Whether you’re one of the dedicated who have already binged all 13 episodes or are slowly savoring each installment, there’s plenty happening on the screen beyond the main action. Some of it may be obvious, such as when a street hawker in the first episode (selling DVDs of The Incident in “The Avengers”) refers to Tony Stark, “the blonde dude with the hammer, the old dude with the shield, the green monster and I don’t mean Fenway.”
Many of the references may not be so blatant though or of the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it variety. Here’s a breakdown of just some of the fun references made that we caught on the first pass. Grab some coffee (dark, Cuban or otherwise) and check it out. [Warning: Mild to major spoilers below]
Your Friendly Neighborhood Stan Lee: That’s right, true believers! Although the Marvel living legend didn’t film a cameo for the series, his image pops up in Episode 12 “Soliloquy of Chaos.” Lee can be seen on a police recruitment poster right outside of a convenience store that’s about to be robbed.
A Hero by Any Other Name: The original “Luke Cage” comic books were first titled “Hero for Hire,” and then later, “Power Man.” The series breaks away from that mercenary aspect when Luke Cage (Mike Colter) clearly states, “I’m not for hire,” at Genghis Connie’s and later at the convenience store after helping get rid of some bad guys. Method Man also refers to the “Hero for Hire” moniker in his freestyle later. Pops (Freddie Faison) also cheekily calls Cage “Power Man” in the laundry room of the barbershop.
Clothes Make the Man: Although showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker thoughtfully updated Luke Cage’s look from his original showy blaxploitation wardrobe, he still includes fun nods to the outfit. The most subtle one is the yellow lining inside of Luke’s hoodie in the first couple of episodes (before it’s shredded by bullets). Later, he actually wears a yellow shirt after leaving Seagate Prison and grabbing it from a clothesline. When he catches his reflection in a window, he says, “You look like a damn fool,” before removing the tiara — the metal headband from the prison experiment. Speaking of, “tiara,” that’s also the name for the files for the experiment in the flash drive. Luke also uses his catchphrase “Sweet Christmas,” which is a holdover from his blaxploitation roots, for the first time when he realizes that he has new powers.
Clothes Make the Woman: After getting shot in the arm during the Harlem’s Paradise melee, Misty Knight (Simone Missick) is only just able to save her arm, which is in pretty bad condition. In the comics, Misty’s right arm is amputated and replaced with a cybernetic limb after tangling with a bomb. Also, in the final episode, Misty wears a slinky red outfit and her hair fuller, which could be an homage to the comic book’s iconic look.
Hello, Nurse: In Episode 11, Sugar (Sean Ringgold) refers to Claire (Rosario Dawson) as Night Nurse: “Yo, Lopes, escort the night nurse here downstairs.” Night Nurse was a role that was written into “Daredevil” but once it was determined that the movies side of Marvel wanted to use the character sometime in the future (Rachel McAdams has since been cast in “Doctor Strange” as Christine Palmer, which happens to be one of the women who have used the Night Nurse code name), the role was then changed to lesser known character Claire Temple.
“Daredevil” Crossovers: Mariah (Alfre Woodard) learns from others’ mistakes and mentioned in the first episode, “Look what happened to [Wilson] Fisk.” Later, we see that Fisk’s attorney Ben Donovan (Danny Johnson) help out Cottonmouth and then the waitress Candace. That low-life Turk (Rob Morgan) who was a human trafficker in “Daredevil,” shows up again in “Luke Cage” to play chess with Bobby Fish — which has to be a reference to chess prodigy Bobby Fischer — rat out Chico, deal with Cottonmouth and ultimately end up in a dumpster. His best line? “I’m going back to Hell’s Kitchen where it’s safe.” We also see ADA Blake Tower (Stephen Rider)— who had provided info to Daredevil — in this series advising Inspector Priscilla Ridley (Karen Pittman). Finally, Claire mentions that she knows a “good lawyer” a couple times to Luke, and this sounds like a good setup for Nelson and Murdock’s Foggy (Elden Henson) to make his way to “The Defenders.”
“Jessica Jones” Crossovers: Jessica Jones is referred to twice: once by name and another time as Luke’s “rebound” (ouch!). Also, in Episode 6, we hear Trish Walker on the air for “Trish Talk” discussing how Harlem is reacting to Luke Cage. Finally, we learn a lot more about Reva Connors (Parisa Fitz-Henley), whom we met previously as the poor doctor who died by Jessica’s hand.
“Iron Fist”/“Defenders” Foreshadowing: In the last episode, Claire takes the phone number from a flyer for Colleen Wing’s self defense classes. Colleen (Jessica Henwick) will appear in “Iron Fist” and according to Marvel lore, befriends Misty and later opens a detective agency with her.
More MCU: Last seen in “Iron Man 2,” Justin Hammer (Tony Stark’s rival) is the incarcerated villain whose company Hammer Tech is behind much of the weaponry in “Luke Cage,” including the Judas Bullet, which is made of some alien metal, probably from The Incident. Also, in a dual reference, Zip (Jaiden Kaine) mentions John Blaze, which is the alter ego for Ghost Rider but also Method Man, who appears in Episode 12 to trade hoodies with Luke and also drop some sick rhymes on the radio. In that rap, he also drops references to Iron Man and real-life hoodie-wearing victim Trayvon Martin.
“Back to the Future”: Thanks to an eagle-eyed Redditor, we know that in Episode 10 when Misty finds the microfiche newspaper article about teenage Carl Lucas and Willis Stryker stealing a car, in the column next to it there’s a sideways reference to “Back to the Future.” The article refers to inventor Martin Brown (instead of Dr. Emmett Brown) who has created the “Thrust Capacitor” (as opposed to the Flux Capacitor).
Real-Life Crossover: When Luke and Claire go to Georgia, it’s revealed that his grandfather was one of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first black military aviators who fought in World War II. Showrunner Coker’s grandfather was also a Tuskegee Airman.
Did you catch these Easter Eggs? Which ones are we missing?
“Marvel’s Luke Cage” is available to stream on Netflix now.