Hey guys, we'll be talking SPOILERS for all of Luke Cage season one. Fair warning!
Netflix and Marvel's new Luke Cage series is predictably filled to the brim with details for fans to pick out. There are a lot of obvious verbal shoutouts to Marvel's cinematic past, with the likes of Thor and Justin Hammer being mentioned, along with Power Man and Heroes for Hire. Heck, at one point a dude straight-up call's Rosario Dawson's character "Night Nurse" as a joke. But we're gonna dig a little bit deeper to find some stuff beyond the surface level. Well, after we get the easy stuff out of the way.
1. Costume cameos
We waited a whole season until Daredevil got his suit, but Luke Cage was a different story. See, his old Power Man getup from the 70s is a bit tougher to update. The chain belt, armbands, billowy yellow pirate shirt and especially that crown would look pretty silly in a modern comic book, much less a gritty live action TV show. Everyone involved in production of the show probably realized this, and so that's why Luke assembles that costume out of necessity (and uh, forgetting to take his laboratory tiara off) after he escapes prison in episode four. "You look like a damn fool," Luke pouts, as he spots his reflection in a car window. It's maybe a little too close to the original X-Men movie's comic-shaming "Well, what would you prefer? Yellow spandex?" -- but we'll let it slide since Luke Cage at least had the guts to suit up on screen.
Though that was just a fleeting glimpse, Diamondback's old outfit got way more screentime.
For the final battle, Willis Stryker dons a special suit that absorbs Luke's punches and dishes that energy right back out at him. Seems like a pretty handy piece of equipment, but that doesn't really explain why he went with a pea green jacket and a tubular yellow turtleneck. You know, besides the fact that's pretty much exactly what he looked like in the comics.
Also in the finale we get a quick peek at Misty Knight's final form.
For most of the series, Misty is dressed in down-to-earth, detective-style clothing. But when she sets her sights on Mariah, Misty dons a red outfit that looks a lot like her standard comic book look, complete with afro and hoop earrings. Here's hoping TV Misty gets Comic Misty's badass robot arm soon.
2. Elektra sighting
Blink and you'll miss it, but Elektra shows up very briefly in the first episode of the series. When Luke is chatting up his blind friend at the newspaper stand, in the background we can see what appear to be several sketches of Elektra with her red scarf around the bottom half of her face. It's not clear what this is supposed to be in-universe -- maybe the guy at the counter gets bored a lot and sketches a ninja he thought he saw one time. Or maybe it's just some cool concept art someone wanted to throw somewhere.
3. History repeats itself
By now, you probably know Batman and Spider-Man's origin stories by heart. Not as many people can say the same for Luke Cage. That's okay though, since this show is probably most folks' first real introduction to the hero. After the prison experiment goes wrong in episode four, Luke feels frustrated and trapped, sure that he's going to be blamed for the death of a shady prison guard. You'd probably punch a wall too.
It's lucky that Luke lashed out in anger, because this is the exact moment he discovers his powers. As it so happens, this is also pretty much how it goes in the comics.
All in all, it's a more convincing origin story than if he was bitten by a radioactive kevlar vest.
4. A subtle literary reference
When someone is filmed reading a book on-screen in a TV show, it's probably not something the actor was flipping through between takes. So that's why it's not a surprise that the book Luke is reading in episode two has special significance. "Little Green" by Walter Mosely centers on a black detective who awakes from a coma and goes on a search for a missing boy. If that sounds familiar, that's because Luke Cage himself just awoke from a coma at the end of Jessica Jones, then embarks on a search for young Chico.
You've probably got your phone out when you're watching TV anyway -- sometimes it pays to do a quick Google.
5. Back to the Future in a newspaper clipping
So far the easter eggs have been neat but somewhat expected. But out of left field comes a heavily-modified DeLorean, delivering one of Marvel's cleverest and silliest easter eggs yet. When Misty is scrolling up old newspapers in the tenth episode, off to the side we see a story with the headline "Martin Brown Commended: Local Inventor Receives Civic Award." The text isn't just the same Latin gibberish you find in every other fake newspaper, either. Here's what it says, emphasis ours:
Local inventor Martin Brown was recognized for his contributions to science at the 35th Annual Benefactor's Ball here in Savannah last Thursday. Brown, a lifelong resident of the community, has recently developed what he calls the "Thrust Capacitor," a device that desalinizes ocean water for repurposing. It also is the device that could one day make time travel possible. "We currently don't have the resources to make this type of travel possible, but one day, when plutonium is available at every corner drugstore, perhaps that day, we could achieve it."
Brown has always been known for his impulsive and sometimes bombastic behavior, but he was all smiles when he received the Savannah Civic Award in Scientific Achievement. Brown went under fire in 1985 for including a teenaged boy in his experiments. Many onlookers though that Brown perhaps had an inappropriate relationship with Mac Fly, a high school student from neighboring town Mill Valley.
Wow. There's so much going on here, we should have probably bolded and underlined every sentence. "Martin Brown" and "Mac Fly" are obviously Doc Brown and Marty McFly; the time-traveling "Thrust Capacitor" replacing the "Flux Capacitor"; they only changed one letter from Hill Valley to make "Hill Valley." They even reference a common question Back to the Future fans have when they suggest Doc and Marty have an uh, odd relationship.
6. The open secret of the episode names
This was either immediately obvious to you or you were never, ever going to catch it. Each of the episode titles for the series are named after tracks from hip hop duo Gang Starr. Showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker explained his reasoning in an interview with GQ:
So Gang Starr music is really very particular, because Gang Starr of course is gangster, which is the attitude. But there is a definite intellectual bent to it, and that's kind of the attitude of the show.
That's probably a better reason than most shows have for naming their episodes. We're looking at you, Friends -- that "The One With" episode title joke got old with "The One With the Breast Milk."
7. Hints towards Iron Fist
Though a Punisher series recently started filming, the Iron Fist show will beat Frank Castle's solo outing to screens when it debuts in March 2017. Luke Cage thankfully avoids the "Iron Man 2" problem of sacrificing the story you're telling with sneak previews of future stories. Instead, the most we had (besides Claire constantly telling everyone she knows a good lawyer) was a flyer for self-defense classes taught by Colleen Wing, an Iron Fist mainstay and swordfighting expert who becomes Misty Knight's bestie. You might not know her now, but it's good to know who you're going to get overly attached to in the future. Comic books will do that to ya.
8. Marvel's in-house news channel makes an appearance
There are plenty of fictional organizations in the MCU that see play across TV shows and movies -- like SHIELD, Stark Industries and HYDRA. One that's a little lower-key is WHiH, a news network that has been spotted in Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Agents of SHIELD and as seen above, Iron Man 2. It's a small, extremely missable detail, but it's nice to see that Marvel is willing to add in small stuff like that to broaden their world without being too distracting.
9. A link to Marvel's ancient history
When Diamondback has Misty hostage, the last thing you're probably doing is scanning the background for easter eggs. Since you're a normal human being with compassion for the plight of others, you might not have noticed the dumpster that reads "Timely Trash" in the background. The font and shield logo strongly imply a connection to Timely Comics, Inc, which was basically the early version of Marvel Comics. Way back in the 1940s, Timely Comics were responsible for the first published issues that featured Captain America, the Human Torch and Vision, among many others. On staff was one of Marvel's oldest and most recognizable heroes, who we should probably get around to mentioning...
10. Stan Lee, of course
Though Stan the Man hasn't appeared in-person on any of Marvel's Netflix shows so far, his image can still be spotted in the background. In Daredevil, for instance, you can spot everyone's favorite grandpa in a portrait in the background. For Luke Cage, Stan moved to the foreground, as a model officer on a poster encouraging you to say something should you see something. Since this cameo is a little tougher to find than most, this is one instance where you can point at the screen and say "Hey, it's Stan Lee!" Every other cameo is still off limits though, since everyone can always tell when the conspicuous but adorable old man is saying "Excelsior!" in the middle of the screen.