Episode Title: Code of the Streets
Originally Aired: September 30th 2016
Reviewing a show that airs on Netflix is a lot different that writing about a show that is made by almost any other company. Its episodes are dropped all at once, so on September 30th you could have spent 13 hours, watched every second of the show, and not have to worry about tuning in for an hour each of the next 12 weeks. While you can avoid hearing specific spoilers about the show, keeping the suspense that the creators of the show hoped to provide almost 100% pure, it is much harder to avoid the general talk about the show. Is the show a hit, and even if it is, what are peoples biggest complaints and what did the viewers tend to enjoy. I want to address a couple of those complaints at the start of this article because I think it is important and because I completely disagree with them.
One complaint that I have heard a few times is that the show could have been shortened from 13 episodes to maybe 10, that they spent too much time world building. While I can understand where these people are coming from especially after the most recent show I reviewed, Preacher, which spent the first several episodes stuck in a rut, there was a lot happening but the show was not going anywhere. I feel after just two episodes of Luke Cage a lot has happened to push the show forward while at the same time they have it introduced us to a dozen characters and provided each of them with an interesting background, motivation or made them an intriguing mystery like the titular Luke Cage. What crime did he commit that got him sent to jail and was he actually innocent, why does he lie about where he is from and what is his history with Shades. After just two episodes, four named characters are dead, a gun deal was robbed, friendships were betrayed and Luke is just now going to get involved. So far, a lot has happened plot wise, we got to spend a lot of time with the people of Harlem, and after two episodes, I would not change a thing.
The second controversy is about the people of Harlem as portrayed by the show. Some people are wondering why mostly black characters populate the show and why there is not more diversity. The lack of diversity issue is interesting because it is solely coming from white people who feel they have been under represented in the show. They also think they are being clever by echoing the complaints levied by other races against Hollywood about not being inclusive enough. I am a white person, so yeah I like seeing white people do things, but I grew up in a diverse neighborhood so I enjoy seeing people who look like my friends doing interesting things as well. I do not feel slighted by a story that features a cast that is not exclusively white, I just want it to be a good story filled with interesting characters and that is what Luke Cage has given us to this point. I believe that most of the people that are complaining watched the show just so they could complain; I do not see how any reasonable person could go into Luke Cage, a show about a black hero in Harlem New York and be upset about seeing the neighborhood being represented accurately. This is a show that celebrates black people the good and bad that they can do just like anyone else, they are cops, criminals, heroes and inspiration leaders; they are out for themselves or want the best for their community. They are real people, who deserve to be loved or hated based on the content of their character not the color of their skin. We have been given characters to love like Pops, Misty and Luke and people to hate like Cottonmouth, Mariah and Tone. Give the show a chance and they will show you how to feel about them, do not look at the cast list and decide how you feel about them or the show as a whole. In addition, people need to get past the use of the word nigger. Yes, people use it in this show, in moments of anger and affection and as a replacement for words like mister or dude or whatever they want it to mean. It is not there to make white people feel anxious or guilty it is just a fact of the black community that the word is used. I doubt that there will ever be a time that it will be widely acceptable for a white person to use it when addressing a black person but that does not mean white people need to fear its use by other people. If this was a show about Asians or Jewish people and those slurs were used in any way I doubt there would be any kind of uproar about it because it does not have as much history in the USA as that word. If you want to know how to feel about it as a white person look up some comedy routines by Bill Burr or Louis CK, they will teach you how to react to it like as a reasonable person.
Finally, I will address the episode itself; sorry for the delay if that is all you came here for. The second episode was as good as the first in my opinion but had a few different directorial touches even though it had the same director. It had some similar shots such as the pan downs to Pops Barber Shop which reminded me of an intro to a 90’s sitcom like Family Matters, but the tricks using light that were all over the first episode didn’t show up in this one.
Mike Colter as Luke had a tough job in this episode and I do not think that he was entirely successful. He is great at playing the stoic, intimidating, timid and fearful moments that have been required of him so far, but when he had to express anguish over the death of a character, it felt like someone acting and not like someone was really experiencing those emotions. I think in the next episode Luke is going to be busy as he moves forward, always forward, with revenge on his mind and I for one would not want to be in his way now that he is going to tackle the problems in Harlem. Luke did have my favorite line this episode, when he was fired by Cottonmouth and responded no I am not, I quit before I came in here. I laughed the first time I watched this episode and had a big smile on my face the second time around.
Now that Luke knows the truth about detective Mercedes “Misty” Knight and she is wondering just who he is after the altercation at the barbershop. I am very excited to see where their relationship goes from here. Will they want to be involved with each other going forward or will he feel betrayed or maybe she will think of him as a freak because he is enhanced. The two have good chemistry so I am looking forward to whatever their interactions bring. I do hope that they do not wonder too far down the path of a good cop trying to protect her city from the enhanced vigilante; it is too soon to say whether she could be more motivated by the enhanced part or vigilante part.
I will be posting a new article each week but if you are planning to binge along with me, feel free to look me up on twitter at JVL007 if you want to discuss the show.