After underwhelming seasons of Iron Fist, The Defenders and Jessica Jones, it’s nice to see Luke Cage hasn’t lost its punch. Soul Brother #1 kicks off the series’ second season in a way to suggest this could be a contender for the best Marvel Netflix season yet.
Cage (Mike Colter) is Harlem’s hero now and he’s reluctantly embracing his new celebrity status. From selfie requests at restaurants to a Harlem’s Hero app, which traces all his movements once people tag where they see him. Luke is struggling to accept his good fortune and stop waiting on the other shoe to drop.
But this vigilante life isn’t necessarily helping to pay the bills. As Cage’s business partner Bobby Fish (Ron Cephas Jones) reminds him just because you’re a woke hero doesn’t mean you have to be a broke one. He’s also having money talks with his girlfriend, Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson), who is the rare fully supportive significant other that endorses his superheroics. And she even managed to work in a subtle Power Man joke.
Along with the good comes some bad, namely a drug being peddled on the streets with his name. The series remains saturated in flavor as the opening scene features Cage taking down a drug warehouse while listening to Mobb Deep’s Shook Ones. Music continues to be a vital part of the Cage presentation whether in fight scenes, background music or at Mariah’s club where all the movers and shakers mingle.
Like Daredevil, Luke Cage’s showrunners made the savvy move of not killing off all the interesting bad guys. With Mariah (Alfree Woodard) looking to go legit a la Michael Corleone, Shades (Theo Rossi) has to find some willing business partners. Mariah’s money man, Piranha (Chaz Lamar Shepherd), has an idea if Mariah can somehow convince a tech owner to give up controlling interest in his company.
Soul Brother #1 quickly reinforced the thought that Luke Cage has the best supporting cast. Jessica Jones’ sophomore season seemingly struggled whenever Krysten Ritter was off screen. With Cage, Colter doesn’t have to shoulder the load on his own and the supporting cast has been written so well their character subplots don’t sabotage episodes.
I appreciated executive producer/writer Cheo Hodari Coker didn’t rush to give Misty Knight (Simone Missick) a prosthetic arm. We know from the comics and teaser images that one is coming, but having her deal with the loss is important. Soul Brother focused useful time on Misty’s plight from dealing with taunts to looks she interprets as pity. Missick was one of the MVPs of the first season and it’s nice to see her role hasn’t diminished this season.
With nearly 20 episodes in the role, Colter carries himself with a greater confidence and swagger. Luke Cage isn’t like other heroes and Colter fills such a unique space in the MCU. Nobody else could effectively pull off dabbing on ’em either. More than any of the other Netflix characters I’d love to see Colter bring Cage to the big screen. His chemistry with Dawson is also electric making for the sexiest pairing in the Netflix universe.
Reg E. Cathey (Fantastic Four) joins the cast as Cage’s father, a reverend who has a very strained relationship with his son. Cathey looks like he’s going to be a strong addition this season in his final role before his death in February. Another new addition is Dorian Missick (Lucky Number Slevin and Simone’s husband), who’s playing a hotshot ex-con looking to strike a partnership with Mariah.
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Mustafa Shakir makes a strong impression as the season’s big bad, Bushmaster, despite having limited screen time. One scene definitely shows that Bushmaster is going to be a formidable opponent, but I liked that there doesn’t appear to be a rush to immediately pit him against Luke. There’s plenty of time to build up this showdown.
Lucy Liu directed this episode and my biggest complaint here is she could only do one this season. Liu has the tone and feel of Luke Cage down pat and she proves adept at handling some involved action scenes.
Probably the highlight of the episode was when Luke issues a warning to all the folks trying to stir a ruckus in Harlem. Cage declares Harlem his territory and he’s not going to let it get torn down by anyone. That’s a stern warning and a strong statement to start this season.
Soul Brother #1 wastes little time setting the stakes and introducing new players to the second season.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
Photo Credit: David Lee/Netflix