The great Luke Cage binge is upon us. Head here to see my reactions to each episode. Keep reading for my thoughts on “Code of the Streets,” episode 2 of Luke Cage‘s first season.
Which One Is “Code of the Streets”?: The one where pop gets popped because nature abhors a superhero without a dead loved one to avenge, and the MCU drops a whole bunch of N-words.
The 5 Things That Mattered Most to Me:
1. Too much, too soon?
We’ve got 13 episodes to get through, and already in the second episode Luke and Cottonmouth have had two confrontations, one on Luke’s home turf, another on Cottonmouth’s turf. Moreover, Luke’s father figure has been killed off, thus pushing him into vigilantism.
I obviously have no idea how this is going to play out, but in a traditional superhero narrative or TV drama you’d prefer to have delayed the initial hero-villain confrontation until a little further down the road. As is, Cottonmouth dropping by Pop’s for a shave is nice for a quick jolt and steady tension as Luke contemplates simply ending things then and there, but it doesn’t have the epic grandeur of a Daredevil-Kingpin first meeting/conversation because there’s been no build-up. That’s not necessarily a bad thing because this isn’t 100% going to end with a simple Luke vs. Cottonmouth fight, but it’s definitely an interesting choice, one which instantly tells the audience, “This isn’t just going to be a repeat of Daredevil.”
I suppose this means Frankie Faison did his job, but I could have gone the entire season without Pops dying and been happy. Luke already has a dead wife. Would have thought that would have been enough motivation. However, I suppose Jessica Jones left him despondent and reluctant to get involved with people again. Pops had to go to break him out of his complacency, but did Pops have to go so soon, especially with Faison so effortlessly turning him into such a lovable figure? It is nice that Pops got his own version of “With great power comes great responsibility” in the form of “Always move forward.”
Also, is it a little too early to see Cottonmouth crying over an old picture of Pops? We don’t know these people well enough yet for his death and their mourning to have maxium impact.
2. The N-Word in the Room
This is an episode which begins and ends with Luke being called the N-Word as a street thug holds a gun to his head, and the world is uttered several more times in-between that. Captain America, he of the strict code when it comes to supposedly foul language, would surely blush. However, in real life it was the higher ups at Marvel who blushed. Luke Cage’s creator told Vulture how it went down:
“They had some trepidation, I’m not gonna front,” says show creator Cheo Hodari Coker of his initial conversations with higher-ups about the use of the N-word in a cinematic universe still mostly known for family-friendly superhero fare. “But my whole thing was that, in using this word, I didn’t want it to be comfortable. I wanted [it to be] that, every single time that it’s heard, you think about it.”
That said, Coker acknowledges the fact that, as the show goes on, it feels less like a statement and more like a common noun. Your ears still perk up, but the shock of it lessens. Indeed, he hopes viewers will understand how natural the word can be. “I also really wanted the show to kind of live on its own terms of, This is what it’s like when you eavesdrop on black people talking to each other,” he says. “That word, at times, will come up in certain ways.”
“The word has dexterity in black culture,” says Mahershala Ali, who plays Cottonmouth, and thus has the distinction of introducing the N-word to the multi-billion-dollar Marvel Cinematic Universe. “You could literally say it one way one second and say it a split-second later and mean a totally different thing and a person can pick up on it.” He says using the word “wasn’t anything I lost sleep over at night.”
3. You’re Drunk? Well, That’s Just Complete Bullshit
Remember in the first Terminator when the cops use rational explanations to debunk everything Sarah Connor thinks she’s seen?
- Saw a man get up after being shot as if nothing happened? No, not an android killing machine from the future. Just a dude wearing a Kevlar bulletproof vest! Duh.
- Saw a man catch on fire, climb on top of a car and punch a hole through its windshield? Hopped up on PCP. Will feel the pain later.
Yeah, where the heck was that shit in this episode when Misty points out to her partner, “Luke Cage. He shielded the kid. He had bullet holes in his shirt. Blood everywhere, none of it his. How did he not get hit?” Come on, white guy partner. You’re a detective. Do your damn job. Misty’s 100% right. Nothing about Luke’s story adds up, but brushing away her concerns with “You’re drunk” is either bad writing/a tired genre convention (i.e., only one person is allowed to notice all the little clues about the hero’s secret) or perhaps a sign that this particular detective is deflecting for a reason, like perhaps he knows more than he’s letting on. Keep an eye on that.
4. We’ve Seen Turk Barrett Before on Daredevil, But Do You Actually Remember Him?
If you’re wondering why Turk Barrett, the informant who sold Chico’s position to Cottonmouth’s man, seemed so unfazed when Cottonmouth suddenly threw that man over the side of a building it’s because Barrett has seem some seriously weird shit in his two seasons as a recurring criminimal on Daredevil. Last we saw Turk, his foot was about to be cut off by some crazy ninjas before Daredevil showed up to save him.
5. Who was Crispus Attucks?
Full disclosure: This episode is the first time I’ve ever heard of Crispus Attucks. According to Luke, Crispus was “a free black man, the first man to die for what became America. He could have acted scared when those Brits raised their guns, blended into the crowd, but he stepped up. He paid with his life, but he started something.”
You half expect the gunmen to interrupt Luke with a standard, “We’re not really talking about Crispus Attucks anymore, are we?” However, it is inspiring to see Luke drawing such inspiration from one of the greatest heroes in black history, but does he have his facts straight?
Pretty much, although Crispus was actually mixed race. According to sweet lady Wikipedia:
Crispus Attucks was the first death of the Boston massacre, in Boston, Massachusetts, and is widely considered to be the first American casualty in the American Revolutionary War. Aside from the event of his death, along with Samuel Gray and James Caldwell, little is known for certain about Attucks. He may have been a Native American slave or freeman, merchant seaman and dockworker of Wampanoag and African descent. His father was an African-born slave and his mother a Native American.
Despite the lack of clarity, Attucks became an icon of the anti-slavery movement in the 18th century. He was held up as the first martyr of the American Revolution, along with the others killed. In the early 19th century, as the abolitionist movement gained momentum in Boston, supporters lauded Attucks as a Native American who played an heroic role in the history of the United States.
On to the next episode: “Who’s Gonna Take the Weight?”
Or you can use these direct links to my other reviews: