The great Luke Cage binge is upon us. Head here to see my reactions to each episode. Keep reading for my thoughts on “Who’s Gonna Take the Weight?,” episode 3 of Luke Cage‘s first season.
Which One Is “Who’s Gonna Take the Weight?”?: The one that started with a chess metaphor and ended with the bad guy shooting a freakin’ rocket at Luke. Checkmate, except not really since Luke is unbreakable, but Cottonmouth doesn’t know that, not yet.
The Five Moments That Mattered:
1. The Park Bench Conversation
Well, shut my mouth. I completely misread Alfre Woodard’s Mariah Dillard in the pilot, taking her to be a phony politician. However, as Dillard and Cottonmouth touched based about his financial situation in this episode the truth came out, which is that Dillard genuinely believes in the Harlem Renaissance and urban renewal. She is a politician who, due to family obligations and real world necessity, has became ensnared in the criminal underworld, but her intentions are pure and love for her community and family unquestioned. Suddenly, she just became immensely interesting. Cottonmouth, of course, solely covets money, but she covets a time when people like Cottonmouth won’t be necessary.
2. Luke’s Daredevil Moment
It wasn’t a oner, and it wasn’t quite on par with Daredevil in terms of choreography, but Luke Cage finally got his signature fight scene, storming into Cottonmouth’s Fort Knox and taking down every single person in there before leaving with a bag full of money. Such fight scenes have defined Daredevil’s two seasons, and inspired other shows like Arrow to up their fight game. Yeah, but have any of them featured a hero picking up a couch and swinging it around like a bat before throwing it and one of the bad guys out a window? I don’t think so. Advantage, Luke Cage.
3. Misty Knows It’s Him
There are so many procedurals on television that it feels as if every trick has already been tried, yet kudos to Luke Cage’s production team for making Misty’s routine psychic recreations of crime scenes feel fresh, even if we might think, “Haven’t I already seen that before?” The highly cinematic route they’ve gone with this has lended far more intrigue to Misty’s creeping suspicions about Luke.
The production team also deserves special mention for the invisible cut which allowed a close-up of a drugged out woman turn from the tail end of Luke knocking off one of Cottonmouth’s safe houses to the start of Misty’s investigation of the crime scene.
4. Frank Whaley Is Redeemed
Frank Whaley’s accent of indeterminant origin has been bugging me during this binge, and there has been something off about his performance from the get-go, as if he was doing a knowingly bad impression of a Law & Order cop. “Who’s Gonna Take the Weight?” gave him plenty to do, playing the Good Cop to Chico, ribbing Misty for her basketball team of choice and quick decision to sleep with Luke, speechifying about the benefit of vigilantes in a post-Avengers world. However, on more than one occasion I found the writing to be let down by Whaley’s poor performance. Now that his character has been revealed as a dirty cop I realize he’s playing a character who is projecting a false front, and many of his lines likely carry a double meaning. At the very least, now we know why he so instantly dismissed Misty’s questions about Luke in the prior episode.
5. The Explosive Finale
I love that Luke’s plan to defund Cottonmouth and frame a rival gang in the process blew up in his face immediately. He’s new at this just as he is relatively new to Harlem, and naively thought he would escape detection or retaliation. To see Luke succeed but at a considerable cost strengthen’s his hero’s journey, and it also speaks to Cottonmouth’s power that he identified and eliminated (well, as far as he knows – Luke should be dead after taking a rocket to the back) his little saboteur in the span of a single episode.
However, I don’t love that this all literally blew up in Luke’s face. Perhaps that’s because I simply underestimated Cottonmouth’s rage. We’ve seen him beat a man to death, and throw someone off a roof in fist of rage. I never expected his rage to the take the form of a rocket launcher, and I can’t decide if this is a game-changing move (i.e., we’ve seen how far he’ll go, and he will now inevitably learn the truth about Luke’s powers) or a needlessly over-the-top bit of hokum.
On to the next episode: “Step in the Arena”
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