By now, you most likely have heard about or even seen Netflix’s newest hit series, Luke Cage – in which Mike Colter stars as Carl Lucas / Luke Cage, a wrongly accused former convict with superhuman strength and unbreakable skin who now fights crime as a reluctant vigilante hero.
Besides the heavily Hip Hop-laced musical score put together by Adrain Younge and Tribe‘s Ali Shaheed Muhammad, Luke Cage pays a ‘secret’ homage to one of the greatest duos in Hip Hop: all 13 episode titles are titles of Gang Starr tracks.
Episode 1. Moment Of Truth
Luke Cage is keeping a low profile as a sweeper at a barbershop owned by ex-gangster Henry “Pop” Hunter and as a dishwasher at the “Harlem’s Paradise”, a nightclub owned by crime boss Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes. Two kids, Shameek and Chico bust up one of Stokes’ arms deals with help from Dante, a bartender at the Harlem Paradise. After shooting and leaving Dante for dead, they make off with the money. NYPD detectives Misty Knight and Rafael Scarfe are tasked with the investigation. With help from “Shades” Alvarez, who works for Stokes’ supplier Willis “Diamondback” Stryker, Stokes tracks and kills Shameek and retrieves his share of the money. Scarfe and Knight decide to question Cage, who had replaced Dante during his absence at the club. Meanwhile, Cage beats up and fends off street thugs, who attack his landlady’s restaurant demanding contribution for the “New Harlem Renaissance” initiative spearheaded by Stokes’ cousin Mariah Dillard, a councilwoman.
Episode 2. Code Of The Streets
After Stokes’ enquiry, Cage locates Chico and brings him to the barbershop for protection at Pop’s behest, while Pop lies to Knight and Scarfe about Chico’s whereabouts. Pop sends Cage to parley with Stokes on Chico’s behalf, but one of Stokes’ men, Tone, is tipped off to Chico’s location by Turk Barrett and performs a drive-by shooting, killing Pop and critically wounding Chico while Cage shields a young boy. Knight becomes suspicious when Cage remains unharmed despite getting shot. Angered by Pop’s death, Stokes kills Tone for his actions and gives Dillard the money. When Cage finds out about this, he decides to retaliate.
Episode 3. Who's Gonna Take The Weight?
Stokes pays for Pop’s funeral and warns Cage to let go of the matter. Cage finds out from a regular customer, Bobby Fish, that the barbershop is facing closure due to unpaid bills, and begins targeting Stokes’ business to manipulate Stokes into transferring his assets to Dillard’s secure office, “Crispus Attucks”. Stokes has a falling out with his associate Domingo Colon, whom he blames for the attacks. Cage attacks Crispus Attucks, steals a share of the money, which he gives to Fish, and leaves the rest for the police to find. After agreeing to testify against Stokes and revealing Cage’s involvement in the attacks, Chico is killed by Scarfe, who is on Stokes’ payroll. Stokes tracks down Cage to his landlady Connie Lin’s restaurant and fires a missile, causing an explosion.
The episode features a musical performance by Charles Bradley (“Ain’t It a Sin”).
Episode 4. Step In The Arena
While trapped in the rubble, Cage reminisces about his past as Carl Lucas and his incarceration at Seagate Prison, a private detention facility run by C.O. Albert Rackham. He befriends fellow inmate Squabbles, develops an attraction to psychologist Dr. Reva Connors, and is forced to engage in illegal ring fights by Rackham, and crossed paths with inmates Alvarez and Comanche. Lucas and Connors plan to expose Rackham’s activities, but he learns of this by torturing Squabbles and has Lucas brutally beaten. Connors then convinces Dr. Noah Burstein, a scientist conducting experiments on the inmates, to perform the experiment on Lucas. Rackham sabotages the experiment, and the resulting accident gives Lucas his powers. He then escapes and adopts the identity of “Luke Cage”. Cage manages to pull himself and Connie out of the rubble and reveals himself to the media.
Episode 5. Just To Get A Rep
Cage confronts Stokes after Stokes begins extorting the citizens of Harlem to cover his debts and demands him to stop. Shades recognizes Cage from Seagate and offers to lend Stokes a prototype weapon stolen from Hammer Industries that could kill Cage on Diamondback’s behalf. Realizing this would cost him control of Harlem, Stokes decides to sell the weapons from the botched exchange to Colon and use the money to buy Diamondback’s weapon. Scarfe is assigned to retrieve the weapons, but steals them for himself. Meanwhile, Knight begins investigating Scarfe at the behest of her superiors and Claire Temple arrives in Harlem to visit her mother, Soledad Temple, to whom she confides about her experiences with enhanced people. During Pop’s memorial, Cage delivers an eulogy and humilliates Stokes in the process, leading Knight to warn him that war against Stokes could destroy Harlem.
The episode features a musical performance by Jidenna (“Long Live the Chief”).
Episode 6. Suckas Need Bodyguards
Scarfe attempts to blackmail Stokes, but is mortally wounded instead and escapes to Pop’s barbershop for help. Cage contacts Temple, who treats Scarfe’s injuries, while another of Stokes’ men, Lieutenant Perez, is ordered to find and kill Scarfe. Knight finds out Perez is also on Stokes’ payroll and tricks him into implicating himself, records his admission before arresting him. Cage, Temple and Scarfe are ambushed by mercenaries hired by Stokes on their way to the hospital and although Cage fends them off, Scarfe dies from his injuries. With his dying breath he gives Cage a ledger with incriminating evidence on Stokes, which Cage then presents to Knight, leading to Stokes’ arrest.
Episode 7. Manifest
Scarfe’s ledger is found inadmissible in court and Stokes is released from prison, prompting Temple to urge Cage to stop him directly and placing Knight under investigation by Internal Affairs. Stokes reminisces about being abandoned by his mother and raised by Dillard at the behest of his grandmother, mobster Mama Mabel. As a child, Stokes’ musical talents were encouraged by his uncle Pete, whom Mama Mabel later forced Stokes to kill after learning Pete had made side dealings with her rivals. Dillard visits Stokes to convince him to let go of his obsession with Cage, which leads into an argument that ends with Dillard killing Stokes when he mocks the sexual abuse that Pete subjected her to. Knight finds out “Luke Cage” is an alias just as Cage meets Temple to reveal his true identity and is shot by Diamondback with the Judas, a special bullet made from Chitauri technology and capable of piercing Cage’s skin.
The episode features a musical performance by dD-Nice.
Episode 8. Blowin' Up The Spot
A weakened Cage is taken to the hospital by Temple, where they’re attacked by Diamondback. Knight arrives to arrest Cage and is briefly taken hostage by Diamondback before Cage intervenes and confronts him. During the fight, Cage finds out Diamondback is his childhood friend Willis Stryker, who escapes. Knight escortes Temple to the police station, where they get into an altercation that leads to Knight being put on probation. Meanwhile, Stryker lures Cage into another confrontation at an abandoned movie theater and reveals himself to be Cage’s half-brother before shooting Cage with another round of the Judas bullets.
Episode 9. DWYCK
Cage escapes from Stryker, but is found by the police and forced to fight them off. Dillard forms an alliance with Stryker and leaks footage of the incident, presenting Cage to the public as a dangerous killer, while Stryker kills the rest of Harlem’s gang leaders, aside from Colon. Dillard and Stryker then take advantage of the manhunt for Cage by selling Judas bullets to the police. Temple locates a severely injured Cage and takes him to Burstein, who decides to reproduce his experiment in order to save Cage’s life.
The episode features a musical performance by The Delfonics (“Stop and Look (And You Have Found Love)”).
Episode 10. Take It Personal
Temple and Burstein manage to revive Cage, who is despondent to learn that Connor was aware of the experiments being conducted at Seagate and selected him as a potential subject. Stryker frames Cage for a police officer’s murder despite Dillard’s protests. Knight defends Cage’s innocence and identifies Stryker as the true culprit, learning of Cage’s real identity in the process. Lonnie is harassed by the police due to his connection to Cage and Dillard uses him as a tool unite the community under her command. As tensions mount, Temple encourages Cage to return to Harlem and fight.
Episode 11. Now You're Mine
Cage meets with Knight at Harlem’s Paradise during a rally against superhumans presided by Dillard. Stryker and his men locate him and take several hostages, including Temple, while Cage and an injured Knight barricade themselves in a secret basement. Stryker frames Cage for the crisis and threatens to execute innocents, forcing Cage to surrender, leading to a shootout during which the police storms the building and Stryker escapes, while Cage is arrested despite the public’s pleas that he is innocent.
Episode 12. Soliloquy Of Chaos
The episode features a musical performance by Method Man (“Bulletproof Love”).