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TV Review: Marvel’s Luke Cage S2E8 If It Ain’t Rough, it Ain’t Right

While Shades, Mariah and Misty come to terms with the previous night’s events, Bushmaster searches for a way to boost his strength.

Things are shaken up in the eighth episode of Marvel’s Luke Cage as the fallout from the previous episode begins. Mariah is scared and Shades is mournful after the death of his friend. This feels like the beginning of the end game as it’s clear to everyone who the bad guy is and that something has to be done.

Mariah’s in the police station and the big question is if she’ll cooperate or not? What’s interesting is, if she did so a while ago, she’d be in protection and they’d be focused on Bushmaster.

The episode is really putting Shades and Mariah on a crash course. Both are feeling the pressure as the cops are putting the pressure on them, and they know the cops have the goods. And lets face it, Shades is right in many ways. He said to not sell the guns to Bushmaster and instead sell a painting. He also doesn’t try to fake what he is. He knows he’s a gangster and has accepted his role. Mariah though is in this strange denial of everything. She doesn’t want to admit she is a criminal and should probably act like it.

What’s interesting is that everyone knows the reality of it all but no one can quite prove any of it. Everyone knows Mariah is crooked. That Bushmaster is behind things. That there’s a gang war going on. But, there’s not really evidence of any of it. We’re in the power waving phase of everything as the various factions jockey in position.

Part of that is Bushmaster attempting to gain even more power. There’s that whole saying about power and corruption and his arc feels like an embodiment of that. He keeps wanting more from Mariah and more from his powers. Both will cause him to overreach and screw up and we’re beginning to see exactly that. The overreach is how far he’s willing to go to take on Luke and how much he’ll do to gain power himself.

There’s also interesting in how some of that overreach shakes out. There’s two fronts and one is all women defending and another all men defending. It’s interesting to see and one wonders if there’s a greater meaning and reason for this. But, predictably, this is where the two factions must team up to take on a third.

With still quite a few episodes to go, this is where the end game gets going and it’s actually really solid. The first half of the season was a bit slow but the latter half is getting much more exciting.

Overall Rating: 8.05

TV Review: Marvel’s Luke Cage S2E7 On and On

Luke Cage may be strong, but there’s ways to defeat him and Bushmaster has one that we saw at the end of last episode. Of course he’s not defeated but it establishes there’s a way to beat him. The show ups the stakes in that way and also sets up the eventual confrontation down the road.

Much of the episode revolves around Piranha who has been captured by Bushmaster and then there’s the wagons circling around Mariah. The episode takes more of a police drama side of things with Mariah being offered ways out from it all and talks of what she’s facing when it comes to crimes. It puts in perspective for the audience as to how screwed she really is and how easily she could get out of it by flipping on Bushmaster. She wants to go legit but only seems to be willing to do it up to a point.

That back and forth between Bushmaster and Mariah is interesting as he’s been maneuvering so easily without Mariah noticing until it’s too late. It’s been interesting to see the build though the build is so slow. Still, the previous six episodes are finally paying off.

Then there’ Comanche and his ratting on Mariah. That all comes to ahead in interesting ways. Things really go off the rails and things go very wrong. It’s a plot that’s good and wish there was more of it but it only feels like it was there to get some characters out of the way. We’ll see where it goes but right now it’s good but odd in some ways as the door closes.

But, the big part of the episode is the focus on sons and their mothers. We see Luke’s confrontation with his father concerning his mother’s death. We finally find out why Bushmaster hates Mariah. The sins of the past are laid bare by the two of them. It’s a very dramatic moment and puts those final pieces of the puzzle together.

This is the real pivot episode as we move to the latter half of the season. Bushmaster has made his big moves and some of what’s been weighing Luke down has been lifted from his shoulders in a way. That pivot also feels like it extends to the music. There’s been an interesting mix of blues and reggae throughout the season and here we get a full switch over to the latter as Bushmaster has taken control.

This season feels like it’s about various thematic threads and the small details. Much like the second season of Jessica Jones, this is the long game and things are playing out well up to this point. Slow, but really well.

Overall Rating: 7.95

TV Review: Marvel’s Luke Cage S2E6 The Basement

In last episode we saw a message being sent to Mariah with heads on pikes and this episode picks up on that mentioning parallels with the brutality of Mexican cartels. All hell is starting to break out and it’s becoming clearer to those involved that the Jamaicans, and Bushmaster, are gunning for everyone. A gang war is about to break out and everyone is preparing.

We also begin to start getting the connections between everyone, like Raymond Jones and Mariah, and why the Jamaicans are targeting who they’re targeting. This is the part where the bad guy tells the hero everything in return for protection. But there’s also connections between the police force and Mariah too. It’s all interesting stuff and the series seems to be its strongest when it gets more in to the police aspect focused on the gang war itself.

The episode really gets interesting in its focus on Shades. It’s an intimate discussion as he talks with Comanche about why he hasn’t stepped out in front. We get more of who Shades is. A good character through just one scene has become a great one. We know why he didn’t take over after Cottonmouth. We know why he’s always #2 and never #1. It’s a logic that’s there and the delivery by actor Theo Rossi is award winning level. There’s just an amazing open and honesty about it and his performance.

What the episode really gives us is a clear direction of what Luke needs to do. He needs to protect Piranha who’s the key to so many things. He controls Mariah’s empire and it’s clear this is why Bushmaster wants him so badly. Luke makes the smart decision to protect him but also uses it confront Bushmaster. It’s an odd choice as the season so far has been a lesson that using his fists isn’t always the answer and here he’s doing exactly that.

And with that, we get a fight, a big one and the first real clash between Luke and Bushmaster. While the fight is pretty decent, we’ve seen what Bushmaster does in a way elsewhere. While it makes sense as a way to take on Luke it also feels like we’ve been there and done that. Still, it leaves us pondering ways to beat Luke. How do you beat an invulnerable person? Bushmaster shows us a way. It’s all entertaining in a way but again feels like it’s cribbing off of other things.

The episode is one where a lot of the pieces of the puzzle come together and while that could have happened a few episodes earlier the season feels like it’s finally picking up and getting interesting.

Overall Rating: 7.75 

TV Review: Marvel’s Luke Cage S2E5 All Souled Out

Luke’s actions have led to some legal issues as he was served at the end of the episode. We begin the episode with him in some legal issues after what he did to Cockroach. And, it’s pay up time or he’s going to court. The episode circles back to the discussions earlier in the season where there was discussion that being a superhero didn’t pay. What is he to do? Luke has to make some tough decisions in this episode and decide if he wants to profit off of his abilities. All of that leads to some interesting, and comedic moments, but also feels like it’s Luke at his lowest. The man is no longer on top and needs to face reality. This also leads to an end of the episode that turns the character into a circus act.

Revolving all around that is Mariah and the corruption of the police force. Some convictions have been vacated and criminals are on the street and the police force itself seems like it may be up to old habits to get some of them back in to jail. Mariah comes clean to her daughter who I can’t tell is actually unaware of her family’s issues or just in denial.

But, what’s most interesting is that this episode creates strange bed fellows. Bushmaster is after both Luke and Mariah and Shades and Luke bump into each other with some moments between them foreshadowing what’s to come, the inevitable team up of Shades, Mariah, and Luke against Bushmaster.

And that’s an issue with this season, it foreshadows everything. Every episode telegraphs what’s to come in a future one. There’s little surprise and instead of doing that and then not delivering and delivering a twist, instead we’re presented with exactly what we’d expect.

The season seems to be on a rather predictable trajectory. While it’s not bad, it’s also not as fresh as the first. Still, it’s one of the better second seasons for a Marvel Netflix show so far.

Overall Rating: 7.0

TV Review: Marvel’s Luke Cage S2E4 I Get Physical

You got knocked the f- out! For three episodes of Marvel’s Luke Cage there’s been this interesting use of social media. It’s being used to track Luke Cage and spottings by the public. There’s the use of video to show how badass he is. But, what the internet gives, it takes away as well.

Bushmaster wants Harlem for himself. That means taking out Mariah and Luke and with his powers, this might be an actual challenge for Luke. The episode kicks that off and all of it is caught on video for folks to watch. The series has been looking at Luke Cage the myth and this is the episode that topples that myth bringing it to the ground.

It’s an interesting episode and one that’s kind of a downer in a few ways. Luke is at a low and he’s generally alone. It’s Luke at his most vulnerable as he’s still recovering from hist beating throughout. That all leads to a fantastic final bit of the episode where the discussion of what it is to do good is thrown out there and how do we define a hero. It’s puts things in perspective in that Luke has been a bull in a china shop in many ways and that might doesn’t always work. You need to do more. He’s learning what it is to be a hero and this is the episode where he’s humbled.

The bigger thing in the episode is Misty’s story. Long time comic fans will see something and a hint at something that will get them excited. It’s a direction we knew was coming and should be very cool to see further along in the season.

The final bit of the episode is the ratcheting up of tension between Bushmaster and Mariah. Sparks fly and we get to really see these two meet. It’s tense and everything we want and expected. Just a solid moment that’s been building.

The episode is an interesting one as it shows our hero is vulnerable and points out how arrogant and cocky he’s really been. It’s a punch to the gut to him as a character and us as viewers. It’s also a focus on character growth and moves the series away from violence solving everything. Might doesn’t always make right and some solutions need more than punching to solve. Luke’s learning that and we’re reminded as well.

Overall Rating: 7.5

TV Review: Marvel’s Luke Cage S2E3 Wig Out

The opening of the third episode of Marvel’s Luke Cage is an interesting one. For two episodes (and the previous season) we’ve been shown how much of a mythic being Luke has been built up to. We’ve also been told he’s changed since his time in jail, doing good work. But, what if he crosses a line himself? What if he injures a man he needs information from up to a point he might die? Is Luke really a hero?

This, along with Mariah’s thread, are interesting to think about and compare. In one we have a “criminal” who became a hero, but is doing questionable things for good. In the other we have a criminal who is trying to go legit and doing criminal things to do so and won’t take the easy clean way out. Both are interesting perspectives looking at the struggles of the two to change their lives.

Luke’s aspect also comes to a head with a rather explosive argument between himself and Clare. We get their similar but divergent perspectives and it’s clear that Clare fears that Luke is enjoying the headstomping a bit too much. His actions too are interesting when you think about the beginning of the episode and the what he did and why. We see an abusive side of things as Luke shows a side we haven’t really seen before. There’s a rage underneath and here it is. We also see depth for Clare we haven’t seen before. It’s an emotional moment for the characters but the viewers too. There’s a heartache and heartbreak to it all as a pillar of good is shown as, not so good and one of the strongest characters we’ve seen is shown so vulnerable.

The highlight of the episode is Misty who trains with Colleen Wig and the two get drunk and beat on some bad guys. Misty is attempting to cope with having one arm and is seeing Colleen to train. Seeing the two of them only makes me want a team up show even more as there’s just something fun about it all. It’s also interesting as the latter of the episode is rather weighty.

Then there’s that ending where things pick up.

This is an emotional rollercoaster of an episode where we get ups and downs leading to a rather explosive last bit. Things feel like they started slow and now all of that set up is finally paying off.

Overall Rating: 8.25

TV Review: Marvel’s Luke Cage S2E2 Straighten It Out

The second episode of Marvel’s Luke Cage is an interesting one diving into relationships even further, an underlying theme of the season so far. Luke’s relationship with his father. Luke’s relationship with Clare. Mariah and Shades. Mariah and her family. The wounds explored are ones that are internal in this season. Yes, there’s lots of action and damage. Luke has his moments and his are full of bruises but all of that on the outside, it’s the internal that’s what this is all about.

That’s extended and explored in the music of the season. Unlike the first season’s hip-hop focused soundtrack, the second season’s first and second is more blues infused. The blues is a music built off of pain and about internal emotion. It’s use reflects on what this season seems to be challenging.

This episode too does some interesting things when it comes to the imagery and an interspersing of various scenes from different locations and moments while a voice over sermon plays. The first season had some fantastic visuals and this second season seems like it’s attempting to try some different things as well.

The episode continues to lay out themes and set things up for the season. It’s good but much like the season debut, it’s slow. That’s something that was done in the second season of Jessica Jones and much like that season, this one seems to be focused on the family. We’ll see if things pick up but much like the first episode, this one is good but not great.

Overall Rating: 7.0

TV Review: Marvel’s Luke Cage S2E1 Soul Brother

In the second season opener of Marvel’s Luke Cage, the hero is now a legend, so much so that drugs are being sold with his name stamped on them to make you “bullet proof.” The character has become myth in some ways and it’s set right away that he’s a known factor, the bullet proof nature, the strength. The dealers see it as a futile effort but an effort needs to be made to stand up against him. The season makes it clear and plays off the tradition of black heroes playing the role of sex symbol and boogeyman. So much rests upon one man and he’s exactly that, a man.

And being just a man is the focus of the episode. Luke is having money trouble and Pop’s Barber Shop may have to move due to increased insurance rates and increased rent. A cottage industry has sprung up around Luke and it’s profiting off of him and his name but he’s not seeing any of it. He may be woke but he’s broke.

The episode focuses on Misty Knight who’s dealing with the loss of her arm. The bond between her and Clare is strong as Misty deals with her new life and getting used to it all. There’s also the introduction of Luke’s relationship with his father, an interesting twist that adds a dynamic about roles of individuals in a community.

Beyond the relationships and setting the status quo of Luke, Clare, and Misty, the episode is focused on where Harlem is now that Luke is on the table. Drugs and guns are running free no matter his best efforts and various factions are jockeying for power and to establish security and dominance. A new player comes to the table, one that has interesting… abilities and with some twists and turns the season feels like it’s set as far as plot and “the big bad” that Luke will face.

As usual, the acting is charming and entertaining. Each actor feels like they’re having fun and embodying their characters and letting loose. There’s some over the top aspects of it and some very trope like characters but it all blends together into a certain style that works well for the series.

There’s nothing groundbreaking and compared to the previous season it’s actually a bit monotonous and bland. The first episode gives the indication this isn’t the next step for the series but it’s a continuation of what we’ve seen. There’s a focus on the jockeying and the politics of the first season. Like the meta narrative of Marvel’s cinematic universe, this season feels like that in a way. While it can stand on its own, but there’s something missing if you haven’t seen what’s come before. The packaging makes it interesting from the characters to the plot to the music, it all comes together to create something that’s engaging enough to continue watching.

Overall Rating: 7.0

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