TV Review: Marvel's Luke Cage - Season 1 Episode 5 "Just To Get A Rep"
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EPISODE 5: "Just To Get A Rep"
SYNOPSIS: Cottonmouth strikes back at Luke by taking his vengeance out on the people of Harlem, while detectives Knight and Scarfe face an unexpected threat.
REVIEW: After Luke's origin was revealed in the previous episode and he escaped the aftermath of Cottonmouth's rocket, I expected this next hour to be Luke taking it right to his antagonist. Instead, this hour serves more as a stopgap showcasing Luke using his powers to help those in the neighborhood out of situations caused by Stokes' crew. While not a bad episode, this hour purely functions as a way to reset the board for the ongoing chess match between hero and bad guy. We also see the return of Claire Temple who is coming back to Harlem and get herself straight after the events at her hospital in Daredevil's second season. While Claire and Luke to not cross paths this hour, the setup is put in place for the night nurse to have a larger role to play in this series than either of the previous ones.
We also learn early in the hour that Cottonmouth is broke. Luke's actions have cost the criminal boss a lot and he is barely able to keep things together. Determined not to lose control of his nightclub, Cottonmouth instead instructs his cronies to take to the streets and collect from every citizen who owes protection money. In return, Luke is drafted by the citizens of Harlem to protect them from the extortion. What follows is Luke shaking down those who shook down the innocent in a method that makes it look like kicking ass is easier for him that swatting a fly. Whether it be retrieving a stolen guitar or helping a stripper regain her tips, Luke helps everyone while still preparing to attend Pops' funeral. The main subplot Luke gets involved in is helping a local woman whose sports memorabilia store was looted. She is prepared to take the law into her own hands and Luke has to show her that there is a better way.
At the same time, Shades provides Cottonmouth with a video demonstrating one of Justin Hammer's guns that could potentially breach Luke's skin and harm the seemingly unstoppable hero. Of course, Cottonmouth doesn't have the money to afford the weapon. Shades offes the alternative of becoming indebted to Diamondback, but Cottonmouth refuses. Diamondback has become the Voldemort of this series with his name clearly invoking fear in the good and the criminal but so far it remains to be seen if he will be as intense a foe as the rumors about him indicate. This all leads to a meeting between Cottonmouth and Luke where the two men make their intentions known. Cottonmouth, brilliantly played by Mahershala Ali, laughs at the intense Luke and doesn't seem afraid of the bulletproof black man. I am starting to think Cottonmouth may be cockier than powerful, but he has shown to be impulsive and not someone to take lightly.
At the NYPD, Misty Knight is told by her superiors that there are rumors that her partner, Scarfe, may be on the take. We all know from what he did to Wilfredo that Scarfe is in cahoots with Cottonmouth, but Misty refuses to believe it. All of the evidence points to Scarfe being dirty and we soon learn that Perez, Misty and Scarfe's lieutenant, is also on the take. It looks like Cottonmouth has about as much control over the cops as Wilson Fisk did which means that things may not be as simple for Luke as kicking ass and stopping the crime in Harlem. It still baffles me that Misty Knight is unable to discern who is good and who is bad in her own department, but I guess it isn't as easy for her as it would be for us as viewers who are able to see everything. Still, wouldn't she suspect something?
The episode culminates in Pops' memorial service. Both Cottonmouth and Luke deliver speeches to the community. Cottonmouth's is all about preserving and protecting Harlem, something that is applauded by the parishoners. The question is whether they are clapping out of appreciation for his words or fear of his actions. The Stokes family are clearly a dynasty of crime in Harlem and the people do not seem to think they can escape their grasp. But, when Luke speaks, he says he believes not in Harlem but the people of Harlem an vows to take down the criminal element. Luke is the hero that Harlem deserves and they launch into an uproar of applause for him. Cottonmouth is clearly pissed but their showdown will have to wait for another day. The episode ends on a somber note as Misty and Luke walk past the barbershop. Misty chastises Luke for bringing more pain down on the neighborhood but Luke is steadfast in his ambitions.
While it did feel like a filler episode, it was still damn good filler. Luke Cage could have easily become a series of punching and gunfire but instead we are getting a slower burn. The writing here is excellent and actually makes Cottonmouth somewhat of a sympathetic figure. Maybe it is Mahershala Ali's stellar performance, but I almost don't want to see him lose. Luke, on the other hand, is a more visible and direct hero than either Matt Murdock or Jessica Jones and confining him to a totally different New York neighborhood gives him a mystery and aura that builds to John Henry level mythology. Clearly the impending arrival of Diamondback and the tease of a weapon that could stop Luke mean big things are coming, but now the chessboard is finally set. Let the game begin,
MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE REFERENCES: Claire Temple returns after appearances on both Daredevil and Jessica Jones. Another Justin Hammer reference.
NEXT ON MARVEL'S LUKE CAGE: Episode 6 "Suckas Need Bodyguards" - After Cottonmouth and Scarfe's bloody clash, Luke realizes that saving the community may turn former allies into enemies, and enemies into allies.