The following review of Luke Cage Season 2 contains general thoughts on the season and does not contain any specific plot spoilers.
Harlem’s “Hero for Hire” is back and this time he’s not hiding in the shadows. After the events of Luke Cage Season 1 and The Defenders, Luke Cage is a wanted man. Instead of being wanted for a crime he didn’t commit, like before, now he’s wanted for his skills of fighting, strength, and protection. In fact, Luke Cage Season 2 shows us just what it’s like for a hero to be celebrated by his community and why that makes Luke different than all of the other Netflix heroes.
Family Comes First
A surprising theme this season is family. For Luke Cage, for Mariah Dillard, even for new-on-the-scene baddie Bushmaster, they are all fighting for their families. Luke’s family is threatened when Claire begins to question Luke’s rising anger issues. Mariah’s family is threatened when John McIver AKA Bushmaster comes for her. Even Misty Knight‘s police family is threatened when certain police officers get too entrenched in trying to bring Mariah in.
Bushmaster’s entire motivation in coming to Harlem revolves around a debt that Mariah owes to his family. This debt, while not fully explained until midway through the season, will drive everything Bushmaster does this season. This debt gives Bushmaster a powerful and sympathetic motivation to pursue Mariah. At a few points in the season, you might even question if he’s the true villain of the series or if she is?
Both Mariah and Luke Cage will also reunite with estranged members of their family. Luke with his father, Reverend James Lucas, played by the late Reg E. Cathey, and Mariah with her daughter, Tilda Johnson, played by Gabrielle Dennis. During the season, Luke must find the ability to forgive his father, just as Tilda must find the strength to forgive her mother.
These family dynamics add a richness to Luke Cage Season 2. These characters are not making decisions because of plot devices or even comic book backstories, but because they are in pain — their family is their pain — and each character’s ability to reconcile with his or her family will have direct repercussions on the city of Harlem.
Bushmaster is a Beast
Get ready to fall in love with Mustafa Shakir. Shakir’s Bushmaster is intelligent, witty, handsome, and can lay Luke Cage out with one kick. Since Bushmaster grew up in Jamaica, Shakir delivers one of the thickest and most lyrical Kingston accents ever. His Jamaican culture is a strong theme this season. The mix of Regge and Rastafarian music in the score makes Jamaica feel like an additional character to the show.
Bushmaster has returned to Harlem with one goal: to reclaim his birthright. This birthright has nothing to do with Luke and everything to do with Mariah and Harlem’s Paradise. In order for Luke to protect Harlem and keep the peace, he finds himself trapped between both Bushmaster and Mariah. And the deaths that both Mariah and Bushmaster plan and execute are so appalling they would make Kingpin sick to his stomach. One death in particular might be quite triggering to some viewers.
If you’re worried about Bushmaster getting Cottomouthed like Cornell did back in Season 1, we can assure you that this villain is definitely used to his fullest potential. Mostly. More on that after Season 2 airs.
Give Alfre Woodard an Emmy, Now
What can we say about the juggernaut that is Alfre Woodard. In Season 1, Woodard portrayed Mariah Dillard as a weak, opportunistic, semi-philanthropic woman who was more concerned with how she looked in the public eye than what her cousin Cornell was doing behind closed doors.
After she killed Cornell, she became the HBIC, which is where we find her in Season 2. Mariah is queen of the castle, with Shades as her right hand man. Neither of them did any time for what happened in the finale of Season 1. This season Mariah has an opportunity to go straight and legitimize her family’s wealth and name. Bushmaster has other plans for her — and their war — threatens to tear Harlem apart from the inside.
Mariah’s personal journey this season has a lot to do with her daughter, and as the season progresses, some very dark family secrets are revealed. Mariah also revists her own #MeToo story — the rape she experienced at the hands of her uncle. This rape informs much of Mariah’s darkness, which is fully unleashed this season. When you know where her pain comes from, it’s hard not to sympathize with her, but her actions are so vile that she becomes completely unredeemable.
Misty Knight Continues to Shine
Misty Knight was arguably one of the best characters in Luke Cage Season 1. She’s tough, she’s intelligent, she’s a well-trained detective, she understands Luke’s role in Harlem, and she’s an honorary Defender. Mistry continues to stand out this season, especially as she learns to live without the use of her arm and her former partner, Scarfe.
This season Misty’s journey is about her career. She’s had a taste of vigilantism and wants more. She wants to see Mariah and Shades in jail, but she can’t do anything outside the law. Having her hands tied, metaphorically, causes her to ask herself a lot of questions about her future in the New York Police Department.
Misty also struggles with losing her good arm. She’s a righty, and she goes some time without an arm before Colleen and Danny gift her with a shiny, new, bionic one. The arm is very cool, and she gets to beat up a lot of thugs with it, which impresses even the bulletproof man himself. Together, Luke and Misty make quite the pair. Too bad they aren’t getting coffee anymore.
Power Man & Iron Fist
It’s no secret that Danny Rand was set to show up this season, and show up he does. His visit to Pop’s Barber Shop is complete with those funny one-liners everyone thought was missing from Iron First Season 1. And Danny isn’t the only Defenderverse character to make it over to Harlem.
Claire Temple, Foggy Nelson, and Colleen Wing all spend their share of time with Luke and Misty. Netflix recently released a clip of Misty and Colleen getting into a bar fight and it is one of the best fight scenes in the series. In the comics, Colleen and Misty were part of the girl gang called Daughters of the Dragon. Luke Cage Season 2 definitely gives you a taste of that. Oh, and Turk Barrett is back. Does this guy ever skip a Netflix show? NOPE.
Is Luke Cage Season 2 Good?
Luke Cage Season 2 is absolutely good. It’s stellar. It is a season pumped so full of heart, passion, revenge, faith, superstition, and music that it makes Season 1 look like the appetizer to this main course. Every character shines in this series, even the bad guys. Shades in particular will play your heartstrings in very unexpected ways. In an age of superhero tentpoles, it’s not easy crafting a sympathetic villain, but there are moments during this season that your heart will break for both Bushmaster and Mariah. Luke’s relationship with his father will also having your reaching for the tissues and perhaps even your Bibles *sobs*.
This season stands high among Netflix’s best series. The characters have depth on this show, they have clear motives. There is romance and heartbreak, reconciliation and forgiveness. Showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker has achieved a masterpiece of storytelling that makes us SO excited for future seasons of Luke Cage. Please, Netflix, announce Season 3 soon.
Luke Cage hits Netflix worldwide June 22.