LUKE CAGE season 2 jumped directly into difficult subjects and didn’t let up for one second. One of the biggest themes of the season is redemption and forgiveness. The show builds both the ideas of good people sometimes doing bad things and the concept of some crimes being unforgivable into this conversation.

Luke and Misty are central to this conversation. In this season, we see both struggles with their own roles as “good” people. We also see them struggling with the mistakes other in their lives has made.

Goodness Isn’t Exempt from Mistakes

Season 2 dives right into what Luke is currently struggling with and how it’s affecting the people in his life in the first three episodes. The show tunes into a Luke who is starting to crack under pressure. The strain of being the hero of Harlem is causing him to lash out in his personal life. On top of that, it’s causing him to use methods that aren’t quite “acceptable.”

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Luke makes mistakes due to this strain throughout the whole season. However, the show gives us a specific event — a marker of how bad it’s gotten. Luke, in his anger, punches a hole in the wall of Claire’s apartment. Rather, he punches a wall in Claire’s mother’s apartment.

Claire pointedly tells him that she put up with being around an abusive, angry man her entire childhood and that she told herself where she would draw a line in her own relationships… and she does.

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Meanwhile, Misty has her own conflict centered on both the loss of Scarfe and the release of criminals convicted by Scarfe. What Misty is dealing with has many facets: knowing that she didn’t realize Scarfe was a dirty cop, struggling with the fact that some of the suspects she convicted may be innocent, and knowing the ones who aren’t are running free. Under the strain, she nearly becomes a dirty cop herself, planning to plant evidence on Cockroach to arrest him.

Fallout & Consequences

Bad choices can be recovered from — but if they’re not acknowledged or faced head-on, they can lead to more bad choices. Even when owning up to bad choices, there’s no such thing as escaping mistakes you’ve made. Luke’s anger that was directed at criminals was already out of control, exemplified by the fact that he beat Cockroach nearly to death in front of his girlfriend and child. The fact that his anger ends up directed at Claire instead shows that his mistake is not only his lack of control but his thought that he could lead two separate lives.

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Luke being sloppy or overly aggressive ends up biting him in the ass for the duration of the season. Losing Claire is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to retribution for his actions. Cockroach moves forward to sue Luke for assault, and Luke’s current anger issues make taking it to court a pipe dream.

Luke is living his life in a way that leads to constant comparisons to Bushmaster — a comparison he resents but seems worryingly accurate when he’s talking about wanting “Mariah’s head on a platter.”

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Misty is left to struggle with guilt. She is going to be burdened with the idea that she might be a few rough cases away from becoming a dirty cop. She knows very well that if she hadn’t found Cockroach dead, she might’ve planted that Judas bullet on him. The guilt of treating Ridenhour horribly for wanting to strike a deal for Mariah is going to follow her as well—both because Ridenhour died and because she later looked into giving Mariah total immunity.

Are Some People Beyond Redemption?

LUKE CAGE also holds to the idea that, while good people can make bad choices and recover, there’s a line. Things get a bit complicated here because what is beyond forgiveness or redemption is a personal matter. It may seem like LUKE CAGE is taking contradictory angles on what is redeemable, at times.

Sometimes this can be a bit frustrating, even. For example, there’s a lot of conversation around Luke forgiving his father…but the show doesn’t ask the same of Tilda.

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I’m not saying Tilda should forgive Mariah, for the record. She very much shouldn’t. However, there’s no reason for Luke to forgive his father either, in my opinion. Sure, the crimes of Reverend Lucas don’t come close to touching the other terrible family figures we see in LUKE CAGE. Despite that, at the end of the day, he still abandoned his son, blamed Luke for the death of his own mother, and returned the letters Luke sent from prison. If Luke sees those actions as unforgivable, I wouldn’t blame him.

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What is worth forgiving, and what redemption means, is hotly debated over the course of the season. Mariah is past redemption. Does being past redemption mean someone has to die, though? If Mariah’s plan had worked at the first installment of the Family First Initiative, and she’d gone “straight,” so to speak, would she have been worth redeeming then?

Was Cockroach worth the redemption that his girlfriend wanted to give him? We don’t get any concrete answers. Due to the fact that where the line is drawn is personal, the audience is left to draw its own conclusions in most cases.

Slippery Slopes

An important part of LUKE CAGE is that it doesn’t only acknowledge the consequences of bad deeds, it acknowledges the chain effects. The reason why being a “good” person is a constant struggle, and that atoning for the wrongs you’ve done is a permanent part of life, is because one mistake can quickly become multiple. Mariah is the best example — not that she was a good person, but her attempts to leave her criminal life all fail because of her determination to deny the past.

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Luke, meanwhile, seems to be straddling the line. After Claire left, it seemed to give him a bit of a wakeup call about his anger. Despite that, he still struggles for the rest of the season to gain control of himself again. At the end of the season, Luke seems to be in a rather precarious situation — closer to looking like the new crime lord of Harlem than looking like its hero. While he’s settled some of his more severe issues with violent approaches to crime, he’s still compromising his morals to get things done.

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Misty is probably the best example of being proactive about mistakes in the season. We actively see her speak to people about the problems in her life. She confesses to Ridenhour about the fact that she was going to plant evidence on Cockroach. As the season goes on, decisions get tougher, and Misty has to compromise her morals at certain points as well. However, she plans ahead for it and works on accepting that there are some things she can’t change.

LUKE CAGE & Its Relevance

It’s a consequence of human nature that people make mistakes or hurt each other. LUKE CAGE isn’t presenting a world of heroes that are perfect simply because they have powers. People craft characters and stories in purposeful ways. Writing doesn’t happen by accident. LUKE CAGE, as a show, is aware of its impact and the importance of its stories. It’s because of this that LUKE CAGE tries to tackle nuanced conversations about morals in the first place.

Image courtesy of Netflix and Marvel Entertainment

The show isn’t perfect. It’s difficult to create nuance without sometimes coming across as muddled or wishy-washy. At times, the storyline with Luke’s father was frustrating. The pressure from Claire, typically the voice of reason, made it feel like the audience was meant to agree with her. Later on, though, the show acknowledges, sometimes, just because someone is family doesn’t mean they deserve forgiveness.

Forgiveness is deeply personal. It seems like the societal pressures surrounding people’s mistakes pull us in one of two directions. The first being that, if we don’t forgive those that hurt us, we won’t heal. The second option is that any mistake means that someone has thrown away their shot at redemption. In reality, things aren’t (and never will be) that simple. Mistakes have their own weights…on top of that, what people do once they’ve made a mistake is vital to recovering from it. LUKE CAGE acknowledges that things may change person to person.

It makes it more difficult to say if LUKE CAGE has taken a direct stance on anything. At the same time, though, it makes the writing better, in my opinion. Season 2 of LUKE CAGE feels realistic, and it feels closer to a reality that people can learn from.

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