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TV Series Review

"Everyone has a gun, no one has a father," Luke Cage says.

The streets of Harlem are indeed dangerous in Netflix's Luke Cage. There's a lot of bad here and precious few role models to make things better. More hoodlums pack heat than carry wallets. Neighborhood racketeers swap weapons for money, and sometimes the deals turn bloody. Bullets can be an all-too-common danger on some of this New York neighborhood's roughest streets: Take a wrong turn, run into the wrong guy, work for the wrong man, and you might just wind up with a terminal case of lead poisoning.

Unless, of course, you're immune to bullets.

Enter Luke Cage, former convict and current hero of Harlem. He doesn't turn green when he's angry or fling a fancy shield. And it's not like he can afford a Quinjet: He can barely afford his rent. He's just a mostly regular guy, really, trying to figure out how to do right by his community and still pay his bills.

"Just because you're a woke superhero doesn't mean you have to be a broke superhero," Luke's friend and mentor tells him.

A Moral Maze

Not that Luke's in the hero business alone. Misty Knight, a New York City Police detective, continues to fight the good fight despite having lost an arm (in the first season of Netflix's The Defenders). Nurse Claire Temple has aided plenty of Netflix superheroes, but these days she's only sleeping with Luke. His pals at Pops barbershop help him track down the bad guys sometimes, and his young friend D.W. might as well be working as Luke's hype man.

Still when the bullets start to fly, Luke's loathe to let anyone else do the dirty work. The fact that Luke's skin is pert near impenetrable (and the muscles underneath work pretty well, too) comes in handy in Harlem, where he battles various underworld crime lords, drug dealers, gun runners and the occasional super-powered villain. Season 2's big bad is John "Bushmaster" McIver, a kingpin who seems to have Luke's talent for dealing with bullets and has plenty of hand-to-hand skills as well.

But he's not Luke's only enemy. Sneaky and shady nightclub owner Mariah Dillard continues to make life difficult for Luke and his supporting cast. Drug dealers are distributing a brand of heroin made under Luke's own name—a definite no-no in Luke's eyes. And then there's the mysterious presence of Luke's own father. As a preacher, he's a leader in his own right. But he and his son have had a falling out, and, at least early on, a reconciliation seems unlikely.

Finally, we have Luke's own curious battle with celebrity, posing for selfies and signing autographs even as he battles crime. It's difficult to keep a low profile when someone's designed an app to follow your every move, y'know?

Getting Under the Skin

While Marvel's flashy, glamor-boy superheroes dominate the big screen in PG-13 popcorn romps, Netflix has spent the last couple of years bringing some of Marvel's grittier characters to life on the small one.

Matt Murdock (Daredevil), Jessica Jones, Danny Rand (Iron Fist) and Luke Cage have special powers, sure. But they still work semi-regular jobs. They struggle with their calling. They drink. They fight. They sometimes run away. Their gifts may be super, but that doesn't make them heroes. They have to choose that path. And while they may choose it one day, they might fall down on the job (and in Jessica Jones's case, fall down drunk) the next.

Luke Cage is more prototypically heroic than his one-time lover, Jessica. He's thoughtful. He wants to help the people around him. He holds himself to a stricter moral code than some. He doesn't get sidetracked by booze or alcohol like Jessica, and he doesn't have the anger issues of Daredevil. As he tells his dad, he's "saving souls my way, walking the righteous path on my own terms."

But while Luke may be in some respects the most admirable of Netflix's superheroes, his show is still plenty problematic.

Netflix has always been free about shedding, spurting and splaying blood in its super-violent superhero stories. There's plenty of that here. Luke may hold himself relatively in check when it comes to violence, but that restraint does not extend to his sexual habits.

He'll take a roll in the hay without much provocation (we saw that same tendency with Jessica Jones, too), and the bedroom action here doesn't stop at mere suggestion. We see breast nudity, thong-clad bottoms and explicit movements. And while Luke doesn't swear (much), many other characters do. The s-word and n-word are both used frequently (as are other less jarring profanities). Alcohol is part of this superhero stew, as well.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

June 22, 2018: "Soul Brother #1"
Luke Cage: Sept. 30, 2016 "Moment of Truth"

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Mike Colter as Luke Cage; Simone Missick as Misty Knight; Theo Rossi as Hernan 'Shades' Alvarez; Alfre Woodard as Mariah Dillard; Jaiden Kaine as Zip; Rosario Dawson as Claire Temple; Ron Cephas Jones as Bobby Fish; Erik LaRay Harvey as Willis 'Diamondback' Stryker; Karen Pittman as Inspector Priscilla Ridley; Mahershala Ali as Cornell 'Cottonmouth' Stokes; Mustafa Shakir as John 'Bushmaster' McIver; Gabrielle Dennis as Tilda Johnson; Kevin Mambo as Sheldon Shaw; Peter Jay Fernandez as Captain Tom Ridenhour

Director

Distributor

Network

Netflix

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

Released

On Video

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Paul Asay

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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