Mild Spoilers ahead
The first episode is a slow start. For those who watched the first season of Jessica Jones, there is already some details and knowledge of the Luke Cage character. Mostly in terms of his powers and his desire to stay under the radar. He is not interested in playing hero. It was after the events of Jessica Jones season 1 that Luke left for Harlem. Now he works in Pop’s Barber shop. He sweeps, washes towels, and makes sure the windows are spotless.
That is exactly where the episode picks up. The conversation in the barber shop focused on Basketball. It goes on for several minutes before Luke even speaks up to his opinion. We see a private conversation between Luke and Pops, giving a view that they have a close bond as he is aware of Luke’s abilities. Pops recounts some Luke’s experience from the end of Jessica Jones. And if you are wondering, it isn’t necessary to have watched Jessica Jones but it might help.
“The only direction that matters is forward. Never backwards.” – Pops
He tells those words to Luke in trying to do something with his ‘gifts’. But Luke is adamant that they’re more a curse than a blessing. He gives some knowledge into the history of how he got them in small statements. Being that he was framed, beaten, and then “put in some tank, like an exotic fish”. Now as a fugitive he continues to stay under the radar and works only for cash at two jobs, the one with Pops and the other at Harlem Paradise.
Later in the episode we are introduced to Mr. Stokes. He is also referred to as Cottonmouth, but this is something he views as an insult. He is the owner of the Harlem Paradise club, but that isn’t all he does. We learn he is the cousin of the Councilwoman, who is looking for re-election. He is currently working on a weapons deal. And the weapons he’s selling are from Hammer Industries, which is memorable from the Iron Man 2 film. While they discuss the deal with Mr. Stokes new partner, the exchange runs into some hiccups.
The deals interruption leads to the introduction of Shades, who is there to help fix the problem. He is the representative of Diamondback, the provider of the weapons Stokes is selling. The problem lies with money that is missing. The goal being to find who has the money and where they are.
It seems hard to say much about the episode as a lot of the more solid points of action and interest were all things that were shown in some of the upcoming trailers. The image of Stokes giving the speech in front of the Biggie Smalls picture. Or the fight Luke has in the Chinese restaurant. Where the slow motion impact as the guy breaks his hand when attempting to clock Luke. Or Luke getting shot in the hand with bullet and powder in his palm.
The episode really goes just to set up and introduce the new characters. And my impression was it did not give a consistent image of Luke. As he gets hits on once and is not very interested, and gives Reva as a reason. But later flirts with another woman that he does sleep with. And while I won’t despair Reva as not being significant to Luke, but in terms of his intimate relationships she comes off more as an excuse than reason.
As to what has been set up. It is sort of hard to really determine how good it could be. But this isn’t the first of the Marvel Netlfix series to have a slow start. With the character and conflicts in place it is more of a matter of how they pick up the pace and get deeper into the stories that they’re telling. I do think they have some interesting conflicts. It works with an organized crime element, similar to Fisk of Daredevil. The difference being that Fisk was in hiding and behind the scenes while Mr. Stokes is very present. There is also a theme and a desire to preserve and showcase the Black Heritage of Harlem.
Just as a message for the reviews of this series. As a Netflix series all the episode for the season post at once. For this reason the next review will be of the finale, and then the season as whole.