By Laramie Martinez
Like its predecessor, episode two of Luke Cage moves at a slower pace. The simmering tensions between characters come to a head by the end of it. In a lot of ways, this episode coupled with episode one serve as the origin of Luke Cage as a hero. And while dramatic, the big bang at the end of this episode isn't the most surprising thing about the series' second showing. No, the most surprising thing turns out to be a little piece of character insight in the form of what I call the, "Pull the trigger" speech. To find out what that is and what I think of the show after the first two episodes check out my review below.
I'm going to start by mentioning a few actresses who got the snub in my last review, Simone Missick, and Alfre Woodard. Much like Luke Cage, I was unfamiliar with the characters as they were/are portrayed in the comics, I only know them as they are portrayed in these past two episodes. While both give excellent performances, Missick's performance, in my opinion, saves Detective Misty Stone's character. Considering that most of her lines and screen time in these past two episodes have been dedicated to flirting with Luke, delivering gritty detective banter, and showing up the neighborhood basketball players, she could have easily been the cheesiest character in the show. But Missick brings enough confidence and humor to the role to make the character believable. As for Woodard, she plays her character well (she plays Mariah Dillard, the cousin of Cottonmouth and councilwoman for the district). But her performance is hindered by her character's lack of an objective. With regard to her character's motivations, I'm not sure where to place her yet. She is definitely on the antagonist side of the spectrum, but after watching this episode, she seems as if she is trying to convince her cousin to get out of the game. I'm not sure if this concern for her family is genuine or self-preserving, but either way, this episode does a lot to round out her character.
As for the pacing, this episode is all about the big finish. I don't want to say too much because I'm trying to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible. I will say that the major plot point in this episode probably won't come as a shock to most of you, it didn't for me. Not to say that it was a bad choice, it was just predictable. But the real revelation, as I mentioned earlier, actually comes in the form of a speech given by Cage to a would-be assailant. The moment starts off a little rocky as if we're about to see a new patriotic side of Luke. But then it turns around and becomes the moment when shit gets real! And I really mean what I say when I use the word "real." In most shows or movies, we'll often see a character get angry, for some characters that's almost their entire identity, but what we don't see is the pain. The pain that lies at the root of the anger. I think this is one of the things that makes this interpretation of Luke Cage great. From the first moment he stepped onto the screen, we've known Luke has been in pain. In Jessica Jones we learn about the loss of his wife, in these first two episodes, we learn that he was wrongfully imprisoned. And while we as the audience have been witness to this via his body language and general temperament, we haven't, until this point, seen that pain take center stage. For a show to bring in that anger, that despair, and that weariness all in one speech is a bold and impressive choice.
Luke Cage E.02 - "Code of the Streets"
Director: Paul McGuigan