Recap / Luke Cage 2016 S 1 E 4 Step In The Arena

While Luke is trapped under the rubble of his apartment building, he flashes back to his time in prison.
  • Artistic License – Biology: The explosion from Cottonmouth's RPG can kill in about half a dozen different ways, some of which (such as internal injury) Luke has explicitly been shown to be vulnerable to. While later episodes establish that Luke's entire body (including his internal organs) is nearly as durable as his famous skin, and Luke's healing factor might help him rapidly recover from the explosion, it certainly wouldn't help Connie. Luke trying to shield her from the initial explosion would do nothing to prevent, say, heat from the explosion scorching her airway all the way down to her lungs and rendering her unable to breathe, a lung collapse from the change in pressure following the explosion, traumatic injury to the brain and the rest of the body as a result of the shock wave from the blast, etc.
  • Blasphemous Boast: Rackham to Carl and the other inmates during their orientation:
    "Rule number one: You will obey every rule I say after rule number one. Rule number two: None but the righteous shall see God. And since we ain't got no righteous people in here, God ain't gonna have to worry about your shitty prayers. So that means I'm His mean, shitty substitute."
  • Breather Episode: The episode takes a break from the main plot to focus on Luke's backstory and time in prison.
  • The Cobbler's Children Have No Shoes: Luke points out that trust is a two-way street and Reva needs to be open about her past mistakes to help the men be more willing to own up to their mistakes:
    Reva Connors: Even if you were set up you have to see your involvement in what went down.
    Carl Lucas: You ever say that to yourself? You ask these men to come clean with themselves, and they don't know a thing about you. What gives you the right to listen to us, but not share anything about yourself?
  • Co-Dragons/Salt and Pepper: Comanche (black) and Shades (white) are Rackham's enforcers.
  • Continuity Nod: When Reva is trying to qualm the group participants who think Seagate prisoners are being subjected to illegal experiments:
    Reva Connors: I know you all think because Seagate is privately owned, there's some X-Files stuff permeating the place. There isn't. Just think about all the stories you've heard about Seagate. The ghost stories, millionaires hidden in dungeons. Tupac still alive on an island.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Rackham anticipated Carl's potential excuses to try and back out of the fight ring.
    Albert Rackham: You must smell a lot of shit having your ass on your shoulders all the time. I make you an easy offer, throw in some perks, and you just shrug 'em off! Well, it's lucky I'm a patient man. Smart enough to know you'd say no. Gave me time to build a backup plan.
    [He winks at Carl, then gives a nod through the window to Comanche. Comanche gets up, carrying a shiv]
    Albert Rackham: [into mike] SQUABBLES, PUT DOWN THAT SHIV! [blows whistle; Comanche shanks a random inmate, then melts into the crowd. A group of guards enter and begin beating Squabbles senseless]
    [Rackham belts Carl in the gut]
    Albert Rackham: Look at me when I'm talking to you!
    Carl Lucas: Rackham, stop!
    Albert Rackham: I don't move quick, your man's gonna get another 20 years, easy. Or life. You want this stopped, you tell me what I wanna hear.
    [Carl reluctantly nods. Rackham blows his whistle, causing the guards to cease their beating]
    Carl Lucas: You son of a bitch.
    Albert Rackham: Yeah, that's "smart son of a bitch" to you.
  • Death by Irony: Rackham's attempt to sabotage the experimental machine ended up killing him and granting Luke his newfound powers and freedom.
  • Dirty Cop:
    • Rackham is the captain of the guards, and runs an underground boxing ring and orders the beatings of inmates who don't fall in line.
    • Discussed when Carl states he is not "the first cop to do time".
  • Dramatic Unmask: After being successfully extracted from the rubble, Luke tries to walk away, but several reporters run up to him, wanting to get his name. After a few seconds, Luke turns around, takes off his hoodie, and says "My name is Luke Cage."
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": With the exception of Reva, everybody else calls Reggie "Squabbles".
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Reva privately telling Luke about her brother who died in prison is her trying to lure Luke into a false sense of trust in her. Without the knowledge of future episodes it appears that she may genuinely care about him…
    • The whole session where Squabbles brings up the topic of the experiments going on in Seagate. It's revealed in later episodes that Reva is in on the gig, so as a therapist she must do what she can to quell the rumors. This is one instance of her using her position to manipulate the inmates.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Rackham tampers with the chemical bath trying to make a last-ditch effort to kill Carl... only for the tank to explode and kill him.
  • I Know Mortal Kombat: Discussed when Squabbles claims he has fighting experience from watching martial arts movies. Subverted however, when he also talks about having spent years fighting in Golden Gloves tournaments, showing that he has outside world fighting experience.
  • I Will Punish Your Friend for Your Failure: Rackham finally gets Carl to agree to participate in the fight ring by threatening to have Squabbles' sentence lengthened.
  • Killed Offscreen: Squabbles is beaten to death by Shades and Comanche after being tortured into confessing Carl's plan to expose Rackham.
  • Meaningful Rename: Carl Lucas changes his name to Luke Cage due to his father being a preacher man, and how he's advocated on releasing those who are oppressed.
    Luke: Luke 4:18. He used to tell me that... No one can cage a man if he truly wants to be free.
    Reva: So Luke... Freeman?
    Luke: Nah. That's a bit on the nose.
  • Morality Chain: Squabbles prevents Carl from lashing out after getting out of solitary confinement. He also provides emotional support when Luke is too busy keeping his distance from people.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • While in Seagate, Carl sports a thick head of hair and beard, even an afro at one point after neglecting to take care of himself.
    • Like his comic counterpart, Rackham tries to kill Carl by trying to interfere with the experiment.
    • After surviving the sabotaged experiment, punching a wall in frustration and breaking it with his new strength, he exclaims "Sweet Christmas!", just like his comic book counterpart.
    • After escaping the prison, Luke is still wearing the wristbands and head gear attached to him by Dr. Burstein. After escaping Seagate, he picks a yellow shirt and pants, making him look quite like his comic book counterpart during the Silver Age. After seeing his reflection, he simply says "You look like a damn fool" and loses the headgear.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: Rackham destroys Dr. Burnstein's healing pod in an attempt to kill Carl Lucas and cover his tracks, only for the ensuing explosion to kill Rackham and transform Carl into the invincible Luke Cage.
  • Pariah Prisoner: Discussed when Carl states he is not this despite being a former cop, due to the fact that none of the people he arrested were sent to Seagate.
  • Prison Episode: Almost the entire episode takes place in flashbacks to Luke's time at Seagate.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The inmates make lots of comments about the movies they've watched, The Godfather Part II to Chinese Connection to Fist of Legend.
    • When trying to qualm the inmates' well-founded suspicions about prisoners undergoing experimentation, Reva says, "I know you all think because Seagate is privately owned, there's some X-Files stuff permeating the place." There was an X-Files episode that took place inside a prison.
  • Survival Mantra: During his first night of imprisonment, Luke's mantra to himself.
    Luke: Remember who you are, Carl Lucas...
  • There Are No Coincidences: When Shades comes across Carl as Carl is walking back to his cell, Carl is savvy enough to smell a trap and says, "You know one thing I don't believe in? Coincidences. What you want?"
    Comanche: I hear you're tryin' to get outta the fight game.
    Carl Lucas: Who told you that?
    Comanche: Your girlfriend.
    Hernan "Shades" Alvarez: Squabbles didn't give you up easy.
    Carl Lucas: He alive?
    Comanche: Ain't the question!
    Carl Lucas: You're right. Remember what happened the last time I faced off with you two?
    Comanche: Last time was a test. Rackham says if you don't change your mind, we give you time in the infirmary to think about it.
    Hernan "Shades" Alvarez: See, I'm of the mind that we stomp your ass, and find a new dude to fight for Rackham. Especially since you trying to expose some shit that's going on at Seagate.
    Carl Lucas: [laughs] I guess I can't trust nobody around here, can I? [Shades and Comanche launch a ferocious beatdown on Carl]
  • Whole Episode Flashback: Almost the entire episode is set in flashbacks, minus occasional cuts back to the present day.