Monday, October 3, 2016

Fill For Time Until The End, "Soliloquy Of Chaos" Is A Disappointing Set-Up Episode!

The Good: Good direction, Alvarez
The Bad: A lot of exposition and explanation for past events, No astounding performances, Minimal character development, Very basic and dull plot.
The Basics: "Soliloquy Of Chaos" sets up the inevitable plot point for the season finale in a very unremarkable way.

When it comes to super-hero stories, there are some plot inevitabilities. There is a villain who either rises or menaces an area that the hero arrives in and for the longer stories, there comes a moment when the villain and hero have to have an ultimate clash that resolves whatever complicated plot has brought the hero and villain to ideological differences. More often than not in serialized television works based upon comic book heroes, before the inevitable clash in the season finale, there is a set-up episode as the penultimate episode of the season. Luke Cage is no different in this regard as "Soliloquy Of Chaos" does incredibly little for the overall plot of the season. Instead, "Soliloquy Of Chaos" catches Misty Knight up with what the audience already knows and it puts Luke Cage in play so that he can be in a position to fight Diamondback.

"Soliloquy Of Chaos" picks up the Luke Cage story only seconds after "Now You're Mine" (reviewed here!), so it is impossible to discuss the episode without some references to where the last episode ended. "Now You're Mine" was essentially a hostage situation episode and given that the final moments of the episode saw it resolved with Luke Cage and Shades Alvarez arrested and Diamondback getting away.

Misty Knight feeds Luke Cage information before he is driven away to jail under arrest. Cage escapes and is stopped by a cop who knows Cage's reputation from Pops, so he lets Cage go. At Diamondback's warehouse, Turk is brought in to distribute Diamondback's firearms, while Zip looks to advance in his organization. While Domingo and Dillard make separate plans to try to take down Diamondback, Luke Cage stumbles upon a robbery in progress and uses it as a chance to get a new hoodie . . . from Method Man.

At the Harlem Police Department, Inspector Ridley illegally interrogates Shades Alvarez after Alvarez repeatedly asks for a lawyer. As public opinion in Harlem turns the cops against the populace who has begun to side with Cage, the police scour Harlem for Luke Cage. Cage resurfaces at Pop's Barber Shop where Bobby Fish helps him lure Turk down to try to use him to find Diamondback. When Alvarez is sprung from police custody, he finds he has to fight for his life when Zip tries to advance in Diamondback's organization. Diamondback exerts his influence over Dillard before Domingo tries to make a move on him at his warehouse.

"Soliloquy Of Chaos" contains one of the few unremarkable performances by Simone Missick. Missick has been wonderful at playing Misty Knight throughout the season, but as Knight has no super powers, the day after having massive blood loss and her arm being shot through and having to be patched up multiple times, she should have been far less active than she was in "Soliloquy Of Chaos." Missick makes it tough to buy that Misty Knight is just tough and determined in "Soliloquy Of Chaos," as opposed to being superhuman.

Given how before now, all of the big musical performances have been in the Harlem Paradise Club, the performance by Method Man in "Soliloquy Of Chaos" seems very out of place. Method Man's rap is a good one - though it does reference Treyvon Martin, which raises the question of how that incident went down within the Marvel Universe - but "Soliloquy Of Chaos" comes to a dead stop by giving him a chance to perform in the episode.

Much of "Soliloquy Of Chaos" is filler that pads the period of time from Luke Cage being arrested and losing sight of Diamondback and his inevitable fight with the season's ultimate adversary for Luke Cage. To that end, in an episode whose clear point A and point B are fairly obvious to anyone who knows the comic book superhero turned television series plot, spending so much time focused on Shades Alvarez and a Method Man performance feels inorganic.

I'm not complaining that "Soliloquy Of Chaos" devotes time to Shades Alvarez; he is one of the most intriguing characters in Luke Cage and he has been woefully underused. He is a mysterious thug character who has so many potential directions he could go in and "Soliloquy Of Chaos" has Shades presented as a smart character who knows his rights (which makes sense given how long he has been on the wrong side of the law) and is also eager to seize power on his own.

Diamondback in "Soliloquy Of Chaos" is a monolithically crazy character without real depth or shading. Instead, by this point, he is able to be overtly evil and a lunatic. Dillard in "Soliloquy Of Chaos" only seems to have anything to do with him out of self-preservation. While that is certainly realistic, it undermines the menace of Dillard. She is, basically, just a tool in "Soliloquy Of Chaos" and despite surviving the events of the season, she has not actually become more powerful or grown significantly.

Mike Colter has the chance to play Luke Cage as genuinely happy as he has a fanboy moment seeing Method Man, but beyond that, all of the performers play well within their established roles. "Soliloquy Of Chaos" does not have any big moments where the performers can plumb any new depths.

Ultimately, the late-episode MacGuffin of the files that could exonerate Luke Cage feels more insulting to viewers than it is clever. After all, those who watched Jessica Jones will realize that mysterious file folders filled with critical backstory information for the protagonist popped up in the penultimate episode. That said, director Phil Abraham makes "Soliloquy Of Chaos" watchable even if it is not particularly original.

[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 Ron Cephas Jones, please visit my reviews of:
Across The Universe
Half Nelson


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.
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