And we’re back! Phase Two, as I like to call it, began with Jessica Jones season 2 and the second season of Luke Cage followed. Around this time, we had the announcement that Disney was going to be launching their own streaming service which would include Marvel properties. With the next few seasons premiering within months of each other, the writing should have been on the wall for many fans but we were young and naïve and didn’t realize that the contract between Marvel and Netflix wasn’t renewed. Whaddaya gonna do? Anyway, Luke Cage season 2 was highly anticipated with many fans hoping it would maintain all the good qualities of the first season while fixing the issues that season had as well. So did they succeed? Let’s find out and, once again, there will be spoilers.
Not as bad as the last half of Season One…
As you might remember from my previous blog or, y’know, from watching the show, the first season of Luke Cage was amazing and somehow the second half was utter crap with bad pacing, out of character moments, weird plot twists, and a villain that just didn’t fit. Thankfully, this season never sank to that level.
The cast was still great and the plot was put together very well. This season picked up from where The Defenders left off as Misty Knight dealt with the loss of her arm. Meanwhile, Mariah and Shades set up shop in Harlem’s Paradise, which was a great setup for a little backstory. The show delved into the history of the Stokes family, showing that they had some bad blood with the Jamaican residents of Harlem. I liked exploring their past and it added a lot of new elements to Mariah’s character, particularly when it came to her daughter and her past trauma. The relationship between Shades and Mariah also got interesting as one could never tell if there was real attraction or they were using each other. Speaking of Shades, his old partner Comanche had a larger role this season which led to an interesting subplot with the two of them being lovers in prison; Comanche was willing to continue the relationship while Shades viewed it as something that only existed in prison, which was interesting.
This season also introduced some new villains: Tilda Johnson and Bushmaster. Tilda was Mariah’s daughter and like Mariah last season, she started off wanting nothing to do with the family business but eventually got roped in anyway. As for Bushmaster, he was a member of the Jamaican family that the Stokes screwed over. Unlike Diamondback in season 1, it made sense when he took over Harlem’s Paradise as he had a claim to the ownership of the club. It was also good that he had super strength, so he could go a few rounds with Luke Cage, resulting in the best fight scenes in the series.
Additionally, both Iron Fist and Colleen Wing stopped by for guest spots. In the Colleen episode, she helped Misty deal with her new robotic arm and, of course, they beat up a bar full of goons (including the MCU version of Mr. Fish for the eagle-eyed fans). As for Danny Rand, he was really fun and bounced off Luke Cage really well, which made me wish the two shows had the same show runner or perhaps premiered in the same series. Like the Defenders, they had great chemistry and the writers for this show elevated that to new levels. Danny and Luke also had a great fight scene together which once again proved that Finn Jones made for a decent action hero with some effort. Oh, and the soundtrack was still great.
Unfortunately, this season was also the last time we saw Rosario Dawson as Claire Temple. Dawson more or less retired from the franchise, only agreeing to come back to do this season. Because of this, Luke and Claire broke up in a really gut wrenching scene. I ship Luke and Jessica Jones, but it was still pretty rough, particularly due to Luke losing his temper, which prompted her to leave. That’s another thing that was good about this season: Luke began realizing his methods weren’t working and the frustration grew until he reached an interesting place, but we’ll get to that later.
… but this season was not as good as the first half of season one.
As you’ve probably expected by now, the Netflix Problem was present. It wasn’t as bad as the previous season, mostly due to plenty of villains and subplots to keep Luke busy, but it was there. The worst example would be the episode where Shades was interrogated by Misty. For about half the episode, Shades confessed to everything he’d done throughout the entire series, including stuff that happened in the previous episode (this might’ve been okay for a weekly show but this thing was on a streaming site FFS). What could have been a fascinating sequence ended up being used to stretch the episode into an hour with an unnecessary recap of both seasons. There were a few more offenders, of course. One episode had all the characters cooped up in a Rand building all night (it had a lot of good character moments but it needed to be trimmed down as I really didn’t need to see Mariah flirting with Luke’s dad) and another episode dealing Mariah’s trial/introduction into prison life (we saw this done better in Daredevil when Fisk went to prison).
The only other minor issue was Tilda Johnson wanting to take over Harlem’s Paradise at the end. Her rocky relationship with her mother ended with her killing Mariah in prison and while I thought this would have been a good set up for her turn as a villain, I didn’t feel like the Paradise would mean that much to her this early in the game. Then again, everyone on this show took over Harlem’s Paradise at one point or another, so she might as well. This brings me to my last point.
This season ended with Mariah dying and bequeathing Harlem’s Paradise to Luke. It was an interesting act of revenge as she knew Luke was sliding down a slippery slope and he would try to use the Paradise for good, only to be corrupted later. The final scenes of the season showed he was likely going to go down the wrong path, making her plan complete from beyond the grave. Meanwhile, Misty was plotting to stop him if he went too far and Tilda was out for revenge, likely setting her up as the main villain for the next season. It was a great cliffhanger for a third season that never came as the show was cancelled soon after, along with all the other Marvel shows on Netflix.
The season never quite reached the highs of season one but thankfully, it never reached the lows, either. It was a solid, entertaining season with a great lead-up to future storylines. I’m still pretty disappointed that Netflix and Marvel couldn’t work things out at least long enough to resolve some of these plot threads. It’s possible that Luke might return to the MCU like Daredevil and Kingpin, so that’s a good sign. Iron Fist’s second season is next.