Luke Cage is not like other Marvel shows on Netflix in a few ways. For one thing, the audience had likely already met Mike Colter as Luke before starting a single episode, thanks to his introduction in Jessica Jones. Also, the villain Cottonmouth was replaced half-way through the series by a new Big Bad called Diamondback, and his connection to Luke Cage went beyond protagonist/antagonist. In a roundtable with reporters at New York Comic-Con, actor Erik LaRay Harvey talked about why it's interesting that Diamondback and Luke are brothers on Luke Cage, and how he would like to see that progress in the future.
In the series, Willis Stryker is the eldest yet illegitimate son of Father Lucas, the local preacher in the Luke Cage's hometown in Georgia. Then Father Lucas' wife gives birth to Carl, and both Willis' true parentage is kept a secret, and he grows up without a father. "Once Cheo said that he was thinking about making them brothers," Harvey said, "and then the devastation that happens after that, I was immediately on board." By giving Willis and Carl this backstory, the Netflix series expands upon the Marvel character that was first introduced in the comics.
"We know they were really close," said Harvey, "and we know they ran the streets together. What we don't know [from the comics] and we didn't know until the show airs is that they were actually brothers." In fact, even Luke doesn't know this for most of the series — yet Willis has lived in that very specific shadow. "There's a lot of talk about family in the show," he noted. "Diamondback and his father and [Mariah] and her cousin."
The history between Diamondback and Luke Cage also helps to ground the ultimate showdown between a superhero and a theatrical villain. "What really inspired me with this character," said Harvey, "was the Terrell Owens story. He was a football player who was denied by his father, and his father actually lived down the street, on the same street. And I was like, 'wow.' So, just knowing that Diamondback's story can happen, because it has happened and you see it today."
How should their relationship continue, if Diamondback appears in The Defenders or a potential Luke Cage Season 2? "Well personally," Harvey said. "I'm a big fan of love, so I'm about brothers actually resolving their differences." Wouldn't that be something? I'm almost always a fan of a redemption arc, and the blood bond that Luke and Willis share would make for an excellent story. Since the half brothers were friends growing up, it definitely seems possible. Luke just needs to forgive that whole Judas bullet incident, and at least a dozen other casualties.
At the end of Season 1, an injured Willis is taken to Dr. Burstein, though it isn't clear what happens next. He could turn Diamondback into a hero, even though it seems much more likely (and not entirely his fault) that Willis will come out worse.
Images: Myles Aronowitz/Netflix