*Warning: Spoilers Ahead*
STEP IN THE ARENA
We finally get to see Luke’s origins in this episode. We find out that Luke was previously a cop named Carl Lucas who got sent up on a trumped up charge because he pissed off the wrong people. Right off the bat he runs afoul of the head prison guard, Albert Rackham, played by Chance Kelly. Rackham wants Luke for his underground fighting ring. Luke just wants to survive prison and keep his head down. But Rackham has other plans and sends a couple goons to rough him up. It’s at this point that we see Shades and find out that he was working with Rackham.
Luke (I’m just going to refer to him as this in this article. It would be too confusing to go back and forth with his name) fends off the attackers but gets put in solitary. When he gets out he meets Squabbles and eventually, the two become friends.
It’s also here that we see Luke in a counseling session with other inmates and a female counselor. We find out that this is Reeva who eventually, Luke marries but dies in the events just prior to Jessica Jones. It’s nice to see the backstory with this and their connection since it was only shown in flashbacks and dialogue previously. In one of these counseling sessions it’s brought up that they believe there are secret experiments going on with some of the inmates because they’re never seen again. Reeva thoroughly denies this, though.
Rackham takes a different tactic on recruiting Luke for his fighting ring and sets up Squabbles to take the fall for a knife attack in one of the lunch rooms. Luke reluctantly agrees and defeats all comers. But when he comes up with a plan to leave Rackham finds out by beating Squabbles to death and then beating Luke to the point where he’s probably going to die.
Reeva takes him to the secret lab that they have to try to have the doctor use the experimental procedure to heal him. However, Rackham finds out hand interrupts the procedure damaging the pod Luke is in and it explodes. Somehow the mixture is altered and gives him his unbreakable skin and super strength. It’s funny because the attachments they put on him during the procedure are his trademark silver headband and metal gauntlets that he wears in the comics. Luke punches out the wall and swims to the mainland where he finds some clothes to wear. Again, another funny scene as, when he puts the clothes on, it’s his trademark yellow shirt from the comics. To which he says “You look like a damn fool.” when he sees his reflection in a car window.
Luke then finds Reeva and shaves his afro and beard, leaving his goatee. She suggests he change his name to stay off the radar. He quotes Luke 4:18 “The spirit of the Lord is on me because I have been anointed to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind. To release the oppressed.” He also used to tell him that “No one can cage a man if he truly wants to be free.” Thus he found his name: Luke Cage.
Also, the side story to this episode was how Luke and his landlady escape the collapsed building. Basically, Luke digs their way out. When confronted by Misty who wants to talk about what happened he responds with “Not now.” Which kind of makes me do a double-take. That’s the second time she’s tried to talk to him about how he’s survived and he shrugs her off. I don’t know many cops that would let him just go and not explain things like that. Plus, she’s supposed to be a tough detective.
Anyway, as Luke’s walking away a group of reporters rush up to him and ask his name to which he replies “My name is Luke Cage”.
I thought this episode was definitely needed to explain his backstory. I now see why he was so skittish around Shades. He probably thinks he could recognize him and make his life hard if he ratted him out to the cops. The costume was definitely a nice touch but I doubt we’ll be seeing it any more. Now that Luke is public it will be interesting to see how that changes things in the upcoming episodes.