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Monday, 3 October 2016

Luke Cage: Step In The Arena


After the explosive climax of the last episode, Step In The Arena was primarily a flashback to Luke's "origin story", interspersed with Misty and her skeezy partner Scarfe (Frank Whaley) investigating the destruction of Genghis Connie's.

Turns out that before he was Luke Cage, our hero was Carl Lucas, ex-soldier turned cop, arrested for a crime he didn't commit and sent to the privately-owned Seagate Prison.

This is where he meets his future wife, Reva Connors (Parisa Fitz-Henley), who we know from Jessica Jones, who is running the group therapy sessions for convicts.

Carl comes to the attention of the hard-ass guard captain Rackham (Chance Kelly, another former Banshee cast member) who runs a profitable, and illegal, prison 'fight club', and he wants Carl to be one of his gladiators.

It's a bit of a cliché, but it fits the character of Luke perfectly; Charles Murray's script is lean and keeps the tempo up as he rounds out Luke's character. It's also a really good compression, and reworking, of Cage's comic book origin story, so kudos for that.

Our hero is blackmailed into participating in the fight club, but when he decides to 'retire' and blow the whistle on Rackham, Carl suffers a near-fatal beating from fellow inmates, including Shades, which sees him end up in an experimental "healing" tank being operated by the prison's shady doctor Dr. Noah Burstein (Michael Kostroff).

Carl's recuperation is sabotaged, with the resulting explosion gifting Carl with his "superpowers"!

The escape sequence is a wonderful, but fleeting, homage to Luke Cage's '70s comic book look with the tiara and bracelets (as part of the healing machinery) and Luke's iconic yellow shirt (being liberated from a clothes line once Carl has swum away from the island where Seagate was sited).

Back on dry land, Carl meets up with Reva, shaves his head, and changes his name. Add to this what we know from Jessica Jones and that pretty much brings us back to the present day.

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