LUKE CAGE [Season 2 Review]: Shook Ones (Part II).

“Monsignor” Travis Moody

The Soul Brother #1 is here once again: Luke Cage ready to take back Harlem (with an iron fist/Iron Fist) and Straighten It Out. While fans who cherished the first season won’t Wig Out, pundits have recently taken to social media to point out Season 2’s pacing issues (yeah, it’s there), a skew of Jafakian accents (I mean, sure), and any other random cries that don’t really mean all that much to me. I Get Physical just thinking about those whom this Marvel Netflix series is not intended for, which I guess makes me All Souled Out on the series no matter its miscues…

From The Basement of they mama crib, nerds will go On and On about their so-called nerd expertise, not having lived — or at least cherished — the golden age of hip-hop music and culture, circa late-80s (Native Tongues) to the mid-90s (Wu-Tang, Notorious B.I.G.). Not sure what these geeks are expecting, but If It Ain’t Rough, It Ain’t Right. Luke Cage’s second chapter adds even more grit to the Harlem streets, a borough not eschewed from double-crossed gang violence, political manipulation, and a self-proposed rise to power that has absoltely no loyalty, For Pete’s Sake!

With Luke Cage (Mike Colter) now front and center on the streets and social media as Harlem’s chosen savior, the bulletproof Defender finds himself with a weighty problem on his hands that stretches out more than the innercity struggle: how do we get that Daughters of the Dragon spin-off greenlit, like, ASAP?

Call me Shabba again, we’ll see what happens to you, boi.

Ha. The Main Ingredient here in Season 2, though, is Bushmaster (Mustafa Shakir). While he’s no Cottonmouth (hell, who could top an Academy Award winner in Mahershala Ali?), John “Bushmaster” McIver is the type of buckwild arch-villain needed to shake things up in Harlem. While his charismatic presence is a welcome one (Shakir steals many if not all the scenes he’s in), his origin story, shown in a series of flashback sequences throughout the midway point of the season, isn’t exactly an intriguing one. I found it hard to find any sympathy for a control freak who denies the advice of his loving and damn near pleading “brethren”. The dude’s a dick.

But at least this season of Luke Cage does away with the expected mid-season villain transition, a move that nearly tarnished the series’ original entry. All of the villains, from Black Mariah (the tremendous Alfre Woodard) to Shades (the fun yet sorta hokey Theo Rossi) to Bushmaster, interweave their demonstrative egos until the season’s bitter end. Moreover, The Creator Cheo Hodari Coker may have made Harlem itself the main villain; everyone else is the right flava in our ear.

This might actually work.

And the spirit of Harlem’s fall kick the spirit out of Luke Cage too. Throughout its 13 episodes, we see a man slowly tainting his own message, becoming a hypocritical figure that goes against his own grain (hey, he even uses the N-word a pair of times). We see that responsibilty wear him out; and not Claire (Rosario Dawson), nor Misty (Simone Missick, who’s, again, great as Detective Knight; but many of her scenes in the precinct without Luke — or wailing around her cybernetic arm — are a procedural snooze), but the motherfuckin’ Danny Rand (Finn Jones) may be the only guy to keep Luke from going off the straight and narrow. Maybe.

While I wanted to see more Power Man & Iron Fist in action than what we got here (hell, we need Season 3 of either to be that), the payoff is wonderful, and Jones might just redeem himself in his own Season 2 in Kung Lao with the appetizing dish of kung-fu hurt we get here. Together, the two have unbridled chemistry. Jones seems more natural as an actor when paired up with Colter, and the banter between Marvel’s Heroes For Hire is as superb as the fight sequences that improve from both inaugural seasons (hell, the sounds of Wu-Tang Clan backing this dynamic duo doesn’t hurt, either). Crazier, Reddit nerds just might not hate Danny now!

Look, you Can’t Front On Me; I know your love of Season 2 is all gonna depend on your undying love for 90s New York hip-hop (and many times the sweet sounds of hip-hop reggae and the Marley family). While the Marvel show eases up on the over-stylized presentation in comparison to the O.G. series (to which you can read our original review right here), there are a many number  of visual concerts that blend in with the action at hand. Hell, even The Blastmaster KRS-One is ushered off the stage during a huge climactic fight sequence at Harlem’s Paradise.

Joi, Gary Clark Jr., Esperanza Spalding, Ghostface Killah & Adrian Younge, Kingfish, Stephen Marley (perhaps my favorite performance here), Faith Evans & Jadakiss, and Rakim round out series’ tight musical additions, which reminded me a Marvel-Meets-Showtime-At-The-Apollo. It’s that kinda dope that may not mean much to some; but to longtime hip-hop heads, the inclusion of keeping this most important urban artform alive is everything. At least with Luke Cage, They’ll Reminisce Over You, Hip-Hop… They’ll reminisce over you. 4/5 Bibles.

You can watch Marvel’s Luke Cage entire Season 2 now on Netflix.

-Travis Moody

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