Luke Cage deals with some pretty heavy issues, that’s why it’s good to see the show let loose and have fun every so often.
By episode two Luke is riding high. He’s the Hero of Harlem and a celebrity both in his own neighborhood and worldwide. He’s got a great girlfriend in Claire (Rosario Dawson) and seems to be getting stronger by the minute. It is nice to see him having fun out on the football field testing his powers for an audience. There’s no real stakes here just a superhero flexing his muscles. A little lightness is good now and then.
That was never going to last. In “Straighten it Out” the wheels of the rest of the season s tart to turn, albeit very slowly. We get a larger dose of Mariah and, more importantly, Luke’s father. If Jessica Jones season two was about the mother/daughter bond then Luke Cage season two is the parallel of that theme. Reg E. Cathey, for what little screen time he’s given this episode, remains a powerhouse. He brings such raw intensity to the role, especially in his confrontation with Luke, that it will be fascinating to see him play in the Marvel sandbox. Playing Luke’s father was Cathey’s final role so the entire performance seems to be bittersweet, especially since he’s painted as a villain from the start.
Luke seems to be at an emotional standstill when it comes to his father and it is a trigger for him. The very mention of his name sparks a rage we haven’t seen in him yet. But Luke Cage has never played in black and white, as much as its hero would like to. Who is the villain and who is the hero remains in the gray in a show like this and it is all the better for it.