Luke Cage is back for his second season, and the “Hero of Harlem” has problems coming for him. “Soul Brother #1” is the first episode of the season, and it starts the set up after a helpful recap of first season. The show starts with the unpleasant development of someone selling a new brand of drugs with Luke’s name printed on it. You can guess how happy he is about that, so he spends some time trying to track the drugs to their source. It’s not a good night for the various dealers.
Preacher James Lucas, Cage’s father, is in town and not too impressed with his son’s heroics, but he does have a way with words, I’ll give him that, as he practices for his next sermon. As Lucas goes on, Misty gets ready for work, still dealing with the aftermath of her maiming in Defenders. As an aside, there doesn’t seem to be a plan for a second season of Defenders, but everyone involved sounds open to the idea, so… maybe some time.
At Pop’s famed barber shop, Bobby Fish debates Luke’s videographer, who is trying to score some extra cash by selling Cage merchandise. The kid is young and brash, and Bobby is a lot more deep and thoughtful. Luke arrives, focused on the drug case, and clearly not comfortable or happy with the fame coming his way. He and Fish disagree a bit on that. There’s also mention of the insurance and rent being raised on the barber shop, so they will have to relocate.
Misty goes to physical therapy with Claire, and there’s a good bit of talk about the events that happened during the Defenders. Misty is a bit prickly, especially when she thinks she’s being pitied, which Claire tries to correct her on. Both of them are worried about Luke in different ways. Shades, one of the few surviving bad guys from season one, greets his friend on the streets. The friend goes by Comanche for reasons not explained. Shades and Comanche were minor villains Luke Cage fought in the comics who usually worked together. While they make plans, Luke keeps trying to find something out about the drugs with his name on them.
Mariah Dillard, “Black Mariah” in the comics, is still around, and now very involved with Shades. They talk over a buyer for her business to get them clean, and the waiter is clearly uncomfortable with Shades and Mariah being together. They also talk about a company Mariah’s aide is suggesting they try and purchase.
Luke and Claire are still together, which is good to see, and apparently living at her mom’s place. Claire’s mom was a fun character last season, but sadly doesn’t show up in this episode. Claire mocks Luke for one of the lines he used dealing with the drug gang, and it’s entertaining to watch their banter. Claire is also worried about Luke’s finances, which is clearly a sore subject with him. He deals with some fans in a very nice way, and comments darkly after they go how fast everything can turn against them.
The rest of the evening is a montage of scenes. Misty is home alone, drinking, and looking at the medal she was awarded. Shades and some thugs make Mariah’s displeasure at the waiter’s attitude known. Cage and Claire have a good time in after their night out. He slips out later after hearing police rushing to a scene, and Claire comments that not every siren is for him.
We never do learn what Cage was going after with the sirens, but he talks to Comanche about what he’s up to. Cage doesn’t buy his story and comes up with a unique way to make sure Comanche remembers him. Walking off after that, Cage runs into Preacher Lucas, and it’s a tense meeting. Luke has plenty of reasons to not be happy to see his father, and the preacher doesn’t do anything to make that any better.
Mariah, in Cornell’s old office, has a meeting with a new employee. Then she goes to her grandmother’s picture for more or less the opposite of ancestor worship. Two men meet up out on the streets making plans that bode ill for quite possibly Cage and Mariah both. After a funeral for one of the drugs’ victims, Cage gets a crash course on the gangs in the area from Bobby Fish. At Harlem’s Paradise, Shades runs down the major players who might be part of Mariah’s future. Mariah has some definite plans for what’s to come.
Mariah has her meeting with various prospective buyers, and they all make their cases. Cage stalks down the streets to the music playing in the club, and arrives. Mariah isn’t rattled by him, and takes advantage of Claire being there to use her as a threat for Cage. This is a great argument in favor of secret identities, which way too many heroes are abandoning in tv and movies these days.
Clare and Cage walk down the street after leaving the club, and argue a lot. Cage is furious that she went there and put herself at risk. Claire, as usual, had her reasons for doing it, and she makes some great points. They’re both rational enough to listen to each other and take the argument in stride. The next morning, he gets a call about what one of the gangsters, Arturo Rey, is up to, and we see there’s more to the call than a simple heads up. Misty has a run in with Dontrelle “Cockroach” Hamilton, another Cage foe from the comics. Cockroach is one of many crooks who got let out of prison in the wake of the revelation that Misty’s partner Scarfe was crooked, as seen season one.
Mariah drinks to her grandmother’s birthday, and explains her unusual reasoning to Shades. He offers her some suggestions and listens to her self-justifications. Cage goes to where the tip directed him, and Arturo Rey does his best to get rid of “Harlem’s Hero,” with special fireworks and even one of the ugly Judas bullets from last season. We’ll just say things don’t go Arturo’s way (obviously, or this would have been a really short season). Cage goes on to make a statement to his video stalker, and it reminds me a lot of Stark’s speech calling out the Mandarin in Iron Man 3. Remember how well that worked out? I’ve got a bad feeling about this.
Misty goes back to work, and runs into her new boss, Captain Ridenhour hour. He’s surprised she’s there at all, and tells her she’s a fool for not taking the medical retirement she’s entitled to. She’s determined to work, and even more so when she learns that roughly 30 of the cases she and Scarfe worked on were thrown out after his corruption was revealed. This is about when Cage walks in with Rey draped over his shoulder and drops him on the floor. Misty is amused, Captain Ride hour, not so much. He warns Cage he can’t keep doing this, and Cage pretends he has no idea what the captain is talking about. Ride hour urges Cage to work with the police, legally, and Cage responds that he’s doing their work for them, and they need to step up. As he leaves, Cage tells Misty it’s good to see her back where she belongs.
One of the men we saw in Mariah’s office turns out to be a guy called Bushmaster. There have been at least two characters of that name in Marvel Comics, and this seems to be a variation of the first one. That one did fight Luke in the comics, but he first appeared in Iron Fist’s comic, so that’s a nice touch, keeping it in the family, so to speak. Bushmaster has plans for Harlem, and doesn’t care about either Mariah or Luke being in his way. He shows that he has both impressive fighting skills and some powers.
Cage makes a visit to Mariah’s office, having no doubt she’s behind Rey’s attempt to kill him. He makes a threat that’s both intimidating and laced with ego. He stalks out and walks down the street in his still-shredded clothes as Mariah has a temper tantrum while Shades looks worried. There are going to be a lot of moving pieces this season.
What I liked: It’s good to see Luke and company again. As with all the Marvel shows, they tie in to the others without making it impossible to follow if you’ve missed them. Misty’s new world is a rough place to be. While fans know what’s coming for her, it’s nice that they’re not just jumping to that. I like Claire’s passion and practicality, and that she stands up to Luke. Bobby Fish is a nice touch of wisdom for the characters. While she’s slime, she’s well connected slime, so it makes sense Mariah is still out on the streets. Maybe Luke will get her this season. Like last time around, they had great music.
What I didn’t: There’s an often-quoted saying about pride going before a fall, and that’s where Luke is. I can understand where he’s coming from, especially as he’s a superhuman among normals almost all the time, but his ego is getting out of control. Given his nickname, he’s not going to be a likable character anyway, but I really didn’t like Cockroach. Shades seems to be treated like he’s a big bad-ass, but he rarely seems to actually do anything.
It’s a good start for what was a great show last season. I’ll give this a 3.5 out of 5. We’ll see where they go as the season progresses.