Luke Cage Season 2 spoiler-free review: the hero of Harlem is back

Luke Cage is back with Season 2. Here’s our spoiler-free review…

Luke Cage, the bulletproof man. If Season 1 focused on the bulletproof aspect of him, Season 2 focuses on the man. If you like your heroes to be holier-than-thou boy scouts, then you probably won’t get on with Luke Cage Season 2. It’s altogether grubbier, grittier and more realistic than the first – and it’s all the better for it.

Luke (Mike Colter) is now an established hero in Harlem, popular enough to have spawned merchandise. But he and his girlfriend Claire (Rosario Dawson) have very different ideas about what being a hero entails, especially when a brutal new villain, Bushmaster (Mustafa Shakir), arrives in Harlem with the intention of bringing down Mariah Dillard (Alfre Woodard), regardless of the collateral damage that will cause. Meanwhile, Detective Misty Knight is adjusting to life minus one arm, after the events of The Defenders.

Everything people loved about Season 1 is back again – the style, the music and the frank discussions of racial politics. Thankfully, though, the things that didn’t quite work about Season 1 have been pushed aside. There’s no sign of a jarring mid-season shift like there was in season one, and everything is explored just a little bit deeper.

Bushmaster isn’t quite the complex villain you’d want to see, but that doesn’t matter, because Season 2 is all about Mariah and Shades (Theo Rossi). Alfre Woodard towers above the series, delivering a powerful performance that flirts with OTT campness – as all the best villains should – but which she always keeps grounded in Mariah’s very real base emotions.

Season 2 is all about legacy – Luke’s dad shows up, played powerfully by the late Reg E. Cathey in his final performance, while Mariah and Bushmaster are in a war started by a previous generation. Luke, Mariah and Bushmaster are all obsessed with their image, and how people will remember them, with Missick’s Misty being the only character in the whole show who seems even remotely capable of living in the present and being who she is. Rosario Dawson also gets her best material yet as Claire and Luke’s relationship is tested. There’s even an Iron Fist episode in which Iron Fist isn’t rubbish, which is something of a miracle.

Luke Cage Season 2 breaks the Marvel Netflix curse – it’s managed to deliver a second season that surpasses the first.