S1:E3 “Who’s Gonna Take the Weight?”
Synopsis: In the aftermath of a chaotic event at a favorite Harlem hangout, Luke heeds the call to action – and hits Cottonmouth where he’ll feel it most.
If you are up to the third episode of Luke Cage on this weekend’s Netflix binge, you are probably fairly satisfied with where the show stands so far.
This episode succeeds in deepening the various narratives, resulting in a signature action sequence.
Before drilling down into the episode, we can expand on what we’ve seen overall:
- We have a cast that gels. So far all the acting is strong and character nuance is starting to develop.
- Luke Cage is thoughtful, if not slightly dorky and seems to have mind of a poet.
- Pops is the soul of the show. Everything revolves around his view of community and fairness. His call to action is what propels Luke.
- Harlem is basically a character in itself. We’re treated to Harlem in both day and night and the wide camera shots give depth to that environment.
Like many themes within the Marvel Universe, Luke Cage is one of blurred lines between good and bad, love and hate. Even Harlem itself seems to agree.
In this episode, there are numerous scenes that set up the greater conflicts in store for Luke Cage and Harlem. The opening sequence is a touch confusing as it is a glimpse of what happens later – the episode’s story actually begins after the opening credits.
From a storytelling perspective, it makes sense to spend an episode advancing key elements that establish the greater narrative. With the wide variety of scenes, it seems this episode does just that.
Episode Details aka spoliers
This episode is the aftermath of Pops death after the unsanctioned attack on the barber shop by Cottonmouth’s thug.
Luke and the community are devastated. Cottonmouth, an old friend of Pops, is equally devastated. This is one of the blurred lines that are starting to recur throughout each episode. Cheo Coker is pointing the viewer straight at this. Nothing is completely black or white.
The linkages between past and future are significant – Pops ran with Cottonmouth and Chico’s father “back in the day”. Cottonmouth has come full circle as his underling kills Pops and his dirty cop confronts Chico.
Luke Cage ups the ante by attacking Cottonmouth’s operations throughout Harlem, accented simultaneously with an exceptional musical performance by Charles Bradley. This forces Cottonmouth to move his assets towards “Fort Knox” for security. In this case, “Fort Knox” is also know as Crispus Attucks, a housing complex championed by Cottonmouth’s cousin Mariah, a corrupt, yet self-righteous politician.
Crispus Attucks (named for the free African-American who was the first casualty of the American Revolution), might be safe from normal threats, but Luke Cage doubles-down on his ability to defeat any protection Cottonmouth can muster. With The Wu-Tang Clan’s Bring Da Ruckus in the background, Cage brings the heavy to “Fort Knox” resulting in the police scooping up all of Cottonmouth’s cash in the aftermath. This is a devastating move against Cottonmouth, who becomes desperate to recover his money, and make good with Domingo and ultimately the mysterious Diamondback.
One of the few people to know about Luke Cage is Chico. Our dirty cop learns this from Chico and helps Cottonmouth take action against Luke. We leave the episode with Cottonmouth targeting Luke for retribution at Ghenghis Connie’s restaurant, where we leave the episode in its explosive conclusion.
This series has been exceptional throughout three episodes. The soundtrack has been simply outstanding, particularly as an accent to the action scenes. One of the fight sequences seemed a bit lackluster, but this is probably attributed to the “blunt trauma” approach of Luke Cage as opposed to what Daredevil scenes might bring. Overall, this episode ratchets up the tensions between Cottonmouth and Luke Cage, as well as exposing other threats and lies. Within this conflict, it’s clear that Harlem as a whole will have to endure an escalation of this conflict.