The bullet-proof brother is back and he’s got some spicy jerk flavour. Season 2 of the Netflix MCU series sees the titular Luke Cage (Mike Colter) protecting Harlem from returning villains like scheming politician/criminal Mariah Dillard (Alfre Woodard) and a vengeful new foe in Jamaican crime boss Bushmaster (Mustafa Shakir). With a SPOILER ALERT here is my review in four punches:
Punch #1 – My yute Luke Cage
Luke Cage is one bad mother shut your mouth. I’m just talking about Carl. Colter plays the character with a whole lotta swagger and heaping amounts of cool. He had various plot lines to contend with this season and some worked better than others. His relationship with his father Rev James Lucas (played with the utmost charm by the late Reg E. Cathey) was touching, heartfelt and beautiful. His rocky relationship with Claire started off interesting but was ditched early and never really resolved. And his whole road to “Godfather Cage” didn’t really feel earned.
His not “sidekick” Misty fared a bit better in the plotline department. Her dealing with the loss of her arm, the shadows of Scarfe and her temptation to plant evidence were all infinitely interesting. The character was somewhat annoying last season but she mellowed a lot in Defenders (where she lost her right arm and the stick up her backside) and was quite likable in this season, especially her scenes with Colleen Wing. And her cybernetic arm looked pretty damn cool.
Speaking of unexpectedly likable Danny Rand/Iron Fist (Finn Jones) has a pretty fun one episode showing. Colter and Jones played off each other much better than in Defenders and we saw signs of the epic bromance from the comics. And that “patty-cake” move was 12 flavours of awesome sauce!
Punch #2 – Rude bwoy Bushmaster
Netflix is killing it with these villains. Ermagerd. Well not Nobu and not the season 2 villain of Jessica Jones but that’s another list for another time. Returning to Luke Cage, Shakir’s Bushmaster is b——-t brilliant. Sure he is a strong, intimidating physical threat and moves with power and deliberation. But he is also suave, sharp and incisive. He can go from chatting up his yardie friends to giving a guy an impromptu eye operation and you still believe it is the same man. The pain he and his family suffered from the Stokes is an understandable motivation and, like the best of villains, he is the hero of his own story.
Bushmaster stole the spotlight in pretty much every scene and had some mind-blowing lines. When Anansi told him “Vengeance belong to de Lord” and he responded “Meh will give him back when meh done wid it” I nearly leapt off my chair. Huge kudos to Shakir (who is not Jamaican but could fool many) and since his character survived the events of Season 2 it would be great to bring him back.
Somebody nominate Woodard for an Emmy; the woman acted her backside off. Her journey from shade-of -grey-shifty-dealings to burning-innocent-men-alive black was a tour de force. Her estranged relationship with her daughter Tilda was a perfect mirror for Luke and his father. And the scene when she told Tilda the truth of her birth and that she never loved her was heart wrenching.
Woodard also had some great scenes with her lover/partner-in-crime Hernan “Shades” Alvarez (Theo Rossi). Rossi had much more to work with dramatically this season and he shows that he can do a heck of a lot more than just look cool in shades and shoot folks. Man give Rossi an Emmy too. Everybody gets an Emmy!
Punch #3 – Hard box and tuff chunes
I know some folks are not fans of Cage’s smack-fu fighting style but I find it fun and hilarious. And for Season 2 Cage got to smack, throw, break and smash a whole lot of fools. My action meter was satisfied this season and highlights include the Misty/Colleen bar fight, Cage/Danny warehouse rumble and the Cage/Bushmaster drug den team up. The second and third Cage v Bushmaster battles were cool but I found the last somewhat anti-climatic.
But we cannot talk Luke Cage without talking about the music. Oh my goodness, gracious me did you hear this soundtrack?! Joining the R&B, Jazz and Hip Hop from Season 2 are a whole heap of jamming Reggae and Dancehall chunes. Awesome, awesome, awesome! And playing Gregor Isaac “night nurse” while Luke is dancing with Claire aka the Netflix MCU version of the Night Nurse comic character? I see what you did there, and I love eet!
Punch #4 – Like Bob Marley funeral
About halfway through Luke Cage Season 2 I thought “Wow this could be even better than Daredevil Season 1,” which is the zenith of the Netflix MCU. But sadly not everything was irie my yute. Like most of the Netflix MCU the season suffers from dragging out a storyline for longer than necessary. At about Episode 10 I was still enjoying myself but it felt like the plot arcs should have reached a natural end and it was Filler Time!
It reminded me of something a Jamaican girl one told me: if something really long, it long like Bob Marley funeral. And while I enjoyed seeing Mariah die painfully that finale was like the time I picked ackee for my Jamaican friend to make ackee and saltfish for me for the first time but when I returned she had eaten all of it — disappointing!
But you have to give Jack his jacket and Jane her blouse and skirt — Luke Cage Season 2 beat the Netflix curse of diminishing returns (see Daredevil Season 2 and Jessica Jones Season 2) and was much, much better than the first season. I’m looking at you Diamondback you bland boring Bible-quoting bastard. This season delivers fantastic villain portrayals, an interesting interrogation of the theme of family, a heap of smack-fu and, best of all, it made Danny Rand tolerable.
Rating: Luke Cage Season 2 gets 4.5/5 incredibly destructive patty-cakes.
For my Defenders Season 1 review you can click here.