Luke Cage has finally arrived, and the world is about to decide whether we’re ready for a bulletproof black superhero. (For the record, all signs point to yes.) Because most viewers will binge straight through Season 1’s 13 episodes over the weekend, many of us will soon be asking whether we’ll receive more…and when.
If Marvel announces a second season of Luke Cage, it will have to come online after The Defenders mash-up series, set for 2017, and that second season will compete for attention with the already slated Punisher solo series, Iron Fist, and Jessica Jones Season 2. Funnily enough, Netflix’s Marvel series will have to mirror the way Luke Cage’s comic book source material is published in order to keep its timelines straight and its audience engaged. Going forward, Luke, who played an important role in Jessica Jones, will have to act as an engaged member of the Defenders team while still retaining enough of his personal drama in Harlem to make a second trip to the borough worth it.
Luke Cage’s staying power isn’t necessarily hinged on whether or not he defeats Cottonmouth, Shades, and Black Mariah — his club-running group of Season 1 foes — but it does have a lot to do with his relationship with Misty Knight. As we’ve learned from Marvel projects past, the central modus operandi of a comic book adaptation is to tell an engaging story while planting seeds for future narratives.
Every character who wanders onscreen — again, Misty Knight is an important example — isn’t who they initially appear to be, and convincing viewers to stick around means promising that larger plot points are already in motion. Misty, for example, in the comics ends up being a skilled superhero in her own right. Luke, however, needs to accept his role as a superhero in Season 1 so we can see him fully in action in subsequent seasons, just as Misty Knight and Claire Temple need to clarify their roles in New York City so we might see them as Iron Fist’s partner and Night Nurse, respectively.
Marvel’s separate showrunners have shared that their strategy in keeping each of the Defenders’s series separate is a unique one: “We are in constant contact, ever since our stories existed,” Melissa Rosenberg, Jessica Jones showrunner says. “If something changes for one or the other of our shows, we let each other know. So far, from what I know, everything is going to be told separately. But Marvel is doing something that no one has ever done before, ever.”
Rosenberg is correct in several ways. Marvel’s Netflix series have done unprecedented things. While critics adored Jessica Jones’s depiction of an unlikable, heavy-drinking female protagonist suffering from PTSD, Luke Cage has already garnered critical acclaim for its robust and diverse cast of black actors, all led by showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker.
From a production standpoint, Marvel is creating a unique collection of comic book TV shows that intertwine thematically and chronologically while allowing each solo series to serve a separate function. While DC superheroes populate the CW’s Arrowverse, shows like Arrow and The Flash haven’t gone entire seasons without including crossover episodes. Marvel’s Defenders series, on the other hand, are designed to operate in tandem with each other, and won’t become a fully realized Defendersverse until the team-up series debuts.
For now, we’ll have to wait for Netflix and Marvel to announce a Season 2, which will likely explore Luke Cage and Jessica Jones as a couple once both characters’ extraneous entanglements become less complicated.
Luke Cage Season 1 is currently available on Netflix.