TV Review: Marvel's Luke Cage - Season 1 Episode 11 "Now You're Mine"
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EPISODE 11: "Now You're Mine"
SYNOPSIS: In one bold move, a friend from the past puts Luke on the defensive, Misty in dire straits, and Harlem’s safety in jeopardy.
REVIEW: In the previous episode, Luke Cage was defending an injured Misty Knight as Diamondback's thugs shot up Harlem's Paradise during a rally against the very hero they came to admire earlier this season. This epiosde, the antipenultimate hour of the freshman run of Marvel's third Defender series, picks up directly after that scene and takes place entirely within the nightclub formerly owned by the now deceased Cornell Stokes. Marvel and Netflix have done a great job with episodes housed entirely within one setting and this, the second siuch episode of Luke Cage, is a welcome addition. Giving almost every primary character the same amount of screen time, this episode sets the final showdown between Luke and his half brother into perspective and does so with tension, humor, and some nice MCU call backs.
What I am enjoying most about Luke Cage compared to Daredevil and Jessica Jones is the fact that this show manages to make big proclamations about the MCU world at large while maintaining a villainous plot that is deeply personal. Both Jessica Jones and Matt Murdock faced one of those challenges but neither had both at the same time. With the siege at Harlem's Paradise, Mariah Dillard has her in with the Mayor of New York to arm the NYPD with bullets that can hurt those who seemingly could not be injured. I would imagine if a Judas bullet can pierce unbreakable skin, Tony Stark's armor and Steve Rogers' shield would not be impervious either. The ramifications of these weapons getting into the hands of criminals is not lost on ADA Blake Tower or several other characters on the show but the masses are still blinded by the fear of the unknown personified by Luke himself.
There are also cracks appearing in Diamondback's seemingly flawless plan. Taking hostages and staging the siege as being the work of Luke Cage is a short term solution to a bigger problem. Shades sees the issue which creates a rift between him and his boss: the moment the hostages are let go, they will reveal that Luke was not behind the siege. Diamondback is not afraid and feels the greater result of his plan is getting the weapons to the cops, thereby making him more money. Clearly a flawed plan, Diamondback isn't quite living up to the potential I saw for him when he first appeared, but his grandiose nature definitely makes him a better suited opponent for Luke than Cottonmouth was. As much as I am locked into see where this story will go, I will not lie that I miss Cottonmouth and would rather have seen this series remain a smaller scale affair.
Diamondback is clearly batshit crazy, a fact that becomes more readily apparent than ever when we see the pages of his mother's bible highlighted and annotated like John Doe's diaries in SEVEN. It is creepy and thoroughly messed up and perfectly fitting with the broken persona that is Stryker: shunned by his father and allowed to go to prison while his mother died alone, this is a broken man who wants vengeance at any cost. He kills a councilman and almost kills a hostage with the best use of "Bye, Felicia" I have yet to hear, but all of it serves to get Luke arrested. Luke, who has been avoiding the police for the entire season, eventually gets caught and arrested which will set up the final act of the season over the next two episodes. While Luke is clearly in hero mode through this entire episode, the best aspects of this hour belong to the women in Cage's life: Misty and Claire.
While Misty is Luke's primary love interest, I feel he has much better chemistry with Rosario Dawson who has proven herself to be vital to these series on Netflix. While we know she will appear in Iron Fist and likely The Defenders, too, she is here solidly pointing as a character that needs to come back for Luke Cage's inevitable second season. Saving Misty from bleeding out (references to her losing her arm are a nice nod to her bionic appendage in Marvel Comics) draws Claire and the detective closer together as they can bond over which relatives taught them to fight and their shared affection for Luke. It also begs the question as to whether this trio will team up to take Diamondback down or if Luke will have to go at it solo. By episode's end, Luke is in cuffs and Diamondback and Claire go their own ways to recoup for the final attack. Most of Diamondback's men, including Shades, find themseles under arrest, narrowing down the list of characters we will be seeing in the next two hours.
Luke Cage has transformed over the season so far from a blaxploitation homage to it's own brand of Marvel cinema. This show still has similar hallmarks to the various 1970s films it draws inspiration from, but the last few episodes have felt very similar to the best hours of Daredevil and Jessica Jones. While that may not sound like high praise, the consistency that these Netflix series have shown with one another is astounding, especially considering how unique they are in terms of tone and themes. Luke Cage has only two hours left to tie everything together and I am not entirely convinced that it will, but it is certainly shaping up to be one heck of a showdown when Luke and Stryker finally go toe to toe without relying on one-liners or exploding ordinance.
MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE REFERENCES: Claire Temple is called Night Nurse, her character's nickname from Marvel Comics. Blake Tower reprises his role from Daredevil. Frank Castle is name-checked.
NEXT ON MARVEL'S LUKE CAGE: Episode 12 "Soliloquy of Chaos" - Misty digs deeper for the truth as the neighborhood’s power players throw the city into confusion.