You know, I thought the last episode of LUKE CAGE was the early climax of all the plotlines and yet “Soliloquy of Chaos” is like a sustained continuation of that climax. Everything comes to a head in this episode as it should, setting up the finale with compelling plots that promise interest and intrigue.
This is the episode where Luke Cage takes its rhetorical stand. Hoodies with bullet holes become the street fashion in Harlem and cops chase down everyone wearing them. It’s an “I am Spartacus!” statement where the whole community stands up to protect their protector. It’s not even subtle that the symbol of resistance is a shot up hoodie. That is an overt political statement and I love it. It carries a clear message without preaching at the audience. Luke himself gets so many Captain America moments in this episode where he does the morally upstanding thing even to his own detriment. When Luke escapes from custody, the cop at the beginning lets him go so he can continue to fight crime in his vigilante way showing that even the establishment is behind him. Luke even stops a robbery while he himself is on the run, meeting Method Man of Wu Tang Clan in the process setting up a fantastic segment where Method Man gives a radio interview and performs is “Luke Cage ballad” for the city. It was a great way to provide black voices commenting on issues that disproportionately affect the black community, again, without preaching. Luke Cage is undeniably a show with a message, but it always manages to weave it organically into the story.
Misty is so fun in this episode. She’s finally on top of things with allies on the force and it looks like she’ll get to take out not just Diamondback but Mariah too. Candace, the waitress that Shades and Mariah used to frame Luke, comes clean to her and Misty hides her out at Claire’s house. I also love that Claire suddenly is part of Misty’s trusted operation. Misty does all of this like the day after being shot so badly that she almost bled out in a basement. She has all the pieces that she needs and nothing is going to hold her back. I love her. I honestly can’t decide who my favorite character in this show is. It’s like a tie between Misty, Claire, and Mariah.
On the baddy side, Diamondback makes a play for the whole city in a really slick way. Domingo—the only competition that Diamondback himself left when he took out all the other crime heads—confronts him and then Diamondback literally blows up the whole operation. He also tries to pay off Mariah to be the politician in his pocket, essentially putting him in charge of the entire criminal side of Harlem with Mariah as his legitimate front. Mariah and her toady Alex are so much fun to watch. When Mariah gets bogged down in a combination of her past and her failed political prospects Alex is there to give her perspective. I love the way Mariah eyes up every single one of the men who tell her that she should grab more power. It’s like a sexual and evaluative glance all in one. I also love how all of the characters from the beginning have come around to being important again now at the end. Turk, for example, is the guy who ratted out Chico to Cottonmouth back in the early episodes that were so slow. Now Diamondback is using him as a street dealer for his guns and Luke and his friend Fish use Turk to track Diamondback down. Pulling in everything that’s happened over the course of the series makes the whole thing feel more contained like it’s truly happening amongst a community of people. Luke Cage doesn’t forget. In fact, most things in the MCU don’t forget, and that’s part of what makes them feel so tightly written.
Over the course of this show, I somehow managed to fall in love with Shades even though he starts off as a pointless toady and is later show to be a despicable character from Luke’s past. And yet. And yet, his scheming with Mariah and well-reasoned practical plans made me more and more happy every time he showed up. Shades got his episode in the sun with this one. He got to take out Diamondback’s new cronies, turn on Diamondback in turn, and team up with Mariah who he obviously has the weird power-hungry hots for. I am here for all of this. I love that an antagonist gets enough screen time in this episode to complete a satisfying arc all on his own. Not only does he get an arc, but he gets to be the protagonist of his arc. How often does a character exist in a villain and a hero space at the same time? But Shades isn’t just cool factor—he comes to Mariah with a plan and with the material they would need to back that plan up. The two of them have both come to the conclusion that they need to team up with Luke to rid themselves of Diamondback. Mariah has the political pull and Shades has the collateral that they can use to sway Luke to their side. I love it. Together they’re a perfectly terrible team of power players.
Overall, this episode was enjoyable because you could watch all the machinations in play on all sides. There’s little outright action but a lot of plot movement, all leading up to the actual conclusion to follow. Usually, penultimate episodes ramp up the tension and leave you on a cliffhanger begging for more. This was more of a mystery story, taking the audience through the plot-heavy motions, setting up that conclusion, and then pulling the rug out from under you with the actual cliffhanger. It’s fun. Luke Cage is just generally fun in a way that I find soothing. I like that. Given how worked up I get about some stuff in the MCU, an interesting yet chill story is a welcome relief.
Season 1, Episode 12 (S01E12)
Luke Cage is available to stream on Netflix
Dana is a digitization archivist by day and a masked pop culture avenger by night. She spreads the gospel of science fiction and fantasy wherever she goes.
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Dana Leigh Brand | Contributor