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

5k0afhlbeplawtc4tduzdpz9nczA male and female character can just be friends.

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)

jessica-jones-easter-egg-reva-connors-1448294878On 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?

mariahMariah’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:

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Posted by Kelly Konda

Grew up obsessing over movies and TV shows. Worked in a video store. Minored in film at college because my college didn't offer a film major. Worked in academia for a while. Have been freelance writing and running this blog since 2013.

16 Comments

  1. Thanks for all the reviews so far Kelly. Ive now seen all the episodes myself (before Netflix went down)

    At this point in the series, what have you thought of the Dialogue. The first thing I noticed about the Dialogue was how clunky it was sometime. I guess it comes down to how on point the dialogue in Daredevil was, and how.. almost .. bizarre the Dialogue has been in Luke Cage. Im not talking the bible quoting moments but the everyday stuff between almost all the characters.

    However what has really sat with me since it first started was the relationship between Mariah and Shades. I dont get it. I dont get why Shades is so dead set on supporting her. I dont get WHERE his character is coming from. I assumed he was the Lt to Diamondback, but then in their interactions I dont .. get that. When he talks to Mariah its almost as if he wants to .. woo her? Im not really sure what influences what he is doing.

    I guess I have just struggled with Shades and Diamondback a LOT this season. I got Wilson Fisk and understood.. perhaps the Purple mans motivations. But Ive never truly been on board with Shades and Diamondback so thats felt a little off.

    Reply

    1. I literally just finished “Now You’re Mine.” So, I’ve only got two left. You’re absolutely right about the dialogue. I thought everything Frank Whaley’s corrupt cop character said, in particular, came off as clunky, and some of his earliest interactions with Misty sounded seriously Law & Order wannabe. Beyond that, there have been lots of little moments which felt off, like how Luke keeps saying “Sweet Christmas,” which I assume is a comic book easter egg instead of something this man would believably say. Some of Misty’s lines during her psych eval were also overwritten and clunky. It hasn’t been enough to pull me out of the show, but it’s something I’ve certainly noticed, even though I haven’t really commented on it in the reviews.

      As for Shades…I’ve simply been going with the Game of Thrones comparison the actor himself made. He really has been positioned as this show’s Littlefinger, the schemer plotting his ascension to power. However, there’s no Iron Throne. Instead, there’s just that damn club in Harlem, and I don’t really know what’s Shades big picture plan was beyond pushing Cotton out of the way and seizing the club for himself. His reign didn’t last long at all considering how quickly Diamondback showed up. I guess with Shades I’ve assumed his goal was to consolidate and maintain power, and Cotton’s temper was clearly a problem as is Diamondback’s personal feud with Luke. The only one who’s played the game correctly has been Mariah, which is why Shades recognizes her as his best option for a long and prosperous future.

      I guess. It’s hard to know for sure. The actor’s been playing him like some cool jazzman who veers over into creepy territory from time to time.

      As for Diamondback, with two episodes to go I’m still processing everything, but I’m not crazy about the soap opera twist (i.e., We’re actually brothers, but I only I knew this entire time!”). Frankly, as I argued in a prior review I’ve felt a tad beaten down by the unceasing serialization this season. I wanted to see more of Luke being that Hero for Hire. Instead, they’ve gone straight to personal demons, family secrets and his version of kryptonite, and it’s become downright odd how often we’ve heard the name “Luke Cage” said out loud in full by other people and Luke himself. The episode I just watched did a lot to help me better understand Diamondback, but if we’re going to compare this to the other Marvel shows it’s looking undeniable that Luke Cage doesn’t quite have its own Kingpin or Kilgrave, as much as it tried to compensate by combining Cotton, Shades, Mariah and Diamondback into a coalition of villains.

      Reply

      1. What about the trip to Savannah? Needed? I didnt think it was needed at all. The revelation could of been done by Luke in the club later on .. etc. Just seemed an excuse to show a flashback. Are we now lead to believe his father is dead.. that he abandoned his church?

      2. Oh, that trip to Savannah was almost completely worthless. Luke and Claire traveling to that region of the country to track down his doctor is intriguing, and certainly yields compelling results, revealing the truth about the experiments, exposing Reva’s treachery and solidifying Luke and Claire’s blossoming relationship. Luke and Claire then going to his hometown and walking into his father’s church just so he could instantly conclude, “Yep, Diamondback’s telling the truth. I remember everything so clearly now” was just total bullshit. That information could have been more powerfully communicated to us AND Luke for the first time during one of Diamondback’s speeches during the club stand-off.

        As for Luke’s dad, good question. Standard rule of thumb applies, I guess, which is that if we haven’t seen the death then the writers hold the option to pop him back in at any point. Ergo, his dad’s probably not dead, even if Luke might think he is.

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