still thinks he's invincible, he finds himself vulnerable to attack through the presence of demons in his past - like his estranged preacher father - and his opponents don't stop trying to get him with new and imaginative weaponry. Strangely even stronger than before (the Judas bullet can no longer penetrate his skin), that doesn't stop the bad guys from upping their game, with Bushmaster threatening to be even stronger than even Cage.
As prosthetic limbs make characters into bionic weapons, Luke and his close cadre of friends and loved ones need to draw on every resource to keep the streets from running with blood.
Relying heavily on the rich comic book lore than has fuelled almost all of Marvel's productions - big or small - the second Season of Luke Cage uses a number of notable storylines (and comic characters, like Bushmaster or the new, 'evolved' Misty) to carry its sophomore season.
Richly stylised, and enjoying the benefits of both Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, Luke Cage is still an acquired taste, thankfully less heavily entrenched in 70s stylisation than its debut (which, at times, felt like it was set in an entirely different world to the other Defenders shows, rather than just a different part of the same town), and unafraid to draw in extended guest stars in the way that Daredevil Season 2 did with The Punisher (let's just say, the team-up here is much better than that in the actual Defenders mini-series), but still quite drawn out over its protracted 13 episode run.
Lucy Liu directs the opening episode competently, but - as with perhaps most of these Marvel small screen shows - nothing really happens for a good couple of episodes; the plot doesn't really get going until another couple have passed by, and you have to stick with it faithfully to get to the one thing that these Marvel Netflix collaborations almost consistently deliver on: a strong finish.
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