The great Luke Cage binge is upon us. Head here to see my reactions to each episode. Keep reading for my thoughts on “Soliloquy of Chaos,” episode 12 of Luke Cage‘s first season.
Which One Is “Soliloquy of Chaos”?: The really bad penultimate episode of the season where Method Man and Sway drop by for no reason.
The 5 Things That Mattered Most to Me:
1. When everything was spelled out for us
This was an annoyingly lazy episode filled to the brim with redundant dialogue and characters flat out spelling everything out for us, such as Mariah stating what we already knew (i.e., she’s becoming the new Mama Mabel) and celebrities cameoing as themselves and saying the most obvious shit like “There’s something powerful about seeing a black man who’s bulletproof and not afraid” before rapping about Luke. It’s at these moments Luke Cage feels like a genuinely socially important show which is also overly concerned with making sure we’re fully aware of its social importance.
Subtelty’s clealry not the show’s strong suit.
Don’t tell us about Luke Cage being a powerful symbol in Harlem; show us! A montage of black dudes walking around in replica Luke Cage hoodies and staring down cops is a nice try, but also completely inconsistent with the tone of the past couple of episodes when Mariah rather easily turned the people of Harlem against Luke. If Luke has more support in the community than he knows why haven’t we really seen it ever since Cotton was killed, apart from like two dudes saying they still believed in Luke, one of whom received a real beating for voicing his support. We know Luke’s presence divided Harlem even before he’d been blamed for multiple murders, but if Luke really is such a folk hero for Harlem why wasn’t there a single person at Mariah’s rally speaking up to defend him? If the people in “Soliloquy of Chaos” don’t trust what the cops are saying about Luke why were they so trusting just two episodes ago?
Maybe it’s supposed to be that all of those club hostages Luke saved are spreading the word. Maybe it’s also supposed to be that a celebrity endorsement from Method Man goes a long way to turn the tide. Speaking of which…
2. Aren’t you Method Man?
Luke Cage has clearly been crafted as a superhero for the hip-hop generation, much like the way Empire remakes Dynasty for the rap and hip-hop community. Frankly, though, I don’t really know what to make of Luke Cage‘s musical sequences. I love soul music, blues and r&b. As such, I’m not exactly going to fast-forward a scene involving Raphael Saadiq singing “Good Man” or Charles Bradley crooning “Ain’t In a Sin.” These sequences are pure ambience, often times pleasantly so, but sometimes bordering on self-indulgence.
These episodes don’t need to stop for a couple of minutes just to watch someone perform a song, even if the song might happen to feature lyrics which sorta, kinda speak to the situation or theme of the episode. To be fair, not every episode features such a sequence, and when they do the songs are often used to tie together montages. Moreover, showrunner Coker’s trying to equate Harlem’s Paradise to a modern day Cotton Club, and soul, blues, rap and hip-hop are as relevant to the New York black experience as talking about the Knicks at a barbershop, lamenting the lack of strong father figures in the community and running afoul of the law based solely on the color of your skin. However, the live music in this show too often feels like a storytelling crutch or, at worst, pure filler:
For example, why are we stopping in the middle of the second to last episode to showcase a new, original song from Method Man, listening as he raps:
Got thugs in the store with the barrel on your lips
Sayin’ “empty out the drawer” before he pound you with the grip
Lord, who to call when no one obeys the law
And there ain’t no Iron Man that can come and save us all?
Power to the people and Luke Cage the cause
And the cops got it wrong, We don’t think Cage involved
Don’t lean on Method Man to tell us all of that. Actually show us more of Luke being Harlem’s hero. He helped a bunch of people who lost their shit because of him, and now for one scene he stopped a couple of idiot robbers. That’s it. That’st he extent of his everyday heroism. Other than that, he’s been in a non-stop battle to either clear his name, earn vengeance for the fallen or exorcise his demons. Instead of showing us a bunch of people pretending to be Luke while Method Man raps actually show us Luke going around town beatin’ down those who steal from his people.
Of course, you can’t do that because Luke is too trapped in this fued with Diamondback and reluctantly accepting the burden of being a hero. However, it feels like Coker and crew made this all more complicated than it needed to be. And suddenly I’m clearly not really talking about the music in the show anymore and more lamenting the way the entire season has been structured.
3. Hello, barbershop co-owner. Glad to see you’re still a character on this show
Again with the dang chess metaphors? Still, good to see you.
4. That gang war didn’t amount to much
The heads of all the gangs are now dead, and the last remaining gang seemingly attacked Diamondback on a whim, as if their internal “It’s the 12th episode of a 13 episode season. We got to get going on this shit” clock went off. Granted, it was probably more strategic than all that, i.e., Diamondback just lost his club and tons of his men thus making him vulnerable. Still, the Harlem gang war forever brewing in the background of this show sure as heck didn’t amount to much, not it was necessarily ever meant to.
5. Well, that looks stupid
To be fair to Diamondback, his new power suit is pretty much comic book faithful:
On to the next episode: “You Know My Steez”
Or you can use these direct links to my other reviews: