The Marvel Takeover - Day Four: Luke Cage Season 1 Recap

The Four Color Ark




To me my Marvel Zombies! We’re now in day four of our All Marvel Event where we explore the Netflix Marvel series before The Defenders join forces tomorrow!  We’ve looked at The Man Without Fear and The Drunk Detective, and now we’ll set our sights on Power Man himself: Luke Cage.


Luke and Pop

Luke and Pop

When we first met Luke Cage (Mike Colter) in Jessica Jones Season One, we learned that he had unbreakable skin and that his wife was murdered under mysterious circumstances that relate to Luke’s origin.  When we pick up Luke’s story in the first episode of Season One we find that Luke works by day sweeping up hair in Pop’s Barbershop and by night washing dishes at the nightclub Harlem’s Paradise. Pop (Frankie Faison) runs his barbershop as a place where residents of Harlem can go to escape the threat and influence of gangs, while Cornell Stokes (Mahershala Ali) –aka Cottonmouth – runs guns through his club to support multiple gangs.  Cottonmouth is selling guns for a man named Diamondback who supplies him with stolen weapons from Hammer Industries (which you may remember is the rival to Stark Industries in Iron Man 2.)  Stokes sells these guns and supports his cousin – the councilwoman Mariah Dillard (Alfre Woodard) who is by and large a legitimate politician who has built her unsullied career on the muddy grounds of Stokes’ criminal enterprise.  Some of the young men who hang out at Pops’ get mixed up in a weapon deal that goes incredibly south, and Pop sends Luke to track down the one survivor and bring him back to the Barbershop because the shop is neutral territory.  Two cops: Misty Knight and Rafael Scarfe (Simone Missick and Frank Whaley) show up at the shop trying to find Chico, but both Luke and Pops keep his location secret.  Luke goes to Cornell to set up a meeting with Pop, but Cornell’s right hand man is tipped off to Chico’s location and sends shooters to the Barbershop to take Chico out, wounding Chico and killing Pop.  Cornell immediately throws his aide off the roof for breaking the neutrality of Pop’s Barbershop, and then offers to pay for Pop’s funeral.  Luke agrees and takes Cornell’s money to pay for the Pops’ funeral and to keep the shop from needing to shut down.

After the funeral, Luke starts targeting Cornell’s businesses – showing up and taking his money and getting out quickly unharmed.  Cornell takes all of his money and moves it to the civic center run by Dillard, but even that doesn’t keep the money safe from an unbreakable man like Luke Cage who breaks in and steals a portion of the money.  Chico reaches out to Detective Scarfe and offers to testify against Cornell, Chico then tells Scarfe that it was Luke Cage who has been ripping off Cornell’s stash houses.  Scarfe, it turns out, is a crooked cop who is on Cornell’s payroll.  He kills Chico and then tells Cornell about Luke.  Not one to underreact, Cornell takes a missile launcher and fires a rocket into Luke Cage’s apartment complex.

Knocked unconscious by the rocket, Luke has a flashback interlude where he is framed for a crime he didn’t commit under his given name of Carl Lucas and is sent to Seagate Prison where he tries to keep his head down and serve out his sentence, but meets and falls for his group therapist Reva Connors (whom he will later marry.)  Reva isn’t the only one with her sights set on Luke – Dr. Burstein wants to conduct an experiment on him and when that experiment goes very wrong it leaves Luke with an amazing unbreakable skin.  Luke and Reva escape and go on the run, ultimate arriving in New York where Carl Lucas officially travels under the name: Luke Cage.

In the present Luke manages to lift rubble off of himself and his landlord, caught on camera Luke tells the press his name and what his powers are.  What comes next is a tug of war between Cornell and Luke, Cornell starts sending enforcers to take money from the neighborhood to offset the profits Luke cost him – and Luke keeps stepping in to save the people and retrieve their items/money.  Harlem seems to have their own Hero for Hire, and Cornell Stokes has lost control completely, so Diamondback sends his underling “Shades” (Theo Rossi) to clean up Cornell’s mess.  Shades recognizes Luke by his real name of Carl Lucas because Shades was also a prisoner at Seagate.  Shades tells Cornell about the Judas bullet, which is strong enough to pierce Luke’s skin – but it comes at a price Cornell is unwilling to pay.

Claire Temple, recently out of a job because her hospital decided to cover up a Ninja Invasion, arrives at her mother’s home in Harlem where she begins helping out in her mother’s diner – a diner that just happens to be frequented by Luke Cage – whom Claire also knows from when he was dropped off at her hospital with massive brain swelling by a concerned Jessica Jones.

Detective Scarfe is under investigation by Internal Affairs and he thinks his way out is to shake Cornell down for some cash.  Scarfe tries to blackmail Cornell and gets shot near fatally, though he is able to escape and make a run for Pop’s Barbershop where he hopes he can get some help from Luke Cage.  Luke and Claire Temple show up at Pop’s and Claire stabilizes Scarfe before the three of them start heading downtown so Scarfe can testify against Cornell.  Cornell’s gang follows on a chase, but it is his wounds that overtake Scarfe.  Before he dies, Scarfe tells Misty about his ledger which should have all the evidence anyone needs to take down Cornell.   Misty arrests Cornell Stokes, but it isn’t something that will last.  Scarfe’s ledger is deemed inadmissible and Cornell is released, but the damage is already done.  Reporters have pieced together the connections between Cornell and Dillard, and they go public – ending Councilwoman Dillard’s career forever.  In a fit of rage Mariah Dillard kills her cousin, and Shades helps her set up the crime scene to frame Luke Cage, even paying off a corroborating witness named Candace.

While he is out in public with Claire, the mysterious Diamondback (Erik LaRay Harvey) shows up and shoots Luke with the mythical Judas bullet that does indeed pierce his skin.  Claire gets Luke in an ambulance and starts heading toward a hospital, but Diamondback strikes again.  Claire diverts to a clinic.  Misty Knight has taken the statements from everyone that points toward Luke Cage as the prime suspect in the murder of Cornell Stokes, and she is hot on Luke’s tail.  Luke, Misty and Claire all converge at the clinic, but it isn’t long before Diamondback shows up too.  In the massive conflict Luke and Diamondback leave the clinic and Misty places Claire under arrest.

Diamondback reveals that he is Willis Stryker, Luke’s former best friend/illegitimate half-brother and he has come to take what he felt he was rightfully owed by Luke.   Luke manages to overpower Stryker and escape.  With no evidence to hold her, Claire is released and ultimately meets up with Luke.  The two leave town and try to find the doctor who performed the experiment that made Luke unbreakable in the first place.

In Luke’s absence, Diamondback forces Dillard to embrace her family’s gangland ties and uses her to introduce himself to more and more of the gangs of New York whom he promptly destroys.  Diamondback is building himself an empire and Dillard is implicated every step of the way.  Shade’s loyalty is to Dillard, and their relationship grows quite creepy as they grow closer.  

Luke and Claire discover Dr. Burstein and give him the flash drive containing all the data on Luke’s experiment, the doctor uses this knowledge to remove the Judas bullet from the wounded Luke and heals the unbreakable man.  Luke and Claire take their information back and head back to New York and Harlem’s Paradise where a massive melee pops off.  Diamondback and Luke fight, Misty shows up and arrests both Luke and Shades – all hell breaks loose.   Luke manages to escape, and Shade gets out on bail.  Misty sets out to find information that will exonerate Luke in the murder of Cornell, and Shades goes off to try to protect Dillard.  Misty finds Candace and gets her to agree to testify against Dillard, which will free Luke Cage.  Misty arrests Dillard.

Meanwhile, Diamondback went and got himself a power suit and showed up at Pops’ to have a massive knock down dragout fight with Luke.  The two are tearing into each other, but Stryker never loses the upper hand – until his suit runs out of power and Luke kicks the crap out of him.  The feds show up to arrest Luke because they have found that he is escaped convict Carl Lucas, Claire admits she loves Luke and decides that while he’s away she’ll take up some self-defense classes.  Luke is put in a car bound for Seagate prison, and the doctor who experimented on him shows up in the hospital room of Willis Stryker with the promise that he can use Luke’s data to make Stryker better.


Daredevil is a grim and gritty series where the audience is pushed along from moment to moment and never given much time to breathe, and Jessica Jones followed suit.  Luke Cage takes its time, lets you get to know every single player in this game and relishes moments spent in daylight – openly helping people with superpowers.  Additionally, Luke Cage is very steeped in the comics Blaxploitation roots;  Mahershala Ali’s Cornell Stewart is every bit a “Mr. Big” style character which is why it is so shocking when at the mid season mark he is unceremoniously murdered and replaced by Diamondback.  Mike Colter is excellent as Luke, and there is so much more for him to do in this series than in his guest appearances on Jessica Jones.  Ali and Woodard are fantastic in their roles, and one can never say enough good things about Frank Whaley.

Rosario Dawson has a lot more screentime in this series than in the previous three, but at the same time she takes a bit more of a backseat to the other events of the series.