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REVIEW: Luke Cage 1×01 “Moment of Truth”

As is always the case with television, the premiere of Luke Cage was very much a set-up for the remainder of the season. At this point, other than Luke himself, viewers don’t know any of the players in this game, meaning that those both good and bad need to be introduced and teased enough to get audiences hooked.

It’s an interesting episode in the sense that it seems to simultaneously be providing catch-up and set-up. For the most part, we get a lot of new faces and murmured names, but we also see enough flashbacks and teases that make it feel like the Pilot of Luke Cage is the eye of the proverbial storm.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Marvel Netflix show without some action and adventure, which translates to a heckuva lot of violence where Luke Cage is concerned.

Let’s get into it! (Spoilers ahead)

When we first pick up, Luke is very much focused on staying as far under the radar as possible. The stable barman introduced in Jessica Jones has been replaced by a man working multiple jobs and struggling to pay his Harlem rent.

The dichotomy between this look into Luke’s new life and the underbelly of the new crime syndicate that is rising beneath the shadows is an interesting one that seems to highlight the general plots that surround most Marvel productions. While Luke is cleaning dishes, Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes is prepping for a new phase of his criminal empire at a VIP table and getting ready to sell new product for a cool $100,000 per case.

The man clearly perceives himself as being the top dog of Harlem, a literal king where the drug trade is concerned, who has a secret weapon thanks to his Councilwoman cousin. It doesn’t take a genius to know that having one’s hooks in the government tends to be an asset where crime is concerned, but for all his pomp-and-circumstance, it seems that Stokes’ empire may not be as infallible as he thinks.

…as is confirmed when his latest sale hits a snafu as the middleman decides to take the goods and split, leaving Stokes against the ropes.

He’s understandably pissed and the presence of the mysterious Diamondback’s right-hand man, Shades, doesn’t really help much in the way of abating his concerns.

Luke is equally unhappy with Shades’ presence, as the thug was someone that Cage knew during his time in prison and seems to be someone that genuinely frightens the soon-to-be Defender.

There isn’t a ton of action in this first episode, due largely to the amount of exposition needed to get viewers up to speed. That being said, the action that does occur makes it clear that Luke Cage will certainly share a similar tone as predecessors Daredevil and Jessica Jones. The violence is graphic and at no point does the camera pan or fade-to-black in order to prevent viewers from bearing witness. Shot to the heads are shown, vicious beatings occur in good lighting, and every broken bone has an audible crunch.

I can’t help but think that this is wholly intentional.

It would be ridiculous not to acknowledge that Luke Cage is a show focused heavily on race, particularly on the glaring racial issues that are prevalent in today’s society. Where much of media and officials seem to shy away from acknowledging the violence and divide that occurs on a daily basis, Luke Cage makes a point of showing everything no matter how gritty or alarming it may be.

It feels like a necessary dig at how certain situations are actually handled in real life, and I think that such emphases will continue throughout the series. Which is a good thing.

All in all, “Moment of Truth,” was a solid reintroduction to the character of Luke Cage. It served as a teaser and opened up a lot of potential doors for the season.

Episode Grade: B-

Episode Highs:

  • I love immediately knowing which character is going to be my favorite. Detective Misty Knight is without question going to be the most interesting person in this show.
  • The one-liners were great and while a lot of them fell in the, “literally nobody would ever say this in real life,” category, this is television so they worked.

Episode Lows:

  • A lot of exposition which made for an overall slow episode, as to be expected for a Pilot.

Additional Comments:

  • Stokes may talk-the-talk but it’s clear that Mariah Dillard walks-the-walk. From what we’ve seen so far, Dillard is the cousin that I wouldn’t want to cross. That being said, Cottonmouth already feels like another solid villain in for the Netflix/Marvel camp.

What did you think of the premiere of Luke Cage? Did it meet your expectations? Sound off on twitter or in the comments below!

About the author

Silje Falck-Pedersen

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