Netflix and Marvel successfully do it again. The question is whether it was as good as the other shows, and if it warrants a second season. Here’s my breakdown of the characters in the show, how they factored in, and a little bit of speculation on where it could go from here. There are spoilers, so if you don’t want to see them, scroll down to the final paragraph for my rating.
Luke Cage/Power Man/Carl Lucas: I said it before and this series backs that claim… Mike Colter is the perfect pick for the main character. He looks as if he enjoys his character, and Cage was presented without flaw in my opinion. The back story of Carl Lucas, the references to his classic Power Man costume and name, and the evolution of Luke Cage was spot on. If there was anything I thought could have made it better would be Pop’s barbershop becoming a new place with Heroes For Hire. Although they didn’t show that, the H4H was certainly set up that way. Luke was always a character I liked, but never spent much time thinking about. Now I wonder why he wouldn’t have been the new Captain America instead of Falcon in the comics, but that’s going off on another tangent.
Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes: I’ve never seen Mahershala Ali in anything before, but his acting made Cottonmouth worth watching. He turned what was a very lame character in the comics into a badass. I didn’t see his death coming as early as it did, and who’d caused it. His actions were always a surprise, and though he wasn’t as much a crime lord as Kingpin in Daredevil, he certainly had a great presence. If I’d have changed anything, it would have been how he didn’t seem like much of a threat in the episode he died. I felt he should have gone out stronger than he did. I see why they did it however. It was a way of making you feel for the character right before ripping him away. All in all? Great storytelling regardless of how it was approached.
Mercedes “Misty” Knight: Simone Missick was just proof of more great casting choices. I love the buildup and portrayal of Misty, and felt sorry for her along the way. She was the single character in this whole series that had more to deal with than anyone else. Constantly being stuck in a hard place didn’t mean she couldn’t kick ass either. Aside from her central role in the story we also got a few other comic references with her. When she was shot in the arm there was even mention that she could lose it. This was in reference to her bionic arms in the comics. Her outfit at the end, when she reentered the club undercover was straight from the pages of Marvel, and her tearing the piece of paper from the light post also gave a nod to another character whom she’ll eventually meet, Colleen Wing.
Hernan “Shades” Alvarez: Theo Rossi was irritating in a good way. This was THE character that you hated to love. He’s the type of antagonist that makes the viewer want to see punched in the face, but also never go away. In the comics, Shades had a visor similar to Cyclops from X-Men. I’m extremely happy that they took away that aspect and left him as a right hand man for the bosses. He seemed to have no particular allegiance to anyone, which makes me question one thing… He could pull off being a mob boss on his own, so why does he always end up being someone’s lackey? And what is it about him that scares his bosses? I say that because it seemed he could say anything he wanted to them, and there’d be no consequence.
Willis Stryker/Diamondback: Erik LaRay Harvey was a good pick for the character, but I don’t feel Diamondback was one to be taken seriously. Sure, he was crazy, but that’s what made it seemed out of place to me. His motivations were lacking and childish, and I can’t see why Cottonmouth was afraid of him. Okay, that aside, he was a major threat to everyone in the story, including Cage. The Chitauri metal being used as bullets that could penetrate Luke’s skin was an interesting addition, especially since we got to see how they could possibly do surgery on him. The final battle with Luke gave Diamondback a comic appropriate costume that made sense, and we’re obviously going to have him getting similar powers to his half brother in the second season or Defenders, after that ending. I look forward to seeing him return in a less mentally awkward role, and more of a physical threat.
Claire Temple/Nightnurse: Rosario Dawson’s character finally got some good screen time. She received some more back story, and even talked about how she wanted to help people with powers. This set up her role as the Night Nurse in Defenders.
Mariah Dillard/Black Mariah: Alfre Woodard has to take the prize for best acting in the series. She’s stellar in her performance of the corrupt politician. She’s got motivation and I’m glad to see her overall role remaining a presence. This woman came off as more of a threat than Wilson Fisk did in DD. I’m eager to see what will happen with her if she returns.
Comic book cameo roles: Trish Walker was heard over a radio broadcast briefly. Turk Barrett returned, and though it felt like a forced placement it was welcomed. Comanche played a role as Shades’ partner in prison, and though I can honestly say I know nothing about that character’s comic book portrayal, it was cool to see another D-lister appear in some way. Stan Lee’s poster was seen again in the background, just like in the other Netflix shows, and the references to the incident in Avengers as well as the other Netflix heroes brought it all together.
Various other roles: Detective Scarfe, Pop, and the countless other thug and police roles, as well as the countless musicians involved were nothing but pleasing to see. Method Man’s appearance was downright awesome!
Speculation: here’s what I think. Defenders are set up (all but Iron Fist, but he’s coming). We’ve got Luke Cage, who will obviously get out of prison due to a certain Daredevil lawyer. Aside from those two heroes there’s Misty Knight, The Night Nurse, Jessica Jones, Punisher, and the soon addition of Iron Fist and Colleen Wing. We might even get Trish as Hellcat. But who will be the threat? It was just announced that Sigourney Weaver will be the main villain for Defenders. Who she will be remains to be seen… Perhaps Madame Hydra?… regardless she has a ripe picking of villains to add to her antagonist army… Diamondback will now have abilities, Mariah Dillard, Shades, Kingpin, Turk and I’m sure I’m missing a few. I thought Avengers was highly anticipated when it was coming out, but now I’m beginning to think Defenders will be much the same.
Overall review: The music and acting were superior. Comic book references made old school fans happy. Real world events fit into the storytelling without pushing an agenda. This was some great storytelling with some flaws. It didn’t drag out like Jessica Jones did, and it did give us a good origin for multiple characters. It’s not perfect, but its earned one of the top places in my book for great action and attention. This was the first series of ALL of the Netflix shows that I think I could have literally watched all the way through without stopping in one sitting. I’d never do that, nor have the time to, but it was compelling and really decent. I give it 4.5 out of 5 sCrypt Coffins for my review. Keep them coming, Netflix and Marvel.