Saturday, October 8, 2016

Play Misty For Me

My post Wednesday about the new Luke Cage Netflix series left out a lot of things in hopes of maintaining pointed brevity (not usually my strong suit). Some of the thoughts I neglected to mention included the following:

  • New York is an absolutely huge place and for once I watched a series that gave it a real sense of its scale. Like how a single person...even the super heroic Cage...can simply vanish into its immensity, simply by forgoing a flamboyant costume and putting on a hoody. 
  • The writing of the show was both hit and miss. The misses have to do with the overall story arcs and pacing which, a bit like a musical progression in jazz seemed to meander a bit in a way that offended my staid "story sensibilities." However, the hits just kept on coming when it comes to the writing of the characters, which are almost entirely made up of complex, nuanced individuals. The heroes aren't perfect saints, and the villains aren't all irredeemable its own small way, Luke Cage manages to capture both the ugliness and beautiful potential that's in all of us.
  • A lot of articles I've read about the series compares it to the "blaxploitation" flicks of the 70s, but I think that's pretty fucking lazy analysis. There are plenty of films out there that use the same formulaic ingredients as blaxploitation (including corrupt authority, street crime, and one misunderstood hardass doing the vigilante thang) that feature white actors with names like Seagal, VanDamme, Stalone, Russell, Swayze, Willis, etc. Despite the music, despite the racial themes, Luke Cage is a series that ignores (or condemns) much of the machismo from those earlier films. This isn't a show about a guy getting over on "the man," and while it's sexy enough, it has little to do with the protagonist's sexual prowess (often an integral part of the blaxploitation genre).

Which leads me to the REAL point of this post: talking about Simone Missick in her role as the show's co-protagonist, Misty Knight.

"I don't seek justice. I stalk it."
Yeah, I sure didn't see that one coming. I was really looking forward to watching Luke Cage (kept checking Ye Old Netflix every week or so to see the status) based on the strength of A) Marvel's previous three offerings (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Daredevil 2), as wells B) Mike Colter's turn as the titular Cage character. And, yes, the show managed to keep my rather high expectations high on both counts (Colter is a bonafide star, and his interpretation of the Cage character has turned me into a fan of a hero that...previously...only cracked my top-tier by dint of his team associations). What I was NOT expecting, and what's blown me away the more I've considered it, is the way the show creators decided to double-down on the amount of Hero by giving us huge whopping side of Misty Knight who, as I've mentioned before, may be my second favorite super heroine, after Babs Gordon.

Folks who don't know the comic book history of Misty should know that, like Luke Cage, she's best known as one-half of her own dynamic duo, sometimes known as Nightwing Restorations, sometimes known as the Daughters of the Dragon.

[folks interested in Misty's early comic book history would do well to check out this series of posts at Out of this World from back in 2011]

The comic book Misty appears to be originally inspired by the likes of Cleopatra Jones, Christie Love, and most any Pam Grier character from the 1970's. She's a tough, street-smart ex-cop who runs a private detective agency and battles super-criminals and crime lords with chop-sockey martial arts and a large caliber revolver. The "Marvel touch" (I suppose) is that she sports a bionic right arm, having lost her natural one in the same explosion that ended her law enforcement career. Outside her own stories (alongside her half-Asian partner Colleen Wing), her biggest claim to fame for her first couple decades came as the on-again/off-again girlfriend of Danny Rand (Iron Fist), frequently saving his sorry ass after he'd been whipped by someone tougher than himself. However, in the last decade or so she's been pulled out of mothballs by the powers-that-be and put in charge of a number of different super teams, a kind of cyborg-Oracle type whose lack of superpowers has no effect on her ability to command and lead.

Much tougher than
Electrawoman & Dynagirl.
[I don't know why it is that I love cyborg characters so much. I guess I was a big fan of the $6 Million Dollar Man as a kid...all those fights against Sasquatch and Fembots and whatnot...]

The Misty Knight in Luke Cage is quite the step down from the bionic superwoman leading war-goddesses in Asgard. She's still a New York cop (detective, not beat), and she still has two (non-augmented) arms. She's good at her job, she likes her job, and she's a lot likely to engage in real (well, "TV real" anyway) police procedure than kick ass or blaze away, John Woo style. She also shares nearly as much screen time as Mike Colter (though rarely in the same scenes), making the character feel very much like the co-protagonist of the show, following a parallel story arc.

"Parallel" is the key word, though. She's got her own bag of problems, drama, and baggage to deal with. She has her own history, her own tragic past, much of which is revealed in a great series of one-on-one scenes with her IA investigator (episode 9). Missick is fantastic in the role, bringing humor, grit, and nuance to the character. My understanding is that she's a veteran stage actor, but regardless of whether or not that's true, she brings a smoldering subtlety to the character where someone of lesser skill might instead bring explosive caricature. For an actor, the writing of the Misty Knight character (in this series) is's meaty in all sorts of ways, giving plenty of emotional layers and biz to play with. But you have to have a competent actor to pull it off, and the one they landed is excellent. A lot of internet fans are already calling for a Misty Knight solo series (the same way people were calling for a Punisher series after Daredevil). While that would be cool and all, I have to say that Luke Cage belongs almost as much to Misty as Luke does...they're not quite a dynamic duo, but you're often getting two for the price of one in the show.

Having said THAT...I have no idea how the MCU creators will ever bring this character "up to spec" for those of us who are longtime fans. There was a chance in this season [*SPOILER ALERT*] to blow up both her arm and her career and leave her in a place to form Nightwing Restorations, but the writers didn't take it. And what's more, why should they when they already have a hardboiled detective lady (in the form of Jessica Jones) to run with? Meanwhile, I can't see how this particular version of Misty Knight would EVER fall for a schmuck like Danny Rand...I mean, love is blind and all, but Luke seems to be far more to her taste. And how does one ever get around to dating the partner of the Hero of Harlem?

I mean...sorry, Danny. There is far-fetched (like bionic arms and mystic extra-dimensional kung fu temples), and then there's REALLY far-fetched. You watch Luke Cage and tell me if her character would take Finn Jones over Mike Colter. These MCU shows on Netflix appear to have strict caps when it comes to how much fantasy they'll put into a series.
; )

And Claire thought Luke was
"corny." Jesus, Iron Fist.

1 comment:

  1. Good write up(s). I'm a fan of the Netflix Marvel offerings so far. I hope Luke Cage gets the attention and following it deserves. There's some very good writing going on in these series.