Review: 'Luke Cage' season two

James Finney | Tech Editor

Courtesy Netflix

Legacy lies at the center of “Luke Cage” season two. Where moving forward was the central theme of season one, the past becomes the thread that ties the personal history of Luke Cage, to the wider conflict between two rival families and even to the real life development of season two itself.

In an interview with Vulture magazine, “Luke Cage” showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker stated that he relied heavily on the criticisms of season one to inform the new and arguably bolder direction of season two, and it shows.

Issues on race, identity and social conflict are tackled with aplomb, while both the new and returning cast members present themselves with an emotional depth that was noticeably absent in season one.

The characters in season two come with a real sense vulnerability, and the arguments and ideas in this season are still presented in an occasionally clunky and inorganic fashion. But, “Luke Cage” takes a deeper dive into African American masculinity, femininity and how black culture and society interacts with the rest of America and the African diaspora.

These issues tear into the lives of every single one of the main characters, and taking a note from “Black Panther,” it’s the villains that ironically become the most relatable characters of the season.

Theo Rosie’s character, Hernan “Shades” Alvarez trades in his role as the swav gangster for an emotionally driven story arc that sets him the middle of a conflict between his best friend “Comanche” and his new girlfriend and boss, Mariah Dillard.

He still maintains a lot of his charm from the previous season, but Shades has evolved beyond the well-dressed goal post, only set up for Luke Cage to knock down. He’s his own man now, and a strong component of the new season.

The same can be said for Alfre Woodard’s character, Maria Dillard, who steps out of the shadow of her now dead cousin, Cornell Stokes, and embraces, for better or for worse, the legacy of the Stokes family.

Alfre Woodard is deliciously evil as the primary antagonist. This season sees Mariah putting down her former life as a politician in exchange for the family tradition of mob gangster. Mariah takes to her new life ruthlessly, burning, shooting and blackmailing her way back to the top of the Harlem hierarchy. Unbeknownst to her however, the family business comes with old family grudges as well, and that conflict is where the best parts of season two shine through.

Bushmaster is arguably the most charismatic and compelling character of the entire season. Set as both an antagonist for Luke Cage and Mariah Dillard, Bushmaster comes to Harlem with one burning desire: to take down the Stokes, at any cost.

Bushmaster starts off as charming, and works his way up to being the most sympathetic character of the season. Perhaps he goes a step to far, but you’ll be rooting for the smooth Jamaican the whole way through.

It’s a shame then that the protagonists seem to be the weakest part of the season.

Luke Cage’s emotional arc revolves around tangling with the consequences of his newfound fame, and reconciling his relationship with his estranged father. There’s something to be taken from Luke’s experiences of the story. However, these challenges, along with the departure of Rosario Dawson’s character from the franchise leaves Luke’s character in a strange place.

Simone Missick’s “Misty Knight’ fairs a lot better. Forced to deal with the loss of her arm in season of “The Defenders,” and the loss of her partner, Detective Bailey, Misty’s triumphs and tribulations are far more interesting than Luke’s.

Despite disappointment in the series protagonist, “Luke Cage” season two kicks down the door with characters that are far more interesting then they were in the first series. It makes following the conflicts throughout the season consistently entertaining, and the season comes to a shocking conclusion, that will leave you excited and begging for season three.