Marvel has really created something terrific with their darker version of the Cinematic Universe on Netflix. It has two seasons of Daredevil, along with Jessica Jones. The latest offering of Luke Cage has even more connections to these series, and it will have more with Iron Fist and The Defenders, which will be the official time when all series will end up together.
Luke Cage Recap, Spoilers, and More
As I have mentioned before when writing about Marvel, it is impossible to write about one of these Netflix Marvel series without writing about all of them. Daredevil began as a dark journey into a new type of superhero, and Jessica Jones continued this darker feel. There was only a few characters minor characters tying these shows together, and in spite of them both taking place in Hell's Kitchen, they were very different. While Daredevil had a familiar "superhero by night" feel, Jessica Jones had a very detective film noir appeal.
Luke Cage blended them both, and became its own entity. It had a theme song that felt like it was funk music from the seventies, and set the stage perfectly for this story in modern-day Harlem. Luke Cage had been more than formally introduced on Jessica Jones, but there were some pieces missing about this mysterious man. How did he become so strong and invulnerable? Where did he meet his wife? We know that he had a wife, because she died at the hands of Kilgrave, the main villain from Jessica Jones Season 1.
Luke Cage begins with the character post Jessica Jones. He is working at a barbershop run by a community leader named "Pop" (Frankie Faison). Cage also works at a club known as Harlem's Paradise, which is owned by Cornell "Cottonmouth" Stokes (Mahershala Ali). Stokes is a crime figure who manages to keep his image clean thanks to the help of his cousin Mariah Dillard (Alfre Woodard). Dillard is also a community leader who keeps her hands clean even though she is always into dirty business.
At the club, Luke meets Misty Knight (Simon Missick) for the first time, and they spend time together romantically. Misty Knight is a detective who was investigating Stokes' club, but not having any luck pinning anything on him.
The action gets serious when Pop is killed by Cottonmouth's gang, as his barbershop is destroyed in the shootout. Luke is resistant to bullets, and Pop's last words were about "always forward". Luke decides that he wants to stand up against the gang of the town, and it gets to the point where he takes down Cottonmouth's entire armory single-handedly.
It doesn't take long before this gets traced back to Luke, and Cottonmouth has Cage shot by a rocket launcher in a vain attempt to kill him. Instead, it buries Luke under rubble, where we get to see Luke's origin story.
Apparently, Luke Cage is actually Carl Lucas, and went to prison at Seagate. He was experimented on, and it gave him his powers, and he used them to bust out of jail. He had developed a relationship to Reva Connors (Parisa Fitz-Henley), and she helped him set up his new identity.
The show takes a strange turn as Luke Cage gets to be known as a new pillar to the community, and his powers are apparently known by all. It is here that suddenly Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) enters the plot, seeking Luke Cage out because she feels called to help super people. She has already helped Daredevil and Jessica Jones, after all.
It seems that Luke is going to be victorious against Cottonmouth, but he has learned about Cage's past and will make that public, unless Cage bows to his will. Cage is about to leave town, but Claire convinces him to stay.
As it turns out, Luke Cage doesn't need to worry about Cottonmouth as Mariah kills him in an argument. With Cottonmouth dead, his sidekick Shades Alvarez (Theo Rossi) takes over as good as he can. Then enters a new villain with Willis Stryker (Erik LaRay Harvey) also known as Diamondback. Stryker tries to kill Cage with some special bullets, and nearly succeeds. Claire has to find the original scientist that experimented on Cage to save his life, Dr. Noah Burstein (Michael Kostroff).
As Stryker rises to power, he does everything he can to turn the public against Luke Cage, who becomes an outlaw. Eventually, Luke Cage has his fight with Stryker and beats him. Sadly, Mariah and Shades are somehow able to get themselves off and are still at large. At the end, Luke Cage is taken off to be arrested (he still has a criminal record as Carl Lucas), and Willis Stryker is experimented on Dr. Burstein.
Tie-ins to Daredevil and Jessica Jones
Luke Cage really did a good job tying in to the world of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and the Avengers movies. As Luke Cage walks down the street, there is a kid on the corner attempting to sell footage from "the incident", which is clearly a reference to the first Avengers movie.
There is also an appearance by a henchman from Daredevil named Turk Barrett (Rob Morgan), who is working to sell illegal guns created by Justin Hammer. Justin Hammer was the main villain from Iron Man 2, and these guns appear to be made out of some alien metal, like those acquired from the aliens in Avengers?
There is even an episode that starts with a radio show of "Trish Talk", which is narrated by Jessica Jones' best friend. It's subtle touches like that which are really tying the shows together. The only thing that didn't make much sense is that Luke Cage is revealed to be super-powered, but there is no talk about him having to register, like those accords established in Captain America: Civil War.
However, it would appear that Claire Temple is the character/plot thread that is tying these heroes together. She inspired Luke Cage, and said she "knew a lawyer" to help him at the end. It is a definite reference to Daredevil, and perhaps Matt Murdock could help Luke out. We even see Claire find a flyer for karate lessons, which could easily turn into a tie-in with the next Netflix show, Iron Fist, arriving in 2017.
So, what is in store here? Will Daredevil help spring Luke Cage from prison legally? Will Wilson Fisk from Daredevil meet up with Luke Cage in the big house? Will Jessica Jones comes back to see Luke? How in the world is Iron Fist going to fit in. How can we get all these heroes together in the same room for The Defenders, which will premiere in 2017, after Iron Fist. It is worth the wait to find out, but Luke Cage will have to tide us over for now.