WARNING: FULL SPOILERS
As much as I have loved the Marvel Netflix Series, they have all faltered as they drew closer to their conclusions. The first season of Daredevil dragged in its last few episodes before giving a standout final episode. Jessica Jones strung the Purple Man’s final confrontation out so much that I almost gave up on the show. The second season of Daredevil flowed better and I hoped that Marvel had figured out how to tell a story over a full season.
Luke Cage had its issues late in the season and I worried about the season finale, You Know My Steez. While the episode had a strong first half, the conclusion was a little lacking.
The episode opened not with a continuation of the fight in Pop’s Barbershop, but with a flashback to Luke and Willis as young men. It was strange seeing Diamondback as the calming voice of reason as young Luke aggressively trained for a fight with a rival. It did more to establish a relationship between the two than any other scene that came before.
Keeping it for their final confrontation was an interesting move. On one hand, it shows that Diamondback was once a good person, a stark contrast to the crazed, revenge seeking madman. But it also showed how poorly the show had established Luke and Diamondback’s relationship. Other flashbacks like that one might have better served Diamondback, who’s image lessened as the series went on.
The actual fight was great, becoming a knock down, drag out brawl. The show really took the whole “street level heroes” thing literally here. The whole “stop throwing hate” tactic that Luke adopted was a bit corny, but it exemplified the type of hero he has been. His victory felt truly earned and it was good to see Diamondback put down. And thank god the fight didn’t last the whole episode.
Luke and Claire’s relationship also felt earned. I was always a fan of the chemistry between Misty and Luke while I found the latter’s relationship with Reva unbelievable. But Luke’s relationship with Claire felt natural, their flirtation given time to evolve to a realistic place. It might be the best relationship in any Marvel series.
Luke’s speech about Harlem after the fight was beautiful. As he spoke we saw several images of Harlem and its people. Mike Colter did an excellent job here, as he conveyed just how much Luke cared for his adopted home.
When the dust settled after the fight, Shades was in the wind and Mariah was behind bars. With that situation, you knew that the peace wouldn’t last. The way that peace was shattered was where the episode faltered.
Misty has been established as a smart character, so it was silly for her to keep Candace out of police custody. She was lured out of Claire’s apartment and killed by Shades. The outcome wasn’t surprising, given how Mariah knew about her, but it was a dumb misstep on Misty’s part. While there weren’t many sympathetic people in the precinct, it was an awkward way to . Part of me agreed with Inspector Ridley: It was her fault. Misty’s guilt over the death will be an interesting thread to follow the next time we see her.
Mariah got off…that wasn’t a surprise. But her parting shot was off putting, as she managed to get the Georgia authorities on Luke. I didn’t mind that she “won” in the end. Mariah was too good of a villain to be away from the show in the second season. But it feels like an unnecessary plot point, especially after that montage showed Bobby Fish finding the files exonerating Luke for his crimes in Georgia.
This might be a controversial take, but why did Luke Cage, the first lead black superhero in a Marvel show, not get closure in his series? Daredevil got a measure of closure in both seasons. So did Jessica Jones. Yes, Cage defeated Diamondback…but Mariah won. Luke shed his troubled past…only to be arrested for the crimes of that past. While there were other intriguing threads introduced (Diamondback is in Dr. Burstein’s care!), I couldn’t get past this.
And what was with the weird bite kiss that Mariah gave Shades at the end? There were really no hints to any kind of physical attraction, at least not on Mariah’s part. And Shades’ interest seemed like just a ploy. Why would Mariah fall for that? Weird.
The best shows use their season finales to bring closure to their major story lines. You Know My Steez only partially did this. The show seemingly cared more for setting up future plot threads for the next season. While those threads are intriguing, the ending suffered as a result.
Score: 6.5 out of 10
WARNING: FULL SPOILERS