Sunday, 9 October 2016

Review - 'Luke Cage', S01E05 - 'Just to Get a Rep'






With the previous episode coming to an end with Luke Cage having his very own Tony Stark-style "I am Iron Man!" moment, it seems as though all of his secrets are now out in the open. Indeed, Luke no longer seems all that interested in even trying to hide his superhuman abilities – as his first appearance in the episode shows him casually tossing aside the rubble of the collapsed building he had been trapped under only days earlier, while being watched by a handful of stunned onlookers.

Cornell Stokes, meanwhile, seems to have found himself backed into a corner, following Luke's recent attack on his operation. While Luke may have been willing to content himself with stealing only a single back full of money, it seems that the rest of his resources have made their way into police custody – as has the weapons he still needs to secure an alliance with a rival gang. Clearly growing increasingly desperate, and knowing that he cannot target Luke Cage directly, Cornell launches a somewhat reckless campaign to put pressure on his rival by targeting the people of Harlem. Of course, this doesn't have quite the effect that Cottonmouth was clearly hoping for – as, with the people of Harlem turning to him for help, Luke Cage is left with little alternative but to 'step up', and launch a campaign of his own to get back everything that Cottonmouth's men had taken.

It is this rapidly escalating tension between the two that serves as the main focus of the season's fifth episode – and, there is a definite feeling, throughout, that some form of final confrontation is rapidly approaching. It is definitely a strange feeling, considering that we are not even at the season's half-way point – but, with Cornell Stokes seeming so obviously out-classed by Luke Cage, it has begun to feel as though there is simply no way that he could serve as the season's sole villain. That is, of course, unless some drastic change in circumstances were to take place – such as, for example, the existence of the 'Judas' bullets, which Shades brings to Cornell's attention. These bullets, apparently made from salvaged material recovered in the aftermath of the Chitauri invasion (providing the most direct connection we have seen between the Netflix series' and the events of the films), may provide exactly the sort of change in circumstances that Cornell Stokes needs. But, of course, with price tag attached being so far above Cottonmouth's current means, they are unlikely to be a factor any time soon (though, of course, they are bound to turn up eventually).

It has actually been somewhat disappointing, to me, to see exactly how out of his depth Cornell Stokes seems to be, in his efforts to deal with Luke Cage. It is perfectly understandable, of course – since, even in the increasingly strange Marvel Cinematic Universe, people like Luke Cage must still be extremely rare. But, even still, I am starting to grow a little worried that Cornell Stokes might, eventually, be pushed into the background, as some new threat emerges. And, that would be a shame – since he has been a fantastic antagonist, over the past few episodes, and Mahershala Ali has done a great job portraying him. I can only hope that, whatever may happen, the rest of the season has something a little more interesting in store for Cottonmouth than to simply let him be replaced by a more formidable threat.

Despite finding his back pressed up against the proverbial wall, here, this is an episode that still provides some truly great moments for Cornell Stokes – with his speech at Pop's memorial service clearly standing out as one of his best moments in the season, so far. In fact, the memorial service was a great moment for both Cornell and Luke Cage (and, for course, for Mahershala Ali and Mike Colter) – as each gave a speech filled with a tense subtext of subtle threats directed squarely at the other.

Elsewhere in the episode, it was great to see Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) make her first appearance in the new series – continuing with the increasingly important supporting role, which began back in the first season of Daredevil. Although the actual reunion between Claire and Luke is being saved for a later episode, she was still able to make a strong impression in her time on-screen – amusingly chasing down, and pretty severely beating, a purse-snatcher who made the mistake of targeting her.

Beyond that, another interesting complication presented itself in the form of another of the show's fascinatingly complex characters – as Detective Rafael Scarfe seemed to have second thoughts about his association with Cornell Stokes, after being ordered to recover Cornell's weapons from police custody. Though, whether this hesitation is due to a guilty conscience, or greed, still remains to be seen.

Overall, the fifth episode of Luke Cage provides some fascinating new developments for the central conflict which has, so far, carried much of the season – even if it did come with the suggestion that this central conflict might be about to come to an end. I can only hope that, whatever new developments the rest of the season has in store, Cottonmouth gets to be a part of it.

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