Marvel’s Luke Cage will pound some justice into the streets of Harlem as early as this Friday, completing the third leg of Netflix Defenders setup. We’ve already sung the praises of Marvel’s most dynamic and soulful series yet, but before your own binge, get answers to some of Luke Cage’s most burning questions with our spoilery FAQ review of the first seven episodes!


Is it worth asking when in the MCU Luke Cage takes place, or is “The Incident” still the only thing people talk about?

You know, it’s getting harder and harder to answer this one, especially as Daredevil Season 2 began in the dead of summer and ended around Christmas, despite the series itself premiering in March 2016. It doesn’t feel as if Luke (or Claire) refer to events of Jessica Jones as if they happened a full year ago, but the weather in Harlem definitely reflects Cage’s late summer to fall production.

That said, and now three Netflix seasons in, it’s worth acknowledging that producers have explained Marvel movie scripts and Netflix series being written at vastly different times. I still find it at least odd that the Defenders series repeatedly invoke “The Incident,” but show no awareness of a genocidal robot’s very public rampage around the world. The least Luke Cage could do is at least reference that time The Hulk broke Harlem.

As per usual, no major Marvel movie cameos?

Strangely enough, there’s more connection than I anticipated. Still some awkwardly oblique references like “those other fellows downtown” or talk of “magic hammers,” but I heard the names of two Avengers spoken aloud at least once. There’s also a major connection to a lost Phase 1 character that some will have guessed, and even a hint of alien tech, but nothing too overt just yet.

I had at least hoped someone could mention a giant dude smashing up an airport.

Is there any reason to believe the Team Cap/Team Iron Man battle would have been leaked to the public, even if we ignore script timing? In any case, two characters debate the value of vigilantes aiding police, with nary a mention of any superheroes being government-sanctioned by a worldwide Accord.

I guess that answers whether Alfred Woodard is secretly connected to her Civil War character, then.

There’s actually a moment where Alfre looks directly into the camera, and says “We’re deeply sorry for ruining Marvel continuity forever. Spider-Man was pretty cool though, right?”



Well, do we at least have other characters from the Defenders universe popping up?

There’s a familiar pattern starting to emerge, where the majority of shared supporting cast between the series don’t show up until later in the season. Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple certainly has a much more substantive role than in Jessica Jones, while at least one familiar face from two past seasons (and a comic) unexpectedly surfaces in Harlem.

Do we catch up with, or at least reference Jessica Jones? 2018 is a long time to wait, The Defenders not withstanding.

Luke Cage gets in references to its title character’s “rebound chick” early on, but isn’t about to start making headaches for the Jessica Jones writing staff. I will say that a familiar voice is heard, while another character introduced in Jessica Jones logically gets a bit more backstory here.

How much of Luke’s Jessica Jones introduction will I need to be familiar with?

The “rebound chick” mention, Luke’s fugitive past and superhuman abilities all get quick refreshers, so not much. Obviously, Luke and Claire had some prior interaction as well, though I’d forgotten how little Luke would remember of it.

Is Luke Cage really “The Wire of Marvel television”?

I’ll admit that that comparison is overused, but it’s certainly closest here. Not to mention, I counted at least three recognizable stars from The Wire itself, only one of which has been prominently featured in trailers.

What should we know about Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes, or Mariah Dillard?

Well, for one, he really hates that name. The always-brilliant Mahershala Ali plays Cottonmouth as a veteran gangster who runs a club called Harlem’s Paradise, in which Luke initially works as a dishwasher, and sometime bartender. Woodard’s Mariah Dillard is his cousin, a city councilwoman aiming to “keep Harlem black” with a new initiative partially funded by her cousin’s ill-gotten gains, and increasingly tainted by his scandals.

Is she still the “Black Mariah” of comics?

She’s equally unappreciative of that nickname, but you will see a character much closer to the comic Black Mariah in hers and Cottonmouth’s mutual past. Woodard’s characterization is much more of a slow-burn than her cousin’s, but well-worth the wait.

Are they on par with Kingpin and Kilgrave?

Honestly? Better. Nothing against Vincent D’Onofrio or David Tennant, but Cornell and Mariah get much more in-depth humanization by the glimpses into their history. The former’s backstory is actually pretty heartbreaking.

What’s the deal with Theo Rossi’s “Shades”?

He’s still something of a mystery. Always on the edge of Cottonmouth’s dealings, alluding to a larger picture Cottonmouth is only one part of. Shades answers primarily to someone promos have not yet stated aloud, but you will see him in Luke Cage’s past as well.

So we’ll see Luke Cage’s origin.

In full! It’s honestly a little much, in that you know exactly when the episode in question seems to say “well, as long as we have some time, let’s flash back to where it all began.” I didn’t need every aspect of Luke Cage’s pre-Jessica Jones identity spelled out, but the lion’s share of time spent in Seagate does well to flesh out Luke’s refusal to be broken, and distaste for the system.

How quickly do we meet Misty Knight?

The very first episode. Not only does Luke Cage play with his and Misty’s connection right away, she garners nearly as much screentime and agency as the character himself. There’s a Sherlock-style mechanism to her ability to solve-crimes, and the relationship with Luke takes on a variety of shades (no pun intended) in the first seven episodes alone.

Does Luke Cage push the envelope any further, in terms of violence or sexuality?

It’d be hard to top the kind of gore Frank Castle was capable of inflicting, but certainly a PG-16 level of blood, some severed appendages, and maybe even a District 9-style explosion or two. As far as sexuality, I can’t recall anything quite so … thrusty as Luke and Jessica, but there’s an astonishing amount skin on display in certain scenes, for something still technically under the Disney umbrella.

Is the soundtrack as strong as everyone says?

Absolutely. In addition to some energetic musical cues from composers Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad underscoring scenes, there’s lingering performances from Raphael Saadiq, Charles Bradle, Faith Evans and more, to say nothing of a Method Man cameo. It definitely gives a lot more personality to the proceedings, especially with tracks from legends like Nina Simone and and Wu-Tang Clan.

Does Luke get a costume of any kind?

You’ve likely seen the initial trailer playing off Luke’s comic tiara and gauntlets, but there’s definitely one or two gags in line with Jessica Jones’ “Jewel” costume. I didn’t see an over-abundance of mustard tees, as Luke is far-more often seen fighting crime in a hoodie or a full suit, but wouldn’t be surprised if the final episodes landed on something closer to the character’s modern look in time for The Defenders.

Are any of the action scenes on par with Daredevil’s hallway or stairwell fights?

As we saw with Jessica Jones, Luke’s style of combat isn’t the type to lend itself to extensive choreography or one-shot camera moves, but the scenes glimpsed in trailers are plenty thrilling in their own right, and I don’t recall any prior series attempting car chases. As Luke is rarely in any physical danger himself, I could have done with his opponents finding clever means to exploit other vulnerabilities, as even tossing thugs with a mere tap can get a bit repetitive.

Any sign of The Hand, or overall Defender setup?

Not really, at least yet. The majority of Luke’s foes belong to different gangs, while Claire makes a few requisite mentions of the friends she’s picked up in high places. I wouldn’t ignore a Fisk mention, as long as we’re stoking those coals.

How about a hint of Heroes for Hire?

There is some musing on whether Luke should start charging for his services, especially as his heroic reputation begins to spread across Harlem, but nothing like what you’re suggesting. Iron Fist is going to want to introduce Iron Fist, but it’s something to think about for Season 2.

We’re just days away from Marvel’s Luke Cage, where you’ll see the answers to these and more for yourself, but what other big questions will the next Defenders run bring to the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Check out the latest trailers below, and stay tuned for more on Marvel’s Luke Cage!

Marvel’s Luke Cage will debut all 13 episodes for streaming on Netflix on Friday, September 30 at 12:00 A.M. PST / 3:00 A.M. EST.