TV Review: Marvel's Luke Cage - Season 1 Episode 10 "Take It Personal"
Read Luke Cage Season 1 Reviews HERE!
EPISODE 10: "Take It Personal"
SYNOPSIS: Luke gets closer to the truth about Reva and her part in his fate, while Mariah wrestles with the morality of her new role. Misty hunts for Luke.
REVIEW: Remember how I said that the last episode addressed the currently racial tensions faced in the United States? Well that hour has nothing on "Take It Personal". With Luke on the verge of death, Diamondback and Mariah Dillard put their plan into action and it is one that directly addresses the plight of African Americans and the police while also exploiting it for a very villainous purpose. Yeah, Marvel just went ahead and took one of the most contentious current events in our world and turned it into the plot of a comic book adaptation. The best part is that they have done so brilliantly which makes our hero more heroic and our villain so much more dastardly. Luke Cage has gone from the blaxploitation homage it started the season as and morphed into the timeliest story possible.
Last we left Luke, he was dying in an acid bath as Claire Temple and Dr. Burstein struggled to save him from the shrapnel in his chest. Electrocuting him, covering him with salt, and eventually boiling him, Claire is able to soften Luke's skin enough to extract the metal shards and save his life, allowing his body to begin healing again. Dr. Burstein is impressed by Claire and excited to try and begin his experiments again now that he has his data back via Reva's hard drive. But, in watching the files on the USB, Luke realizes that Reva was playing him the whole time. In a rage, Luke destroys Burstein's lab and takes the USB. As he and Claire leave, we see Burstein locate a working hard drive with a copy of the USB, meaning we may see more Power Men in future seasons. While Luke questions whether Reva was ever honest with him, Claire convinces him to be the hero he needs to be. But first, Luke must find out why Diamondback wants him dead and for that, they head to Savannah, Georgia.
Returning to his hometown and the condemned church his father was pastor of, Luke recalls events from his childhood that finally put things in perspective. His father was sleeping with Diamondback's mother and Luke's mother knew about it. The community apparently recognized it as an open secret but Luke refused to believe it. Now, Luke acknowledges that Willis Stryker is is brother but must learn why he wants him dead and why he went through all the trouble to have him put in Seagate to begin with. Luke and Claire begin to make their way back to Harlem, but they will have to deal with the fact that Diamondback and Mariah Dillard have politicized and villainized Luke Cage in the eyes of the NYPD and people of New York.
Diamondback's plan, encouraged by the plotting of Mariah as she tries to pull herself out of the family business, is diabolical in how it plays on current events. Since he has a cache of Hammer weapons and the ability to mass produce the Judas bullets, Diamondback decides to turn Luke Cage into a monster and drive the fear up in the people of New York with the intent to turn around and sell his wares to the NYPD to stop superhero vigilantes. It is brilliant and disturbing at once, the hallmarks of a great bad guy plan. Posing as Luke, Diamondback uses a Hammer weapon and punches a cop to death which in turn raises the fear in the NYPD who begin shaking down innocent people based on race in an attempt to flush out Luke. For a few scenes. it seemed like the series would demonize white cops but instead they show police officers of every ethnicity taking down innocent people to avenge their fallen comrades. It is shocking to see and ends with a black detective beating a black teenager who knows Luke.
The episode ends with Mariah holding a rally at Harlem's Paradise to push Diamondback's agenda forward. The goal is to get the people of the city behind the cops in a united front against Luke Cage and others like him and the people seem to eat it up. The crowd, primarily black, is also populated by other races as well. Giving people a common enemy works every time and none of them really know who Willis Stryker is. Misty Knight figures out he is the man who posed as Luke and suspects he is behind Mariah's plan as well. They all convene at the nightclub where Diamondback shoots Misty. Luke rescues her, but the civilians in attendance are spooked by him and a hail of gunfire rings out. As Luke hides with the injured Misty while surrounded by armed forces, the episode fades to black.
I have to say that I am really digging Diamondback's plan at this point. His goal is not world domination or even truly to get revenge on Luke. While killing his brother would be a bonus, Diamondback wants power and money. I am sure that over time he would want more and more, but his plan seems achievable and focused whereas some Marvel villains get in their own way. Seeing Luke doubt his relationship with Reva while learning more about how he got his powers is one of the best expositions of any superhero in the MCU. Luke is a mystery and not all aspects are revealed which makes his and Jessica Jones' origins all the more worth investigating and gives viewers more incentive to stick with the plot to find out. I also like that while Luke is virtually unkillable, when he does get hurt it is just as hard to fix him. That is a very intriguing problem to have and one that makes him more nuanced than any member of The Avengers. With just three episodes left this season, the big showdown between Luke and Stryker is shaping up to be pretty damn good.
MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE REFERENCES: Jessica Jones killing Kilgrave is called out as an example of vigilantes out of control in New York City.
NEXT ON MARVEL'S LUKE CAGE: Episode 11 "Now You're Mine" - In one bold move, a friend from the past puts Luke on the defensive, Misty in dire straits, and Harlem’s safety in jeopardy.