Episode Title: Step in the Arena
Originally Aired: September 30th 2016
The fourth episode of Luke Cage takes us back to the man’s origin and reveals multiple surprises about his past. The bulk of the show takes place in the past but it is juxtaposed to a situation that finds Luke and Connie in a tight spot just like Luke was while doing time at Seagate Prison. One of the biggest surprises is that Luke Cage is not his real name; he is actually Carl Lucas former police officer and member of the military.
Not only did this episode explore the backstory for Luke, as we know him it also hinted at his comic book origin as well. We got to see him in his original costume from when he debuted in 1972, and as Luke himself said, he looked like a damn fool. Don’t worry I won’t forget about the swear jar, I’m just a little light on cash right now. There are three bright spots to this episode make it entertaining even if it does drag a little at times.
The first highlight is the character Squabbles, played by Craig Mums Grant, he may be the stereotypical new friend that you see in every prison movie, but he does it so well. He is a former drug dealer who has been to prison at least twice and at some point in his life acquired a limp. The physical limitation does not come into play but it does add some flare to his character, making him seem more like a real person. He is the comic relief and the tragic character in this episode, his sweet and jovial nature make him a likable person that you want better things for. He and Luke protect each other in their own ways and he acts as Luke’s trainer for his gladiator fights that are put on by the guards. Since the entirety of Luke’s stay in prison is shown in this episode, I doubt we will get any more flashbacks with Squabbles but I for one would welcome it.
The second highpoint is the relationship between Luke and Parisa Fitz-Henley’s prison psychiatrist Reva. The two have an equally combative and flirtatious relationship at least in the beginning. She judges him for his unwillingness to take part in the group sessions she runs. He in turns questions her motives in front of the group making her confront her past and reasons for being there helping men who will behind bars for most of their lives. Once they both open up a little thins lose their combative edge and become merely romantic.
Since we know, Reva can only be shown in flashbacks it is safe to assume that she will not have a major role going forward but might pop up here and there. Fitz-Henley does not have an abundance of screen time but she gets to display every emotion except anger. Which she had more than a couple excuses to show, guards mistreating prisoners, her life being threatened and Luke nearly being beaten to death. She handled all of these situations very calmly; her unflappability may be what lead to her life with a fugitive and her premature death.
The final bright spot I want to talk about is the fight choreography. While it was good, it was great that it actually existed, because it really has not in the first three episodes of the series. Maybe it is because those episodes take place after Luke has received his powers and he is concerned about causing too much damage to his enemies. However if you look at his fighting style over the first 4 episodes and his backstory the way he approaches fights make little sense to me. The military and the police trained him and in the first three episodes, he does not throw a single quality punch. Early in this episode, we see him being more aggressive and fighting with a strategy and not just walking around like a tank and smacking people. With Luke eventually, joining up with The Defenders there is a chance that whatever danger they tackle will allow him to use his powers more freely and allow the stunt coordinators more free reign.