Episode 5, Just to Get a Rep, opens with a musical montage featuring Jidenna rapping “Long live the Chief”. Luke is finally using his powers openly and Rosario Dawson’s Night Nurse character arrives in Harlem. They quickly establish her as a no nonsense character as we watch her chase down a potential purse thief and put him down. After the montage, the scene opens with Cottonmouth dealing with the aftermath of Luke’s raid on Crispus Attucks. He is broke. Cottonmouth does not deal well with the idea of “benign neglect” and decides to turn up his game. The residents of Harlem are going to have to pay a “Luke Cage Stupidity Tax”. In their squeeze on the neighborhood, Cottonmouth’s men take a valuable keepsake from a woman names Aisha. While getting dressed for the funeral, Aisha confronts Luke about his role in Cottonmouth’s shake down an d Luke spurred into action.
Cottonmouth refuses to give up his club, Harlem’s Paradise, despite it being the smart move. Luke comes to the club to confront Cottonmouth about the shakeup where he effortlessly deals with his men and Shades recognizes Luke as Carl Lucas for the first time. He gives Cottonmouth info on Carl Lucas and agrees to sell him a bullet made from extra terrestrial metal that can potentially pierce Luke’s skin. The price is so high that it leaves
Cottonmouth in an even deeper predicament. He agrees to settle things with Domingo so as to restore Diamondback’s faith in him enough to from him the money to afford the bullets. Meanwhile, Misty learns that Internal Affairs is investigating Scarf. She insists that they are off base, but the suspicion puts Misty on edge. But just as soon as we learn this, we learn that one of the men investigating Scarf is also on the take, and the level of corruption is deeper than we ever could have imagined. The investigator gives Scarf the heads up that he is under watch and together they decide what steps to take both against Luke and against Cottonmouth.
The episode ends with Cottonmouth and Luke having combative eulogies at Pop’s funeral. Although Cottonmouth gets some support, Luke wins over the crown with his passionate address, shaming Cottonmouth and potentially starting a new war with Harlem caught in the crossfire. With this speech he officially becomes Harlem’s new hero, but not in Misty’s eyes. Despite Luke’s insistence that he isn’t going anywhere, Misty fears what trouble Luke is instigating in his fight with Cottonmouth and urges him to leave.
I was glad to see Luke Cage getting back in to the thick of things after their brief flashback. We got to see Luke being more heroic and being a hero not only to avenge Pop’s but to protect the people of his adopted home. I felt that the only moments that dragged were, again, the moments that were placed there specifically to tie together this universe with Marvels other properties, that being, the scenes with Night Nurse and her mother. to me, these scenes stopped the momentum of the story to explain who she was and how she tied in with shows like Daredevil and Jessica Jones and wheat her purpose would be in this show, rather than show us through her actions. It felt a bit shoe horned in, for my taste.
By contrast, the parts that I really enjoyed were, again, the moments with Cottonmouth. I can’t help but feel bad for him, even though he’s the bad guy. Luke is not someone that he can handle even at full strength, yet he has been weakened with every episode. I actually started to feel that, at this point in the series, he was becoming too much of a punching bag and needed to actually “win” a few times to be seen as a credible antagonist. Cottonmouth is a bad guy, we get it, but he had been undermined by Domingo, by the three guys who stole his guns in the first episode, by Luke Cage,by Scarf, and by Shades by way of his boss, Diamondback. It makes me wonder if Cottonmouth is actually meant to be the big bad of this series or if he will meet an early demise. I hope not. I find his character far more interesting than anyone else in the show thus far.
Another interesting development was seeing how far the corruption in the police department went. I was surprised when Misty was cornered by I.A because of Scarf’s activities. Usually in these types of stories, corruption goes unchecked. However, a few scenes later, we learn that one of the people investigating Scarf is also on the take and realize that Scarf, and whoever’s interest they re protecting goes way over the heads of even Cottonmouth. He even confiscates Cottonmouth’s gun shipment, crippling him further. Like the other villains in this series, Scarf is quickly becoming a character I want to see more of.
As I prepare to watch further episodes I anticipate that, as a modern blaxploitation, that Scarf and whoever he is working for – whether that be the government, Diamondback, of the company that owned Seagate – will be the actual antagonist for our hero Luke Cage. Although I LOVE Cottonmouth and Mariah, they have no way to fight against someone like Luke who has super powers. It almost feels like the bad guys are being bullied at this point. But if my knowledge of blaxploitation is to be trusted there must be a larger, more sinister force gearing up to show itself soon.