Luke Cage: Just To Get A Rep


He cleans up good, don’t he?

I’ve enjoyed all the Netflix series so far. I can’t point even a bad episode of any of them. But I have to say that “Just To Get A Rep” might be the best of all of them so far. It was an impressive piece of writing and acting. There was some action, but what was much more striking was the clash of ideas that took up the end of the episode.

It opens with another performance at Harlem’s Paradise. This was the first one I didn’t like, probably because of the prominent use of the N-word. Luke Cage is a lot more eloquent about it than I am, but I don’t like the word much, either. As the song goes on, the scenes shift between Stokes looking down on the performer, Cage sifting through the rubble at Genghis Connie’s (I love that name), and Claire Temple turning up via the subway. Claire is the nurse that was on both seasons of Daredevil and the first one of Jessica Jones. Temple links the Netflix shows in the same way that Agent Phil Coulson did for the Marvel movies. They also show us that, like Coulson, Claire is more than capable of taking care of herself.

Stokes holds a meeting with a few of his staff to discuss the “State of the Union,” in reference to his recent losses. His accountant gives him some fairly bleak news about Stokes’ finances after Cage destroyed his “Ft. Knox” facility. Stokes lost a staggering amount of money, which is currently sitting in Police Evidence Lockup. One of his men is brave enough to speak up and offer a suggestion, and sees Stokes’ kind and reasonable managerial style. In classic villain style, Stokes sends his thugs out to squeeze more money out of the shopkeepers they run their protection rackets on, and blame it in Luke Cage when they protest. I think I saw the Sheriff of Nottingham use this technique after some of Robin Hood’s more successful raids in several different movies. Shades cautions Stokes that Diamondback is not happy about how Stokes is handling things. We still don’t really know anything about who Diamondback is, or what his place is in all this, aside from obviously higher than Stokes’. But Shades seems to at least give some calm, reasonable advice, which Stokes desperately needs.

There are a lot of quick scenes of various shakedowns and robberies as Stokes’ crew fans out and does what he told them. One of the ones we get a lot of detail on is a sports memorabilia shop run by Aisha, who we’ll see a lot more of later.

Pop’s shop has had a lot of the repairs done, although not all of them. Bobby Fish has gotten a special tailor in to get Luke a suit for Pop’s memorial service. There’s a lot of talk about recent events, and Bobby gives some really good advice to Luke: You can’t control what people say about you. Just be the best man you can. And make sure they spell your name right. Bobby does some worrying about the seating arrangements for the memorial, using his ever-present chess board to illustrate what he’s thinking. Luke is very touched when Bobby offers him the keys to Pop’s apartment upstairs. That emotional high can’t last, and Aisha comes storming in to find out who this “Luke Cage” is and what he’s going to do about Cottonmouth’s men running amok in the neighborhood. As soon as Luke walks out the door, he gets besieged by a lot more people with the same concerns.

Claire goes to a diner that her mother owns, and tells her about her run-in with a local street punk. Her mother is worried about Claire fighting back, and they debate that for a bit. Luke, meanwhile, starts kicking in doors and playing repo man. The best exchange was between him and one local who asked if Luke needed a gun, and he replied, “I am the gun.” Luke also runs across some evidence that not everyone is content to let Luke take matters into his own hands. This also leads to a lecture from Misty Knight and her smirking sidekick, Scarfe.

Stokes and Shades are having another strategy meeting at Harlem’s Paradise. Shades is playing the voice of reason, while Stokes is clinging to rage and vendettas. They get interrupted when Luke himself comes in, taking his suit jacket off and laying it aside. When Stokes’ goons swagger in, Cage looks utterly unimpressed and asks, “You guys? Again?” before making short work of them, this time not even trying to hide his powers. Some of the dialogue between Cage and Stokes shows their completely different viewpoints. Stokes is convinced Cage is trying to take Harlem for his own, and Cage flat out tells him that he just want Stokes to “stop messing with it.” Aside from watching Luke wipe the floor with the thugs again (I’m reminded of a review I heard of Roadhouse once: “Patrick Swayze beats up the same four rednecks over and over.”), the only development to come from this is Shades finally recognizes Luke from their time in Seagate.

At the diner, Claire’s mom asks her what she wants to do. Claire talks about some of the incredible things she’s seen, describing the events of Daredevil and Jessica Jones and the amazing people she’s met. It isn’t lost on her that, even with their special powers, these people needed her help. That’s what she wants to do: help people with abilities. I really want to see a conversation between her and Simmons over on SHIELD some day.

Shades and Stokes continue to plan what to do next. Shades fills Stokes in on Cage’s past. He also has a demo of some spectacular weapons from Justin Hammer which might give Luke some problems. Shades gives Stokes some warnings about the strings that might come with some help, which leaves Stokes considering his options.

Misty gets a surprise visit from both a lieutenant and a captain. Anyone working in law enforcement will tell you that’s never a good thing. They come bearing news she doesn’t want to hear, and some decent, if circumstantial, evidence about it. She makes some excuses to her partner and leaves for Pop’s memorial. You’d think her partner would offer to go with her for moral support if nothing else.

Luke has another stop to make before he goes there. He finds Stokes’ crew playing dice in a park. After a few good lines, Cage shakes down Zip and gets Aisha’s prized ring back for her. Cage also gives Zip a lecture that isn’t just hero posturing; I really think Luke is trying to get through to Zip, even though it’s almost guaranteed a lost cause. That’s really kind of admirable.

After some murky meetings that show how far Cottonmouth’s corruption reaches, Luke goes to Aisha’s shop. She’s not there, but her father is. Her father is a bitter drunk who makes a really interesting, if depressing, point about why there are fewer black men playing professional baseball these days. Luke gives him some advice before leaving. Luke makes a last stop at the barber shop before going to the church.

The memorial service was really well done. The writing and acting impressed me. I won’t try and recreate either Stokes’ or Cage’s speeches here because I’m not sure I could to them justice, especially Luke’s. I’ll just say both of them are good speakers. Stokes tries to manipulate and cause trouble with his chance to speak, while Luke is a lot more inspiring and inclusive. Luke also manages to prevent another tragedy and restore a lost treasure.

After the service, Luke and Stokes have another encounter while Shades looks on. They both get some good lines in, and Cage even manages to make Stokes smile with his parting shot. As Luke stalks off, Misty catches up with him and makes a decent argument about him causing more problems with Stokes. He listens, but says he’s not going anywhere.

What I liked: The writing here really impressed me. Luke got several great speeches, and I love that he pushed back after Stokes’ men started terrorizing the neighborhood. I think Cage has lost more than either of the other Netflix heroes we’ve seen so far, but he manages to remain optimistic and inspiring. I liked Shades putting the pieces together, as well as his general calm, unflappable presence. The showdown at the memorial service was fantastic.

What I didn’t: The opening song, as I said before, didn’t do a lot for me. As I commented on before in the series, we still haven’t seen a real threat to Luke, although we saw hints one was coming. How stupid are the thugs to keep fighting Luke?

Like I said in my opening, this episode just really impressed me. I’ll give this one a 4.5 out of 5. I may even watch it again.