Luke Cage 1.03: “Who’s Gonna Take the Weight?” Review


A Television Review by Akash Singh


A traditional construct of masculinity in how it often perceived within patriarchal societies is the role of the male in running the household. The patriarch is supposed to be the breadwinner, the individual who works so the rest of his family can eat and rest. Any threat to that is seen as a threat to the man himself, as a way to devalue his existence and mitigate legitimacy. It’s nonsense but nonsense that has entrenched itself so deeply that it may understandably seem like ages before it is rooted out and done away with. Money is inherently tied to the patriarch’s ability to fulfill that role and it is one of those constructs that is a defining division between Cottonmouth and Luke Cage. It’s a helpful definition because so far Luke remains an enigma. What does he want? Where can he find what it is that he’s looking for? How does he want to get there? Is there anyone with whom he wants to get there? How does he envision his life proceeding from that junction onward? Those questions are as of yet unanswered but there is plenty of time for the series to answer them. For now, the questions in regards to what Luke wants in the short-term are more important for the narrative to tackle. That aforementioned devision on the lines of money become important when the question of Pop’s funeral and the future of his barber shop rise to the surface. Cottonmouth takes that opportunity to mock Luke and his newly found status of being unemployed (that that came about as the consequence of Cottonmouth’s men is seemingly of no consequence to him). That mocking over the expense of Pop’s coffin, as was narratively wont to occur, hurt Cottonmouth where it mattered most.

Luke’s plan to hurt Cottonmouth at his financial troves was simple but perfectly logical. Money was where Cottonmouth’s power derived from and in turn propelled his relationship with Mariah and the projects that she wanted to fund. Logistically there’s quite a bit that is left to be wont in terms of how Luke gets to all of these places, but there’s enough of a cover with Cottonmouth being protective of his money after garnering so many threats that it doesn’t deal the episode that catastrophic of a blow. Luke does take one bag of funds to ensure that Pop’s barber shop can continue to operate and not fall to the banks and he takes some money to give to Connie because he had simply walked by her window and noticed her financial woes etched into the expression on her visage. I find that line drawn by Luke to be a fascinating aspect to his character. He noted that he wouldn’t use blood-stained money to bury Pop, which is understandable considering how his death came about in the first place, but one could see the money he did take for the shop and Connie to be a betrayal on that front. But he did draw that specific line and if the lines relating to Cottonmouth I touched on in the previous review are ever-changing, I wonder why Luke drew the line there specifically. I can understand him not taking all of the money since there’s simply quite a lot of it and Luke has never struck me as being the extremely greedy type but it’s a valid question to ponder as the viewer tries to dissect who Luke really is.

The sequence where Luke breaks through the “impenetrable” building is a stunning action set piece, closely mirroring in ambience if not the style of Daredevil’s infamous hallway fight sequence in its first season. While Daredevil’s fighting styler was much more martial arts-focused (as made sense in its story), Luke’s fighting style is much more blunt, enforced with more brute physicality than anything else. For a man who is bulletproof and can lift pretty much anything, it makes sense for him to storm through the compound like an unbreakable human brick. But that ability of his is attracting a significant amount of attention and significantly so. Misty pieces together the pieces of Luke and the mysterious bullet holes with little effort, continuing to prove her brilliance and competency in a manner few women of color are afforded the opportunity to do so on screen. It’s a logical step considering how obtuse Luke is about leaving a trail behind and I’m glad the show isn’t treating it like some massive mystery. Cottonmouth also gets wind that the man whom he derided as a “dishwasher” was responsible for him losing eighty percent of his cash reserves and the source he gets that information from provides the second most surprising twist outside of what happens in the final moments. The reveal of Scarfe as a corrupt cop serving Cottonmouth’s interests is a great twist and more than a keen wink at the relationship between the black community and law enforcement. It’s only beat as the top moment of the episode by Cottonmouth literally launching a projectile into Connie’s storefront. Cottonmouth isn’t certainly what someone would call a subtle man, but to bring a building down is a sign of a man who is at desperation’s edge, has a lot to lose, and is willing to use any weapon in his arsenal to keep it.

Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:

+The writing for Mariah is steadily improving and even if it’s not quite good just yet, I found her steadfast belief in a better Harlem and her anger at being called “Black Mariah” to be fascinating.

+The reference to the “magic hammer”

+Scarfe’s murder of Chico was shocking and really tragic. The feeding before the muder reminded me of a similar sequence in The Americans. Both were chilling.

+/-The plover bird analogy is good but more on the nose than it needed to be



Episode Title: Who’s Gonna Take the Weight?

Written by: Matt Owens

Directed by: Guillermo Navarro

Image Courtesy: Image


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