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. This week’s OTP is Luke/Jessica!
Who Are Luke/Jessica?
Luke/Jessica refers to the pairing of Luke Cage and Jessica Jones from their self-titled Netflix shows and the team-up extravaganza The Defenders! Note: this post will focus almost exclusively on MCU iterations! I do not read the comics, so I am not qualified to discuss this pairing in their comics iterations! Also, no spoilers for Jessica Jones season 2!
Jessica Jones is the first female Marvel superhero to get her own property (not the first female Marvel character to get her own property — that honor belongs to the amazing Peggy Carter, whose show Agent Carter premiered several months before Jessica Jones). She is also the second character to get a standalone Marvel Netflix property, after Daredevil.
So who is Jessica Jones? She is a private eye who runs her own investigative office, Alias Investigations. But outside of work, Jessica is an enhanced individual who sometimes reluctantly dabbles in heroism. After an accident as a teenager, she gains super strength and associated powers, like “flying” (controlled jumping).
Jessica is adopted by Trish Walker’s family after her family dies in the accident. They grow up close, and Trish encourages Jessica to be a hero. Jessica is more cynical and reserved than Trish, but sees some potential. However, things go south when a strange man notices her use her strength to save a mugging victim.
That man was Kilgrave, another enhanced individual with the power to control others’ actions. He begins to use Jessica to achieve his nefarious ends, overruling her own bodily autonomy. Eventually, he tells her to kill a woman. Jessica is so appalled at her actions that she is able to break free, and walks away presuming Kilgrave dead in an accident.
Unfortunately, Kilgrave comes back to haunt Jessica. What follows is a strange and disturbing season of Kilgrave attempting to “woo” Jessica back to his side. In the end, Jessica wins. She faces her demons and retains her identity. She kills Kilgrave to stop him from hurting anyone else, though at great personal cost.
Watch season 2 of Jessica Jones, which premiered on Netflix March 8, to see what new adventures she gets up to!
Luke Cage first appears in Jessica Jones season 1. At first, he is just a man that Jessica is investigating. When they meet, sparks fly, and they start a relationship. However, we learn that the woman Jessica killed was Luke’s wife, Reva. He breaks things off in great anger. Later, Kilgrave controls Luke to get at Jessica. She is forced to stop him by shooting him in the head.
It’s not the end for Luke, though. You see, Luke is enhanced, too. He has unbreakable skin. Jessica enlists the help of the amazing Claire Temple to save Luke’s life. When he wakes up, he leaves without speaking to Jessica, and it seems like things are over for Luke/Jessica.
Later, Luke gets his own Marvel Netflix show. Luke Cage was an amazing look at race relationships, the prison system, and true heroism in its title character. Luke begins to fight for Harlem, throwing away his precious privacy. He becomes the hero Harlem needs.
We also learn more about Luke’s past. Luke was originally named Carl Lucas. He went to prison for a crime he didn’t commit, where he was abused by the guards. They manipulate him into fighting in an illicit fighting ring. At the same time, he begins to bond with the prison therapist, Reva Connors.
When Luke is jumped, Reva enrolls him in an illegal experiment to save his life. This experiment gives Luke his unbreakable skin. Luke and Reva run away to New York. Luke never knew Reva was a party to his enhancement, and finding out hurts him. He gets over the pain, however. He saves Harlem from a ghost of his past and starts a relationship with Claire Temple.
Jessica and Luke are reunited in The Defenders, the epic Marvel Netflix team up series. The Defenders brings together all the heroes from the Marvel Netflix shows: Luke and Jessica, obviously, but also Matt Murdock from Daredevil and Danny Rand from Iron Fist. The four must work together to save New York from the Hand.
The Defenders was great because it was awesome to see these four very different characters come together. At first, it was broken down mostly into Jessica and Matt, and Luke and Danny. However, all four soon begin to work together — though not without difficulties.
One of these difficulties stems from how awkwardly things were left between Luke and Jessica. They never spoke again after Jessica shot him in the head with a shotgun. Even before that, things were left horribly after Jessica reveals that she killed Reva. Luke wouldn’t even have come to her again if he was not being controlled by Kilgrave.
However, Luke is (literally) a bigger man. He chooses to see what good Jessica has done. It also helps that, now that he has been controlled by Kilgrave, he understands that she could have not killed Reva.
Watching Luke and Jessica reunite was one of the high points of The Defenders. To be fair, at the end of the show they go their separate ways again. However, they have mended fences and plan to stay in touch. It’s nice to see someone realize the good in Jessica, and be there to support her. Luke is just that good a person.
Why is Luke/Jessica OTP?
Luke/Jessica gives me life. Let’s be clear: I absolutely adore Claire Temple. I think she’s fantastic, and if Marvel Netflix continues to pair her off with Luke, I won’t be disappointed. It works. Claire deserves the best, and Luke is the best.
However. Luke/Jessica is one of those pairings that just gives you hope, makes you smile, and fills your heart with joy. They go together so well. I don’t want to see anything bad happen to Claire, but I would be thrilled if Luke/Jessica was endgame after all.
Luke/Jessica brings together two very damaged, broken people — and makes them better. Both Jessica and Luke are members of disenfranchised groups, who are then even more marginalized by their pasts.
Jessica is a woman who is also a rape victim. She deals with extensive trauma from Kilgrave’s actions. She is a representation of the bad things that systemic sexism can do to women. Luke is a black man who was unfairly imprisoned. His past with the law puts him on edge and makes him afraid. He is a representation of the bad things that systemic racism does to black men.
So watching these two people come together is like seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. To be clear: romance will not undo their trauma. Even the most fulfilling, healthy, supportive relationship will not erase their pasts, and it’s not the most healthy one anyway. I’m not saying that falling in love will make everything better.
But what this ship does is prove that, no matter how dark or damaging your past, you can still find love, find happiness. Jessica and Luke may be damaged — but not irreparably so. And having two trauma survivors come together is great. They each know, if not precisely what the other has gone through, the pain of struggling with past trauma.
Luke/Jessica gives hope to people who have been through hell. If these two can find their way to each other, why not us? And it’s an example of positive representation. Seeing two survivors live — and not only that, seeing them love — is a beacon of hope to people who need it most.
Luke/Jessica is also great because we are finally seeing a ship of two enhanced people. How often in superhero stories is there a dynamic of one (usually male) superpowered person dating/marrying/etc one (usually female) nonpowered person? Think Spider-man and Mary Jane, Tony Stark and Pepper Potts, etc etc etc.
This relationship upends that thoroughly unequal dynamic. Luke/Jessica works because they are both enhanced individuals, so they are equals. They are literally a power couple. You’re not going to see a situation where Luke must rescue Jessica from his evil arch enemy or some other painfully sexist, uncomfortable situation.
Instead, what you get is two heroes fighting side by side. Luke and Jessica literally come together because they are both powered. There’s a whole sequence of how having sex is different when both individuals are powered — neither have to worry about breaking the other if they go full strength.
The equality really comes through outside the bedroom as well. They respect each other for their respective strengths. Jessica Jones season 1 plays this up by having them work together — and then having them fight. The fight between them is so tense because they are equal.
The Defenders really highlights this dynamic, though. Granted, as of The Defenders they are not together — Luke is seeing Claire at this point. However, they still work together wonderfully as equals. Luke, an unbreakable man, is in awe of just how strong Jessica is when she saves his life. It’s a blessing to women who are sick of seeing the female love interest be the damsel in distress.
What’s Next for Luke/Jessica?
Well, The Defenders was not the end for either of these two. Jessica Jones returned for a second season March 8. As promised, no spoilers — but I will say the second season was great and worth a watch. Luke Cage is filming the second season right now and will premiere June 22. What is less clear is if The Defenders will return — no word yet.
So we know that Jessica is back, and Luke will be coming back soon. What we don’t know is if we will get more Luke/Jessica. If The Defenders doesn’t get a second season, will we see them team up again? Given that the first time they teamed up was in Jessica Jones, I wouldn’t rule it out entirely. But, it’s definitely not a given at the moment. Fingers crossed!
Is Luke/Jessica Canon?
Yes and no. This is where I bring in my minor amount of comics knowledge. In the comics, Luke and Jessica get married and even have a daughter — Danielle, named after Danny Rand, for some reason (don’t tell me, I don’t care about Danny Rand).
One could also argue that Luke/Jessica is canon in the MCU because they do engage in a relationship. However, at the current moment, that relationship is ended. By The Defenders, Luke has moved on to Claire Temple. There’s nothing saying they can’t get back together, but at this moment, Luke/Jessica is not canon in the MCU.
Still, we are blessed with seeing it depicted as canon on screen at one point — which is more than I can say for most of my ships. And knowing that, in a different medium, it is canon gives hope that it might come back another time. Like I said, I love Claire Temple — but there’s something really special about Luke/Jessica that I’m not ready to give up on yet.