Last year, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) got an exciting extension with the introduction of an ongoing series of Netflix shows that would allow Marvel to add some of its darker characters to the same canon as the Avengers. Thus far, both Daredevil and Jessica Jones have addressed sex and violence head-on through the lenses of two severely conflicted and psychologically damaged protagonists. That approach only ramped up with the Punisher entering the fray in Daredevil Season 2, and now the Punisher is also set to receive his own spin-off.
For now, the attention is on building the titular team that will comprise The Defenders, and with Daredevil and Jessica Jones established, only Luke Cage and Iron Fist remain. The former is up first, with Luke Cage set to debut on Netflix. That series will see Mike Colter take the character he created on Jessica Jones into his own spin-off. Early word on the show has been positive so far, but spin-offs are always dicey propositions, especially when the parent show is still in production. Let’s take a look at how Luke Cage could potentially damage Jessica Jones going forward.
Though Luke Cage was a popular figure in his appearances on Jessica Jones, there is the off chance that delving too deeply into his character won’t bear the same narrative fruit that it did for Jessica (Krysten Ritter).
Take, for instance, the fact that Jessica is a disillusioned hero turned private detective suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. The show’s primary focus was to serve as a character study delving into her past, her struggles, and her psychology. As a result, Jessica Jones touched on deeper themes like toxic relationships, sexual assault, and free will, through Jessica’s quest to take down Kilgrave (David Tennant).
Rather than taking a similar approach in its own story, Luke Cage looks to be relying on more traditional crime stories involving gangsters and the like to wringing drama out of the character, implying that he might not be nearly as complex as Jessica.
The spin-off nature of Luke Cage could come across as jarring to fans who saw the character’s backstory merely hinted at on Jessica Jones, and could make his presence within this arm of the MCU particularly underwhelming. Then, if Luke does make future appearances on Jessica Jones, he could damage the power and edge of the show or conversely steal the spotlight from one of the few super-powered women in the MCU.
What made Jessica Jones such a breath of fresh air was its vastly different approach to the superhero genre, and if Luke Cage remains true to what fans expect (but is still amazing in its own right), it could steal the attention away from Jessica Jones, making its parent show somewhat obsolete by comparison.
In addition, the romantic relationship between the two characters could come to define both shows, leaving viewers frustrated if the two don’t share sufficient screen time going forward. Think of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, as two shows that struggled to move on from their lead characters’ love story.
Jessica Jones thrived because of her volatile independent nature, and Luke Cage needs to strike just the right balance between referencing her and becoming its own standalone narrative to both feel a part of the same world and avoid becoming bogged down by the weight of what has come before. It’s a delicate line that Luke Cage must walk to serve as a satisfying entry into the MCU.
While we’re optimistic that Luke Cage will be another excellent addition to the Netflix branch of the MCU, the show could potentially bring the creative upswing of these shows crashing down, deflating the excitement over subsequent shows like Iron Fist and The Defenders as well as subsequent seasons of Jessica Jones. As Luke has such close ties to both Jessica Jones and Iron Fist in the comics, Marvel cannot afford for Luke Cage to fail, let alone damage the reputation of any of the shows it has successfully launched to date. Here’s hoping that Luke Cage finds yet another way to add depth and complexity to the MCU and keep audiences salivating over what comes next.
Follow Robert Yaniz Jr. on Twitter @CrookedTable
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