Presenting OTP Tuesday! Each Tuesday I will introduce you to a new One True Pairing! Tune in each week to find out which fictional couple you need to agonize/squee over next. Somehow?? I have not yet talked about my undying love for Luke/Claire, so here we go!
Who Are Luke/Claire?
Luke/Claire refers to the ship of Luke Cage and Claire Temple from the Marvel Netflix shows Luke Cage and The Defenders.
Luke Cage is the protagonist of his self-titled Netflix series, Luke Cage. He has also appeared in season 1 of Jessica Jones and as one of the titular heroes in The Defenders. Luke Cage is Harlem’s hero and an inspiration to us all.
Born Carl Lucas, Luke was raised in Georgia as the son of a preacher. He was a relatively good kid, even becoming a cop. However, he was framed and went to Seagate Prison. In Seagate, he was forced to fight in an illicit fighting ring to make the guards money. When he crosses a guard, he is beaten nearly to death and subjected to medical experiments to save his life.
After the experiment, Luke had unbreakable skin and enhanced strength. He kept a low profile, living with his wife Reva until she was murdered. Even then, he kept his head down. Eventually, Luke had to step up and prevent criminals from running Harlem into the ground. He tackled an organized crime ring and clashed with his long-lost half-brother.
Luke quickly made a name for himself as the hero of Harlem. The notoriety sent him back to Seagate when it was discovered he escaped, but he soon returned to Harlem. He teamed up with Danny Rand, Jessica Jones, and Matt Murdock to stop the Hand from destroying New York in their quest for immortality.
After The Defenders, Luke continued working on his own to protect Harlem. He wants to do what’s best for Harlem but finds himself in an unwinnable situation, and things spiral out of control. At the end of season 2 of Luke Cage, Luke becomes the new crime lord of Harlem, insisting that he will keep things safe his own way.
Where do I even begin with Claire Temple? She’s a goddess, far above the reach of us mortals. Claire is the running thread between all the Marvel Netflix shows, connecting and uniting the superpowered individuals who protect New York.
Claire Temple is a nurse who finds herself dragged into this life when she saves Matt Murdock after a, particularly nasty battle. She begins an almost-relationship with Matt but calls things off for her own sanity’s sake. She continues to help Matt, though. Claire later also helps Jessica Jones save Luke’s life after Jessica shot him when he was mind controlled.
It’s in Luke Cage that Claire becomes a big player. She is the main romantic interest in Luke Cage, but she’s so much more than that. She’s Luke’s helper, even managing to find a way to break his skin when he needed medical treatment. Claire helped Luke save Harlem. When he went back to Seagate, she waited for him.
While Luke was gone, Claire took martial arts lessons from Colleen Wing. Through Colleen, Claire got caught up in Danny Rand’s wake as they tackled the Hand. Claire proved an integral part of their team. She continued helping them through The Defenders, even introducing Luke to Danny so they could work together to save the day.
In Luke Cage season 2, Claire and Luke are in an established relationship. However, things are going south as Luke starts turning darker and darker in his quest to save Harlem. Eventually, Claire leaves Harlem and Luke, returning to her mother. She knows she needs to do what’s best for herself and removes herself from the equation. They never work it out.
Why is Luke/Claire OTP?
Look, Luke Cage season 2 did Luke/Claire dirty. I’m not over it, and I’m choosing to willfully ignore the fact that the showrunners ruined one of the best relationships on TV for the sake of drama. Don’t @ me about character growth and progression, I don’t wanna hear it.
Before season 2, though, Luke/Claire was fantastic. There’s something so good about this couple that really warms your heart and inspires you. Why’d you ruin it, Netflix??
Look, there is always something inherently unequal about a relationship between an enhanced individual and a regular human being. One has superpowers; one doesn’t. You can’t deny that makes the two inherently unequal. What makes a relationship work is when the two people actively work as partners and overcome that inherent inequality.
Luke/Claire finds the right balance to strike the proper note. Yes, Luke has superpowers and Claire doesn’t. But that doesn’t stop them from being partners. While they might be less balanced than, say, Luke and Jessica, it doesn’t mean that they are in any way less compelling.
Sure, Luke is super strong and invulnerable. But Claire is smart and talented. Her medical know-how is important in not only helping Luke save the day but in saving him as well. When Luke is injured, it’s very difficult to treat him. Hard to treat someone when you can’t even insert an IV, after all.
Yet, Claire manages to save Luke’s life twice. The first time, she manages to relieve swelling in his brain after Jessica shoots him by going through his eye. The second time, Claire is able to recreate the circumstances of the experiment that gave Luke his powers to weaken his skin enough to save him from a bullet wound. In fact, she makes him stronger.
So while it would be easy to see Luke/Claire as unequal, it doesn’t come across that way. Luke’s superpower is his skin and his strength. He saves Harlem. Claire’s superpower is her intelligence and skill. She saves Luke. They work together and need each other, and it’s no coincidence that things get worse for Luke after Claire leaves.
One of the best things about Luke Cage is the amount of good representation it gives to people of color. The main character is a hero, and he’s a large black man in a hoodie. The show never shies away from addressing this and how important it is to acknowledge the systemic racism in our society.
Luke/Claire also works in this regard. Claire is Afro-Cubano, and that drives a lot of her characterization. Luke/Claire is an interracial relationship between two people of color. They both come to the table dealing with their own issues from the discrimination they’ve faced, and their experiences are not the same.
One of the (very) few things season 2 did well with the Luke/Claire dynamic was a scene during their fighting. The fighting gets tense and Luke punches a wall, which prompts Claire to leave. She refuses to be in a relationship that could turn violent. But before they get to that point, they discuss their experiences in a way that shows serious consideration.
Claire explains why she is afraid of Luke getting violent. As a woman, she fears what a large man could do to her if he acted in anger. Luke is angry, thinking that she is playing into the stereotype of black men being violent. He mentions that he knows what it is like to be afraid: he is a black man in a hoodie, after all.
While I’m still mad about how Luke/Claire turned out in season 2, this scene really stuck with me. These characters have faced discrimination and fear I’ll never deal with, but showing it in a popular show helps get the message across better. The fact that Luke Cage directly confronts the effects of systemic racism makes it an important show, and they use Luke/Claire well.
What’s Next for Luke/Claire?
Ugh, don’t get me started. Season 2 of Luke Cage broke my heart and honestly left me a little speechless. I was so mad at the way they characterized Claire, making her seem almost nagging. They vindicated her by showing that she was correct in the end, but I hated the way they made her negative and then she just left.
At the end of season 2, things are kind of up in the air. Luke has now become the new crime lord of Harlem, falling prey to every fear Claire expressed about his journey. In the final moments, the show reveals that Claire is there to talk to him, and Luke turns her away without speaking to her.
So there may not be a next? At the moment, we don’t even know if there will be a third season of Luke Cage, and there is likely not going to be a second season of The Defenders. So unless either shows up in season 2 of Iron Fist, we may not see these characters again. It’s likely there will be a third season of Luke Cage, given the popularity of the show, but nothing is confirmed.
Even if there is another season, it’s unclear how the show will resolve the relationship. Luke tells Claire to go home. Does he mean to go home to their shared home? Or go home, as in leave him for good? Is Claire willing to reconcile with him? Personally, I think Claire will be an integral part in Luke finding his way back to the right path, but we will have to wait and see.
Is Luke/Claire Canon?
Yes, and no. Luke/Claire was canon. They met in season 1 of Jessica Jones and reconnected in season 1 of Luke Cage. There was clear chemistry, and by the end of season 1 of Luke Cage, had built something. Claire waited for Luke when he was in Seagate, and Iron Fist revealed that they wrote to each other frequently.
In The Defenders, we see Luke return to Harlem after his release from Seagate, and he and Claire pick things right up. They stay in a pretty stable and solid relationship up until the break mid-season 2 of Luke Cage. By the end of season 2, things don’t look so good for canon Luke/Claire.
Here’s hoping they fix things up, though, because honestly Luke/Claire is one of the best relationships in the entire MCU (and definitely the best in the Marvel Netflix shows). Luke needs Claire, so he better get his act together and fix things. If not, Claire Temple is too good a character to waste, so I hope the powers that be utilize her properly.