“Sweet Christmas.” A simple phrase, and yet, it goes a long way to define a lovable character like Luke Cage. Season Two of Marvel’s Luke Cage released on Netflix on Friday, June 22, and it does not let go of its Season One grip on tough characters.
MINOR SPOILERS BELOW
This season presents a number of themes – dealing with anger, overcoming adversity, and what it means to be a hero – and they seem like relevant topics in today’s world.
Anger. Luke Cage became a super human after an experiment left him bulletproof, fireproof, and strong enough to punch his hand through a wall. Now, dealing with these abilities isn’t an easy road for the self-titled character. Luke tries to protect his home, Harlem, and he does so knowing that he doesn’t have the support of the police (except for Misty Knight). This is where his anger begins to escalate. After being exonerated for a wrongful conviction that caused him to be imprisoned, Luke’s public image leads him to celebrity status, causing added pressure from those that cheer for him.
Violence finds a way to cause chaos in Harlem. As for Luke Cage’s juggling act – keeping the streets clean, avoiding trouble with the law and paparazzi, and maintaining his relationship with his girlfriend, Claire Temple – chaos begins to spill over, causing his balance to teeter. Luke’s basic human desire to help others is questioned by others, either from his methods or unsanctioned approach, and the tension continues to build as it take its toll on him. Also, being knocked out by a big baddie doesn’t help, especially when it’s caught on video for millions to view online. Who wouldn’t be angry when everyone who asks for help or wants an autograph turns their backs or changes their opinion when something doesn’t go as planned?
The anger consumes Luke, and he struggles to relate to Claire and her concerns over his well-being. She loves him and she wants him to be happy, but it’s difficult for him to understand why he can’t do things his way when they’re for the right reasons. Luke is sincere, stubborn, and absolutely likeable – and seeing him try to see beyond his own anger or others’ opinions make him relatable for viewers to wonder, “Why doesn’t anyone listen?” Luke and Claire are so worried for the other person that their own anger prevents them from seeing the truth – it’s okay to be loved, it’s okay to be angry, and it’s okay to be afraid. Afraid of making a mistake, losing control, or the consequences of losing control.
Overcoming adversity. Not only does Luke’s relationship with Claire provide an emotional bond with both characters, this series gives us a vantage point from the severely injured Misty Knight. As a detective, she must come to terms with the loss of her arm after a battle in the Netflix series, Marvel’s The Defenders. Misty has to relearn how to do everything. Writing, playing basketball, and defending herself in a fight has all changed.
Not only are there physical ramifications from this loss of limb, Misty must deal with emotional turbulence as she copes with the changes. These changes aren’t isolated to her either. She must deal with taunts from her “professional” colleagues as they mock her disability. What does it mean to judge or ridicule someone by the color of their skin or the lack of an appendage? Luke Cage and Misty Knight deal with that question throughout this season, and it’s so important to realize that they do not let anyone else define who they are or who they are meant to be. They understand the difficulties of being labeled in a disparaging way, whether it be with derogatory terms or cruel jokes, but they try and move beyond it by doing what they think is right in the end – be who they want to be.
What it means to be a hero. There are several heroes in Luke Cage. Our Luke Cage, also known as Power Man, runs toward gunfire, shields innocent and the wicked, and tries to simply do good in the world when he can. Luke doesn’t seek perfection or riches. He tries to move beyond what other people think of him, good or bad, to be Harlem’s hero. His devotion to do good leads him forward, and his inability to control his anger leads to a powerful moment in the season. How does one move on with a broken heart and still find the will to see straight, let alone fight against the world?
Misty’s journey this season does not limit her to the physical demands of recovering from a severed arm. She must deal with the aftermath of a crooked partner and the burden of knowing guilty verdicts are being thrown out. Misty has to absorb her own level of anger and hope it doesn’t compromise her integrity and ability to do the right thing. There’s rage. There’s a sense of feeling lost, trying to find her identity through a barrage of constant reminders from those that torment her and her disability. In both her and Luke’s ability to deal with their daily lives, filled with violence and mistrust, there is a common thread that they both need to deal with their hardships.
Friendship. Whether it be from family members or friends, Luke Cage is filled with important, supportive moments that Luke and Misty need. Do they listen? Will they accept advice from those who only want to help? Season Two shows viewers what it’s like to feel desperate yet still have the strength to carry on and continue the pursuit of protecting those in need – even if that person hasn’t earned such heroism.
Moving forward, a constant message from Season One helps to define our characters in this season. Their determination is endearing and inspirational, as Luke and Misty deal with feelings of isolation while they try to find a way to move forward in their lives, all in an effort to save the day. If anyone takes anything from this season, they will see what a hero looks like. Beyond the hate, through the anger, a hero finds a way to move forward and be the hope people search for – to be the one people need in times of crisis. Having super powers makes it easier to be a hero, but that doesn’t matter if some won’t see beyond the exterior.
Luke and Misty prove that heroes come from within. Their strength of character defines them, and the ability to move forward despite the pain and ridicule shows everyone why they are amazing heroes. They’re even willing to sacrifice their pride to do what’s right and make the world right again, even if it tarnishes their image. Season Two of Luke Cage is a significant reminder of “absolute power corrupts absolutely,” and the heroes must determine whether or not they fall under that umbrella. Being a hero doesn’t always mean making the right choices, but if this season proves anything, it’s that Luke and Misty want to be the heroes that bring corruption to the ground. They must decide how far they’re willing to go to save Harlem, and in the end, they’ll walk a fine line to earn it.