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REVIEW: Luke Cage 1×03 “Who’s Gonna Take the Weight?”

Three episodes in and I’m a little worried about the pacing of Luke Cage. It’s an issue that I felt Jessica Jones and Daredevil have struggled with as well, and it makes me wonder how the formatting of these Netflix superhero shows is determined. Every television show has filler episodes, Luke Cage isn’t alone in this, but there seems to be an equal amount of filler within the episodes themselves.

Luke Cage is clearly trying to make a statement, the racial overtones most comparable to the rape/abuse themes of Jessica Jones, but oftentimes I feel as though the show is making a statement about making a statement rather than just, you know, making a statement.

Much of, “Who’s Gonna Take the Weight?” was talk, and while it led to a pretty epic action sequence for Luke, it was a full 36 minutes before we got to see him taking action rather than talking about it.

Spoilers ahead!

We start off with a flash-forward of Luke stepping out of a building in the dead of night, men screaming and gunshots going off, holding what we can assume are bags of cash.

What might be the reason for this?

Cut to the present and it becomes pretty clear.

Dealing with the ramifications of Pop’s death includes dealing with all of the bills that come with putting together a proper burial. Already a stressful time, the appearance of Cottonmouth in the funeral parlor certainly doesn’t make things easier for Luke. Unsurprisingly, Stokes’ offer to buy the best coffin for Pop’s burial isn’t exactly a gesture that Luke appreciates since, you know, Cottonmouth is the reason the older man is dead in the first place.

After the confrontation, Luke has a heart-to heart in the barber shop where he mourns the loss of Pop and laments the finances that are necessary to give the man a funeral fitting of his character. After all, “80 grand isn’t just going to fall out of the sky.”

See, this is funny.

Because, thanks to that opening scene, we as an audience are already pretty certain that Luke actually will manage to acquire that money pretty quickly. Though… whether or not he uses it for this specific purpose remains to be seen.

Elsewhere Misty is trying to get Wilfredo to step up and testify to what he witnessed Cottonmouth and his crew do. She’s pretty unsuccessful, Wilfredo far more interested in looking out for himself than risking his life to help, but Luke manages to get some info from him that leads him to Cottonmouth’s stash houses… which he trashes easily.

Oddly enough, he leaves the actual stash (the cash) in the stash houses, which seems odd until we find out that Cottonmouth has one super house that Luke follows him to. Turns out Cage rightfully assumed that, should those lesser stash houses be hit, Cottonmouth would put all of his money in one stash-basket.

Which is dumb because rule #1 is never put all of your assets in one basket. Something that his cousin has no problem telling him.

Unfortunately, the Councilwoman’s warning is ignored… and Stokes’ decision winds up causing serious issues for both cousins. Because, in taking out the money stash at Cottonmouth’s main base (a building passed through the family), Luke manages to snipe a boatload of cash from Stokes while simultaneously connecting Dillard’s name to the criminal underground.

The sequence with Luke in the New Harlem Renaissance was without question the biggest action scene in the show to date. It’s pretty awesome to see him waltz into this heavily-secured facility, with nothing more than a hoodie to protect him, and easily take out Cottonmouth’s men as bullets ping off of him.

He can’t be killed (at least by a bullet) and, though he easily could if he wanted to, he himself doesn’t kill.

In the, “yeah, obviously,” section of this episode, we officially learn that the ever-dodgy Detective Scarfe is in fact as dirty a cop as he seems. Wilfredo calls him for a meeting, where he does what Knight asked him to do earlier and says he’ll talk about Stokes and name names. Of course, the second he does, Scarfe takes his silk tie, wraps it around Chico’s neck, and strangles him to death before heading over to his boss… Cottonmouth.

Scarfe then tells Stokes that it’s Cage who’s responsible for trashing his stashes… which immediately causes trouble for Luke when Cottonmouth proceeds to take a rocket-launcher and blow up the Chinese restaurant that Luke and his landlady are sitting in.

Talk about an explosive ending!

While there were some interesting developments, “Who’s Gonna Take the Weight?” did seem to drag a bit. Again, this is an issue that I think all of the Netflix/Marvel shows have suffered from at times. We all know that the latter half of the season will likely move far more quickly, but the slow crawl it takes to make it to this point is always a bit of a grind. I wonder if condensing the seasons would take away some of the filler, both on an episodic and seasonal level, and make each installment feel more pivotal.

Episode Grade: B-

Episode Highs:

  • It was fun finally seeing the bullet-proof man sequence that was teased so heavily in the trailers.
  • I liked the money fake-out. Obviously we assumed Luke was taking Stokes’ stash for the 80K needed for Pops and the shop, so it was actually surprising when he took the money for the sole purpose of taking the money. Luke didn’t take it for his own gain, rather, he just took it so that it would no longer be in the hands of Stokes.

Episode Lows:

  • The pacing, as seems to be common with these Netflix super-shows, was slow as heck.

Additional Comments:

  • I actually enjoy when Misty goes all, “mind-palace,” on us with her detective work. She’s obviously incredibly intelligent and seems to be a character with more common sense than moment. (It takes her like… 0.2 seconds to decide that the mystery bullet-proof man from Cottonmouth’s lair is Luke)

What did you think of the third episode of Luke Cage? Sound off on Twitter or in the comments below!

About the author

Silje Falck-Pedersen