The first season of Luke Cage was flawed (a lot of very macho and repetitive fighting) but pretty much worked. The second season builds on the first season, reducing the amount of fighting but making the fights that happen more meaningful, and strengthening the female roles. The second season also works hard to add more intellectual content – and, apart from the odd misfire, succeeds. There are the usual themes of debating the true nature of a hero, of how the children inherit the sins of the father, and so on, but then there are some surprising issues raised, such as the relative social status of different shades of black, of the new nature of the American Dream, and of the superior value of a benevolent dictatorship. There’s even bisexual representation, which is extremely rare (the ‘B’ in LGBTQ is traditionally ignored and treated with suspicion).
Don’t get me wrong, season 2 still has some significant issues. There is far too much navel-gazing (reciting umpteen cliches, platitudes, aphorisms, addages and non-sensical mantras), the contrived ‘row’ between Luke and his girlfriend (all done in mixed metaphor, DIY psychobabble and American pseudo-Christian-speak) will have you groaning and reaching for the fast forward button, the attempt to involve Instagram etc to ‘be down with the kids’ will have you cringing, and the appearance of the Mighty Cheesey Fist completely ruins episode 10 (a tragedy for me, cos I always loved the Iron Fist comics and am still devastated by what they’ve done to him on the small screen).
Yet the Bushmaster baddie (played superbly well by Mustafa Shakir) is a genuine challenge to Luke’s ominipotence and introduces some refreshingly different Jamaican mythos, politics, gang culture and patois. There are great, complex and intriguing female roles – Alfre Woodard as the Queen of gangsters is chilling and utterly convincing. The soundtrack, with regular appearances of both legendary and upcoming black musical artists, is banging. And this season actually succeeds in doing something ‘new’ (where the second season of Jessica Jones tried but failed), something new within the wider superhero genre, not just within the Marvel tv and film world. The second season of Luke Cage had an unpredictable ending which actually made me reflect back on all the other episodes and ‘see’ things differently. What Luke represents at the end of the season does break the mould. I genuinely look forward to the third season – if it can build on season 2 (in the way season 2 has built on season 1) then we should be in for something very special.
There are some duff episodes along the way (episodes 2 and 3 spring to mind), but they are worth getting thru. The RumPunch Massacre is truly something shocking. Watch for it. And I wanna try drinking Bushmaster rum!