The first season of Luke Cage is pretty good. We should start there. All of Netflix’s Marvel shows have been pretty good, really, so I suppose that’s not a huge surprise. Mike Colter is great as Luke, and Simone Missick is great as Misty Knight, and there’s a cool-ass raid scene set to “Bring Da Ruckus” by Wu-Tang Clan, so any complaints I have about the series should be considered minimal. It’s not even the point I’m trying to make here. The point is that, man, all the people on Luke Cage — and in Netflix’s other Marvel series, Daredevil and Jessica Jones, for that matter — seem really chill about the stuff that happened at the end of The Avengers, right? Like, probably too chill.
Because let’s be clear about what happened there: A huge chunk of Manhattan was leveled after an evil god ripped a hole in space and summoned an alien army whose forces included a giant airborne metal dragon, and he would have taken over the world if not for the heroic efforts of a team that consisted of a billionaire in a robot suit, a giant green monster, a time-traveling super-powered WWII soldier, a good archery guy, a Russian spy, and a second god who a) is the brother of the evil one, and b) possesses a magical space hammer. And while the civilian casualties were probably limited, the economic damage alone would have been staggering. From the Hollywood Reporter:
In an exclusive report for THR, KAC, led by Chuck Watson and Sara Jupin, employed computer models used for predicting the destruction of nuclear weapons and concluded that the physical damage of the invasion would be $60 billion-$70 billion, with economic and cleanup costs hitting $90 billion. Add on the loss of thousands of lives, and KAC puts the overall price tag at $160 billion.
For context, the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks cost $83 billion, Hurricane Katrina cost $90 billion, and the tsunami in Japan last year washed away $122 billion.
It is admittedly a little dicey to travel down the realism path on a show and in a universe where mutated heroes battle mutated villains (the latter of whom are occasionally red faced Nazis), but still. The attack on New York at the end of The Avengers was basically two 9/11s, from a property damage standpoint, but with aliens and a blimp-sized flying steel lizards. That seems like a big deal! You’d think it would come up more often than once every few episodes, when a hustling teen is trying hawk cell phone footage of it on the sidewalk, referring to it only as “The Attack” or “The Incident.”
I do get why the shows kind of minimizes it, though. They want to remind us that we’re in the same universe while keeping things separate enough that the stakes of these new stories aren’t dwarfed by what happened before. But the fact that it did happen makes some of the events in Luke Cage seem hilarious, if you zoom out to 10,000 feet and look at everything as one unified world. I think my favorite example of this is that Cottonmouth’s cousin, Mariah, is running for elected office in Harlem, and not only has she not mentioned the attack in her campaign, but her entire platform appears to be, “We need nicer condos in Harlem!” Lady, there are other things you can use that budget for. Maybe save the refurbished brownstones for the next term.
But whatever. This is admittedly a silly point to make, and again, not a real criticism of the series. It’s just something I haven’t been able to get out of my head. I’m not sure what, if anything, they could do differently with it all. It would be hard to move a plot forward in anything resembling a linear fashion if everyone stopped every 30 seconds to freak out about it, which is probably what would happen if the producers tried to play it straight. I mean…
LUKE CAGE: We have to go to Cottonmouth’s club and confront him. His violent rule over Harlem cannot continue. And if he pulls off the gun deal with Domingo, there will be no way to stop him.
A NEW CHARACTER WHO IS VERY AWARE OF THE EVENTS IN THE MARVEL UNIVERSE, AND WHO I WILL CALL GARY: [furiously packing a suitcase and trying to close it despite it being way overstuffed, kind of like in a cartoon] YO, I DO NOT CARE. THERE WERE JUST ALIENS IN MANHATTAN, LUKE. THIS IS CRAZY. THIS IS CRAZY. I’M NOT DYING HERE, MAN I’M TOO YOUNG. I’VE NEVER EVEN SEEN VEGAS.
LUKE CAGE: I need you to be brave, Gary.
A NEW CHARACTER WHO IS VERY AWARE OF THE EVENTS IN THE MARVEL UNIVERSE, AND WHO I WILL CALL GARY: ALIENS, LUKE. COMING OUT OF THE SKY.
Good luck getting that to 13 episodes. Maybe a movie, though. Gary: Terrified Lifelong New Yorker in Las Vegas. Starring Paul Giamatti as Gary. Could work.