Why The Second Season of Netflix’s “Luke Cage” Is An Ode To Black Women Who Dare
The brilliance of Netflix’s Luke Cage is indebted to the way showrunner and former music journalist, Cheo Hodari Coker organizes the themes of cultural and familial ties under the guidance of the women who are more than up to the formidable task of directing the ebb and flow of the slippery but solid tree-lined streets of Harlem.
The second season debuted weeks ago, but it took weeks after that for the vibe to settle into the assessment of how it was produced as an ode to Black women who dare.
Harlem’s reluctant celebrity-hero is being challenged in ways that aren’t regulated to his physical prowess, and while he battles the demons within and all around, there’s the presence of the women in his life, who are either attached to his progress, or placed to heighten sensitivity to complex values, that give the concrete jungle ropes of multiple purpose.
Mariah Dillard, played to perfection by the magnificent Alfre Woodard, is the connector, as she reigns supreme in the motivation to retain control at all costs. Her fiery disposition is only finessed by the tangible moments of vulnerability that percolate in the sweet reunion with her untrusting daughter, as well as the threatening moments — signaling the beginning of the end.
“Black Mariah” is the woman who dares to seize what fate has dealt her with unapologetic brutality, and while her method of communion leaves a bloody trail of mayhem, the translation of her commitment breeds the respect for how her actions are ultimately rooted in the design of how the past will always torment the unfolding fibers of the future.
It wasn’t shocking to realize that my favorite episodes happened to be directed by women of color (Kasi Lemmons, Millicent Shelton, Salli Richardson-Whitfield) who are veterans in the realm of centering the layers of emotional vibrancy — that showcase how the “angry Black woman” is really a victim in disguise, rummaging through flashbacks of trauma — while also engaged in the ominous cycle that requires blinks of the evil eye.
All through season 2, our hoodie-reliant brooder is caged by his dual citizenship of fighting for justice, and embracing the fame that comes with an over-exposed status. And while its fascinating to observe the way he juggles the struggle amid the climate of social greed — that highlights the real life ambiance dictated by the current deceit of engagement — it’s really Misty Knight, played with thorough transparency by Simone Missick, who overpowers, as her new reality blurs hints of stagnancy.
The Black woman who dares to sink into the darkness of her life-altering impediment that forces her to confront the soulfulness of overcoming the fear of accepting directions — leading her away from the security of familiarity and into the arms of uncertainty.
Misty, is heroically maimed, and her station as the champion of law and order, has also been carved into a definition that doesn’t gel with her restless pursuits. Her self-assuredness was the beacon of the previous season, as she was established as the worthy appendage of the celebrated crusader, who she guided with seductive brashness.
This time around, Misty Knight has the assignment of self-discovery as the arm she lost is replaced with a bionic version, that only responds after she pays homage to the power of what was never missing in the first place.
As a Black woman, who also battles with the invisible current of mental deficiency, that grips even when the going is so good it hurts, there’s no way to fully express the validation that comes with watching female characters that resemble your template; as they wade through the complexities of womanhood and the valiant plea to retain femininity in the midst of violent display of loyalty and bullet-ridden betrayal.
And even with the exaggeration of existent players and introduction to the bombastically-infused event known as Bushmaster, amplified by the sheer genius of Mustafa Shakir, it’s really the piercing sereneness of Tilda Johnson, the holistic warrior, whose arrival beautifully dissembles the elements, as we examine the righteousness of mother and daughter relations.
The internal rubble between Mariah and Tilda, provided endearing interludes of passion that re-enacted my personal drama with a mother that overshadows my emotional state with compelling authority. You don’t have to be saddled with a woman that harbors a gangster mentality, in order to relate to the wavy dynamic that involves the resolve of two women who co-exist with the mission of a “quiet but deadly” dominance.
As the second season enters the heated finale that dramatically rewards Mariah Dillard with the consequence of her station, courtesy of a child that she could’ve loved if she hadn’t been stripped of her girlhood by the exploration of a traitor who robbed them both — the tendency is to applaud the punishment.
But after the exercise of weighing the outcome against the system of hate and judgment that is levied against Black women who are restricted to descriptions that don’t allow for the flexibility that our non-Black counterparts enjoy in abundance — the conclusion is praise worship for the women who function by the dare of living the life that illuminates the never-ending search for justice.
The Black women of Luke Cage, turned season 2 inside and out with desirous rage, summoned from arranged disarray to disorganized blocks of madness — manifested by Mariah’s coat of armor — that sprouted additional pockets containing the genesis of her steely gaze or ghastly executions — that were propelled from humane tendons.
Misty’s revived template and spirit launches the greatness that rivals her partner-in-justice, as she learns to host the toughness of the streets with the even more volatile regimen of balancing emotions that divide and conquer without consent — until she finally initiates command.
Tilda’s purpose is wrapped in healing those who possess wounds that never close up fully for the scars, that even she can’t glaze over, in her own mind and body. Her stunning arrival is shaded in the softness of presentation that her stern voice juxtaposes whenever the woman who pushed her out appears, to tempt with practiced cunningness.
There’s more to that polished shell of wealth that distributes immaculately through the epicenter of characters, that gather under the wrath and delight of Black women who dare to be all that we should be — for the pleasure of being seen and mourned by those who deserve us.
Kudos to the season that elevated the themes that vibrate the thoughts of what we are when we become everything combined.
Mariah Dillard isn’t evil. Misty isn’t lost in motion. And Tilda is her mother — defined.
Black women don’t have to sit in crowded spaces with plastered smiles in order to make wary White women feel comfortable enough to hold their breath — until we leave the premises — even when they freak out with laser stares when we briefly re-appear.
Black women can dare to be expressively modest or all-consumingly potent with commanding energy that shouldn’t have to choose the avenue of options that are built from the shadow of cowards — that steal our identities and expect us to dutifully bitch.
We can be all things combined, as the resilience of our systemized activism serves as the beacon of what assembles us into formation.
And even though we excel in that messaging — we are far more equipped for the simplified version of what it takes to encompass all the facets of womanhood that never relies on biased allegiance to thrive.
Black women dare to just be; and if the next season of Luke Cage allows — that will remain the honor that sustains.