The great Luke Cage binge is upon us. Head here to see my reactions to each episode. Keep reading for my thoughts on “You Know My Steez,” episode 13 of Luke Cage‘s first season.
Which One Is “You Know My Steez”?: The one where Luke and Willis end their conflict with a Rocky V street fight, and the system ultimately lets Luke, Claire and Misty down.
The 5 Things That Mattered Most to Me:
1. Learning to stop waiting for the white man to show up and save them
After finishing “You Know My Steez” this morning I took a step back and realized I have mostly been reacting to Luke Cage from the point of view of a nerdy comic book fan/liberal white guy. It’s not like I didn’t already know that (I said as much in my first review), but it became all the more apparent to me when I started checking out Luke Cage reviews written by people of color, like Tshaka Armstrong’s “Why Heroes of Color Matter” editorial at RottenTomatoes.
For example, from a white guy, comic book nerd point of view, Luke Cage‘s frequent references but failed follow-through on that really good lawyer Claire knows quickly turned into a source of frustration this season since we know Clarie’s talking about Matt (or at least Foggy). This is likely just set up for Luke and Daredevil’s eventual meeting in The Defenders, but wouldn’t it be cool to see Matt Murdock pop up for a cameo in Luke Cage? We live for that kind of shit in comics.
But think about what that kind of cameo would really mean from a racial standpoint. Wouldn’t Matt simply seem like yet another white savior figure interceding into a black person’s story? This is Luke Cage’s origin story, and it works better if he’s on his own without any help from his future quasi-Avengers partners. This is also the first superhero show/film to feature a lead actor of color, and that adds an extra layer to everything that goes on. As Armstrong argued:
The show eschews the simplicity of a media-derived monolithic black culture, illuminating the variety and diversity of thought and affect present in any ethniAs c group. There is no hive mind in the streets of Luke Cage‘s Harlem, but there is a sense of empowerment. We’re not blindsided by the need for outside help to make our ‘hood better. There’s no cultural appropriation. Cage is Harlem’s hero — Harlem’s answer to Harlem’s problems — and that sense of empowerment is profoundly important.
Of course, Luke will eventually need some legal help, and Shades and Mariah apparently forgetting all about that file they left in the barbershop is already a point in his favor.
2. Make Harlem great again
Claire constantly teases Luke for his corny pick-up lines and jokes, but the corniest moment he’s had the whole season probably came with Claire by his side in the police precinct as he delivered his speech about Harlem:
People needed someone that didn’t require a warrant or shield to get things done. Call it a vigilante or a superhero, call it what you will, but like it or not I finally accepted that that someone had to be me. This burden is bigger than you or me. People are scared, but they can’t be paralyzed by that fear. You have to fight for what’s right every single day, bulletproof skin or not. You can’t just not snitch or turn away or take money under the table because life has turned you sour. When did people stop caring? Harlem is supposed to represent our hopes and dreams. It’s the pinnacle of black art, politics, innovation. It’s supposed to be a shining light to the world. It’s our responsibility to push forward so that the next generation will be further along than us.
And he capped it off with the season’s mantra: “Never backwards, always forward.”
Don’t misunderstand me. In this particular context, I don’t mean corny in a bad way. Speeches like that are supposed to be a little hokey, a little too naively optimistic, a little too Jimmy Steward from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Because in a post-irony world no one really seems to talk like that anymore, and those who do are eventually exposed as frauds or hypocrits or prove incapable of changing such a cruel world. However, Coker’s goal with Luke Cage is clearly to deliver a superhero for the modern black person, and his efforts culminated in the above speech, which is just as old-fashioned a heroic plea as anything the Christopher Reeves Superman ever said or Captain America continues to say in the MCU.
In my last review, I criticize the show for spelling things out for us too much, and this speech could similarly be dismissed on similar grounds. However, my cynicism has its limits, and I was genuinely moved by Luke’s words.
3. When the heck are Luke and Claire going to get that damn coffee?
Seriously, three episodes into their infatuation Luke and Jessica Jones literally fucked each other so hard the bed broke, but Luke and Claire go an entire season building up to a mere kiss and a humorously delayed “cup of coffee”? Also, in retrospect I don’t know why I questioned whether or not the show was truly building these two up as a couple. It so obviously was, and rightfully so. Dawson and Colter are dynamic together.
However, maybe there’s something to be said for the show delaying their union for so long, using close-ups to emphasize their growing intimacy (i.e., all the hand-holding) and sexual tension. It makes their kiss all the more satisfying, and also hews closer to more classical comic book storytelling where the hero gets the girl but always with corresponding complications.
4. The fake look of surprise on Mariah’s face when she heard Candice had been murdered
That was possibly the funniest moment of the entire season.
5. Where do we go from here?
Luke’s on his way back to Georgia to attempt to clear his name. Claire’s taking self-defense classes. Misty’s distraught over her part in Candice’s death since her boss was right – if she’d trusted the system and turned Candice over to protective custody she’d probably still be alive. Mariah and Shades are the new rulers of Harlem’s version of Westeros. Diamondback is about to be experimented on by the same doctor who turned Luke bulletproof. And Harlem loves Luke, and will welcome him back once Daredevil or whoever else help him get out of his prison situation.
Will there be a second season? If so, what might happen? Here’s what Coker told Deadline:
DEADLINE: But surely you’ve got a sense of where Luke goes from Season 1 and going into The Defenders?
COKER: The Defenders is its own trip, Daredevil Season 3 is its own trip, so is Jessica Jones Season 2. The only thing I can worry about is my swimming pool and keeping the leaves out of my swimming pool. I can’t worry about what’s happened to my neighbors. Eventually, I’ll go over to their house and they’ll come over to my house, but I’ve got to work about what’s happening here.
My thing is that I know where I want to go for Season 2, knock on wood that we get it. What’s interesting is I know Luke’s arc. I know the things that I would love to explore with Alfre and with Theo and other things.
That’s it. No more episodes, but you can use these direct links to my other reviews: