Luke Cage is back in Harlem, facing down threats both new and old. Join us for the Season 1 Premiere and witness the rise of Bushmaster!
Luke Cage – “Soul Brother #1”, Season 2, Episode 01
Airdate: June 22nd, 2018
Director: Lucy Liu
Writer: Cheo Hodari Coker
Based on Marvel Comics Characters by: Roy Thomas, Archie Goodwin, and John Romita Sr.
What You Should Know:
Picking up where The Defenders left off, with Luke freshly out of jail and back to his own personal mission to protect Harlem, Season 2 sends our bulletproof hero into a world where he and his vigilantism is no longer an urban legend.
What You’ll Find Out:
Following the events of The Defenders, Luke is back in Harlem, and while the verse has changed, the song remains the same. Drug rings to break up, gang violence, guns and politicians still litter the streets of Harlem, and Luke Cage is only one man. On a personal level for Luke, we see that he is still in a relationship with Claire Temple, but that his base of operations, Pops’ Barbershop, is falling on hard times. Luke continues to reject the notion of becoming a “Hero for Hire,” refusing to capitalize on his current fame as the Hero of Harlem, despite cries from those closest to him to “make that money, black man.” A well-crafted monologue and a hostile confrontation with his father, Reverend James Lucas, frames this story of love, redemption, and responsibility in the modern United States, and should prove an interesting story to track through the season.
Detective Misty Knight is seen dealing with the fallout of losing her arm, with all of the trappings of a PTSD tale surrounding her character, from the rage and drinking to depression and resentment. By the end of the episode, Misty has returned to the police department, ready to embrace the next step in her own hero’s journey, but it is clear from the start that the road will be treacherous for our beloved heroine.
Back in Paradise, the self-proclaimed “Queen of Harlem”, Mariah Stokes, is balancing the line between new and old business practices. While investigating ways to turn her illegitimately obtained money legitimately, she (along with her consort Shades) also meets with the worst the city has to offer in terms of drug lords and kingpins. Mariah’s tale has always been one of corruption and greed, a beautiful counter-point to Luke’s own narrative, and from the beginning, it would appear she is back to reprise her role.
As these gangsters and thieves work out their plans to control Harlem, Luke provides quality control at every turn. When one of Mariah’s drug running associates sets a trap for Luke, he finds out the hard way that, for some unknown reason, even the Hammertech Judas bullets are no longer a match for Bulletproof Love. Yet while of these events are going down, a new player arrives on the scene—a Jamaican gangster going by the name Bushmaster. Bushmaster takes over the Jamaican crew by killing its leader and reveals himself to be a skilled, and also bulletproof threat in the process.
What Just Happened?
Luke Cage Season 2 picks up where Season 1 left off in terms of creating cultural touchstones through relevant social commentary, music, and literature. Food even plays a minor role in this episode, as we see Luke and Claire eating dinner at world-renowned, Ethiopian-born Chef Marcus Sammuelsson’s Red Rooster restaurant, located in Harlem in real life.
The frequent calls for money as motivation, dominantly from young D.W. Griffith, seems to echo the “Money, Power, Respect” attitude of The Lox, placing the importance of money above all else, while, as Bobby Fish is quick to point out, money is far from Luke’s personal motivation (perhaps a foreshadowing of things to come). In evaluating potential “business” partners, it is noted by Shades that Cockroach, while not of the pedigree of some of the other players in Harlem, has links to rappers and athletes, another nod to money culture. The Griffith narrative, while minor, also plays into this notion through the repeated use of social media references, to include recording and posting Luke’s victory over Arturo near the end of the episode. The use of this fame, or notoriety, seems to fundamentally change Luke, if only for a moment, as we see Luke dabbing for the camera, smiling.
The episode opens with the Mobb Deep banger, “Shook Ones Part II”, which notoriously states that there “ain’t no such thing as halfway crooks, scared to death, scared to look, they shook” while exulting the best and worst of gangsta rap—money, guns, and violence. The notion of a “halfway crook” lays a brilliant blueprint for the Mariah Stokes narrative, and the frailty of the balance between legitimate and illegitimate business practices, as the arrival of Bushmaster relegates Mariah, and even Copperhead and Diamondback from last season, to a lower tier of threat as the Big Time, has arrived.
A final nod to the musical department, we see the song “Night Nurse” by Greggory Issacs, first in the scene where Misty struggles between her Purple Heart and the bottle, and then transitions into the love scene between Luke and Claire, the Night Nurse. The song “Night Nurse”, over the years has been interpreted literally as a “Sexual Healing” type song, but also has been read as an ode to alcoholism, or more likely given the lifestyle of the artist, marijuana. The brilliance in choosing this song to bridge the Misty and Luke narratives, with Claire serving as the connective tissue for both forms of healing, is nothing short of genius.
Worth noting, Luke is twice seen reading in this episode. The first time, when Griffith returns from a funeral, Luke is seen reading Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me, an award-winning, autobiographical text that takes the form of a letter from Coates to his son on what it means to be black in the United States from what Coates has seen in his lifetime. Written following a visit with then-president Barrack Obama, Between the World and Me garnered Coates comparisons as a modern James Baldwin. The second book Luke can be seen reading is from author Walter Mosley, the newest entry in his Easy Rawlins detective mystery series, Charcoal Joe. This book deals with the mysterious circumstances surrounding a racially motivated murder of two white men by a black suspect. The care taken in the prep-work, choosing books that provide insight into the character composition of Luke Cage, helps to exemplify the care taken at all levels to ensure Luke Cage is of the highest possible quality in the superhero genre.
Final Thought: If there is one complaint to be levied against this episode, it would be that any intimidation factor Shades had left has completely dissipated in the wake of the arrival of Bushmaster. Shades was already on shaky ground, seeming to operate fully on borrowed power and respect, but with that power degraded, so too is Shades.
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