Week of June 18, 2023:

Meet the New Boss (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. s4 e2) released September 27, 2016 (where to watch)
Moment of Truth (Luke Cage s1 e1) released September 30, 2016 (where to watch)
Scott Hardie | October 19, 2023

Meet the New Boss: Oh how I enjoyed Daisy Johnson making fun of all of the dramatic "innocent blood has been spilled" and "the innocent must be avenged" talk. That stuff was so dumb and so prevalent in the comics back when I read them. If Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is picking on another Marvel property for being underwritten and too self-serious, it must be really bad. On the other hand, the action sequence where Johnson jumps onto the roof of the muscle car and rides atop it for a few blocks is also pretty dumb. It would have resulted in 9-1-1 calls and/or gone viral online from a phone recording, both of which would have brought attention that a spy like Johnson would instinctively avoid, but hey, it looks cool amirite? Gotta show off that big budget somehow.

I like Jeffrey Mace so far, although I fully expect twists and turns to come, as always with this show. Two seasons ago, Robert Gonzales was benevolent and intelligent until the show needed him not to be, so we'll see. I'm confused: Part of the reason that Jeffrey Mace is in charge of S.H.I.E.L.D. now is that Agent Coulson's resurrection is a secret to the world? Reveal it then. Who cares? There must be very few people on Earth who knew Coulson and even fewer who knew that he died. I do not understand the ongoing secrecy around Coulson being alive, other than it being a very flimsy excuse for further story material. Can anybody tell me what I'm missing? (4/10)

Moment of Truth: Even someone who doesn't like these Defenders shows ought to give them credit for specificity of tone. Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and now especially Luke Cage are meticulous in their creative choices, employing music, set decoration, cinematography, and more to evoke a very specific tone. This show is set in the MCU but it feels like another whole world. And that is the show's biggest achievement right out of the gate, I think. The show looked and sounded amazing right from the start, with great needle drops and even a live performance by Raphael Saadiq, although I find it very hard to believe that a club where he was singing wouldn't be packed to the rafters; that room looked about one-third full. But this show is suffused with great music from start to finish; the end credits theme has more style and swagger in 90 seconds than most shows manage to have at all.

Other impressions: Alfre Woodard is an incredible actress and it's great to see her playing off of the equally strong Mahershala Ali, but also a little weird to see her playing a different person so soon after her grieving mother confronted Tony Stark in Captain America: Civil War. I read somewhere that this accident of casting was a consequence of the movie division and TV division not talking to one another, and it made her the first notable person other than Stan Lee to play two characters in the MCU. Pop is immediately likable, partly due to Frankie Faison's warm presence and partly due to the specificity of Pop's opinions. That ensemble scene in the barber shop was great, although the backroom talk that followed it tripped over its words a few times while trying to make the superhero elements sound natural. During the fight at the end, what's with Famous Amos's wrist breaking out of his skin? Tyson Fury couldn't punch anyone that hard. And the Chinese couple didn't seem surprised at all when Luke broke a bat with his arm or caught a bullet with his hand; "stone-faced" probably should not have been their stage direction. But the final shot made up for it, as the camera tracks Luke's face when he puts on his hood, walks out onto the sidewalk, and for the first time embodies the "Hero of Harlem" that he's destined to be. (7/10)

I've seen the whole series before, and it's really neat to see all of these characters introduced again, knowing how their stories would play out. For first-timers, I'm so very curious to know what your first impressions are of the show and the main characters.

Erik Bates | November 7, 2023

Meet the New Boss ... same as the old boss? Is there a subtext to the title, or were they just trying to be clever? And if there is subtext, which old boss could Mace be?

I was a bit (pleasantly) surprised to see that Mace is an Inhuman. I'm hoping this sets up an interesting arc for the season, and maybe deliver a reason for Daisy to question her decision to separate herself from S.H.I.E.L.D.

Probably not.

I mean, I fully expect her to come back into the fold, but not because of Mace.

Erik Bates | November 8, 2023

Moment of Truth
I was wondering how they were going to separate Jessica Jones from Luke Cage. I don't really recall how they finished things in the Jessica Jones season, but playing her off as a "rebound" seemed odd. But maybe he's just playing that up for the group?

The cinematography is great in this episode. While I agree the idea of the breaking wrist was odd, the visual of it was pretty fantastic.

I will say this -- I'm just not a fan of the sex scene. In my opinion, it wasn't necessary, other than to set up the obvious conflict coming when Luke finds out she's a cop -- the cop that will inevitably be tasked with hunting him down, but will eventually begrudgingly wind up on his side as he moves to take down the big baddie of the season.

Scott Hardie | November 9, 2023
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