Every episode of Luke Cage’s first season is named for a song by Gang Starr, but “You Know My Steez” is only the second one that has taken me down the internet’s rabbit hole trying to decide why it was chosen. (The first was “DWYCK.”) I have watched the video, read the lyrics, looked at the tracks it samples, read every article on Ambrosia For Heads about the ties between the group and this series and read bios of Gang Starr online, and I don’t know that I’m all the way there.
Steez, according to Urban Dictionary, means “style with ease” and was originally coined in the song “Shadowboxin” by GZA and Method Man. If you follow all the links in this intro and/or know something I don’t know, please share in the comments, because it’s driving me a little crazy.
Anyway, you might have guessed that this episode felt more like an epilogue than a climax by the fact that I felt more urgency about the title than the action.
We open with Luke and Diamondback having the superman-on-superman fistfight they were just diving into at the end of episode 12.
If the show was called “Diamondback” or “Harlem” or anything other than “Luke Cage,” this fight might have had some stakes. Especially since we know that Luke Cage is going to be in Marvel’s upcoming Defenders, too, you know he’s going to survive this battle. Darn our transparent entertainment industry!
The battle is intense, and although it begins in the barbershop and works its way through the building, it doesn’t take too long for it to spill outside when Diamondback deals Luke a big blow that sends him flying out of a second-story window and onto the street. A huge crowd of people, police and reporters gather to witness the spectacle, including the entrepreneurial fellow who has the film of “The Incident” and Thembi Wallace.
Claire, once again failing to do as she’s been asked, leaves Candace and her mom alone at her mom’s apartment to come be available to Luke if he needs her. Misty is in the crowd as well.
Throughout the battle, we get glimpses into the period in Diamondback and Luke’s youth when they were just a couple of best friends working out in a boxing gym together, Diamondback coaching Luke.
The irony is that in the past Luke was the hothead, and Diamondback was the cool-headed teacher. Now the temperamental tables have turned, and in addition to having the cooler head, Luke is drawing on Diamondback’s training to defeat him– which he does.
In the immediate aftermath of the fight, it looks like Luke might get to walk free, Misty arrests Mariah for Cottonmouth’s murder…
and Luke and Claire are getting increasingly close to kissing.
But there are rules to follow and paperwork to file, so everyone has to go to the police station before the happy ending can click in.
Luke delivers a moving account of his innocence of all crimes to Misty, Claire by his side, while all of the police officers who’ve been looking for him listen and learn.
Everyone there is moved, but although she’s been determined to collar him since she arrived, Inspector Priscilla doesn’t attend Luke’s speech. Relieved of his burden, Luke is able to ask for some food. He’s starving!
Meanwhile, in an interview room nearby, Priscilla is letting Mariah stew.
Mariah appears to be cracking up by the time Priscilla comes in, and then she spins the most sorrowful tale about how Diamondback forced her to frame Luke Cage.
It’s quite a performance.
Misty comes in at its climax to tell Mariah that she knows what actually went down, and to play part of the recording she made of Candace’s witness statement in the park.
Mariah starts to weave a bit and backpedal some, but before she can work out a new story, they’re interrupted by Misty’s colleague, Bailey (Justin Swain), who pulls Misty out to tell her that someone (Shades) had used her phone to lure Candace out of hiding and kill her.
Now they have no witness, which undermines their case against Mariah so completely that they literally have to let her walk out of the station right then.
Luke and Claire are exchanging innuendo about coffee (GAG) while eating takeout Chinese in the police break room (because of course they would hang out at the police station as long as possible after clearing Luke’s name) when all this happens.
Because he’s still hanging around, Luke has a front-row seat to Mariah gleefully collecting her belongings on her way out. He asks her about the file of evidence to clear Carl’s name, and she says “What file?” Then waltzes out to hold court with some waiting reporters.
Misty and Luke are both feeling pretty fed up with a system that keeps letting someone like Mariah walk free, but before they can do anything about it, a gang of federal marshals arrives to take Carl Lucas back to Seagate. Now that he’s done running and ready to reclaim his innocence, he goes with them without protest.
Claire grabs him in the hallway for a sloppy kiss before he goes, and then he talks books with his new captors as they drive to Georgia together. (ROAD TRIP!)
As the episode closes, Mariah has started packing the family revolver, reopened Harlem’s Paradise with Shades by her side and kisses him once in her office.
It was kind of a weird kiss– especially after I kept expecting her to kiss EVERYONE all season, and I can’t explain why it struck me that way except maybe that Shades didn’t seem to be kissing back and his face went from sort of upbeat incredulity to moody plotting once she turned her back.
Is it wrong that I’m kind of in love with him? He’s definitely one to watch next season.
Wrapping up another loose end while opening a door for future drama, we see the nefarious Dr. Noah Burstein closing himself into Diamondback’s hospital room with a look of anticipation on his face.
Claire rips a phone number from a flyer offering martial arts and self defense lessons (our path to Iron Fist?) and has told Luke that she’ll contact the great lawyer she knows (Daredevil, and possibly the path to The Defenders?) on his behalf.
Eddie Fish finds the folder of name-clearing evidence that Luke needs under some furniture in the ruined barbershop. Misty is lurking in the crowd at Harlem’s Paradise, all dolled up and watching Mariah and Shades.
That was actually a pretty thrilling recap. Why did I imply that this episode was kind of boring? It wasn’t, except when Luke was speechifying, but it wasn’t as tensely strung as episode 12.
Overall, I give season one of Luke Cage a strong B. The diverse cast (meaning racially diverse, multigenerational and showcasing strong women) was so refreshing. The music was PHENOMENAL. The story was OK. I wish the strong women weren’t all so prone to stroking some dude’s ego whenever one is presented that needs stroking. I’m on board for Defenders and for a Luke Cage season two, though.
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