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Luke Cage – Moment of Truth (Review)

There is a lot to be said for how the Netflix television series choose to introduce their central characters.

The first season of Daredevil opens with the eponymous vigilante laying a brutal smackdown on Turk and breaking up a people-smuggling ring, clearly establishing the world of the show and the character’s rougher edges. The second season opened with a similar action set-piece in which the masked hero tracks a bunch of armed robbers to a downtown church leading to a suitably atmospheric image. Jessica Jones lifted its opening scene from Brian Bendis and Michael Gaydos’ Alias, with the hero smashing a deadbeat client through the glass pane on her door.

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These are all sequences intended to set up the year ahead. The first season of Daredevil is preoccupied with the question of whether Matt is trying to do good or whether he is simple enabling his own baser impulses. The second season of Daredevil is much more of a traditional superhero tale with prophecies and ninja cults, along with super assassin ex-girlfriends. The broken glass in the door to Jessica’s office becomes a recurring motif across the first season of Jessica Jones, a reminder of how the character is constantly clearing up the shattered remains of her life.

In contrast, Luke Cage opts to introduce its character in a very different manner. Although Moment of Truth inevitably builds to an action set piece, that action set piece is tucked away neatly in the final minutes of the episode, feeling almost like an afterthought. Instead, Moment of Truth sets the tone for the season ahead. It opens with an extended conversation in a barbershop that covers topics from the merits of former Los Angeles Lakers (and Miami Heat) coach Pat Riley to whether Al Pacino has an “eternal ghetto pass.”

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It is a very relaxed conversation. And in many ways, Luke Cage is a very relaxed kind of show. That is in many ways the best thing that can be said about the series and the worst thing that can be said about it. Luke Cage unfolds at a pace that might be affectionately described as stately and cynically dismissed as glacial, taking its time hitting expected beats. However, the greatest strength of Luke Cage is the confidence and verve with which it hits those marks. Luke Cage is a pleasure to watch, a show charming enough that it earns enough goodwill to take its time.

Luke Cage starts as it means to go on. Charming and comfortable in itself, relaxed and confident. Despite the plotting a structural similarities that run through the season, this is a decision that immediately distinguishes itself from Daredevil and Jessica Jones. Like its lead character, Luke Cage walks tall and acts like it is bulletproof.

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