Episode 8, “Blowin’ Up the Spot” opens on a scene we are not used to seeing; Luke Cage on the ground, writhing in agony. As he is loaded on to a borrowed ambulance, his assailant patiently reloads his gun and follows them. Luke and Claire hardly have time to process what is going on before their ambulance explodes and flips over, their assailant hot on their trail.
Mariah is still in shock after brutally murdering her cousin but Shades takes the lead. He coaches her through the cover-up, securing an alibi, a suspect, and a witness and disposing of incriminating evidence. All the while, Misty pieces together the scene but doesn’t buy Mariah’s carefully crafted story or the “witness” Candice’s assertion that Luke Cage is the murderer.
Mariah goes down to the precinct, where the press are swarming outside. After a reporter boldly asks whether Luke Cage was “taking out the trash”, Mariah uses the opportunity to create platform for herself, where she calls in to question the community’s faith in their “hero” Luke Cage. Luke, meanwhile, is still on the run, having escaped the ambulance and with an idea of who is chasing them. He and Claire find refuge in a women’s clinic where she attempts to remove the bullet from Luke’s wound. However, his impenetrable skin is proving to be a hindrance despite his injury.
Back at the police station, Misty interviews Candace, who Misty knows is being forced to lie about the nature of her relationship with Cottonmouth and Luke Cage’s guilt, but Cottonmouth’s lawyer interrupts their interview. Despite her pushing, Candace remains firm, naming Luke as Cottonmouth’s killer. With Candice now lawyered up, Misty
confronts Mariah. She assesses that Misty has no evidence on her, and after deflecting Misty’s heavily confrontational accusations, she decides to no longer assist in the investigation. This decision is reinforced when
Investigator Ridley interrupts. Investigator Ridley is aware of the difficulty nailing down a woman as connected as Mariah, so while Misty pleads her case against the councilwoman, Ridley insists that Misty refocus her energies on Luke.
Claire is still working on Luke at the women’s clinic, where, with the help of a sonogram, she realizes that the bullet has exploded and the shrapnel is moving through his body. Misty calls Luke’s phone, and tells him that Cottonmouth has been murdered. She tries to convince him to to come down to the precinct for an interview. He refuses, but she keeps him on the line long enough to track his general location and moves to track them down.
Misty shows up to the clinic, still determined to get Luke to come in with her. She realizes that he’s been shot and was being treated in an ambulance, welcome news for her, since it can provide an alibi for Luke, but immediately receives word that a search of Pop’s Barbershop has turned up a pair of rubber yellow gloves that Shades planted to frame Luke for Cottonmouth’s murder. With no other choice Misty attempts to arrest Luke, but just as she does, the mysterious assailant tries to snipe him. She decides to chase after the shooter instead, promising to arrest him later. But once she leaves, the assailant attacks them inside the clinic. Luke struggles to put up a fight, being as injured as he is, making the fight more even then it should, but just as Luke begins to get the upper hand, the assailant grabs Misty, holding her hostage and exiting the clinic. In the ally behind the clinic, the assailant taunts Misty at gunpoint. He forces her on to her knees where Misty painfully readies herself to be executed. However, the very personal connection between the assailant and Luke is revealed when he decides to hurt Luke/Carl by “[hurting] her later”. He instead knocks her out and retreats.
The nature of these two men’s relationship is finally brought to the surface as Luke tracks his assailant, whom he identifies as Willis Stryker, to the United Palace theater. He follows Stryker’s voice to the main auditorium, where we learn that they were childhood friends. Stryker is getting his vengeance for apparently, “leaving him to rot”. But any sympathy Luke has for him is quickly erased upon learning that he is, in fact, the elusive Diamondback we have heard so much about. He also admits to being responsible for getting Luke imprisoned and the experimentation he was subjected to there. In a rage, Luke knocks down a pillar on the balcony, bringing Diamondback to the ground and a gritty fight ensues.
Meanwhile, back at the precinct, Misty is obviously in no mood for games after her terrifying encounter with Diamondback. She interviews Claire with the edge and aggression that she has been displaying increasingly throughout the episode, but Claire is having none of it and becomes completely uncooperative when Misty tries to get her to tell her where Luke is. With an infuriatingly smug Claire about to walk out the door, Misty snaps, shoving Claire into the wall and grabbing her by the the throat. She is only stopped when Ridley comes in and intervenes. Things are not looking good for Misty at all.
Mariah eventually pays Candace off, with a huge sum of money. She tries to ease her anxiety and assure her that she is doing the right thing for her family. When Shades questions Candice’s resolve, Mariah tells him quite coldly that if she falters that they’d have to kill her and everyone in that apartment. Shades loves it. Back at her home Mariah, sees a photo of Mama Mabel’s and says aloud, “I’m not like you.”
The episode closes with Luke, staggering through the street, pale and injured after his fight with Diamondback. He comes face to face with Diamondback and asks why he’s doing all this. “I loved you like a brother” he tells him. Diamondback points the gun at Luke and replies “I AM your brother” and pulls the trigger. Luke is shot again, and falls in a garbage truck which promptly takes off to where we would assume would be a landfill where Luke would never be seen again.
Of course this is Luke’s show, so that’s highly unlikely. But the question remains, with no way to operate on him, how will Luke survive?
This was an interesting episode but I felt a bit let down by it. Perhaps, like Mariah, I’m still in shock over the death of Cottonmouth. For certain, with Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes truly gone, the show has started to change and I’m not sure if I like where it’s going. With the death of Pop, Scarfe, and now Cottonmouth, the show only has three central figures to focus on: Luke, Misty, and Mariah – and of those three story lines, the only one that did not make me groan was Mariah’s.
I’ll start with Misty. Generally, I am a fan of Simone Missick’s portrayal of the character, but let’s be honest. She’s been getting nothing but shit for the last two episodes. Her snapping at Claire was a something that has been building since Pop’s death. So even though I understand her aggression, I still found it jarring. Misty seems genuinely happy to see Cottonmouth dead. This is strike one. I get that he was an antagonist and a pain in your butt, but to be cracking jokes about karma and then turn around and give your condolences to his cousin like you aren’t positively giddy? If not for the fact that I knew Misty is right and Mariah did kill her cousin, I would have said that Mariah was completely justified in the way she shut Misty down. Also, even though she has no proof, Misty continuously antagonizes Mariah. This is not the smart play and shows no sign of the intellect she obviously has or the cunning she has previously displayed.
As an audience, we can see that Misty is right in her assumptions. She obviously sees there is more going on. She may not fully trust Luke, but she is not the enemy. We see how she is being targeted and pressured at work to focus on Luke despite her better instincts. And yet, she is aggressive to the point where she becomes abrasive and impossible to root for. I found myself annoyed whenever she was on screen despite how much I like her. When she snaps at Claire, I understood. I actually didn’t blame her. I thought Claire’s smugness and her snide comments were worthy of a good smack. But I wanted more from Misty and she let me down.
But that was nothing compared to the reveal of Diamondback.
When they first mentioned the name in the pilot episode, all hushed voices and deference, I expected his reveal to be something magnificent. I expected Diamondback to be the coolest mofo on the planet. Someone so cunning, and secret, and level that he made Cottonmouth look like a street level thug. He was a snake, lying silently in wait. Frightening because you wouldn’t see him coming until it’s too late.
That’s what I expected. What I got was two Warriors quotes “Can you dig it?” and “Carl. Come out and Play!” and a motive for wanting Luke dead that was so weak, my jaw nearly dropped. What I expected was a true snake; discreet, frightening, and deadly. What I needed, after losing Cottonmouth, was this universes version of a Gus Fring. What I got was a cartoon character. It was tolerable when I thought he was a hired gun. When I realized that THIS was Diamondback, my mouth turned.
“I sent you to hell and you come back with superpowers. Ain’t that a bitch?”
He delivers that line, and it sounds like such a jealous whine… I was not amused. I wanted my Cottonmouth back.
Like I said, the episode itself was entertaining, as all these episodes have been. It was interesting seeing Luke on the defensive for the first time. Injured and unable to fight to his full potential, even Diamondback’s normal punches and kicks hurt him. But, in my opinion, Luke is still the least interesting character
in his own show. I found the best parts of the episode to be Mariah and Shades. She is still reeling from what she has done, yet her ability to come back and stay on the offense is valuable. Misty could learn a thing or two.
And Shades is the proud Papa, having brought her to the edge and watching gaily as she jumps and learns to swim in this cruel new world she has entered. Like it or not, she is in her element.
And seeing them made this episode worth watching.