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Josh Reviews Luke Cage Season Two

November 26th, 2018
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For quite a while, I’d wished that the Marvel Netflix shows would come out at a faster pace.  We had to wait almost three years, for example, between the first two seasons of Jessica Jones.  (Though the character did appear in The Defenders in between.)  But weirdly, since the summer there’s been a bit of a glut: Luke Cage season two came out in June, Iron Fist season two came out in September, and Daredevil season three came out in October.  I wasn’t certain how I wanted to proceed.  I wasn’t in a huge rush to watch Luke Cage or Iron Fist, since I’d found both of their first seasons to be extremely mediocre.  (Click here for my review of Luke Cage season one, and here for my review of Iron Fist season one.)  But I was curious to see if they’d managed to course-correct for their second seasons.  (I avoid reviews of shows or movies I haven’t yet seen, but I’d seen headlines and it seemed that people felt that Iron Fist, at least, had improved significantly, so that was encouraging.)  The show I was most interested in seeing was the third season of Daredevil, and I debated whether I wanted to watch the shows out of order and jump ahead to that.  When news broke that both Luke Cage and Iron Fist had been cancelled before I’d started watching, I debated skipping both Luke Cage and Iron Fist altogether.  In the end, I decided to go in order and take a look at Luke Cage, and see how things went from there.  (Actually, the news that both Luke Cage and Iron Fist had been cancelled made it an easier decision to watch their respective second seasons, because I knew that I was making a finite commitment…!)

I don’t regret watching Luke Cage season two, but the show remains far more mediocre that it should be.  I can’t really recommend it.  It’s ludicrously slow.  The first five or six hours are particularly painful.  While I have found that most of the Netflix Marvel shows start off strong and then sag, Luke Cage season two was a rare one that did get better as the 13 episodes unfolded.  But there is still barely 5-6 hours of plot stretched out over 13 episodes.  The show suffers from an unfortunate tendency to give us the same type of scene, over and over and over again.  This results in a painful sense of wheel-spinning.  In those rather dreadful first five or six episodes, how many times did we get a version of these scenes:

* Luke Cage walks into the barber shop feeling discouraged, and someone gives him … [continued]

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Let’s continue my look back at The Top Twenty Episodes of TV in 2016!  Last week I presented part one of my list, with numbers twenty through sixteen.  Onward!

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15. Brooklyn 99: “9 Days” (season three, episode twelve, aired on 1/19/16) – Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) and Captain Holt (Andre Braugher) get the mumps and are quarantined together for nine days.  “9 Days” has one of the most ridiculous premises of any episode of Brooklyn 99, and yet, somehow, it also manages to be one of the funniest.  The Peralta-Holt pairing has always been comedy gold for the show, and this episode really lets Mr. Samberg and Mr. Braugher go at it, assisted by some comically over-the-top make-up effects to depict their mumps-swollen faces.  Gems in this episode include watching the two men discuss their testicular pain, hearing Holt yell “CASE” as Jake tumbles to the ground, and this exchange: Amy: “I’m immune to stuff you haven’t even heard of.”  Holt: “But not immune to braggadocio.”  I enjoyed seeing The Office’s Oscar Nuñez pop up as the doctor who gives Jake & Holt their diagnosis, and I loved Boyle’s description of Rosa as having a “motorcycle helmet for a heart,” as well as his advice on grief: “Real men don’t cry for more than three days.”  And let’s not forget Gina’s comment that: “C-minus is the perfect grade. You pass, but you’re still hot.”  Also: the name of Amy’s trivia team is “Trivia Newton-John”?!  Genius!

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14. Luke Cage: “DWYCK” (season one, episode nine, released on 9/30/16) – This episode, late in the run of the first season of Luke Cage, came at a time in which the Netflix show seemed to be spinning its wheels, stretching time to fill out the 13 episode run by having Luke (Mike Colter) and Claire (Rosario Dawson) inexplicably leave town while the bad guys wreak havoc in order to track down the doc who had a hand in Luke’s super-hero origin.  While I didn’t have much patience for that story development, it allowed room for this episode’s welcome and wonderful spotlight on Misty Knight (Simone Missick), the NYPD officer who has been Luke’s friend and also his most dogged enemy.  I have always loved the character of Misty from the comic books, and I never thought we’d ever get to see this wonderful character appear on-screen, let alone as perfectly realized as she was on this show.  Ms. Missick was a revelation, phenomenal at bringing this strong, honest African-American woman to life.  This episode begins with Misty on suspension, having lost her cool when Claire was in police custody.  Over the course of the episode, we follow Misty’s grilling by a … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Netflix’s Luke Cage!

Season one of Netflix’s Daredevil was a revelation.  I was blown away by that gritty, intense, adult take on Marvel’s blind super-hero.  Season one of Jessica Jones was just as good if not better: a riveting take on a character whose life was torn apart by a trauma and a chronicle of her achingly slow, step-by-step effort to put her life back together.  I also quite enjoyed the second season of Daredevil, with its great take on the Punisher (presented as he should be: not as the hero of his own story but as the complicated villain of Daredevil’s story), though they dropped the ball somewhat with the season’s ending.  So I was pumped to watch Luke Cage, Netflix’s third super-hero show and fourth super-hero season.

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There is a lot to like about Luke Cage.  I love the atmosphere of this show, the characters, the music, the idiosyncratic camerawork.  I love that this show, about a proud, strong African-American super-hero, has so many African-Americans involved creatively, both in the cast and behind the scenes.  This gives Luke Cage a strikingly different look and feel from the other three Netflix super-hero seasons we’ve seen so far, and I love that.

The problem is that the story-telling here in this first season of Luke Cage is extremely weak.  Character-arcs are disjointed and disconnected, and plot twists are either head-scratching obvious or so out of left-field as to be equally frustrating.  This show makes the narrative stalling of Lost seem incredibly fast-paced; shockingly little actually happens over the course of these thirteen episodes.

The result is that while I certainly enjoyed watching this season of Luke Cage, this was unquestionably the weakest of the Marvel Netflix shows so far.

Let’s circle back to what’s good.  The cast is phenomenal.  Mike Colter was immediately amazing and iconic as Luke Cage when he appeared in Jessica Jones, and he easily shoulders the burden of being the lead now in his own series.  I love Mr. Colter’s performance as Luke, he absolutely nails this character.  He is noble and courageous while never losing the reality of what it would be like to be this man, gifted with bulletproof skin but who doesn’t consider himself a hero.

I have been a fan of Mahershala Ali ever since he appeared in the short-lived sci-fi series The 4400.  (Back then he was credited by the even longer and more amazing name of Mahershalalhashbaz Ali.)  He was phenomenal back on that show, probably the best thing about it, and I have enjoyed his work in the years since in films like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Predators, and the Hunger Games sequels.  He’s terrific here … [continued]