The great Luke Cage binge is upon us. Head here to see my reactions to each episode. Keep reading for my thoughts on “Just to Get a Rap,” episode 5 of Luke Cage‘s first season.
Which One Is “Just to Get a Rep”?: The one where Cottonmouth and Luke turn Pop’s funeral into a secret debate about the fight for Harlem’s soul.
The Five Things That Mattered Most to Me:
1. Cottonmouth kills his man
Cottonmouth is the type of dude who will bring a rocket launcher to a fist fight. Good to know. That caught me totally off guard a couple of episodes ago, but I’ve adjusted, to the point that I fully expected him to shoot his one underling who was talking about the “benign neglect” and “social conditions that created hip-hop.” Of course, expecting it and actually getting it are two different things, and the suddenness of the moment certainly earned a laugh.
But that’s not why it stood it out to me. What really set it apart is how this is yet another moment of Luke Cage being oddly literary, with Cottonmouth’s man citing a book about the history of hip-hop as inspiration for why they should simply let Luke have his half of Harlem. This bit of self-education on the thug’s part didn’t work out too well for him, but it does speak to one of the larger goals of this show, which is to inspire us to read more.
Coker told RottenTomatoes:
“The good and bad news about binge-watching is that once you get to 13, that’s it. So if people love the series, and they start watching it again, and then they get bored watching it over and over again, they’re going to say, ‘Wait a minute, what are these books that they keep talking about? It’s going to be a year before Luke Cage season 2 comes out. Why don’t I try to read some of this stuff?’ That’s how it starts because as a reader, I started reading at an early age, and I fell in love with the written word. I was an English major at Stanford.”
2. Luke cleaning up the streets like a blaxploitation boss
I have no real analysis or thought-out reaction here. It’s pretty simple, actually: Watching Luke stomp around Harlem to retrieve everything Cottonmouth stole while a killer blaxploitation tracked blared on the soundtrack is one of the most purely cool things I’ve seen in quite some time. Also, he is seriously up on his black history, first defending the good name of Crispus Attucks and now teaching one thug the importance of respecting Jackie Robinson’s legacy.
I feel as if I should pick something else, perhaps rhapsodize about the larger meaning of Luke’s conversation with the ex-baseball player and what the show might be trying to say about the lack of strong African-American fathers, but, nah, that montage of Luke kicking ass was just too awesome.
3. Luke’s not hiding anymore
At the outset, I admitted my fear was Luke Cage would come off as a mere repeat of Daredevil with an alteration to the racial composition of the cast and primary stomping ground of the characters.
Well, shut my mouth. On a fundamental level, Daredevil is a very traditional superhero show, recalling so many others (Arrow, various Batman movies, etc.) in its handling of Matt Murdock’s dual identity. Luke Cage doesn’t have time for that shit anymore. Everyone in Harlem knows his name. He doesn’t wear a mask. Now Cotton has seen his powers up close and personal, and Shades knows his real name. Considering the show’s fondness for chess metaphors, all of the chess pieces in this little vigilante story are now clearly on the table, and Luke has just helped a bunch of people he didn’t know because not only is he “one of those” (i.e., person with powers) he’s someone who gives a damn now.
Well done, Luke Cage writers. Well done. Maybe ease up on the chess metaphors, though.
4. Meanwhile, in Claire Temple’s Life
I love that someone tried to steal Claire’s purse the moment she set foot in Harlem again, and that she ran the dude down and kicked him in the balls. I love that we met her mother, and learned about her religious grandmother. I love that Claire flat out stated her new purpose in life, namely to help powered people. I love Rosario Dawson’s performance as Clarie.
But now I put on my nerd hat.
I don’t love that all of this distracted from Luke’s increasingly badass conflict with Cottonmouth, or that Claire describing the plot of Daredevil‘s second season has nothing to do with Luke Cage’s first season. I don’t love that the Netflix shows continue to pretend as if the Marvel Cinematic Universe began and ended with The Avengers, as if little things like a crazy robot hurling an entire country at the planet like an asteroid never happened and the U.N. never passed the Sokovia Accords and turned Captain America into a fugitive. Obviously, “The Incident” would matter more to the people of Harlem than the events in Sokovia or some piece of U.N. legislation, but, still, being temporarily invaded by aliens isn’t even the craziest thing to happen to this fictional Earth in the past 4 years.
But it is what it is. We’re three shows, four total seasons of TV into this Marvel Netflix universe. We should be familiar with how it works by now.
5. Dapper Dan isn’t just an O Brother, Where Art Thou? joke
This is an oversimplification, but in popular culture it seems like if you’re white you think Dapper Dan is the name of that hair product George Clooney raved about in O Brother and if you’re black you think Dapper Dan is the name of the infamous hip hop tailor. As such, a lot of people watching “Just to Get a Rep” had probably never heard of Dapper Dan the tailor until seeing him pop up in the barbershop to measure Luke for a suit. Here’s some more about him, from MessyNessyChic’s 2013 profile:
He was selling custom-made clothing to Hip Hop’s finest for thousands of dollars a piece, fashioned from rolls of fake Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Fendi prints imported from Korea out of his Harlem boutique during the 1980s. His name is Dapper Dan and before the likes of Kanye West and Rihanna were doing it, this guy was the first to bring designer fashion into the context of street culture. Dubbed “Hip Hop’s fashion godfather” who “planted the seed for fashion” in the music genre, Dapper Dan’s client list included everyone from Harlem hustlers to the likes of Run DMC, Mike Tyson, Salt and Pepa, LL Cool J and Bobby Brown, who would spend hours at his store on 125th street which stayed open all night and day for 8 years.
A little more from DazedDigital’s 2014 profile:
Harlem outfitter Daniel “Dapper Dan” Day’s clients may have included Mike Tyson, Floyd Mayweather Jr and LL Cool J, but it’s the “hustlers and street people” he’s really got to thank for his success. “They were my primary clientele,” he says in front of both son and grandson in his beautiful brownstone, just minutes from the premises that once housed his clothing shop, Dapper Dan’s Boutique. “The look spread outside the hustler culture and was embraced by the whole rap world, and they just took it everywhere.”
On to the next episode: “Suckas Need Bodyguards”
Or you can use these direct links to my other reviews: