The great Luke Cage binge is upon us. Head here to see my reactions to each episode. Keep reading for my thoughts on “Take It Personal,” episode 10 of Luke Cage‘s first season.
Which One Is “Take It Personal”?: The one where Luke found out Reva lied to him, and Mariah proved just how low she’ll stoop to boost her political profile, making us all feel a little uncomfortable upon realizing Mariah’s big plan is to convince black people that the thing to do is to actually give cops more guns and bullets.
The 5 Things That Mattered Most to Me:
1. Look at Luke still flirting with Claire
A male and female character can just be friends.
A male and female character can just be friends.
Yeah, but damn it sure looked like Claire was feeling it when Luke leaned in like he was going to kiss her but took her car keys instead. Maybe I wasn’t totally crazy with my reaction to all of those close-ups to their hand-holding last episode. Maybe something is brewing here. Then again, he did end the episode running after Misty and saving her. Plus, we know in the long term Jessica Jones will be back in his life at some point, at least for The Defenders. Still, Rosario Dawson and Mike Colter are clearly having a lot of playing Claire and Luke’s friendship/ongoing flirtation.
2. They are brothers, whoopity doo!
Diamondback’s family secret with Luke wouldn’t seem like plot filler on paper, but that’s how it came off in “Take It Personal.” A couple of episodes ago Diamondback told Luke they were brothers, and Luke doubted him until the moment he walked into his father’s old church in Georgia and was instantly transported into a flood of memories.
It happens so suddenly, though, that there’s no real intrigue, no possibility that Diamondback might be lying. The episode and this season didn’t need this, not if the truth of Luke and Willis’ relationship is going to be revealed in a simple, “Oh, shit, I guess he wasn’t lying. I totally missed all the signs. My bad.” Luke and Claire could have just gone to Georgia to see the doctor because that provided plenty of drama. They didn’t need to also tack on the road trip home to quickly verify Diamondback wasn’t lying. Maybe Luke going home works in “You have to go home to realize you don’t need to go home” kind of way, pushing him that much closer to fully embracing Harlem as his new home. However, none of this had as much impact as it should have. Instead, it just padded the running time of an already long episode.
3. Reva was Eva(il)
On the other hand, maybe I’m underestimating the way the entire episode was structured. Luke didn’t just learn he has a brother, and his childhood was all one big lie. He also learned the woman he loved was lying to him the entire time they were together, and that he never truly knew her. This is a revelation about Reva I didn’t expect, though this does finally get the season closer to Luke’s classical comic book origin story, specifically the part about the prison conducting experiments on volunteer prisoners in exchange for commuted sentences.
Luke’s entire world is in chaos right now, and it’s pushed him to openly wonder why he doesn’t just walk away from it all, a common refrain from him this season. Really, if not for Pop and Claire Luke would have been long gone from Harlem ages ago. Take It Personal” was about stripping him down and re-directing him back toward Harlem. There’s nothing left for him in Georgia. His dead wife might not be worthy of his mourning for her. All he as is Claire, and the handful of people back in Harlem who still believe in him.
4. All about family
Thematically, the season has been all about family, with Luke and Willis mirroring Mariah and Cotton as the (more or less) siblings who took divergent paths in life. Moreover, Mariah is haunted by the thought that she’s becoming just like her mother, and Luke has been motivated by losing his father figure, who was his last remaining connection to his wife. So, maybe it does work that Luke and Willis are brothers, but I actually found Willis more interesting when he was simply the guy who Luke somehow screwed over, the friend he let down at some point in past.
5. Is Mariah’s big plan making anyone else feel a tad uncomfortable?
Mariah’s rally at the club was where Luke Cage’s dual attempt at social commentary and at producing a thoroughly enjoyable comic book show collided in unexpected ways. For example, there is something deeply fascinating about a black political figure exploiting her own people and playing to their insecurities to advance her own agenda, and #StopThisNow is more or less this show’s version of Black Lives Matter. Plus, it is perfectly in keeping with comic book storytelling for the villain to attempt to demonize the hero in the eyes of the people and turn public opinion against them.
But, wow, this is a situation so similar to reality (the black community is outraged when one of their own is victimized by the cops), yet so entrenched in comic books (the black community’s outrage is funneled toward a vigilante, and the apparent solution is to actually give cops guns enhanced with alient technology) that it came off as somewhat uncomfortable. However, my own personal discomfort doesn’t stop me from marveling at how far Mariah has come this season.
On to the next episode: “Now You’re Mine”
Or you can use these direct links to my other reviews: