Luke Cage season 2 has hit Netflix, and if you’ve binged the entire thing in one weekend like I did, you’ll know that our titular hero could take some lessons from Jessica Jones.
Note: This article contains spoilers about the Luke Cage season 2 finale.
The beginning of Luke Cage’s sophomore outing saw our hero at the top of his game. He was Harlem’s darling hero, ready to lay out a criminal or two and take a selfie with your cute baby. He was surrounded by people he cared about and who cared about him. The streets were relatively safe. Life was good.
And then Bushmaster hit the scene and everything went to hell. Not all of it was his fault, of course, but he set in motion a lot of what ended up happening throughout season 2. While we can certainly pin a lot of it on his shoulders, it’s really Mariah’s machinations that escalated the situation to an almost apocalyptic level of chaos.
It’s no wonder that Luke falters a bit in season 2. He is constantly trying to do the right thing and failing. He goes up against Bushmaster and loses — twice. He tries to take down Mariah’s empire and fails to find any solid evidence against her. The harder he tries to work within the system, the harder the system works against him.
Then, like I said in my Luke Cage season 2 article on the complexities of heroes and villains, Luke decides to meet his enemies punch for punch. If they escalate, so does he. But Luke is not like other people, so his punches land a lot harder.
I don’t think any of us have sympathy for Cockroach, the man who got out of jail thanks to Detective Scarfe’s penchant for falsifying evidence. Pretty much the first thing Cockroach did after being released was to continually beat his girlfriend and their son.
As Claire points out, there’s nothing wrong with the fact that Luke stepped in to stop the situation. There is, however, an issue with how he decided to handle it. Luke was brutal in a way we haven’t seen before.
Claire was right to leave when she did. She had promised herself she would never again be subject to the kind of anger Luke has raging inside at the moment. No one in their right mind would blame her for wanting to take a step back.
But I do blame Luke for isolating himself. Or, rather, I blame the Luke Cage season 2 writers for marching us down a path we have walked so many times before.
It took two seasons before Matt Murdock decided to let Karen Page in on his secret. It took two seasons for him to understand that pushing people away was just as dangerous as letting him in. Daredevil seasons 1 and 2 was about the consequences of hiding behind a mask. And I’m still not sure Matt understands how important it is to have people you can rely on.
Jessica Jones is starting to understand that lesson, however. She’s the prickliest pear of the bunch and has been since her initial outing. She has isolated herself even more than Matt — at least he had his career as a lawyer to keep him somewhat connected to other people. Jessica only ever had Trish and Malcolm, and she would even push them away when things got too dangerous or she was feeling too vulnerable.
But by the end of Jessica Jones season 2, it appears as though our hero is changing for the better. She basically lost everything — her mother, Trish, and even Malcolm — but instead of drowning her sorrows in a bottle of whiskey, she decides to knock on Oscar’s door. Not only does she know she needs someone in her corner, but at this point I think she honestly craves the company of others.
With as many demons as she has, it’s a surefire way to be certain her head stays on straight.
Time and time again we see heroes trying to keep their friends and family out of danger by isolating themselves. Frank Castle did it. Danny Rand did it. And every time, they learn that life is so much sweeter if you have someone to share it with, whether that’s a friend by your side, a lover in your bed, or a partner watching your back.
This is exactly what The Defenders taught us. Not one single hero can stand on their own against what is plaguing their city.
So why is Luke Cage still isolating himself!?
By the time the Luke Cage season 2 finale rolls around, Luke is practically on his own. He’s decided to take over Harlem’s Paradise following Mariah’s death and has made a place for himself at the table with the other crime bosses. His goal is to control the crime, but as D.W. points out, that pretty much makes him a crime boss.
Not everyone left because he pushed them away, but by the end of season 2, Luke is by himself, regardless. Claire left town to give herself time to think. Bobby Fish flew out to California to donate a kidney to his daughter. Luke refused to go back to Georgia with his father. D.W. straight up kicked Luke out of Pop’s barber shop.
The only one left in his corner is Misty Knight, and even she recognizes the situation they’re now in. She trusts him to do the right thing, but if she catches him crossing the line, she’ll have no problem tossing him in a jail cell. Their relationship has always been a bit contentious, albeit civil, but it’s obvious she’s drawing a line in the sand.
I understand why the writers chose to go down this path. Luke’s first season was about accepting the fact that he’s a hero. His second season is accepting the consequences of claiming that title. But we’ve seen a version of this story in one way or another with the other Defenders.
I do think the choice to make Luke the owner of Harlem’s paradise is an interesting one. I just wish that choice hadn’t cost him the trust of everyone he cares about.