“When I think about what’s going on in the world right now, the world is ready for a bulletproof black man,” Showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker said to an erupting San Diego Comic Con audience this past July. He was on a panel promoting Luke Cage, Marvel’s newest installment into their Netflix universe. Audiences had already gotten a taste of the titular character in Jessica Jones and were left wanting more. We’ve been given some clips and teasers from Comic Con, but finally got the full trailer this week. Seeing the villains, Harlem, and Luke’s (Mike Colter) background got everybody pumped and impatiently waiting for September 30th.
In the meantime, we’ve gotten around to breaking down the trailer and trying to predict what might be in this anticipated first season. Luke Cage draws on a varied comic history, and there’s a lot that could end up in the show. Coker has assured us that there will be some comic elements present, but he is also trying to create something new. So far, we’ve got classic characters coming back but with some brand new twists.
Here are 15 Things You Need To Know About Netflix’s Luke Cage.
15. Mike Colter Identifies with Luke Cage
Luke Cage might be a (very) large superhero with indestructible skin, but that’s not the only thing that defines him. While he is incredibly strong, he’s also quite complicated. The people that he cares about are dead, and he finds that he has few people to talk to. Despite people wanting him as a superhero, he doesn’t want any of it. In an interview with Collider, Colter explains his connection to the character. “He’s a humble guy. He doesn’t want any part of this. But ultimately, it’s something that he’s going to have to deal with. It’s perfect for me because I don’t really like the spotlight either. I think with him, it feels like a glove.”
And that personality shows in interviews. Colter hasn’t been keeping his excitement down, but he also hasn’t let the fame get to his head. He still has a quiet and humble demeanor to him which makes him feel like his character even offscreen.
14. It’s Marvel’s Version of The Wire
One of HBO’s most beloved shows, The Wire, explored the Baltimore drug scene not only through the law enforcement perspective but also through the drug dealers themselves. However, it wasn’t just a show about drugs and detectives. It tackled tough topics about race relations and the depiction of black criminals. Instead of making every felon a bad guy, the writers gave them their own goals and likable qualities. By doing so, they were showing that everyone still had humanity inside of them regardless of their crimes.
Coker described Luke Cage as Marvel’s version of The Wire because of the similar elements he helped instill into the show. He said, “It’s very sophisticated. I mean, it’s got a ’90s hip-hop vibe, but it’s really forward-thinking. We have [composer/music producer] Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad [of A Tribe Called Quest] doing the scoring for us. We have a lot of different musical appearances, but at the same time, we’ve got the Marvel action. We’ve got drama. I would like this to be, I mean, I know this is heavy but, The Wire of Marvel television, because we really deal with a lot of different issues.”
Coker has already done a great job illustrating what some of these are issues are in the trailer. From the look of it, we will definitely be getting plots about drugs and gang culture, but Coker wants to focus on something more; he wants to explore everyone’s story and show that they are more than just a stereotype.
13. It Will Take Place in Harlem
Marvel have not been holding anything back in their Netflix shows. Jessica Jones dealt with sexism and domestic violence; Daredevil focused on gentrification; and now Luke Cage will be dealing with race. For the whole season, the show will be set in Harlem. The trailer gives us a glimpse of the atmosphere from the empowering graffiti art to people simply living their lives. In the background, Mariah Dillard, the Harlem politician is on the news praising her hometown. It’s a perfect place to set Luke Cage because it gives Coker the opportunity to shed a completely different light on the city. Nowadays people just think of Harlem as a crime ridden area, but it’s so much more than that; it’s home to over 300,000 people. Coker made sure that everything was filmed on location to bring more authenticity. “The opportunity to film it in Harlem was irresistible,” Coker said, “ I didn’t want us to talk about Harlem and then not film in Harlem. The people that live in Harlem will see places and see blocks and see the wide boulevards and go, ‘Oh that’s Lenox’ or ‘They’re over there by the Adam Clayton Powell statue.’ It was important that we really see it.”
12. The Show Won’t Feel Like a Sequel to Jessica Jones
When we first met Luke Cage, he was mourning the loss of his wife in Jessica Jones. By the end of the season, he and Jessica had teamed up to take on Kilgrave (and also get it on in their off time). Fans were wondering how standalone Luke Cage was going to be, especially since he made his debut in another show. Fortunately, fans can be reassured that his show will not feel like a sequel at all despite taking place after Jessica Jones. According to Colter, the show was originally supposed to be on its own, but Jessica’s story had to be told first in order to bring in Luke. In an interview with Den of Geek, he said, “I think some people were confused because they don’t read and they go, ‘Well, if he’s in this one and now he’s doing his own, he has a spinoff.’ A spinoff would be kind of an afterthought, meaning that you do one show and then you go, ‘Wait a minute, I want to do a show with this character.’ But they already had planned to do that.”
Even though Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) will be making a reappearance, there is still no word that Jessica will making a stop in Harlem. Since this show will mainly showcase Luke’s story and abilities, it seems unlikely.
11. It May Feature Iron Fist
Around the time that Luke Cage was announced, Marvel also added an additional show to the slate: Iron fist. In the comics, Iron Fist revolves around Danny Rand, the son of a wealthy family who travels to the mystical land of K’un L’un and trains to become an expert martial artist. Possessing a mystical force known as the Iron Fist, he is able to focus certain power into his hand and let out incredible strength on his enemies.
Even though, it hasn’t been confirmed that Danny would be making an appearance on Luke Cage, it would make sense, due to their long history in the comics. They team up to create their firm, Heroes for Hire, where they work as special bodyguards for detectives. From there, they become best friends and Danny eventually marries Misty Knight.
Yes, The Defenders will be coming out soon, but Marvel would be crazy for not giving Danny a cameo in Luke Cage. They already gave the audience a tease of the character at Comic Con, so it would fit perfectly to at least have his name pop up.
10. Luke Cage Refuses to Join Cottonmouth’s Gang
Season one’s plot is still a little murky but the trailer gave us enough footage to get the basic idea. Cottonmouth obviously has a lot of influence and authority in Harlem, intimidating anyone who stands in his way. Since Luke is essentially indestructible, it makes sense for Cottonmouth to ask him to be his bodyguard. But for one reason or another, Luke rejects his offer which probably leads Cottonmouth to let his guards out on him and destroy his regular life.
This would seem like the more obvious route because of Luke’s past in the comics. He grew up in gangs and crime but left as soon as he saw how it affected his family. If his backstory remains the same in the show, he wouldn’t want to join Cottonmouth’s squad because he’s already been there. Coker will not be holding back on the topic of gang culture and is sure to make it as raw and real as possible.
9. Shades Alvarez
Besides every action sequence, there was something that stood out in the trailer: the mysterious man with black glasses. Simply known as Shades Alvarez, actor Theo Rossi calls him the “Littlefinger” of Luke Cage. He plays the political game like a chessboard and challenges allegiances to better himself. If he has to side with Luke Cage, then he’ll do it; but if the next day, he decides it would be better for him to be against him, then he’ll go that route. With that description alone, Shades could very well be our “Punisher” character, and it will be hard to decide whether we side with him or not.
There’s also another reason why he’s so pivotal to Luke’s story: he’s the father of Victor Alvarez, the current Power Man (Luke Cage, of course, was the first Power Man).
Rossi has a lot of experience playing the “double agent.” In Sons of Anarchy, He played Juice Ortiz, who was the Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club’s hacker and technology guru. Later in the series, it was found out that he was working against his allies to serve his own interests. Even though he eventually turned into an antagonist, deep down, he was always a morally gray character.
8. It Will Cover Relevant Racial Topics
It’s exciting to see another black superhero on screen, and we can’t deny that it’s come on at the most relevant time. With all that’s going on in the news, the world needed Luke Cage to premiere right now. Just in the trailer alone, there is imagery and dialogue that mirrors reality’s racial tensions. We see grafitti art of an African American boy and the phrase “Black is power” next to him as Mariah Dillard (Alfre Woodard) talks about how Harlem is a face of hope. Already, Harlem is portrayed as this peaceful and powerful space for African Americans.
Then we see glimpses of Luke getting shot multiple times with Misty Knight saying in the background, “You might be bulletproof, but Harlem ain’t.” That powerful statement symbolizes the recurring police brutality in the United States and provides real world context in a fictional situation. No doubt that Coker and the writers will hit these racial topics hard in these 13 episodes and use them to shape the environment.
7. Pop Will Have a Big Part
Luke doesn’t have many people he can trust or talk to—especially about his current condition. Pop (Frankie Faison) is one of Luke’s mentors and the closest thing to a father figure that he will ever get. He gives him a comfortable life in his barber shop as well as a place to let off his steam. He’s also the one who encourages Luke to use his skills for good and look out for the people of Harlem. “That’ll be a waste,” he counters after Luke says that he just wants to be left alone.
Sadly, Luke’s normality will not last for long. It seems like Pop will be the device that gets Luke’s storyline going. In the trailer, we see his barber shop in ruins and then Luke holding his unconscious body in his hands. Most likely, his death will be at the hands of Cottonmouth’s goons, leading Luke on his bloody path of revenge.
6. Claire Temple Will be Involved
Claire Temple should consider living elsewhere, because she keeps finding herself involved with New York’s superheroes. She was heavily involved with Matt Murdock on Daredevil and even treated Luke on Jessica Jones. Now, it seems that they will be reunited on his own show. The trailer starts with Claire and a wounded person about to be hit by a car until Luke shows up and stops the car in its tracks. You then hear Claire speaking about justice and defending oneself, which signals that she is going to have more than a simple cameo. Since she is connected to all three series so far, it looks like she’s the Nick Fury of the Marvel television universe. If she makes an appearance in Iron Fist, she could very well be the impromptu founder of the Defenders. Not only would that make sense, but it might be one of the greatest formations in comic books.
5. Alfre Woodard Plays Mariah Dillard
Hell’s Kitchen really needs to work on their corrupt elite. With Wilson Fisk and Kilgrave bringing their own reign of terror, it’s now Mariah Dillard’s turn. On the outside, Mariah Dillard is a woman for the people; she’s a Harlem politician who wants to bring attention to the rising prices and gentrification of her town. She cares about her city and calls it a perpetual place of hope and disparity. But while she may have Harlem’s best interests at heart, she also is a criminal behind closed doors. Besides battling social justice issues, Mariah is a drug trafficker on the side; Cottonmouth also happens to be her cousin, which likely explains how he’s so powerful in Harlem.
That being said, this is not Woodard’s introduction into the Marvel universe. Just this year, she was introduced in Captain America: Civil War as Miriam, the mourning mother who lost her son during the destruction of Sokovia. Marvel was teasing the fact that a Luke Cage character would be making a cameo, so fans were anxious to see how she would fit into the universe. However, it seems that she was playing a completely different character. It’s uncertain whether she was a way to throw fans off or a completely different character in general. Regardless, it’ll be interesting to see if Sokovia is brought up again in her storyline.
4. We Seem to Get a Glimpse of Luke’s Origin Story
We fell in love with Luke Cage as soon as he graced our screens on Jessica Jones. With his strong physique and sensitive personality, he could be the world’s best Bachelorette contestant. When the season concluded, we were left pondering how Luke Cage came to be. In the comics, Luke grew up in a rough neighborhood where he joined a gang and eventually ended up in prison (on false charges). It was there that Luke was targeted by scientists to be put into an experiment to replicate the super serum that gave Captain America his super strength. Even though it went wrong in the end, the procedure left Luke with super strength and impenetrable skin.
We don’t know how the encounter will go down in the show, but the trailer did give us a glimpse of the tank that Luke crawls out of. So, it may be very similar to the origin story, but we’ll only know once the show premieres. The real question is: will we also be seeing Will Simpson getting experimented on as well?
3. Hip-Hop Will be Playing a Huge Part in the Series
When we indulged in the trailers for Luke Cage, we couldn’t help but tap our toes to Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s “Shimmy Shimmy Ya.” The songs that were chosen for the trailer meshed so well with the location and culture of the show. And, according to Coker, that wasn’t an accident. Hip-hop will be playing a huge part in Luke Cage. Each episode title will be the name of a Gang Starr song, and that will somehow connect to that specific plotline. Coker’s reasoning for this is that he wanted the 13 episode series to feel like an album. When there wasn’t any Netflix, people would just lock themselves in a room and listen to a whole album when it came out. Now, with television, binge watching is the new norm. For Coker, this show is made to binge, and the music contributes to that. Ali Shaheed Muhammad of A Tribe Called Quest and Adrian Younge will also compose the score, which further flesh out the tone of the show.
But the music doesn’t just end with the soundtrack. Coker has also promised musical guests to grace the screen. So far, Raphael Saadiq and Faith Evans and Charles Bradley are scheduled to make an appearance. The sky’s the limit for the creative team and it seems like there’s no stopping them.
2. Mahershala Ali Will Play Cottonmouth
Mahershala Ali has been making his rounds on Netflix. Starting off as Kevin Spacey’s informant—Remy Danton— on House of Cards, he will be taking on a more villainous role as Cornell Cottonmouth, or just Cottonmouth, in Luke Cage. Cottonmouth runs the biggest nightclub in Harlem and uses that as a front for his criminal business. In an interview with Slashfilm, Coker describes the club as more than just a criminal background. He says, “So that’s the thing about what the club represents to Cottonmouth, as well as to his family. It’s really our Iron Throne, to a certain extent, is that club. Even the way that it’s established, it just really sets up our version of this universe in a really compelling, really fun way.”
But like other evil businessmen, he’s a little more unhinged. The trailer shows scenes of him brutally beating other people up and showing the copious amounts of blood on his fancy clothing. However, the most unsettling glimpse was a perfectly centered shot of Biggie Smalls’ crown being put on Cottonmouth’s head. Not only was that beautifully composed, but it also told us everything about him in just that one shot. He wants to be the king, and he will do anything to get that title.
1. Misty Knight Will be Introduced
The only thing that might be more exciting than seeing Luke Cage is the debut of Misty Knight, one of Marvel’s black female superheroes. In the comics, Misty was heavily influenced by the blaxploitation and kung-fu genres. Her hair was in an afro with her clothes blood red and skin tight. She was a detective for NYPD until a horrific accident led to the loss of her arm. Tony Stark would make her a bionic arm, giving her superhuman strength. From what is shown in the trailer, it looks like Misty will just be a normal detective who will be trying to take on Cottonmouth and his gang. She doesn’t look like she will have any enhanced strength in this season, but there’s always room for surprises. What will be interesting to witness is how her and Luke’s relationship will blossom. Is Marvel going to keep it platonic or are they going to try to make it more than that? Misty has usually been linked to Danny Rand but, since she won’t be in the Iron Fist season, Marvel could turn her towards Luke. Hopefully, since she would be Marvel’s first black female superhero on screen, they’ll focus on developing her character rather than romance.
Luke Cage will be premiering on Netflix on September 30th.