**This review is entirely spoiler-free and encompasses all thirteen episodes of season 2 given to critics by Netflix**
Harlem’s bulletproof hero is back. Luke Cage is on the streets putting out all of the fires he can—even if they continue to smolder. As season 2 unfolds, it becomes clear that Mike Colter has really grown into the role well. Not that he was lackluster in his earlier appearances, but here I feel like he has really clicked in the role. He is Luke Cage—and there’s no doubt about it. Luke is a very popular man now, and unlike Jessica, he embraces the spotlight. He’s the hero of Harlem. Little does he know that being their hero comes with some downsides, and his handling of that pressure and attention is at the core of the season’s storyline.
Many viewers may be hesitant about this second season. I mean after all, the first season dropped the ball hard after prematurely killing Cottonmouth and then replacing him with an extremely subpar and uninteresting threat—leading to a downhill second half. I can safely say that nothing like that happens this time around. Luke Cage’s sophomore run stays strong throughout its entirety. In fact, the momentum and drive is quite impressive, and the show goes to some truly unpredictable and cool places. I can honestly say that out of all of the Netflix Marvel shows, Luke Cage’s second season makes some of the boldest and interesting moves to date—especially when it comes to its finale.
One of the issues I had with the first season of Luke Cage (and Jessica Jones by extension), was that the show never really knew how to handle the fight sequences of their super-powered protagonists. Things always looked a little sloppy, and not very well crafted. That’s one of the biggest changes this season. While it’s hard to say that it approaches the signature quality of Daredevil, the fight sequences and choreography this season are leaps and bounds better than what has come before. From just your basic brawl with some thugs, to a big one-on-one brawl with the main antagonist, Bushmaster, these action sequences are a blast to watch. Better yet, there is quite the selection of highly entertaining satisfying beat downs throughout the season’s run.
Another cool thing about this season is how it deals with the larger world. During Jessica Jones’ second season, there was zero effort in making any connective tissues with events that had come before it. The Defenders felt like it may as well not have happened. However, with Luke’s second season, the writers made sure to correct this. The events of Defenders (and other shows before it) actually have had a great impact on the characters and world of Luke Cage. Those events mattered, and they give meaning to not only things that happen throughout the season, but also the emotional landscape of our characters. But don’t go expecting big tie-ins with the current state of the movie side of things. When it comes to that, their detachment remains the same—but not to a point that detracts from the show.
Now you must be wondering about this season’s villain. I’m glad to say that he is fantastic. Mustafa Shakir portrays the villain Bushmaster—and he brings with him an incredible presence, as well as a formidable physical threat for Luke Cage. It’s hard to go up against Mahershala Ali’s gravitas as Cottonmouth, but Mustaka Shakir holds his own as he wages his war. Now I can’t go into details about his motivations or backstory, but the show does an impressive job at fleshing him out. Bushmaster is an extremely intriguing and unique villain, and can easily be held on the same pedestal with the likes Kilgrave or Kingpin.
We also have the returning villains in the form of Alfre Woodard’s Mariah Dillard and Theo Rossi’s Shades. I really wish I could spill the beans on everything, because these two both have compelling and fantastic journeys this season. Even with Bushmaster in play as the lead villain, Mariah and Shades still get plenty of time for some powerful storytelling for the both of them—in fact, both could still be considered leads on the same level as Bushmaster. The show never forgets the events that led these characters to where they are, and they embrace them and their consequences, and they forge the path that the two characters find themselves on.
When it comes to our returning friendly faces, Simone Missick and Rosario Dawson are back as Misty Knight and Claire Temple, respectively. Both have a lot to deal with after the events of The Defenders, and that trauma is at the core of their emotional journeys this season. When it comes to Misty, this season holds a really great arc for her as she figures out how best to dish out justice. Is it with the police force or with Luke’s way of doing things? The show does a great job at not forgetting her partnership with Scarfe and his corruption, something that plays into her storyline quite often. Misty’s working relationship with Luke also gets plenty of time to develop, and with it we are given some great scenes of the two in action. Speaking of relationships, Claire and Luke are still going strong. But after the trauma of The Defenders and Luke’s struggles this season, the two start to have a bumpy road to navigate.
The two other fresh faces to the show are Gabrielle Dennis as Tilda, and Reg E. Cathey as Luke’s Father. Tilda’s journey this season is a very surprising and unpredictable one. She plays a very important role in the proceedings, and Gabrielle Dennis gives an excellent performance—especially in one particular scene that I wish I could detail (you will immediately know when you watch it). As for Luke’s father, he plays a small but important role in the season as he tries to reconnect with his son.
Luke Cage’s second season is an incredible run and easily tops the first season—and places it with some of Marvel’s best work. We get a fantastic complex villain in Bushmaster; the pacing and momentum are strong the whole way through; nearly all of the characters get powerful and meaningful journeys; and Luke Cage himself makes a name for himself. Let’s hope that Marvel can keep up this quality with the next installments of both Iron Fist and Daredevil just around the corner.
Are you guys excited for Luke’s sophomore season? You should be. Leave your comments down below with your expectations, predictions, or overall thoughts on what may be coming! Also make sure to catch up on season one before the second season airs June 22nd, only on Netflix.
- R.I.P. Reg E. Cathey
- Yes, we get some Danny Rand and Luke Cage team-up action. Yes, Danny is much improved.
- The idea for Heroes For Hire is not only teased constantly throughout the season, but also plays into the theme. Hopefully we’ll get that spinoff show at some point!
- If season one scared you off, please don’t let that sway you from giving the second season a shot.
- If you thought Luke Cage didn’t say “Sweet Christmas” enough last season, you are going to be pleasantly surprised.