The much anticipated Luke Cage has arrived! I am so geeked I do not even know where to begin and this project is so personal, you will have to forgive my bias. Disclaimer spoilers in review.
First of all Twitter has been ablaze leading up to the air date and every handle from @BlackGirlNerds to @Variety were talking about this show. And for folks that do not understand diversity in Hollywood, my response is Black Women love Black Men as much as the Kardashian’s and Luke Cage is like overdosing on a Hershey’s bar starring Mike Colter, Mahershala Ali, and a lesser known Jaiden Kaine in a supporting role. I think anyone that grew up in the 70’s or early 80’s is a closet comic book fanatic because we grew up on superheroes and Marvel and Netflix are winning with Luke Cage.
I first heard about Luke Cage when a coincidental encounter occurred between Showrunner, Cheo Hadari Coker, and Ali Shaheed Muhammad of A Tribe Called Quest. Besides being a fan, Cheo had met Ali’s lesser known sister, aka Friday Jones, who was a fairly cool person, and she actually was part of the ice breaker to their first conversation (that is my version of the story and I am sticking to it). That conversation led to Ali Shaheed Muhammad and his producing partner Adrian Younge scoring one of the best music compilations that television has seen. Adrian Younge’s Venice Dawn is also a must see 10 piece band if they are in a town near you. The music from Luke Cage is front and center to the scenes as they unfold, with amazing cameo performances from Raphael Saadiq, Faith Evans, Charles Bradley, Jidenna, Method Man, The Delfonics, and Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings.
I have been a cheerleader for Luke Cage since day one as I am unaware of any other Comic story being told by a team of African American talent. Cheo Hadari Coker a journalist for VIBE Magazine, a staple in Hip Hop Culture, also known for writing and producing for NCIS, and the Biggie Biopic Notorious. Charles Murray, known for writing and producing on “Son’s of Anarchy”, and one of my favorite art house independent films “Things Never Said.” is also part of this executive team that has made magic happen. Charles told me he was part of Luke Cage when I bumped into him on set at John Singelton’s FX Series “Snowfall.” I think I have been one of the most Geeked people waiting for this show to drop.
Luke Cage a spin off of Jessica Jones takes place in a corrupt Harlem where the underworld of drugs, guns, and prostitution, run alongside politics and gentrification. The family on both sides of the law is Mariah Dillard played beautifully by Alfre Woodard and her cousin Cornell Stokes aka Cottonmouth. Dillard is the sophisticated Harlem, born into one of the most powerful underworld families in Harlem, and she has been educated and is taught to be the brains of the family. Stokes is broken, the soft hearted musician inducted into the crime family taught how to run the family business and how to make dirty money clean. These two teeter on the “right way” to return pride to a broken Harlem.
Without giving too many plot points away, Victor “Shades” one of our beloved actor’s from Son’s of Anarchy, Theo Rossi is the key to who is really running Harlem. Cage who is almost an unwilling superhero cannot help but to be the good guy as the streets of Harlem Heat up and Henry “Pop” Hunter remind him of who he is, an indestructible Black Man. Although he does meet his match when he encounters Diamondback played by Erik LaRay Harvey. Diamondback is the character comics are made for, the villain we love to hate. The onscreen treats form me were Zip, played by the actor Jaiden Kaine – I know some of what he gave up to pursue his acting dream, it is nice to see it paying off. And one of my most favorite characters Misty Knight played by Simone Missic. And I cannot forget to mention Rosario Dawson’s return as Claire Temple, the one person strong enough to save Luke Cage. I like that this particular role is played by a woman as the genius/ scientist in comics tend to be masculine roles.
I enjoyed the first installation and after hearing Ted Serandos, Chief Content Officer of Netflix at the USC Entertainment Law Conference two weekends ago speak on how well this particular Netflix series was doing on an international level, I know that there will be a second season, the only question is when. When I saw the credits roll and saw the different languages that Luke Cage had been translated to, and flash back to January 2015 at Sundance when Ted Serandos told a room that Netflix had entered 138 foreign markets, how American content featuring African American casts does internationally will be huge. In Hollywood there is this consensus, particularly with large studios that African American film and African American talent does not translate well in foreign markets. I think this is the show that will challenge that idea, particularly when you consider Luke Cage as a Marvel Asset is maybe a “C” level character. He is not Spiderman. For a “C” level asset to translate internationally into viewers creates a new level of opportunity for African American storytellers, writers, producers, and actors. My hat is off to Cheo Hadari Coker for being the brains behind Luke Cage and having the passion and conviction to tell the story as he saw it.
I hope Harlem can in the second season be a more mysterious landscape to produce a more diabolical Mariah Dillard, I kind of want to see her have a love interest – even if it is crazy Diamondback, or Shades. Because music is such a strong key to the success of Luke Cage, I would like to see a character like a “Songbird,” someone you are not sure is on the good side or the bad side, and in OG Batman style – let’s see more orchestrated hand to hand combat or “new technology” beyond a bullet, guns are almost easy because Luke Cage is indestructible – besides the one bullet that can pierce his skin – what other creations are attempted that fail. A character does not need more than one Kryptonite, but have fun trying. It will be interesting seeing how Luke Cage get’s out of jail a second time and where his relationship with Misty will go now that Claire Temple has his back.
A fan in waiting. Well Done!
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