Five Thoughts About Netflix’s Luke Cage From Someone Who Never Heard Of Luke Cage Until Netflix
Like many others, I’ve been watching Luke Cage on Netflix. Unlike many others, I’ve never read a comic book before in my life. (My idea of fun reading as a kid was The Godfather, USA Today, and Basketball Digest. Which, well…which actually explains a lot.) So I’d never heard of Luke Cage until a few months ago when people were like “There’s gonna be a superhero series on Netflix about this Black dude named Luke Cage.” And I was like “Who?” And they were like “Luke Cage, nigga!” And I was like “Cool. But I aint your nigga, nigga.”
Anyway, I haven’t finished the season yet — I’m like seven episodes in — but here are my (relatively spoiler-free) thoughts so far.
1. The primary story arc revolves around something that happens to “Pop” — a beloved Harlem barber played by Frankie Faison. Pop’s barbershop is where much of the action takes place. And as a Black barbershop connoisseur, I have to say that much of what’s seen at Pop’s shop rings true. The arguments about sports, the chess playing cats who seem to have literally nothing else to do all day long, the video games, the fact that it sits like eight feet below street level — all accurate.
There’s just one problem: Pop is a terrible barber. Like literally the worst barber I’ve ever seen. He’s such a bad barber that you’d look in the mirror after the cut and be tempted to fight him. And then you’d realize he’s a 70-year-old man and you have nothing to gain by fighting a 70-year-old man. So you’d just leave the shop so angry that you’d rob someone. Pop’s shop might be Amsterdam on the show, but his haircuts are probably the cause behind 30% of the crime in Harlem.
2. The best part of the show so far is “Cottonmouth.” Mahershala Ali brings such an intensity and charismatic menace to that role that every scene he’s in is electric. Unfortunately, he’s the main antagonist of the worst part of the show: Mike Colter’s charisma-less “Luke Cage.” Now, I know Luke Cage is supposed to be this sullen, principled, and reluctant vigilante, so I don’t expect him to emote the same way the other characters do. But Colter so far is disappointingly wooden. He’s basically a Dick’s Sporting Goods mannequin with sentience and a library card.
3. That said, as staunchly pro-nigga use and usage as I am, I don’t have a problem with Cage’s frequent diatribes against that word. It fits him, actually. He’s not a superhero in the snarky, dark, asshole way like Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne are. He’s more like Captain America and Superman. And a Black Captain America would totally, definitely have an issue with you calling him your nigga. And then he’d make you watch Hidden Colors.
4. I had a bit of a VSB nerd moment when the name of Simone Missick’s “Misty Knight” was first revealed. Because I first heard of Misty Knight on VSB. It was Danielle Butler’s (@Daniecal) first screen name here. And when her name was revealed, I said “Oh shit! She’s a superhero too!” to the person watching the show with me — my 10-month-old daughter — who looked at me, squinted, and then tried to eat the remote again.
Also, when watching actors play basketball on screen, you can immediately tell whether they can actually hoop or not. Shit, you can tell just by the way they catch and hold the ball. (This is actually my only grip about Queen Sugar. Timon Kyle Durrett’s “Davis West” is supposed to be this Lebron-level NBA star. And he’s terrible. He hoops like a Kappa going fishing.)
Anyway, Simone Missick definitely can hoop. And that makes me happy.
5. Luke Cage isn’t perfect. The depiction of present-day Harlem as present-day Fallujah is a bit much. As is the understandable but still slightly annoying strain of respectability infused it in. And, as invincible as Luke Cage seems to be, you wonder why he doesn’t just stroll into Cottonmouth’s club and choke the shit out of him.
But it is entertaining and definitely worth watching. I care about what happens to the characters, it already has the G.O.A.T. music for a TV show (seriously), it features practically zero White people and a bunch of bad-ass and kick-ass women of color, and it even stars VSB’s own Jozen Cummings as “Shades.” I’m a fan.