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Welcome back to our reviews of each episode of Netflix and Marvel’s Luke Cage. Check out my earlier reviews below:
And, now, as Pops would say, Always forward.
Episode 10: “Take It Personal“
Last episode ended with Luke and Claire having found Dr. Burstein, the man who gave Luke his abilities back in Seagate, and with them now repeating the dangerous procedure in an attempt to heal him. With Luke now healed, he and Claire spend the bulk of the episode on back story, uncovering more about Luke’s past.
Meanwhile, back in Harlem, things are getting out of control. Stryker makes a decision to further frame Luke by framing him for an attack on a cop. The police respond by aggressively trying to track down Luke, in the process violating the civil rights of many of Harlem’s citizens, most shockingly a teenaged boy. The resulting tumult culminates in a rally at Harlem’s Paradise organized by Mariah Dillard to ostensibly rally around the victim of the cops’ aggression, but really to further turn the community against Luke. As all of our characters, including a returned Luke and Claire, gather at the club, things go from bad to worse as violence breaks out.
The tenth episode, though it contains a lot of revelations about the process that created Luke’s powers and clarifies Luke’s relationship to Stryker, doesn’t entirely work for me. With the narrative gathering speed and tension back in Harlem, Luke and Claire’s episode and half road trip now feels like it’s sapping energy from the show, a distraction that a series that has had structural problems can’t afford to have. I enjoy all the information that we learn in this episode, but did Luke and Claire really need to actually drive to the Luke’s father’s church and enjoy a prolonged (albeit well-done) flashback when the same info could have been revealed in road trip conversation?
More well handled was the revelation of Reva’s involvement in the experiments at Seagate and finding out when Luke was selected to participate. It was clear in earlier episodes that Reva clearly wasn’t being entirely honest with Luke, but the surprises here pay off fairly well. The whole trip to Georgia just came off as oddly placed to me, like it didn’t quite fit in with the energy of the rest of the series. Maybe it would have been better to keep Luke and Claire completely off-screen for an episode and then devote an entire episode to whatever they did, rather than inter-cutting it with the other plot line. Maybe it just needed trimming to keep things restricted to the struggle to save Luke’s life and the discovery of the truth behind the original experiments. In any case, the Georgia segments that didn’t deal with the actual process of saving Luke felt sluggish to me.
The Harlem material worked far better. Once again, Marvel’s Luke Cage proved that one of its strongest elements is the way that it approaches and confronts the modern problems of race in America. This episode not only tackles the recurring issue of law enforcement’s interactions with people of color, but also with the attempts of different parties to politicize those incidents, sometimes to their own ends. We see in this episode how Stryker, Mariah and Misty all approach the growing conflict in Harlem, and as the forces gather at the club, the tension is effectively and palpably increased until everything goes to hell in the final moments, promising an action-packed episode to come. That’s good thing after an uneven episode that at times was bit too clunky and ponderous for its own good. 6.5/10