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Flashbacks invigorate Luke Cage but don’t do much for character development

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I know it must get a little repetitive to read these reviews where I keep saying that I want something more from Luke Cage. I’ve been more critical of the season because I know that there is a confident, sexy, socially conscious show buried deep in Luke Cage. Even though I’m not the season’s biggest fan, this episode felt a little easier to watch and it made me excited about the rest of the season. Maybe because it was shorter than the previous two episodes, but “The Creator” felt more stylish than some of the other episodes this season. Everyone is coming together to defeat Mariah. The show is moving with purpose. Mariah is positioned to be the Big Bad of the season and Misty is putting together all the pieces to take her down.


The notable feature of this episode is the use of flashbacks. I am conflicted about what the show chooses to flash back to but they’re interesting to watch and well shot. The island of Jamaica is a pleasant change of scenery from the police station, Pop’s, and Harlem’s Paradise. Luke Cage doesn’t have a flashy or swift visual style and the flashbacks move quickly and confidently. Unfortunately, one of the weaknesses of Luke Cage is how often it repeats information.

The first few flashbacks about Bushmaster’s life were showing us the history between his family and Mariah’s. We know how the Stokes family screwed the McIver family out of their share of the profits. Do we need to see the lawyers in Jamaica? We see Mariah treating Bushmaster with disdain. We could all assume that young Mariah was just as entitled as she is now. Bushmaster described the fire that killed his mother and that moment was very important for his character arc. Why are we seeing it again? To see that Mabel throw the legal documents on the fire? We didn’t need to see Bushmaster’s suffering to know how it affected him or to even seen that final twist of the knife from Mabel. Burning his mother alive is cruel enough. We’re watching the emotional wreckage of his mother’s death every moment Bushmaster is on screen.

By repeating information over and over, Luke Cage puts itself at a disadvantage when it comes to timing. As the season has gone on, the episodes have gotten longer and if the show didn’t take time to repeat itself, there would be more time for those character beats I keep asking for.


Speaking of those confusing character beats, Luke’s emotions seem to change based on what’s necessary for the story. He begins the episode furious at Mariah for the massacre at Gwen’s but over the course of the episode, he changes his tune because the show requires Mariah to live for two more episodes. It’s not a great sign when our lead’s behavior doesn’t make sense from moment to moment. Plus, he’s often just a mouthpiece for the messages of the show. He’s sitting across from Anansi’s widow telling her that the answer to war isn’t “more war.” Okay, Luke. We get it. Very little seems to challenge Luke and it’s easy for him to reconcile his beliefs with the demands that the other characters place on him. There don’t seem to be any moral obstacles standing in Luke’s way. The only conflict for him is how he’s going to logistically how to get Mariah. Watching someone plan on television isn’t particularly interesting.

Luke Cage’s flaws haven’t been erased but taking some risks when it comes to the storytelling make a difference and have me more excited as we enter the last few episodes of the season.


Stray Observations:

  • That’s it, I’m nominating “Will you at least tell me his medical history?” as the worst line of the series.
  • The way the West Indian Day parade is shot is warm and very pretty. Everyone kept mentioning how hard it would be to get around during the parade and we didn’t get a single chase scene through the crowd. Too expensive?
  • After Shades leaves Ingrid in the clinic, she takes a band-aid off her head to reveal a completely normal and unblemished head. Someone on set didn’t even try that day.
  • No special musical guest this episode!

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About the author

Ali Barthwell

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Ali Barthwell is a wearer of fine lipstick and fine hosiery.