Okay. Here we go. Spoilers for the second half of the first season of Luke Cage abound…
That lasted long. Cottonmouth is back out before the opening credits in episode seven and now he’s motivated to clear Cage out of Harlem. They agree to meet and discuss things.
Meanwhile Dillard is in hot water with the media about the goings on of her cousin and the money used to fund her initiatives. Also, is Harlemites a word?
Cottonmouth knows Cage’s background and tells him to fall in line. Naturally he doesn’t want to do that and doesn’t want to go back to prison either so he gets ready to run but Temple talks sense into him because she’s brilliant like that.
The episode also features a lot of flashbacks with Cottonmouth and Mama Mabel showing how both he and Dillard got to be the way they are. When Dillard shows up at the club unannounced to argue, tensions rise when discussing the hardships of their childhoods. She makes vague accusations about sexual assault from their “Uncle Pete” and when he accuses her of “wanting it” she reacts violently and ends up killing Cottonmouth.
The episode ends with one of the Cottonmouth’s men shooting Cage in the stomach with alien technology.
Episode eight opens with the bullet still lodged in Cage’s gut. He and Temple are in the back of a borrowed ambulance which explodes with the ammunition.
Dillard and Shades (Theo Rossi) conspire to frame Cage for the murder of Cottonmouth so while Temple is taking care of Cage’s injuries, Dillard is doing her level best to sway the media.
She spends time making nice at the police station, but when confronted by Knight she decides its time to call in a lawyer for further police discussions. I want Annalise Keating to be Dillard’s lawyer. I can’t be alone in that can I?
Knight tracks down Cage by tracking his phone and gets there in time for a confrontation with Diamondback, who had been pulling Cottonmouth’s strings all along via Shades.
Diamondback gets the jump on Knight and takes her gun before getting away and Cage gives chase. In interrogation at the station, Knight confronts Temple about Cage and ends up assaulting her.She is pulled from the case.
As it turns out Cage and Diamondback are brothers and the episode ends with Cage being shot a second time by the alien tech and falling into the back of a garbage truck as it drives away.
Nine opens with Knight being questioned as to her motives in joining the force and Cage on the run from the law, now with two gunshot wounds. Diamondback uses Shades to manipulate Dillard.
Cage gets caught and escapes the police. He and Temple decide it might be time to look into the science of why he’s so indestructible while Dillard plans to use the leaked escape footage to drum up support for herself.
Knight spends her time being questioned reflecting on her own mortality while Cage and Temple find the doctor from Seagate responsible for Cage’s condition.
Dillard declares her family “out” of the street game in hopes of making her name more legitimate but Diamondback tells her not so fast.
Dr. Burstein basically tells Cage that the only way to get the shrapnel out is to deep fry him so he and Temple try that but it doesn’t seem to work and the episode ends with Cage flat lining in a vat of boiling acid.
He might be down but he’s not out. Ten opens with Temple throwing electronics in the vat to shock Cage back to life and guess what? It works. “Sometimes you have to throw science out the window and stick with what you know,” she explains. She and Burstein figure out that his skin needs to be warmed to be penetrable.
Diamondback presents to Dillard his plan to mass produce the alien tech used to injury Cage. He tells her to sell the idea of being armed with it to the police and she tells him she’s going to need time. According to him, she’s out of time.
Diamondback pretends to be Cage and attacks a cop to give him a bad rap and make the public turn on him. Knight is not convinced Cage is at fault and tries to do facial recognition on the hooded man.
Once the shrapnel is out, Cage heals quickly. “Like changing a Christmas light bulb,” the doctor says. And as soon as they are alone, he and Temple start to go through his late wife Reva’s research from Seagate.
Knight gets a match on the facial recognition to one Willis “Diamondback” Stryker but before she can move on it there is a ruckus at the station. Meanwhile Cage is confronted with some unsettling truths about Reva and destroys Burstein’s lab.
Temple and Cage have a quiet moment before heading to Georgia and she vows to have his back always because she isn’t one to run from a fight. Burstein searches through the wreckage of his lab to find his laptop and the flash drive with Reva’s research.
When questioning a boy about the whereabouts of Cage, one police officer assaults and injures him and once Dillard catches wind she is quick to use it as another way to turn people against Cage and others with abilities, including a vague reference to Jessica Jones
During the rally, Diamondback shoots Knight, again making it appear that Cage is at fault and when Cage moves in to protect her a shootout follows.
Early in eleven, Shades delivers the best joke of the series thus far. A play on Diamondback’s name and a certain ’80s catchphrase. You’ll see.
Temple is held hostage with the other people inside left over from the rally and finds out that the “eyewitness” to Cage murder of Cottonmouth wasn’t actually there at all. While the on site police try to negotiate with those inside, Dillard is in a closed door meeting with the Mayor to sell the idea of high power ammunition for police use.
Diamondback and Shades start letting hostages go and realize that their cover might be blown by Temple. Trying to draw Cage out of hiding, Diamondback threatens to kill a hostage every ten minutes. He holds true to this by killing a councilman that he had just spent time doing his requisite villain monologue to about how he was the forgotten son that his father didn’t love.
Shades goes into the depths of the building to look for Cage and stumbles upon Temple and Knight, who then fight him and knock him out, handcuffing him to a pipe once he is unconscious.
The police move in on the club and free the hostages, taking Cage into custody while Diamondback escapes out the back door. True justice is served as the episode draws to a close with Temple crushing Shades’… shades with her boot when they fall out of his pocket while he is led away by police.
After their time together during the hostage situation, Knight seems to be convinced in Cage’s innocence because the penultimate episode begins with her warning her as to what he’s up against under the guise of reading him the riot act.
He uses the warning and makes a break for it during the ride back to the precinct. An older cop catches and confronts him. He’s a patron of Pop’s and is pulling for Cage so he lets him go.
Knight wants a turn with Shades in interrogation. Dillard is trying to cope with Diamondback destroying both her family and its legacy.
And this episode wins. It is the best episode and it cannot possibly be topped. That is completely because as Cage is on the run he stops a robbery in progress and runs into METHOD freaking MAN at the store being robbed. They even exchange hoodies because Cage’s ends up Swiss cheesed after the attempted burglars try shooting him. The end.
Dillard’s “witness” to Cottonmouth’s murder comes clean to Knight about Dillard and Shades setting Cage up. She promises testimony in exchange for protection.
And then Method Man is on the radio with Sway and he raps about how the streets have Cage’s back. “Bulletproof Love.”
Shades is in custody but isn’t talking, only demanding a lawyer and when he is sprung, it isn’t long before the cronies try to take him down, on Diamondback’s orders. Things don’t go as planned and Shades ends up being the only one to walk away.
Cage goes to confront Diamondback and ends up finding one of the other street bosses, Domingo in his warehouse. Cage moves him outside as the building explodes but its too little too late and he leaves the body for Knight to handle.
Twelve ends with Shades and Dillard turning up at Pop’s to declare parley with Cage. Knight walks in to bust Dillard but alas, it’s not meant to be. Diamondback tosses a grenade inside the shop and in the aftermath Dillard and Shades get away with Knight giving chase while Cage confronts Diamondback.
The finale takes a look at the dynamic of Cage and Diamondback as they grew up first with a full fledged flashback and later with cuts of them boxing as teens interspersed with their present day fight in the street in Harlem.
Cage wins the fight and while cops are making sense of the situation Knight arrests Dillard for the murder of Cottonmouth. He then submits to questioning at the police station to connect the dots on what’s been going in the neighborhood. He explains that its been Diamondback impersonating him and why he took up the “burden” of being a vigilante.
While everyone else is busy, Shades uses Knight’s phone, which he found at the barber shop, to set up a meet with Candace, the eyewitness, and then he shoots her in the head. Dillard is able to walk out of the police station and Knight is reprimanded for her behavior.
Temple and Cage have a cheesy flirty moment over Chinese food before he walks toward the front of the station and is confronted by Feds arresting him for escaping from Seagate. Before he’s taken away, Temple comes out into the hallway and kisses him before promising to get in touch with a “great lawyer” she knows to help him.
The finale ends with a montage showing each of the character’s moving forward. Cage is en route back to Georgia, Temple decides to take up a self defense class and Dillard is running Harlem’s Paradise with Shades as her right hand man. Bobby Fishman, a friend of the late Pop and supporting character/comedic relief is the most interesting storyline as the episode draws to a close. He finds the file folder containing evidence that would help prove Cage’s innocence in Georgia.
Overall, I liked the show a lot. It was intense and serious but still had snarky and funny moments. It is very different from the other Marvel offerings on Netflix but I don’t think that’s a bad thing by any means. I would be interested in more of a backstory for both Shades and Knight. While the cast as a whole was standout, recognition should be given to Alfre Woodward for her work as Dillard as well as Mike Colter as Cage. While I wouldn’t consider either character my favorite (that’s Temple) I don’t think the show would be nearly as good if those two weren’t so on point.
I’m curious to see which characters will be featured in The Defenders and how they will all link up because it seems that Cage and Daredevil‘s Matt Murdock are pretty set on only keeping tabs on their respective neighborhoods.