The Good: Make-up effects, Characters
The Bad: Repetitive plot, Gets a number of details wrong, Tone
The Basics: "Suckas Need Bodyguards" enhances the peripheral characters in Luke Cage while only minimally advancing the protagonist in a very basic way.
Coming into Luke Cage one of the inherent conflicts was always going to be between Luke Cage and himself. When Luke Cage was first introduced in Jessica Jones (reviewed here!), he was a man who was simply laying low and avoiding anything that would call attention to himself. While that might work in a show where the hero is a costumed hero who disguises his identity, in a show where the protagonist is out and not concealing his identity, it is pretty hard to keep the narrative going with a character so conflicted. So, by "Suckas Need Bodyguards," it is fairly obvious that the show would be working to transition the character from the reserved, hiding character to an overt vigilante hero. "Suckas Need Bodyguards" features one of the most overt crossovers with Jessica Jones by having Trish Talk playing, which calls back to how Luke Cage was on that show while contrasting his character with his current incarnation.
Picking up where "Just To Get A Rep" (reviewed here!) left off, "Suckas Need Bodyguards" makes explicit Luke Cage's conflict between Cage and his desire to do good and his desire to stay hidden by reuniting Luke Cage and Claire Temple. Temple advocates an "out and active" approach for Luke Cage, knowing that he is virtually indestructible, while Luke Cage seems to want to take a "do good, but then get out town" approach.
Opening with Luke Cage out on a run while Trish Talk advocates in favor of Cage and his vigilante activities, Stokes visits Scarfe. Scarfe extorts Stokes for more money for the guns he stole from the police weapon destruction unit, which leads Stokes to use Scarfe's own weapon to shoot him. Cage's run ends on the steps of Dillard's brownstone where he threatens to shut down the Councilwoman's operation after he ends Stokes. Luke Cage and Bobby Fish have breakfast at the restaurant owned by Claire's mother, which allows Claire to meet up with Cage again.
While Misty Knight's squad begins a search for Scarfe, Luke Cage and Claire Temple find him hiding out in Pop's Barber Shop. As Temple struggles to save Scarfe's life, Dillard performs a television interview to raise her profile and mend her damaged reputation in the community. Cage is reticent to save Scarfe's life after he gets the corrupt cop to confess to killing Chico, but Temple keeps Cage focused long enough for Scarfe to tempt him with evidence needed to bring down Cottonmouth. When Cage finds that Scarfe is telling the truth, he works to get Scarfe to a safe location, while he is beset by Stokes's men!
"Suckas Need Bodyguards" is the episode of Luke Cage that starts to shift the focus from Cornell Stokes to Mariah Dillard. Dillard confronts Stokes early in the episode and viewers get to see her ruthless determination in that she pitches to Stokes the idea that Cage be killed by a myriad of alternate approaches. Dillard has, up until now, been more of a supporting player in Luke Cage's Harlem, with Stokes being the more overt gangster. Dillard is shown to be the power behind the throne with her approach extending well beyond the political arena.
Alfre Woodard plays Dillard with an incredible coldness that makes it entirely plausible that Dillard could rise to her position of political power. Dillard resorting to violence and having a dark side beneath her public persona is executed well by Woodard. Woodard has a great physical performance in "Suckas Need Bodyguards" during a scene where Dillard is reacting to being ambushed by a reporter.
While Luke Cage does the heroic thing in trying to get Scarfe to police headquarters in "Suckas Need Bodyguards," Misty Knight arguably has the more substantive role in the episode. Cage is handed his information to do the right thing; Knight has to deduces, bluffs, and acts in order to uncover the truth. Simone Missick continues to rise in Luke Cage as by realistically portraying an incredible, moral, detective who is also emotional. The reaction shot of Missick's face as Knight sees Cage's powers in full force for the first time and Scarfe wounded is one of the great shots of the season, mirrored by Woodard reacting again.
For fans of Netflix's Marvel projects, there is something unfortunately repetitive about long stretches of the second half of "Suckas Need Bodyguards." "Suckas Need Bodyguards" has a lot in common with "Daredevil" (reviewed here!) in its plotline where the heroes have to get a corrupt cop to safety to turn him in so he can bring down the season's crime ring. Once Luke Cage finds Scarfe's notepad is real, the episode moves in a direction that is a protracted chase much like the Daredevil finale.
Fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are likely to find "Suckas Need Bodyguards" super problematic as well for the problem with the episode referencing Obama. Anyone who knows the Marvel Cinematic Universe knows that in it, the president is Ellis. That Luke Cage's executive producers make such a mistake is troubling and it does undermine the authenticity of the series in the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe.
"Suckas Need Bodyguards" is not bad, but it is very basic. It minimally progresses the character of Luke Cage, but its ending point makes viewers openly question, "Where the hell is the series going to go from here?!" The episode illustrates the problem with having a weak antagonist for a genuine hero, though it does play well the idea of trying to resolve some of Luke Cage's internal conflict.
[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Luke Cage - The Complete First Season, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the debut season here!
For other works with Rachael Taylor, please visit my reviews of:
The Darkest Hour
For other Marvel movie, television season and episode reviews, please check out my Marvel Cinematic Universe Review Index Page for a listing of those reviews!
© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.