Who knew the runaway favorite character in Netflix’s Luke Cage would be a cop? Simone Missick’s performance as Misty Knight charmed and captivated audiences, making her announcement last week that she will be in The Defenders all the more sweet. In fact, #MistyKnight was trending right alongside #LukeCage and #SweetChristmas all weekend.
Knight is one of five primary characters in the show portrayed by a woman of color; Missick acts alongside a talented cast including Rosario Dawson (Claire Temple, aka Night Nurse), Alfre Woodard (Mariah), Karen Pittman (Inspector Ridley), and Deborah Ayorinde (Candace Miller). In Luke Cage, Misty is no more a superhero than Claire Temple, though she’s certainly on her way to forging her own path through the MCU.
Let’s break down why fans have latched onto Misty with such fervor, and fill our discussion with spoilers.
The MCU hasn’t always been great with women
You can count on one hand how many female characters the MCU has attempted to give depth — Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) are the two female members of the Avengers, but neither of them have been alone in MCU scenes with characters who weren’t pulled straight from the comic books. They’re not depicted as having their own lives outside of Avengers initiatives, and their origin stories occurred before the movies picked up. As a result, we haven’t been able to watch a female character make mistakes and grow in as much detail as Luke Cage allows Misty Knight.
Other female characters like Wasp (Evangeline Lily) are still stuck orbiting the action until later MCU films, and the only female character to get her own Marvel series, Agent Carter (Hayley Atwell) saw her show cancelled due to low ratings. Marvel’s Misty Knight feels novel because her story runs alongside Luke’s, though she could easily operate without him.
Misty not only embodies several opposing traits — she’s into casual sex but isn’t emotionless, she’s athletic and intelligent, she’s hot-headed but good at her job. All told, she’s a believably flawed female hero who doesn’t feel like she was concocted after a series of focus groups and spins of the cliché wheel. So much of the discussion around female superheroes leans heavily on what is “empowering,” rather than what is emotionally engaging, believable, and genuine. Misty Knight is more of a robust character than a social justice prop, and she still does the cultural work necessary in a progressive show like Luke Cage.
She’s Marvel’s Commissioner Gordon
At first, fans were visibly disappointed to see Misty Knight working as a cop, given that the series touches on the subject of police brutality, and the too-long list of unarmed black civilians who have been killed by cops in recent memory. Why, people asked, would Marvel give narrative real estate to cops’ stories instead of focusing on the stories of Luke and his neighbors?
However, Luke Cage did something extraordinary in focusing on Misty’s professional conversations with Inspector Ridley: It made room for the values held by policewomen while not devaluing or mocking the concerns of the average citizen. Though many of the cops in Luke Cage’s story are admittedly pretty stupid, even Cage is reticent to hurt any of them. He apologizes, for example, before tossing two cops around in an incident that gets caught on a dash cam. The average Harlemite is equally unsure about the actions of the police force as they are about Luke Cage’s or Diamondback’s, and in the world of the show, that makes sense.
Misty’s identity as a cop who works alongside super-people allows her to exist in opposing circles: She clearly adores her crooked, white partner enough to mourn him, even after learning of his sins, but she also sides with Luke against the police force on certain occasions. Her policewoman mentality creates friction between her, Luke, and Claire, but her allegiance with vigilantes annoys her fellow cops.
Her comic book history pre-dates even Jessica Jones
Misty Knight made her first comic book appearance in 1972’s Marvel Team-Up. After training as a detective and working alongside Luke at “Heroes for Hire” (the eventual super-staffing agency Luke will probably run out of Pop’s Barber Shop), she loses an arm in battle. Tony Stark designs a bionic arm for her, which allows her to fight using a metallic vice grip, and officially makes her more of a superhero than a straight-up hero.
She’s the sign of something more to come
Luke Cage saw Misty pair up temporarily with Luke, face off against villains, relate to Claire Temple, and stare menacingly at Shades and Mariah in the season’s final moments. Because she’s still free to enact justice on Harlem’s crime ring at the end of the series, this means Misty may appear in Iron Fist before she appears in The Defenders.
In the comic text, Misty ends up married to Iron Fist, though it’s unclear whether Marvel will follow that path in future series. She’s also heavily involved with both Luke’s “Heroes for Hire” endeavor, has worked with Spider-Man, and has rubbed up against Punisher and Daredevil on several occasions. Like Claire Temple, her character arc has the potential to weave in and out of different Netflix series.
We haven’t seen the last of Misty Knight, so buckle up.