If you’re like us, you spent the majority of the weekend crashing Netflix while watching “Luke Cage,” the latest edition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Colorlines staff felt it was only right that we weigh in on a show that features a bulletproof Black man wearing a hoodie in tribute to people of color who have fallen to vigilante and police violence. As the show’s star, Mike Colter, told The Huffington Post:
It’s a nod to Trayvon, no question. Trayvon Martin and people like him. People like Jordan Davis, a kid who was shot because of the perception that he was a danger. When you’re a Black man in a hoodie all of a sudden you’re a criminal. That’s something we shouldn’t have to deal with, but we do. It’s a double standard. We can’t cover our head when it’s cold and raining because God forbid someone sees us and puts our life in danger. We wanted to pay homage to that—it’s not something we were shying away from.
So we binged and appreciated how the show embodies hip-hop and explores themes like police violence and fearmongering that impact people of color nationwide. Then we pulled together the must-see moments from each of the first season’s 13 episodes, complete with iconic screenshots and time codes so you can rewatch them yourself.
Episode 1: Moment of Truth
Starts at 26:41
Despite the fact that women throw themselves at Cage, he keeps his clothes on about 95 percent of the time. But in Episode 1, after seeing Cage as a yeoman-like barbershop sweeper, a nightclub dishwasher and a fill-in bartender, we meet Cage the seducer, a man who uses his slightly corny charm and undeniable physical gifts to win over Misty Knight (Simone Missick) a beautiful, mysterious woman. This is a morning-after shot…
Episode 2: Code of the Streets
Starts at 54:40
This moment is actually a call back to the beginning of the episode. Cage finds himself with a gun to the back of his head and has a moment of clarity. When the teen holding the weapon calls Cage a “nigga,” the would-be superhero gives a speech about what it means to be a free Black man who steps up and does what’s right. It’s then that he realizes he has to be brave enough to embrace his destiny, that being a bulletproof Black man can benefit all of Harlem.
Episode 3, Who’s Gonna Take the Weight?
Starts at 38:30
As armed gunmen lay siege to Cage inside a building connected to corrupt councilwoman Mariah Dillard (Alfre Woodard) and gunrunner Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes (Mahershala Ali), the bulletproof Cage withstands all attacks to the tune of the Wu’s "Bring Da Ruckus." In this scene, a henchman shoots at Cage in slow motion with an assault rifle while Cage calmly walks up and dispenses justice (or something like it).
Episode 4: Step in the Arena
Starts at 48:04
This is one of the season’s most telling episodes, unraveling the secrets behind how Carl Lucas became Luke Cage. This scene explores how he chose the name, along with how he and his deceased wife, Reva Connors (Parisa Fitz-Henley), hit it off. Even when he’s beaten down, this brother has game.
Episode 5: Just to Get a Rep
Starts at 46:43
This meeting with his squad establishes Cottonmouth as sarcastic, mean-spirited and full of rage. He says, “You readin’ now?” to Koko, a henchman, who shares that he’s been reading a book about the social conditions that created hip-hop. In the book, says Koko, Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan tells President Richard Nixon to treat race with “benign neglect.” (“We need a period in which Negro progress continues and racial rhetoric fades,” Moynihan wrote [PDF].) Koko suggests using benign neglect on Cage. Without warning, Cottonmouth shoots him.
Episode 6: Suckas Need Bodyguards
Starts at 43:29
Cage and nurse Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) are trying to deliver a corrupt-cop-with-a-change-of-heart to 1 Police Plaza, but Cottonmouth’s people are working overtime to stop them. When one of them drives an SUV at the crew at top speed, Cage uses his body to absorb the impact. Just: wow.
Episode 7, Manifest
Starts at 31:27
Cage withstands an ill-conceived firearm assault from Domingo Colón’s (Jacob Vargas) henchmen, before telling two gunners, “I’m about sick of always having to buy new clothes” with all the irritation of someone complaining about too many mosquitoes in their backyard. Badass.
Episode 8: Blowin’ Up the Spot
Starts at 15:10
Luke Cage ain’t no “macho” man if you ask him. In his typical corny fashion, he hits Dr. Claire Temple with, “Actually, it’s Power Man”—a shoutout to comic book heads who remember Cage from way back. She can’t help but love his earnestness—and neither can we.
Episode 9: DWYK
Starts at 13:06
Here, the increasingly devious and criminal councilwoman Stokes unfolds her plan to sell weapons to the police department rather than the underground. That plan entails demonizing Cage and making the administration so afraid that they will expedite the use of experimental guns with bullets that can penetrate Cage’s skin.
Episode 10: Take It Personal
Starts at 33:55
This moment comes when Cage realizes that his current enemy is actually someone who was once the closest person to him. Even though he is disillusioned with the fact that his pastor dad was not quite the man he idealized him to be, he references the Bible and vows to take responsibility for both his father and his foe’s actions: “I am my brother’s keeper.” (Genesis 4:9)
Episode 11, Now You’re Mine
Starts at 44:02
During a tense hostage situation initiated by Willis “Diamondback” Styker (Erik LaRay Harvey), Cage sneaks up behind an unwitting henchman in the dark to dispense of him (after epically eliminating several attackers with precise strikes) with a smack to the head. If only it worked that way for the rest of us.
Episode 12: Soliloquy of Chaos
Starts at 52:20
In his usual act of heroism, Cage catches trouble right before it strikes. We won’t give away too much—let’s just say that whenever he uses a variation of his “Sweet Christmas” catchphrase, something about to go down. And, of course, Cage inevitably tries to shield others from that disastrous “something.”
Episode 13: You Know My Steez
Starts at 8:42
In this scene, Cage and Temple—a nurse with a talent for healing people with special abilities—finally resolve their sexual tension with an impassioned kiss. When we first meet Claire, she tells Luke point blank that she won’t sleep with him. But they bond through a tumultuous period. The kiss happens as Luke faces re-imprisonment in Georgia’s Seagate Prison for a crime he did not commit.