As the second half of Luke Cage’s freshman season continues, the show begins wrapping all its stray elements together. We learn more about Reva’s involvement with the Seagate experiments, and we get some nice Diamondback backstory. What ‘Take It Personal’ does best is fill in the questions surrounding Luke’s past, while fleshing out his current conflict. Although every element doesn’t totally add up, there’s more than enough to appreciate what is delivered.
Luke Cage, while visiting his father’s abandoned church, has a flood of memories that flesh out Diamonback’s claim that the two are brothers. As it turns out, Diamonback’s Darth Vader declaration is true – he’s the bastard son of Rev. James Lucas – Luke’s father – and his secretary. Luke putting it all together in location-specific flashbacks feels a bit hokey, but not wholly unearned. It makes just enough sense, regarding Diamondback’s jealous rage and biblical fixation, that it keeps the conflict moving forward.
While that revelation makes sense, the Reva developments don’t fully line up. Reva’s been pretty vaguely referenced so far, aside from ‘Step in the Arena,’ but this episode reveals that Reva was complicit in the prison’s experiments. Supposedly, Reva managed to hide all her knowledge from Luke while they were married outside of prison, content to be his wife. It’s an interesting, cruel twist, but it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. In Jessica Jones (who gets a less-than-pleasant shoutout from Mariah), the relationship between Luke and Reva is so central to who he is. Although it wasn’t made as central in Luke Cage so far, it’s certainly still important. To throw that all away doesn’t feel genuine to the goddess Reva was made out to be.
As far as present-day conflicts go, every character seems to be prepping for war. The mounting conflict in Harlem, incited by Cage’s previous outburst, is masterfully handled by Diamondback. ‘Take It Personal’ builds up the conflict wonderfully, without spending too much time. We aren’t forced to spend a lot of time with the officer Diamondback kills, in order to make the death any more tragic. It works well for what it is, just like the assaulted kid works well for Mariah’s martyr against superheroes. It’s a shame to see Mariah become more of a puppet than a player, but she’s still a very competent politician. Misty’s giving Cage the benefit of the doubt, but how long will it last?
Overall, Luke Cage keeps the present conflict engaging, but stumbles over the past. Diamondback’s origin may be cheesy, but he’s still a smart, engaging villain, filling the Cottonmouth void well. Even from the last episode to this one – wasn’t the doctor the one who noted temperature mattered to Cage’s powers? Why was he so surprised when Claire suggested- but I digress.