Luke Cage Season 2 finally debuted on Netflix recently, and the overall fan and critic consensus is that the Harlem hero's second outing was a marked improvement on the first. According to showrunner Cheo Hodario Coker, the uptick in quality partially came about due to negative Season 1 reviews. With a renewed focus on exploring characters as much as plot action, Coker says it was indeed the feedback that lit the way to breaking Season 2's story. In his words:
Honestly, everything started with feedback from the public. And from critics! . . . The writer Angelica J. Bastién wrote the recaps for Vulture during Season 1 and, man, there were some critiques that were some of the most scathing reviews I've ever seen in my life. But, she's such an incredible writer that, as a former journalist, I loved what she wrote and how she wrote it even though it hurt. So, I collected all 13 of her recaps and when we established the new writer's room, which was essentially the old writer's room because we had very little turnover, and we decided to approach them one by one.
It takes some ironclad humility to admit to an entertainment journalist that another entertainment journalist's harsh criticisms were a big inspiration behind Luke Cage Season 2. Negative reviews tend to be angrily refuted or ignored altogether by showrunners and actors, but Cheo Hodari Coker obviously had a different approach. He could look past the hurtful words to see they were formed by an intelligent mind and voice, which then led him to take the criticisms to heart, and to use the writer's set of recaps as a springboard to building a more tightly knitted set of episodes.
Understandably, there was a particular assessment that Cheo Hodari Coker really wanted to address from the start. Here's how he put it to io9.
The one that hit me the most was when she said that it was too bad that the writers of Luke Cage didn't think of Luke Cage as a man, but only as a superhero. So we said, 'Ok, how do we approach the show in a way where we're really dealing with Luke himself at the center of the things---his issues'
It wasn't the most outlandish judgment slapped onto Luke Cage's first season, in which the bulletproof vigilante was more of a brawny pawn mired in the heightened power struggles happening with Cottonmouth, Mariah and others. Luke was definitely a fleshed-out character in several ways, but with most of it wholly centered on his powers and the forceful ways in which he could use them.
In Season 2, on the other hand, fans get to see how "Luke Cage the superhero" affects the life of "Luke Cage the man." (SPOILER ALERT for anyone who hasn't yet watched Season 2.) He lost his privacy to the Heroes for Hire app and D.W.'s camera, he lost his love-life after Claire hits the road, and he lost some confidence in being the only unstoppable force in Harlem. Luke faced some very human emotions this time around, while also dealing with the financial failings of superherodom..Plus, the show also brought in the late and great Reg E. Cathey to play Luke's father, Reverend James Lucas, which gave insight into how Luke's manhood had evolved since childhood. And perhaps most intriguing of all is how quickly Luke's ego took over once his humanity became more present.
Now, all of this isn't to say that heaping negativity on TV shows and creators will actually do anyone any good in the long run, and there's already enough of that online as it is. Rather, Cheo Hodari Coker showed that taking a step back and listening to criticisms, instead of instantly rejecting them, can indeed sometimes lead to improvements. On that note, the not-yet-ordered Season 3 could be the best MCU TV season yet if the creative team keeps righting the perceived wrongs.