One of the many exceptional qualities about Netflix's latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Luke Cage, is that it doesn't feel like a comic book show. Similar to the gritty, grounded energy that infuses series like Daredevil and Jessica Jones, Luke Cage delivers a story with a more focused scale than the popular Marvel movies that preceded it. However, unlike Daredevil or Jessica Jones, there don't seem to be many amazing feats like a blind man with inhumanly tuned senses or a villain who can control other people's thoughts. Luke Cage feels less like a fantasy and more like a real crime saga that just happens to center on a bulletproof man. So what's the deal with the mad scientist in the middle of this otherwise normal story? Who is Doctor Noah Burstein and what is his connection with Luke Cage? Spoilers for Luke Cage Episode 4 and beyond ahead.
Luke Cage, as a character, is more akin to Captain America than any other superhero in his worldview, moral philosophy, and his origin story. But unlike Steve Rogers, Luke Cage was already a fighter (albeit against his will) before his transformation into a superpowered vigilante. It's revealed in a flashback that after being forced into a prison fight ring, Dr. Burstein (played by Michael Kostroff) used his technology to turn Carl Lucas into Luke Cage — but that's not the last time that these two cross paths.
Dr. Burstein is a recurring presence in Luke Cage's life, both in the Netflix series and the original comic book series. The extent of Burstein's involvement in Luke Cage's origin story is almost identical in both — performing experiments on inmates at Seagate prison in an attempt to create more powerful human beings. In both versions, a prison guard interfered with the experiment on Luke in an attempt to kill him, which affected the results. In the comics, Burstein and Claire Temple often work together on their medical projects, continuing the work that began with Luke Cage.
While Burstein, Claire, and Cage have a complicated but friendly relationship in the comics, things are contentious at best between the three in the Netflix series. In Episode 8, after being shot by a superweapon that can pierce his skin, Claire takes Luke to Burstein, believing that he could be the only person that can save him. While she's correct, after being healed, Luke doesn't waste much time before discovering the truth behind Burstein's experiment and destroys his make-shift lab in anger.
Although Cage left Burstein's barn-turned-lab a mess, the doctor is soon after seen putting his lab back together and recovering the data from a flash drive that Luke took precisely to avoid Burstein getting his hands on its contents. He also gave a standing offer to Claire to collaborate on future experiments — including working on cures for cancer and HIV. Although Claire was clearly angry at Burstein after learning the truth about Cage, it seems that she was still open to working with him in the future. Burstein may not be in Luke Cage for long, but he leaves a big impression in his short time and I'd keep an eye out for him in Netflix's Marvel universe.