The Good: Performances are adequate
The Bad: Dull plot, Lack of character development, Use of handheld cameras is sloppy and a poor choice, Surprisingly few powerful emotional moments for the actors to play to
The Basics: "Now You're Mine" is one of the most contrived episodes of Luke Cage and it puts the series where the other Marvel Television works have already been . . . and they did it better!
When it comes to serialized television, the best works build a solid narrative for a season and when one looks back on it, they can see a clear progression of the plot and character arcs. Poorly-made serialized television and episodic television meanders from point to point, incident to incident, until it arrives at the end of the episodes shot and the viewer is left trying to make sense of what they have watched. It is hard not to call Luke Cage serialized, as most of the episodes are very closely tied to the prior episodes, but it is very hard to call the show well-made serialized television. The first half of the first season of Luke Cage devotes a lot of time and attention to Cornell Stokes before abruptly killing him off and replacing him with one of the most reluctant villains ever to appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and a crazed adversary who seems like an over-the-top comic book villain who was written more like a parody. And by the time the season gets to "Now You're Mine," loyal viewers of the Marvel Cinematic Universe have got to feel like the writers and executive producers just gave up on trying to create something compelling for the audience.
After all, "Take It Personal" (reviewed here!) climaxed with a shootout that put Luke Cage and Diamondback once again in proximity to one another and Misty Knight was shot. It does not take long in "Now You're Mine" for the plot to settle into a hostage situation and loyal viewers of the Netflix's Marvel television shows will see this as a pathetic trope that is being replayed yet again. After all, Jessica Jones had a flat-out hostage situation in "AKA 1,000 Cuts" (reviewed here!) and Daredevil did a hostage situation in "A Cold Day In Hell's Kitchen" (reviewed here!). So, that Luke Cage bothered to do a hostage situation with "Now You're Mine" seems incredibly lazy. That the show stretches it out over the whole episode makes it feel preposterous.
Following the shooting at the Harlem Paradise Club that broke up Dillard's peaceful rally, Luke Cage barricades himself and Misty in the kitchen. Against Alvarez's wishes, Diamondback takes hostages and lays out a plan to frame Luke Cage as the person in control of the club. Knight is bleeding to death because the bullet that hit her arm nicked an artery and Cage gets her moved to a secret room below the kitchen. Diamondback uses one of his hostages to contact the outside world and he impersonates Luke Cage to make it look like Cage is the one who has taken the hostages.
Temple meets Candace and uses her to get into the kitchen, where she starts to work on Knight's wounds. Tower from the D.A.'s office arrives and reveals that Mariah Dillard is pressuring the Mayor to put the Judas bullets in the NYPD's weapons so they can take down Luke Cage. When some of the hostages are released, the stories do not line up and Ridley becomes less sure of the truth.
There is no real character development in "Now You're Mine" and the supporting characters all seem to have been given moron pills for the episode. Sugar falls for the oldest trick in the hostage story book and Inspector Ridley seems so dramatically incompetent that one has to wonder how she ever rose to such a position of power within the NYPD. At least the sudden appearance of Blake Tower (illiciting a squeal from Daredevil fans!) at the police cordon reveals that not everyone has gone completely idiotic. Tower's fear that if the NYPD gets a powerful weapons, they will end up on the streets and that is a compelling argument that seems an obvious counter to whatever argument Mariah Dillard is making off-screen.
Claire Temple is predictably resourceful in "Now You're Mine," but that is not a change from Daredevil. Dillard is just as conniving as before, Diamondback is just as crazy, and Shades is just as mysterious; none of the characters actually develop.
"Now You're Mine" continues the trend of sloppy reporting in Luke Cage's Harlem (how have none of the reporters discovered the footage leading up to Cage throwing the cop in the dashcam?!) and getting the details wrong with tying the show into the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe. "Now You're Mine" has another reference to Obama, which does not track with the MCU and while Alvarez continues to be a compelling adversary, he is sublimated to Diamondback in the foreground.
Even more sloppy is the direction in "Now You're Mine." The use of handheld cameras for a shaky effect makes many stretches in the Luke Cage episode physically difficult to watch. Between the troubling direction, stale plot, and weird exposition by Diamondback that rephrases his backstory, "Now You're Mine" is virtually unwatchable.
[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 Rosario Dawson, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Daredevil - Season 2
Jessica Jones - Season 1
Daredevil - Season 1
Men In Black II
For other television season and episode reviews, please check out my Television Review Index Page for a listing of those reviews!
© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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