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Luke Cage: Another Underwhelming Marvel TV Experience

Luke Cage and Jessica Jones Season 2 have both fallen short. We can only hope for a return to quality in the Marvel TV Universe.

Reading the initial glowing reviews of Netflix and Marvel’s Luke Cage Season 2, after only being released in its entirety for 48 hours, truly makes me wonder if my global peers and I were all watching the same series? Or if they even watched it at all?

I had it on my screen in the first hour of its release date (22nd June 2018), and I slogged it out to episode six (6 out of 13), then painstakingly did the remainder by Monday.

Initially I was quite excited, as I am a big fan of the Netflix/Marvel combination, and truly hoped within my heart of hearts that this series would be an improvement on the first series, which I felt started fantastically, then fell in a heap with lacklustre characters, anti-climaxes galore, and scriptwriting that was astoundingly below par.

One could’ve originally put this down to a brand-new series getting established: building new characters, creating a back-story, and setting the scene for great things. Yet this is now distinctly proven as far from the case, as this new season, unfortunately, doesn’t lift-off at all, and has the same feel of the first – rushed, poorly acted and ill-cast. I lost interest very quickly, as it has none of the dark majesty and brutal excitement of its most noted Marvel cohorts The Punisher, Iron Fist or the ramped-up, ultraviolent and exceptionally polished second series of Daredevil (which is much, much better than season 1).

Luke Cage, for all its promise, regrettably falls in a giant heap, and lays there in all its painful, slow-burning mediocrity alongside the mightily anticipated yet hugely underwhelming second series of its closely related sister-series Jessica Jones.

luke cage, jesicca jones, marvel, instabamm

Netflix/Marvel’s series ‘Jessica Jones’ (Krysten Ritter in pic) had an amazing first season, but didn’t measure up in season 2. Definitely not Krysten’s fault! We are big fans of hers here at Instabamm. Source: Netflix

This is made all the sadder for the fact that the great majority of the Marvel for Netflix ventures have been intriguingly dark and highly entertaining cinematic TV. Then, in extreme contrast, there was the recent pre-mentioned yawn-fest that was Jessica Jones Series 2, and now this? That’s two duds in a row. So the question is this: is Marvel now watering down the quality and going for quantity and just cranking them out for publicity to keep the Marvel brand constant on the small screen? If this is the case, it really is a shame, as these Marvel/Netflix TV ventures formerly raised the bar to new levels when it came to the ‘made for TV’ superhero genre, and refreshingly offered a grittier side to the Marvel universe. ‘Grittiness’ that is completely and utterly (and somewhat understandably) sidestepped on the big screen to accommodate vastly wider PG audiences, while solely focusing on making family-friendly billions.

If you want to see a NSFW quality Marvel hero done right, check out this classic scene from ‘Daredevil’ – as ‘The Punisher’ shows what a badass he is, even without his guns. Then please keep reading below. (Source: Netflix)

Luke Cage is far from family-friendly and thankfully does have some grit. Maybe Marvel tried, but just couldn’t get this one completely right? The violence, cussing, blood and sex you’d never see in a big-screen Marvel blockbuster are present, to a certain degree. Yet it never lines all of its plentiful MA-rated elements up to make the ‘classic’ mark, nor crosses that line in the sands of quality to become anything truly outstanding. It falls uniformly short across the board.

Marvel, Defenders, Instabamm, Luke Cage

It’s not all bad though. For all its many shortfalls, Luke Cage does have one very strong component. This is undoubtedly the title character, Luke Cage himself (Mike Colter), and is the show’s only glaring standout feature. He owns the role, while embodying the mild, modest bulletproof ‘Defender of Harlem’ all the way. He is an impressive and practiced actor, shining in every scene, and nothing can be taken from his portrayal of the ‘unbreakable brother.’

Also, Danny Rand, the Immortal Iron Fist himself (Finn Jones) shows up late in the season, and brings some excitement back to the show with a half-decent fight scene with Wu-Tang rocking the soundtrack (Iron Fist is undeniably worlds better than Cage in every aspect). Yet, it’s too little too late. The show has already been spoilt with the ridiculous, stumbling, slow-paced main plot that centers all around the completely uninteresting and terribly cast crime matriarch Miranda Dillard (Alfre Woodard), whose extreme over-acting and complete lack of chemistry with her on-screen much-younger lover Shades (Theo Rossi) will have you fast-forwarding quarter episodes at a time. In fact, the scenes involving these two actors are so bad, and so in need of extreme editing, that it feels like you are watching some sort of off-shoot of Sons of Anarchy (which Rossi was a part of), complete with ridiculous montages and a plethora of yawn-worthy weak sub-characters fast-killing any interest you may have originally held.

It is a damn shame to see Mike Colter playing a celebrated hero with such promise, then having to watch him constantly lift-up inane scripts, do his best through terrible fight choreography, and all the while attempting to put some sort of professional shine on the constant inadequacy and complete lack of presence passed off by his co-performers (with the noted exception of Rosario Dawson, who even though is essentially a backing character amongst the Luke Cage cast,and only features in several episodes, is excellent in everything she’s in; and is a clever reoccurring link throughout the ‘Defenders’ TV universe).

Quality-wise, with regards to Marvel/Netflix TV, and the downgraded feel of Cage, and the disappointment of Jessica Jones 2, it really doesn’t have to continue like this, does it? One or two shining performers floating in a sea of average throughout the given series? No, not at all. Many fans will now be waiting with bated breath, hoping with everything they have that the next Marvel TV installments will once again get back to being awesome.

The Netflix/Marvel main cast, complete with ‘The Punisher’ – who was absent in ‘Defenders.’ We love these guys – and we just want their best. Source: Netflix

Marvel, please, for the love of all things ‘super’- pick up your act. We expect easy to understand, easy to please popcorn-mediocrity with the blockbuster CGI-dependant tri-yearly releases on the big screen – but – the small screen requires a more cerebral approach. Proper pacing, strong main and side characters, witty scripts that are constantly peppered with unforgettable bad guys ruthlessly complimenting worthwhile conflict elements that keep anyone with an IQ over 80 coming back episode after episode. Plus, something of note happening every chapter. This is the fail-proof recipe of any standout TV. You know that right?

You have limitless money and all the right people to redeem any recent TV-orientated inadequacy. We truly want to dig what you do. The dedication required by fans to consciously sit through thirteen episodes of a series as detailed as this – and understand all that is happening – totally rules out any shows of this type of potential having a ‘food court’ audience (say like any made for the masses Avengers film). The sooner this is realized, the happier the true fans will be, and the upstart reviewers/journalists like myself, without alliances to anyone except to those with fantastic visions and remarkable storytelling, will spew your praises all over the interweb.

So how about delivering again guys? We know that Disney owns Marvel – yet we don’t need any of the unrivaled stupidity of The Last Jedi infecting our superheroes. No social justice undertones or god-awful scripts with a completely unnecessary political bias. Sweet Christmas! (Thankfully Marvel TV installments haven’t gone there, yet). We want original, heroic scripts with clever continuity, complete with passionately written and directed characters, laying down performances to the best of their more than substantial and excellently cast super-abilities.

(Source: Netflix) Luke Cage delivering his catchphrase…

Even though I am disappointed, my hopes are not completely dashed. Not yet. I am hanging out for Daredevil Season 3 (early 2019), and both second seasons of The Punisher (mid-2019) and Iron Fist (late 2018). Not to mention Defenders Season 2 (date yet unknown).

There is hope, and I want redemption after this stinging double-disappointment. Is that too much to ask? And I’m guessing after everyone has binge-watched all twelve episodes of Luke Cage this week, I won’t be the only one.

Let’s get it happening. Bring on the quality again. Drop the bad writing and show-wide mediocrity, and let’s get nasty!

Luke Cage Season 2 is available now on Netflix

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