Forward Always: Luke Cage, Sinister Villains, and Why I Love Street-Level Heroes

7:00 AM

Part review of Marvel's newest Netflix thing, Luke Cage, part ramble about Marvel Netflix shows in general, and a lil' bit of talk about why these street-level heroes are my faves.

honestly so here for this show and its aesthetic honestly

If you know anything about me you know that I'm vastly into Marvel. Comics, shows (we won't even talk about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D; I'm pretending it doesn't exist), movies, allllll the things. Thanks to Anna (isn't it always Anna) this has been the year of Marvel Netflix shows for me, beginning and ending and always continuing with Daredevil, one of the best shows I've ever had the pleasure of consuming with my small innocent eyes. they can only be so innocent after all the feels. Daredevil was a game-changer for me: an introduction to a side of the whole superhero deal that's less pretty, less glittery and full of fancy gadgets. It was an introduction to the heroes who don't have shields and suits, who didn't ask for this and don't know what to do with it, who don't save the world but save their neighbors, who go out every night and get the crap beaten out of them and aren't sure why yet. The Netflix side of Marvel takes us away from worldwide shenanigans and zooms in to the little people hidden in the streets, the heroics that play out on a smaller but just as important scale. Daredevil -- and the other Marvel shows that hide on Netflix to haunt your dreams -- is a little harsher than the MCU, a little more mature, but if you're willing to get into it and have it destroy your soul, it's worth the trip and the tears. 

Of course, Daredevil is only one of the Netflix shows Marvel has either put out or has in the works, which brings us to the newly-released Luke Cage. 

Luke Cageeeee. 
Image result for luke cage gif
Prior to this show I knew exactly zero percent of anything about Luke Cage. Who is Luke Cage? Why is his name Luke Cage? What are his powers? Why do we care? Why does he have his own show? Why does he have his own show when Hawkeye doesn't have his own show? However, I have unreasonable amounts of faith in the magic Marvel and Netflix work together with the freedom they have to do creative and painful things, so I dove into it anyway. (With Anna, my partner in feelsy crime. We really need to stop the pain, but So began my introduction to Luke Cage, the bulletproof man who steals hoodies and reads books and has exactly zero chill, whose fighting style is to stand there and let the bad dudes beat themselves up. 

Yeah, I'm so here for that too. 

If you want a show with no chill, no limits to the pain, some great villains, a deadpan-sassy protagonist who happens to be totally bulletproof, more of Claire frickin' Temple, and so on, Luke Cage might be the right thing for you. It wasn't Daredevil, and at times I felt like the character development was lacking and the themes just didn't know where they were going for long, it's a beautifully-filmed aesthetically pleasing, energetic superhero show with a gritty vibe and a sick soundtrack. I'm happy with it. 

But a little disappointed, too. 

In the end, I wanted more out of a Netflix/Marvel series. Where Daredevil presented us with such deep themes of responsibility and heroism and morality, Luke Cage fell a little shallow and threw aside interesting themes in favor of some interesting fight scenes and a convoluted plotline with too much backstory and too many dividing storylines. It's awfully hard to care about the conflict between a villain and the hero unless you understand it, after all, and maybe it's just me but I just...didn't get the thing, y'all. And I felt like in the process of making something more complex and intense and fighty we skimmed over some things that would have made a much more focused and yeah, awesome story. It missed some of the things that compel me most about street-level heroes.
Image result for luke cage shades gif
brb over here crying about the camera art going on here
You see, street-level heroes aren't Steve Rogers. They didn't volunteer for a project with the government's help. They're not Tony Stark. They didn't make their own armor and embrace the role of protector of the world. More often then not, their abilities are the product of something they didn't choose: a freak accident, forced experiments, forces outside themselves. They're normal people who ended up with powers they didn't expect. Their lives have been changed and they didn't ask for it. They aren't equipped to deal with it. Which brings up the question that Luke Cage so strong asked and then ignored: If you have the ability to stop something when no one else can, if you have the heavy weight of being in that position, but you didn't ask for that ability, are you obliged to help? Do you have to embrace that and run with it whether you want to or not? 

We see this dealt with in Hawkeye comics, in Daredevil, in lots of other sources, and it's what makes these heroes compelling. They're ordinary people trying to live ordinary lives. They're not on a worldwide scale. They're wrecks, trying to find their way in a broken world, trying to find who they are. And the weight of keeping the streets safe is a difficult one when you don't have the Avengers to back you up.

It's this kind of discussion and dilemma that makes my sadistic lil' heart happy, to be honest. I love the moral problems of it all. I love the street-level heroes like Luke Cage and Matt Murdock for who they are: actual human disasters just like us, who just happen to have something extraordinary. There's something more approachable about them, isn't there? They forget to charge their phones. They wear sweatpants and fuzzy socks while recovering. They just want to hide and read for a while. They are, in short, actual normal people who are messes, and actual normal people who are messes like everyone else on the planet are the most fun to read about because they're the deepest and most compelling. 
i don't know why jessica jones is so relatable but here we are
What Luke Cage leaves wanting in terms of all that fancy theme stuff it makes up for in some pretty fantastic villains, AKA Cottonmouth and Diamondback and everyone's favorite sunglasses-wearing punk, Shades Alvarez. Okay, maybe just my favorite sunglasses-wearing punk because for real he is the Actual Worst.

Marvel is great at villains. Netflix is also great at villains. Together, the same forces of evil that brought us Wilson Fisk and Kilgrave (I just started Jessica Jones don't even talk to me about it) bring us the likes of Cottonmouth: classy, creepy, all-around-sucky and all-around-great. There's nothing better or worse than a suit-wearing smooth-talking villain who will also beat you up and leave you for dead in a heartbeat, the ones who can snap just as easily as they can settle back down. Diamondback cannot be discussed because ~spoilers~, but needless to say, he held his own too. 

Don't even talk to me about Shades, y'all. 

Shades stole the show. Almost literally. As character-development goes his leaves me stunned. He cuts a fascinating character that you immediately fall in love with and by the time you realize he is the Actual Worst it's too late to escape that relationship, unfortunately for you. We love to hate villains and Shades makes it hard to even hate him because let's be real, at a certain point his greatest crime is wearing sunglasses indoors in dark rooms and you can't even be mad at him for that since he looks so great. 
Image result for luke cage shades gif
look at this jerk and don't tell me you don't love him
Because this is turning into a ramble-fest and it's almost midnight Friday night and this girl needs sleep, I won't give you the twelve-part essay series I was planning on typing up tonight full of all my superhero-related thoughts. I have so many strong feels when it comes to street-level heroes and the Netflix/Marvel ones especially, and I'm sure you'll hear all those eventually since I literally never shut up. 

Suffice it to say: Luke Cage made for a solid, fun watch that also minorly ripped my soul out at times. 

Watch it. 

Watch it and watch Daredevil and revel in the loveliness of street-level heroes because they're important, guys. And I think they have some things to teach us about ourselves if we pay attention. 

do you have a legit reason for not seeing daredevil or luke cage yet? why not? who's your fave superhero? why do you love them so much? talk to me about alllllll the superhero things. seriously. this is my jam.


  1. I am halfway through Daredevil and it's flipping amazing! I have been meaning to watch Luke Cage and Jessica Jones. I also pretend that Agents of Shield doesn't exist.

    1. Ugh Daredevil is my favorite forever and always you cannot sway me from that opinion

  2. I think you just pinpointed the reason why I like Marvel movies but ADORE the Marvel Netflix shows. I haven't gotten around to Luke Cage yet, but I've been head over heels for both Daredevil and Jessica Jones for a while now. AND CAN WE TALK ABOUT THE FACT THAT THE PUNISHER IS GETTING HIS OWN SERIES? AND DEBORAH ANN WOLL WILL BE GUEST STARRING IN IT?!
    Street-level heroes really are the best, though. Since their stories are (in some sense) on a smaller scale, I think that there's a lot more opportunity to explore thornier moral issues. (Also: The actor who plays Shades--Theo Rossi--is part of the main cast of Sons of Anarchy, and he's beyond good in it.)

    1. MARVEL IS THE BEST OKAY. I got about halfway through Jessica Jones this week before's a little much for me personally right now, but it's a very good show, and I'll probably return to it later. Would recommend if you're comfortable with it. :)


  3. DAREDEVIL IS MA JAM, AND I MUST WATCH LUKE CAGE. Though my only hesitance is this: I'm fine with swearing, like, whatever, people will be people, BUT if there are graphic sex scenes throughout it, then it's a no go for me. My bro watched the first episode and informed me of one, and I am unsure whether or not that trend continues. SOMEONE TELL ME. IS A ONE TIME THING??

    1. I'm totally the same way -- there's one in the first episode, but I can't think of anything after that. (If there is it's like the first one and easy to see coming/skip.) :)

  4. I'm behind on S.H.I.E.L.D, and I haven't watched Luke Cage or Daredevil yet because I'm lazy as all heck (and I don't have Netflix. Digging these things up on the Internet takes more effort than just watching them on Netflix), but I do intend to eventually, because realistic/regular superheroes are my favorite thing. I appreciated Jessica Jones for its dark themes and exploration of the effects of mind control and all, but the amount of sex kind of turned me off to it. I just felt like there were a few more scenes than were necessary, you know?
    SHIELD is a mess (or it was last time I watched it. I'm a few episodes behind). I really like some of the characters (*cough* FitzSimmons *cough*) but I haven't cared for the plot or writing lately.

    1. Yeah, I liked some characters in AoS, and it wasn't totally awful, I just wasn't impressed with the writing or the quality of it and most of the characters annoyed me. Sigh.

      And I'm with you on Jessica Jones -- I started the first season this past week and stopped about halfway through because personally, it was a little too much for me at the moment. Maybe I'll return to it later, but for now, I'll just hug Matt Murdock and wait for mah precious Punisher series. (Because that'll be lighter...heh)


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