Luke Cage 1.02 Review: “Code of the Streets”

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In the search for answers to what happened at the junkyard shootout, Misty Knight is connecting clues. Luke Cage struggles to side with his passive and confrontational sides. Pop tries to save one of his boys and Cottonmouth weighs his options.

There are a lot of threads to follow in this episode. Both Misty’s rapport in the community and Chico’s attempts at redemption are important to the character and story progression but there’s something that stuck with me more intensely.

Of Martyrdom and Monuments

Bookending “Code of the Streets” is a scene which finds a young man is holding a gun to Luke’s head. While he’s looking at a building bearing the name Crispus Attucks, the day runs through him.

Pop is a pillar. The image of good, growth and an ideal. He owns up to his rough past but it’s what he’s doing in the present that matters. Unfortunately that means Luke’s motivational and emotional through way rests on his shoulders.

When that pillar falls, Luke decides to become a monument.

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Luke Cage “Code of the Streets”

Martyrdom is outright mentioned and alluded to throughout this episode. Cottonmouth discusses the importance of it alongside money and respect. Respect gets your name on a wall. The money that gets your name on a wall came from somewhere. Earned versus bought.

Crispus Attucks earned his name on the side of a building. Sadly, on this day, so did Pop.

Forward Always, Luke Cage

This episode is an ignition point for Luke. It’s when he chooses to fight for the community and continue Pop’s legacy of hope. In episode one he wanted to be invisible whereas episode two is when he realizes he can’t. Prominent and proactive.

And if I can return to it briefly, as sad as it is, even Pop’s last moments were endearing. As he’s bleeding out, he tells Luke to deposit a fee in the swear jar. That risk in that line being overly cheesy is high. The payoff is immense though, as it’s a final reminder of the good-hearted nature that held him up.

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Luke Cage “Code of the Streets”

Trouble Smells A Certain Way

Some folks have felt that the pacing on Luke Cage starts out slow. Typically that’s a label for pacing issues but I see it another way.

Pop asks Luke at one point, “You know how the wind feels fluffy like you could stuff it into a pillowcase right before a big thunderstorm?” It’s an analogy for the buildup of tension, both in Luke and the series. Taking some time to build up velocity, not unlike Luke himself, in order for the explosive freight train to pay off.

Luke Cage is currently available to stream on Netflix

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