tv series

Here is why the new Netflix show ‘Luke Cage’ is drawing rave reviews

Based on the Marvel superhero with bulletproof skin, the series is a compelling story set in the historically black neighbourhood Harlem.

On 30 September, Netflix unleashed the latest installment of the growing Marvel-Netflix universe, Luke Cage. Like its predecessors, Daredevil and Jessica Jones, the 13-episode first season follows the adventures of the titular superhero as he strives to bring some justice to the rough streets of Harlem. Where Daredevil has enhanced senses and Jessica Jones superhuman strength and endurance, Luke Cage has something much more meaningfully tied to his identity as a black man: unbreakable, bulletproof skin.

The series, starring Mike Colter, drops at a time when police violence and atrocities against the African American community have become burning issues that are at the forefront of many political, and civic conversations. One might be forgiven for thinking that the creators had a hard task ahead of them: to ensure the show didn’t seem wildly exploitative of real-world tragedies while still acknowledging the sheer power of a symbol like Cage and the context in which he operates. Indeed, there were rumours that the show would be delayed or its release rescheduled if another tragic shooting were to take place. But show runner Cheo Hodari Coker has lived up to the high standards set by his predecessors in the Marvel-Netflix powerhouse, delivering a season that not only tells a compelling superhero story, but makes sure the focus never wavers from the community in which he operates: the historically black neighbourhood of Harlem in New York City.

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‘Luke Cage’.

Luke Cage became part of the Marvel-Netflix-verse in Jessica Jones, where he functioned as the titular character’s love interest as well as the living, breathing testament to her greatest trauma. The Luke Cage series begins shortly after the events of Jessica Jones have come to an end. Luke is back in Harlem, where he works two jobs: as a janitor at Pop’s barbershop, a “safe space” in the troubled neighbourhood that is watched over by the eponymous Pop, and a dishwasher at a much more upscale location: Harlem’s Paradise, a club owned and operated by the notorious Cornell Cottonmouth Stokes (played by Mahershala Ali from House of Cards). As happens in most superhero movies, the big bad world, in this case, one of gangs, gun fights and political corruption, flings itself at those Luke cares about, and he has no choice but to step in and try to “do the right thing.”

The Harlem that Luke Cage brings to life is a hard world, riddled with violence, fear, and political corruption. It is also a place of aspiration, where dreams continue to rise, refusing to be quashed even by the snapping of bones or the spilling of blood. The heady combination of power and idealism has its dark reflection in the cousins Cornell Stokes and Mariah Dillard (Alfre Woodard), a councilwoman determined to “keep Harlem black” and retain her place on the political circuit, no matter what the price. The liaison of political and criminal power was touched upon in Daredevil, whose second season devoted itself largely to showing how broken the system of governance and law enforcement is, but that theme takes on a particularly human face in Luke Cage. Luke is vulnerable to it in a way that Matt Murdoch simply isn’t – a fact that’s painfully illustrated by the manner in which he gets his powers in the first place.

‘Luke Cage’.
‘Luke Cage’.

Colter shines as Cage, portraying the hero’s struggles with a quiet dignity, providing a centre of calm in the maelstrom of gunfire and violence that surrounds him. He is an aspirational figure, one who keeps his cool and even has the heart for silly, corny lines when the bullets have faded, or when he lies broken on the floor. Rosario Dawson reprises her role as Claire Temple from the preceding Marvel series, and her fans would be happy to learn that, as ever, she owns every scene she’s in, and takes quite the journey herself, from a nurse finding her feet in the world of super humans in Daredevil to a character who is making her own tough choices in Cage.

But the breakout character of this particular run of episodes has to be Simone Missick’s Mercedes Misty Knight, a hardworking, intelligent detective, set on protecting the Harlem she loves, even if it means taking a little professional risk now and again. Missick steals every scene she’s in, and it takes all of five minutes of screen-time for viewers to fall in love with and root for this character, a smart, capable black woman who refuses to take nonsense, no matter how high the person dishing it out happens to be.

Luke Cage runs on a great storyline, full of twists of plot you might never have seen coming. It’s weighted with some amount of pathos and pain, but the sunlight does shine through – in the characters’ humour, in the amazing soundtrack and music that is showcased, in the fact that at the end of the day, no matter how hard things get on the streets, life does go on. “Forward, always forward,” Pop tells Luke at the start of the series. Luke Cage surges forward with power, grace and undeniable style, and takes viewers right along with it.

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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.