Years: 2016 — 2018
Synopsis: After being subject to a super-soldier experiment while in prison for a crime he did not commit, almost invincible Luke Cage finds himself protecting the streets of Harlem, NY.
• Well casted and well written.
• Luke Cage is the most charismatic of the MCU Defenders on Netflix.
• The writing tends to be self aware and subtly humble.
• Even the second season finds its footing with some ease.
• Like other Defenders series, the show can feel a bit small scale next to the rest of the MCU.
• Though less of an issue than the other MCU series (film and TV), the second season is a touch weaker than the first.
• The second season runs more slowly, especially before it finds its narrative footing.
Even though the overall quality of the MCU offerings is relatively consistent, there has always been an issue with second outings. They always seem a bit weaker, as if they were just gliding on the success of the first. Agent Carter (2015-2016) did not even survive this apparent curse, being canceled after its weaker second season, and it looks like Inhumans (2017) was spared on this by being canceled right away by ABC. Luke Cage makes this second outing issue prevalent, because of how well the show handled the situation. Its second outing is easily the best of all the MCU second offerings, while still weaker than its first. That may be all on Marvel for always gliding past the problem, correctly assuming, with noted exceptions, that issues were largely worked out by the third outings.
Regardless, Luke Cage may simply be the most fun and accessible of the MCU Defenders. Cage himself is very different from his neighboring compatriots, even though he is in the same harsh world as the rest of them. He is a true superhero amongst antiheroes, and that may make his psychological struggles just that much more complicated. Especially by the second season, it becomes clear how much he internalizes the stresses of being the local hero, and how that further complicates his past and present life. His mask is his Sweet Christmas smile, and just beneath he is often screaming. Sometimes, though, that mask breaks, and he is literally punching holes through walls, driving people away. “With great power, comes great mental instability,” as was observed in Jessica Jones (2015-present) season 2. Luke Cage wants to be a true hero in a world far less black and white than might first seem.
9/26/2018 Update: At least on Netflix, the show has been canceled. Iron Fist was canceled as well, suggesting a probable push toward Disney’s own upcoming streaming service. Regardless, they may be a variety of factors in a show’s cancellation from viewership to unhappy producers. There is a good chance we still have not seen that last of the Power Man, Misty Knight, and others: It’s All Connected …
Marvel Cinematic Universe
Rotten Tomatoes —
S1 – 94%
S2 – 84%