I can’t overstate how great it is as a black man to see a black superhero show done right. Step Into the Arena was a well-timed, expertly crafted origin story. And as a bonus, we even got to see Luke Cage in his throwback Power Man costume — albeit way too briefly.
Buried under the rubble that was once an apartment building, Cage reflected on how he got his abilities. And his former life as Carl Lucas.
Step Into the Arena was the show’s spin on a traditional prison film. There’s the crooked guard recruiting Cage for his fight club, the inmates under his thumb and the friendly elder inmate looking to impart some knowledge. The newer wrinkle was the counselor hoping to help the inmates take accountability and find some peace during their sentence. This marked Cage’s introduction to his future wife, Reva (Parisa Fitz-Henley).
One thing conclusively proven with this episode is Colter can have sizzling chemistry with any potential love interest. Of his three pairings, Colter has the most smoldering connection with Fitz-Henley. Hopefully, we’ll see more of her in future episodes to further explore their connection.
Despite the heavier street crime undertones, the writers have managed to infuse appropriate humorous elements into each episode. From space to the skies to the streets, that’s been a hallmark of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and it works well here.
Step Into the Arena helped reinforce the notion that at his core, Cage is a hero. When his friend is threatened, Cage agrees to participate in the fight club and doubles down when the guard suggests Reva is in harm’s way. It also underscores why Cage has trust issues as pal gives up Cage’s plan to expose the guard and still gets beaten to death.
The guard sics his goons on Cage, one of which is Shades — armed with a steel plate. This was a gruesome scene resulting in Cage being hospitalized. The prison doctor agrees to do Reva a favor and attempts to save his life in a special experimental water treatment. The guard tries to stop it, prompting the procedure to go awry, granting Cage his powers. And an immediate escape route courtesy of his now unbreakable skin.
In easily the best Easter Egg of the Netflix era, Cage spots a yellow shirt and blue jeans and puts them on. For the briefest of moments we get Cage in full-on Power Man costume. His is one of the rare outfits that does look somewhat goofy translated to the real world. Still, it was awesome to see in live action. Carl calls up Reva, who had the infamous USB from Jessica Jones. Reva has her own secrets, but for now, the important thing is giving Carl a new identity.
Back to the present day, Cage finally freed himself and Connie from the wreckage. As the reporters gather around preparing to unleash a flurry of questions, he only answers one telling them his name is Luke Cage. That was probably the most effective hero introduction since Tony Stark revealed he was Iron Man to kick off this amazing universe.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
Photo Credit: Netflix
Learn the importance of the USB to Reva in the Jessica Jones recaps.