[Review] Luke Cage Episode 1×13: “You Know My Steez”

written by Kiara Williams

SPOILER WARNINGS ARE IN EFFECT

I think it matters a lot that the battle between Luke and Diamondback is only a slightly superpowered one. A city-wide, throwing-the-opponent-through-a-skyscraper, explosion-filled fight would have only taken away from the full meaning of it. It may seem anti-climactic to some, but the closing of this chapter of Luke’s life was vitally important and it needed to happen this way.

I appreciate that all of Harlem is there to witness the final battle “for its soul”, as Mariah put it. It was one thing for Luke to become a local legend in the previous episode, but it adds more importance to have the residents of Harlem actually see Luke fight for their safety. It’s not often that black people get to see someone fight for them, and they were able to see it here firsthand. Luke’s victory in that battle spreads much needed hope across Harlem.

The rest of this finale, however, is so damn unfair to everyone who is on the side of good. Diamondback and Mariah are arrested, yes, but only Diamondback is pinned for Cottonmouth’s murder. Why? Because Shades wound up with Misty’s phone and lured Candace out of her safe house and killed her, so now there’s no witness to testify that Mariah killed Cottonmouth. So, after everything that Mariah has done, there’s no comeuppance for it at all. Misty, somewhat rightly, is blamed for Candace’s death and spends her final scene in this episode grieving for her. Claire and Luke, who finally have some time together, are separated soon after when Mariah turns Luke in to the State Marshals, and he’s shipped back down to Georgia to finish his time at Seagate. But it looks like Bobby found Luke’s file in the remains of Pop’s barbershop, and I certainly hope that means he won’t be in Seagate Prison for very long.

I’d like to go back and talk about Luke’s speech about Harlem. People forget that Harlem was once known as a hub for black art and music and culture. Harlem and the Harlem Renaissance were beacons of hope that black people could be more than what they currently were. Frequently, black people are told that we don’t belong in the arts, that we aren’t intelligent and that we can only be and do certain things. Being seen in the arts, in music, and in places of high status does a lot for our psyche and how we see ourselves. The Harlem Renaissance was an art movement that was entirely fueled by black people. It turned Harlem into a cultural center for black people. It showed the world what black people were capable of, and that was and still is vitally important to us. Representation matters, is what I’m saying. Harlem, historically, has represented us well.

And Harlem is Luke Cage’s home.

He’s seen the best and the worst of Harlem, and by the end of Episode 13, he’s decided to become the hero Harlem needs in order to protect the best of his home. He wants to inspire other residents of Harlem to help make it better, to make it the beacon that it once was. However, for Luke to be able to do that, sometimes he has to go outside the law. The police are not always willing to help, and sometimes they’re even part of the problem. Luke is now the hero who can spark a rebirth in Harlem, even if the people there don’t know that he’s gone (for now). So despite Luke forcibly leaving Harlem, and the lingering misery that is the end of Episode 13, he still leaves behind a spark of hope that things can change, and it lives in Harlem’s residents. For now, things look nearly the same as they were in the beginning, but only for now.

Sometimes backwards to move forward.

Always.

Bring on Season Two.

Luke Cage is available now on Netflix. Kiara can be reached on Twitter @DJPrincessK and her webcomic can be found at http://www.electricrosecomic.com/.

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