Disclaimer: This review contains some spoilers for this season and previous episodes of Luke Cage

Season two of Luke Cage is the most perplexed that we have seen from  Luke in any prior Marvel show. Meaning: This season had some strong  emotional depth and personal stakes. The writing is tight, the acting  outstanding, and the themes that are present are heartbreaking. It’s  certainly different from the first season, but how does it stand out? Is  it great? Well, it is both good and bad. With any major property or  franchise, there are some good and bad elements. Some of this season’s  problems are conflicting to say the least.

Great, sentimental story along with stellar acting

This season starts out with a fairly predictable plot with Luke  wanting to stop the distribution of drugs in Harlem with his name  attached before any more citizens get affected. He also has deal with  his newfound celebrity status as the “bulletproof defender” of Harlem  while Mariah Dillard, a villain from the previous season, is planning on  expanding her criminal empire by selling her gun business in order to  regain her image as a legitimate business woman and political figure.

This setup provides the tone throughout the rest of the season. It’s  more about Luke reconnecting with the people he had to leave behind from  his past, like his father, and coming to terms to how he wants to be  perceived as a hero while facing some new threats. That is what this  season succeeds on. I think that this season did a much better job on  elevating the character of Luke than any of the other Defenders in their  respective second seasons. The acting and writing are both real and  shocking. The scene where Mariah reveals to her daughter Tilda about how  she was born into the family is both heartbreaking and horrifying to  learn.

Image from Den of Geek

One of the episodes that stands out is episode ten: “The Main  Ingredient”. This was the episode where we get to see Finn Jones reprise  his role as Danny Rand aka Iron Fist. While he only appears in this one  episode, it is so exciting to see Luke and Danny team up for the first  time that harkens back to their partnership in the comics. It works  especially well for the story, as it shows how taking out crime in  Harlem can clash with Luke’s emotions. It is such a good episode because  we also get to see the development of Danny becoming a confident person  after the disappointing first season of Iron Fist. It is nice  to see some crossover with the Defenders like Danny, but it is also  disappointing that he only appeared in one episode.

Bad pacing and some misuse of certain characters

There are only two main complaints for this season. One of them is  the pacing of the show itself that has already plagued some of the prior  Marvel Netflix shows. While it sets up an intriguing story over how  Luke is trying to deal with his newfound celebrity image, it gets bogged  down by the business dealings that take place in the first few episodes  of the season. While the secondary story of the dealings isn’t bad by  any means, it just doesn’t provide a clear central villain that viewers  can enjoy.

Bushmaster could be considered to be the main villain, but he is  really only a minor threat that Luke has to deal with since Mariah is  technically the main antagonist. Bushmaster’s motivations only lie in  wanting revenge towards Mariah for personal reasons, and it could have  been more interesting if this season provided some balance between both  villains. Which is unfortunate considering that Mariah provides some  emotional depth and ferocity that the show expertly uses in this season.  Truth be told, the show gets more exciting and interesting once the  action and certain revelations take place.

Image from Junkee

The second main point of criticism that I have comes from the misuse  of certain characters in this season. Some characters do get some  development, like Misty Knight getting her robotic arm after she loses  it from the events of The Defenders, and Tilda, who starts to  become her own person and not follow her mother’s footsteps due to the  tragic revelations about her family.

One character that felt mishandled was Shades, who questioned his  motivations in wanting to work with Mariah, even though they were in a  relationship. The relationship between Shades and Mariah felt forced, as  if it was a central plot device for Shades’ character. It is surprising  to see considering how he became more of a mentor figure for Mariah  after she managed to kill off Cottonmouth in the previous season. It was  interesting to see Shades feeling some empathy for his actions because  of his criminal background, but it is disappointing not see his  character change due to ingrained understandings of what it means to be a  gang member in Harlem. This felt like a wasted opportunity to redeem  the character of Shades.

Strong comic and pop culture references

Like any Marvel show and film, this season is filled to the brim with  Easter eggs. References to Power Man, Daredevil, and Nightshade are all  present in this season. They even included more references to 90’s  hip-hop and African-American culture.  There were surprisingly more  references to Iron Fist. “The barefoot billionaire,” “Rand  Enterprises,” and a t-shirt with the words “Power Man and Iron Fist”  were just a few examples. It feels correct that they cover these, as in  the comics Luke and Danny Rand were part of a team that did  investigations and provided protection services.

Image from Elite Daily

Most of Tilda’s arc throughout the season was about moving on from  her past while still claiming her birthright. There were many winks and  nods towards Tilda’s comic book counterpart as the supervillain  Nightshade. Throughout the season we get to see Tilda utilizing her  holistic abilities to help Bushmaster gain increased strength and to  heal his wounds with a plant that has the same name. This was a wise  decision for the writers to go into for the show without having to make  Nightshade become too cheesy or campy for the viewers.

Other references that were interesting relate to pop culture movies  and tv shows like “Goodfellas” and “Game of Thrones”. There was even one  entertaining line that was pretty funny when Claire Temple was talking  with Luke’s father James discussing the the confusing plot hole from the  movie “Titanic” where Rose could have moved over for Jack to sit on the  door when they were stranded in the ocean. I’m guessing that both  Claire and Luke’s father are film buffs.    

Featured Image from YouTube

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