Monday, October 3, 2016

REVIEW: 'Luke Cage' - Cottonmouth Hopes to Turn the Harlem Community Against Luke in 'Just to Get a Rep'

Netflix's Luke Cage - Episode 1.05 "Just to Get a Rep"

Cottonmouth strikes back at Luke by taking his vengeance out on the people of Harlem, while detectives Knight and Scarfe face an unexpected threat.

Luke Cage going public with his identity and his powers is proving to have some major consequences for Harlem in "Just to Get a Rep." The war between him and Cottonmouth is only escalating more. But more importantly, more and more people are getting caught in the crossfire. This show understands the importance of a community. It has such respect for the history of this world. This is a neighborhood where everyone knows each other. It's a community defined by crime and destruction. Cottonmouth helps to facilitate that. But it's also about the strength and perseverance to continue moving forward. Pops' funeral is well attended by so many in the community. He was a beloved figure in Harlem. Everyone knew who he was and had respect for what he was trying to do. Cottonmouth broke that trust which led to Pops' death. That's what sparked so much of the current conflicts. And now, Luke and Cottonmouth are only further complicating each other's lives - often at the expense of Harlem.

Luke didn't need to reveal his powers to the world. He's been using them quite a bit over the last few episodes. He's really starting to bring a lot of attention to himself. But it's one thing to storm the center and take down a bunch of known criminals. It's another thing completely to just be digging through the rumble of the restaurant in the hopes of finding the swear jar that belongs at Pops' barbershop. He's out in the open in broad daylight. He's just moving around huge pieces of the building like it's nothing. He doesn't attract that much of a crowd but it's still a significant development. This is something he's choosing to do. He no longer cares about the consequences because he needs to honor Pops' memory. That's the most important thing to him right now. Honoring and respecting the people of Harlem who want to make the neighborhood a better place. He aims to take down the people who wish it harm.

Luke doesn't want to take control of Harlem from Cottonmouth. He just wants to push out the danger and criminal lifestyle. He wants to make a safe space where neighbors can respect each other again. Not be terrified whenever some gangsters come barging through their door expecting to be paid. Of course, Luke's actions make it hard on the neighborhood. Cottonmouth wants to send a message that it's Luke fault that their lives are going to be substantial worse. If they were upset with the previous arrangements, they are going to be livid, outraged and horrified by the new ones. Cottonmouth sends his entire crew to try and recoup the money that was lost. It's a fool's goal. There's no way he can replace that kind of money. The police seized all of it and he can't get it back. So, he's determined to make Harlem pay for it while also turning them against Luke Cage. It's not the smartest plan. All Luke has to do is collect what's stolen from the citizens to win their appreciation. He rules by kindness and smarts. Cottonmouth rules through fear and intimidation. Two radically different styles that are only continuing to prop up the war.

"Just to Get a Rep" also introduces a new weapon that may be able to take Luke down. It's mostly just plot setup in this hour. Shades finally recognizes Luke. It's a blast from his past he was never expecting to see again. He had no idea that Carl Lucas survived the beating in the prison. He comes to that realization after seeing Luke fight. Luke isn't trying to hide the past either. He makes sure that Shades remembers who he is now. That could be very dangerous. Shades is still such a mysterious character. His organization, Diamondback, is shrouded in secrecy. Shades and Cottonmouth make lots of allusions to the man in charge. His reputation is just as large as Cottonmouth's is in Harlem. But he's still a player yet to make his mark on the season. Right now, it's just important that Shades has a bullet made out of alien metal left over from the Battle of New York. It's a reveal that suggests Luke may not be as indestructible as he believes. Bullets hardly phase him anymore. He keeps forgetting that his wardrobe isn't bulletproof. This twist seems to suggest that things are about to turn in this war. But that's a mystery left until later on this season.

Right now, it's important that everyone attends Pop's funeral. There are so many conflicts boiling under the surface of this event. Bobby knows all about Pop's complicated love life and who should not sit near each other. But the conflicts at the funeral are much more tense than some silly love triangles. Misty doesn't believe Luke should attend. Pop meant something to her as well. She's mourning his love and is afraid of what will happen to Harlem if the war between Luke and Cottonmouth continues to escalate. She is now fully aware of what each side is capable of doing. She's caught in the middle trying to prevent any further bloodshed. But she hasn't really been all that effective at her job so far. In fact, she largely just pops up to warn Luke about the potential consequences of his actions in this neighborhood. Of course, Luke loves Harlem. He wants to see it thrive as a community for all. He wants to restore the barbershop to its former glory. He wants to continue Pops' legacy. But the story ultimately comes down to Luke and Cottonmouth's dueling eulogies. Each side presents their case to Harlem. Cottonmouth wants to protect this neighborhood from the outsider bringing it so much harm and destruction. Luke wants to save and honor the city while protecting it from those who wish to exploit it for their personal gains. It's a rousing final sequence for the episode. One where Luke believes he was won but the war is far from over between the two.

"Just to Get a Rep" also marks Claire Temple's first appearance on the show. She is the character who connects the Marvel shows on Netflix more than any one else. Sure, it has mainly been guest appearances but she's an important part of this universe. The fact that she's listed as a series regular here suggests that she'll continue to have just as much importance here as she has had on Daredevil. Perhaps she'll get even more. She really deserves it. Rosario Dawson has constantly been a delight in the role. Neither Daredevil nor Jessica Jones have actually given her a lot to do though. Claire largely pops up whenever a character needs medical assistance. It's great to see her first appearance on Luke Cage has nothing to do with her profession. She's returning home to her mother after being let go from her job. She didn't want to stay silent about the events that happened with the ninjas in Season 2 of Daredevil. And now, she finds herself back in Luke Cage's orbit. The two haven't crossed paths yet. But her presence suggests that they will. She has a feeling that she should be helping people with special abilities. It's something she clearly gravitates towards. She has seen Matt Murdock, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage in action. With Luke going public with his identity, help from Claire could be something he really needs right now.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Just to Get a Rep" was written by Jason Horwitch and directed by Marc Jobst.
  • Cottonmouth hopes to pay for the special bullet that could kill Luke by getting the guns from Hammer Industries out of the police evidence locker. He enlists Scarfe's help. But Scarfe is seeming more reluctant to help now. It's not abundantly clear why he has this change of heart or what will come of it though.
  • The captain at the precinct informs Misty that Internal Affairs is looking into opening an investigation into Scarfe. Details about his handling of this case aren't adding. The evidence isn't enough for Misty to believe them. But it's good that she's not being left completely in the dark even though she trusts her partner completely.
  • Claire tells her mother the truth about Matt being able to fight despite being blind, the ninjas dying and somehow coming back to life and Luke surviving a shotgun blast to the head. Claire knows a lot. That will probably make both her and her mother a target at some point.
  • Luke digging through the rumble for the swear jar instead of Reva's picture suggests that he may finally be moving on from her. And yet, Misty has the photo and knows enough to dig deeper into his past.
  • All it takes is someone suggesting a different strategy for Cottonmouth to pull his gun out and kill him. That shows just how volatile and unhinged he is becoming because of this war. He knows that he can't just leave Luke alone. This is too personal for him to stop now. But that doesn't lesson the brutality of that moment at all.
  • The community having to pay Cottonmouth even more is a conflict largely seen through Alicia. Her father's promised ring from a baseball career is taken from her. Luke needs to get it back or risk Alicia shooting everyone responsible for stealing it. It's still a shock to her when she sees Luke's strength in action. But she's very appreciative of him getting the ring back nevertheless.
  • Of course, Luke also has to give a speech to Alicia's father about how he's continuing to disappoint his daughter by continuing to drink. He reminisces about the past with so much reverence. But he's unaware of how much his actions are to blame for his problems. It's not really the most engaging or necessary story. 

As noted in previous reviews from this show, every episodic review was written without having seen any succeeding episodes. Similarly, it would be much appreciated if in the comments, the conversation would only revolve around the show up to this point in its run.