We’ll kick off with his debut appearance in Jessica Jones Season 1, dive into Luke Cage Season 1, then cover his role in the Defenders‘ series, at the same time looking at significant developments for Luke Cage‘s other characters.
When Luke Met Jessica
In Jessica Jones Season 1, we saw Luke embark on a relationship with fellow (reluctant) superhero Jessica. Back then, he owned a bar. The relationship faltered when he discovered that Jessica was the one who, under the influence of evil mind controller Kilgrave, killed his wife, Reva.
But after Kilgrave takes control of Cage, making him blow up his own bar, he apparently forgives her and the two begin working together. It turns out that this is a ruse by Kilgrave, and Cage is still under his power. Kilgrave turns Cage on Jones, and she shoots him in the head to stop him. Claire Temple nurses him while he recovers. Which marks the beginning of another beautiful relationship…
Mariah, Shades and a Reluctant Hero
Season 1 of Luke Cage picks up a few months after the events of the first season of Jessica Jones.
Cage has been keeping a low profile in Harlem after the events of Jessica Jones – sweeping up hair at Pop’s barbershop. Pop has been helping Cage keep his convict past, and his powers, on the down-low. He’s also washing dishes at nightclub Harlem’s Paradise to make ends meet – an establishment owned by gangster Cornell ‘Cottonmouth’ Stokes.
Cage gets mixed up in iniquitous shenanigans again when he fills in for the club’s usual bartender, Dante. Dante gets himself involved in a plot to swipe the proceeds of an arms deal between Stokes’s men and gang leader Domingo Colon, which leads to his death.
Detective Misty Knight and her partner Rafael Scarfe — who turns out to be corrupt — start investigating, and seize the alien-tech Hammer weapons Stokes was selling. Shades, who works for Stokes’ supplier Diamondback, goes after one of the surviving thieves — kills him and takes his share of the money.
As Cage is drawn deeper into the web of criminality, he later finds himself framed for the murder of Cottonmouth, who is actually offed by Mariah Dillard. She kills her cousin in a fit of rage after he accuses her of enjoying the rape she endured at the hands of her Uncle Pete, and Shades helps her cover it up.
After Cage is shot with a Judas bullet – made from alien technology by Iron Man 2 baddie Justin Hammer – it’s revealed that his assailant is a man with a grudge. The gangster we’ve been hearing so much about is Willis Stryker – aka Diamondback – and Luke Cage’s long-lost brother. He blames Cage for ruining his life and wants to kill Cage out of revenge. A dramatic face-off ensues, but not before Claire helps to mend the damage done to Cage’s body by the Judas bullet. She takes him to the prison doctor who experimented on him and dips him into an acid bath.
During the final climactic fight, Diamondback confronts Cage wearing a powered protective suit that allows him to match Cage in combat. Cage eventually overpowers Diamondback and knocks him out.
In the hospital, Stryker is visited by the same doctor that experimented on Cage – suggesting that Diamondback could soon return with superpowers.
Misty, meanwhile, struggles with the limitations placed on her by operating within the strict confines of the law, and Dillard escapes prosecution when witness Candace Miller is killed by Shades. Cage begins a relationship with Claire Temple before returning to Seagate prison to serve the rest of his sentence as Carl Lucas.
We learn Luke Cage’s backstory in Episode 4, finding out that under his previous identity of Carl Lucas, he was framed and sent to prison. He met future wife Reva there. We also discovered that experimentation on his body at Seagate Penitentiary led to his superpowers. These powers allowed him to escape and go on the run, at which point he changed his name to Luke Cage.
We also learn Mariah Dillard’s backstory – about the abuse she suffered and the brutal regime she and cousin Cornell endured under the guardianship of their grandmother, gangster Mama Mabel.
What happened in The Defenders?
The Defenders team-up series takes place some time after the events of Luke Cage Season 1.
In it, Cage returns to Harlem after he’s released from Seagate following Foggy‘s efforts to clear his name. He reunites with Claire Temple, with whom he’s been swapping letters while he’s been incarcerated and they pick up where they left off.
His path crosses with fellow Defenders Jessica Jones, Iron Fist and Daredevil plus other crossover characters, as they come together to fight nefarious organisation The Hand and remove its grip on New York City. It’s Claire that pushes for Cage to initially team up with Danny Rand, with whom he has an awkward first encounter. They come to blows again later, the fight ending when Rand uses the Iron Fist against him.
Making Amends and the Loss of an Arm
After tying Rand to a chair, in order to keep him away from The Hand, who want to exploit the Iron Fist, Cage watches over him. But Stick’s eagerness to kill Rand results in the blind martial arts master using a poisoned gas to fell Cage. Cage is weakened by the poison and is consequently knocked out by Elektra.
After a high-octane final battle against the Hand, Luke and the Defenders eventually win, except for Daredevil, who apparently sacrifices his life to save New York. Misty Knight also loses her arm to bad guy Bakuto, which will set up the acquisition of a bionic arm in Luke Cage Season 2.
During the series, Cage is also reunited with former lover Jessica Jones – whom he hadn’t seen since their encounter with Kilgrave. He tells Jessica that any one of them could have died in the cave beneath the building that provided the location for the final battle, and that he was glad it wasn’t her. He asks her to keep in touch. With Foggy ensuring he and Claire wouldn’t be charged for their part in anything, Cage is free to pick up his life with Temple back in Harlem. Which is where Luke Cage Season 2 looks set to start.
Luke Cage Season 2 hits Netflix on June 22.