NOTE: This review contains MILD SPOILERS for the series.
Do YOU need a hero? You may have seen Luke Cage (Mike Colter, in a breakout role) as the V strong FWB of the title character in Marvel’s Jessica Jones last year. The events of this series occur about a year afterwards. Luke has been working in Pop’s Barbershop in West Harlem and generally keeping a low profile. When a pretty single mom/law student takes an interest in him, Luke thinks he’s NOT good enough. Pop (Frankie Faison) says that Luke is “hiding” from relationships and has so much potential. He could be “out there helping people.”
It turns out that Luke is NO ordinary man, striving to make rent. He has bulletproof skin (thanks to an experiment which we learn about later in the series). Luke is a man of FEW words, BUT we get to know some verbose (and well-developed) villains is this show. There is owner of The Paradise club, Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes (Mahershala Ali from House of Cards), a man who speaks well, dresses impeccably, yet is prone to violent outbursts. He is a noted gangster who has stayed clear of the law. His older cousin, Mariah Dillard (veteran actress Alfre Woodard), is a calculating councilwoman who is trying to stay clear of her grandmother’s criminal legacy. However, she is NOT against using the manpower/money which Cottonmouth can provide.
Aside from Mariah, there are several other capable, single, professional black women in the story. (HOW rare/refreshing is that!?) Det. Misty Knight (Simone Missick) flirts w/ Luke at The Paradise when we first meet her, BUT she’s not looking only for fun. She has been staking out the club to get some concrete evidence against Cottonmouth. Later in the series, I was esp. glad to see nurse Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson- also guest star in Daredevil). Inspector Priscilla Ridley (Karen Pittman) plays a smaller (yet pivotal role).
There are several characters w/ different jobs and backgrounds (white, latino, black) who operate in shades of gray. They are trying to make money easily, protect themselves, etc. Go see the show (don’t want to reveal TOO much here)!
Diversity in MANY forms is built-in on this show. Luke’s landlady (Connie) and her hubby are Chinese immigrants operating a restaurant. Claire’s (Latina) mother is played by Sonia Braga, an internationally-renown veteran actress originally from Brazil. (HOW cool is that!?) Braga co-starred in Kiss of the Spider Woman (w/ William Hurt and Raul Julia) in the ’80s; younger viewers may know her as Samantha’s gf in SATC.
Yes, this show is set in West Harlem, which serves as a character in itself. We also get to learn about some of its history (MOST of which I didn’t know about). This info is passed on via the characters in the story, so (in MOST cases) it seems organic.