This Review Contains Spoilers for this episode! Please avoid leaving spoilers for future episodes in the comments section below when discussing this season.
The Basement pushed things further forward by having Luke Cage face off properly against Bushmaster for the first time as things began to collapse around Mariah completely in the aftermath of the events of last episode. It would have been a disappointment to keep Luke and Bushmaster apart for much of the season, so we might as well start this review by looking at the final fight on the bridge, which reminded me of Jean Pierre-Melville’s legendary gangster film starring Alain Delon, Le Samourai. Whilst Delon’s hitman avoids the watery depths that Luke falls to, it was interesting to watch the confrontation unfold, with Luke being restrained and unable to move. Things just keep getting worse and worse for him now that he’s been beaten once again.
One of the biggest problems about Netflix’s series is that the long episode count means for a slower pace and that is one of the main things that, unfortunately, Luke Cage isn’t immune to. No Marvel Netflix show has escaped this problem, not even The Defenders with its reduced episode count, and The Basement sees things quieten down a little aside from that showdown at the end of the episode.
But that doesn’t mean there weren’t some moments that could still be enjoyed about this episode. Luke bringing Piranha to his father for protection was an interesting maneuverer that gets the best out of both characters. His father has that lingering background presence in the show that makes him an enigma, and whilst Luke might end up making a mistake handing him someone who is as important as Piranha when he doesn’t fully trust him he does represent yet another unpredictable character in a show that’s full of them.
Much of The Basement focuses on character interactions in secular locations. An abandoned Harlem cinema provides the backdrop for much of Piranha and Luke’s conversations this chapter, and both see development of their characters. It feels like a break from the parts of the season that are constantly moving and as a result sees the show drop down in pace. This is not helped by the fact that pretty much every story feels like it’s treading familiar ground. Misty Knight’s trouble with the police force rears its head once again, despite having made it clear that she won’t compromise herself by planting evidence in the previous episode.
I do like the fact that Luke Cage has evolved from its first season and learned from the mistake about pulling a villain switch halfway through. It’s also opted to have Mariah and Bushmaster’s storylines run against each other, creating separate plot threads. The confrontation on the bridge where Luke asks Bushmaster if he couldn’t have chosen to have an ordinary life rather than revenge was an interesting one, and even if the showdown itself was nothing new, it feels like the series is throwing the characters together every couple of episodes now, it did allow for a fascinating exchange that explores their motivations for doing what they do and who they are.
The development in the relationship between Shades and Comache was rather unexpected and yet made perfect sense that there might still be lingering feelings for them left over from their time in prison. Bushmaster too remains an utterly compelling villain and I’m fascinated by his introduction into the show and how it’s handling him. Netflix Marvel has had a good track record with its antagonists and it looks like both him and Mariah are shaping up to be compelling characters so far, if not as compelling as Luke Cage himself, who gets to utter the infamous “Where’s my money, honey?” line this week. And as usual, the soundtrack continues to help make this show feel so unique, giving it a little extra depth that most series don’t normally have to offer.