After starting off with a bit of hesitation, I am beginning to get back into the groove of Luke Cage. Though I still do have my reservations, I can definitely appreciate the trajectory this season is going in.
The episode starts off with Luke and Claire coming to the conclusion that his second trip in the acid bath last season has made him even more invulnerable than he used to be, rendering Judas bullets effectively useless against him. They then set up a test of his new power at the Harlem Jets training field. Although the way this was executed was a bit hokey (with the sports commentators adding their two cents) I appreciated one thing that this public testing did for Luke’s character. It showed us, the audience, this odd dichotomy that exists now. On the one hand, Luke constantly says that he didn’t ask for any of this and never wanted to be a hero. Yet, he willingly puts on public displays and shows off for his adoring public.
For sure, Luke is a man on a mission and his increased invulnerability has him ‘feeling himself’ like never before. His cockiness combined with his unresolved anger issues makes for a volatile mix. Over the course of the episode Luke chases down Mariah’s potential clients. After Arturo ends up dead, he sets his sights on a man called Cockroach. Cockroach is pretty much the definition of a lowlife, and was arrested years ago by Misty and Scarfe. However, last seasons revelations about Scarfe have resulted in a number of their old collars having their convictions overturned. After chasing down leads and finding his home, his abused girlfriend, and his equally abused and terrified son, Luke goes after Cockroach without mercy. By the end of the episode, Luke bursts through the door of his home and looses control of his anger, beating Cockroach nearly to death as his terrified family watches.
Meanwhile, Misty just can’t seem to catch a break. Upon returning to work, Misty meets an old schoolmate, who has stepped in in her absence. Immediately the tension is palatable as these two women put on fake smiles and pretend to be civil to each other, but she – like many in the department, don’t seem to want her there at all. Not only does Misty get chewed out by the chief anytime she begins investigating, but she is constantly getting stared at and dissed by those around her. I felt so bad for old girl. Everyone had a witty remark to make, poking at the oozing scab that is her missing right arm. From Arturo, to his lawyer, to Cockroach, to random guys walking around the department. I liked that she did not allow these things to just fester and eat away at her though. Instead she addressed the issue head on, shaming everyone.
I know I had my worries that they were going to use her missing extremity to continue the trend they set last year of making Misty an angry black women that the whole world seems to unfairly shit on. Thankfully, if this trend continues, that won’t be an issue. Misty is hurting. She is getting shit on at work and disrespected. But she is doing her best to keep it together, and unlike last season, she has the support of Luke, Claire and others.
I must say, I was also glad to see that I may be eating my words when it comes to the relationship between Shades and Mariah. It seems plainly obvious that Shades is not on board with Mariah’s “going straight” plan, however, he doesn’t appear to be playing up his relationship with her either. Last episode when the waiter at the club mistook Mariah for his aunt, Shades later found the waiter and beat the living daylights out of him. However, at the time, I didn’t take that as a sign of him being angry about Mariah and his relationship being disrespected. Rather, I interpreted it as Shades venting his frustrations. But my opinion has begun to change (though I’m still a bit wary). In one of the episode’s best moments Shades and his man Comanche go to speak with their potential client Arturo after bailing him out. When Arturo threatens to go to the police and rat on Mariah, Shades gets upset. But when he begins ragging on her in Spanish, Shades decides he’s had enough and promptly shoots him in the head. In response, Comanche, shocked, gives an amazing line (which will not be repeated here). Shades also seems visibly disturbed about being booted from his seat beside her, when Mariah’s daughter, Tilda shows up at the club. Now, these could all be hiding ulterior motives. Perhaps he used the disrespect Arturo showed Mariah as an excuse to sabotage her “going straight” plans in his own subtle way? Perhaps he was concerned about Tilda taking his place as Mariah’s only confidant, given how much work he’s put in to “working” Mariah? I can’t say for certain, but I’ve decided to hold my judgement until I see more.
Speaking of Mariah’s daughter, Tilda – it seems she will be a big part of the season. Tilda is introduced as Mariah’s estranged daughter who uses her medical degree and knowledge to make homeopathic remedies and sells them out of a small store she owns called “Mother’s Touch”. Despite their strained and hostile relationship, Tilda agrees to at least put in some effort to build a new relationship with her mother when Mariah shows up at her door, however, I wonder how she will respond when she realizes that Mariah is using this reconciliation to rebuild her brand. Will she turn against her mother? And what else does she have to hide? It’s interesting to note that our new friend Bushmaster came to her shop to get the herbs he needed to heal his wounds. I’m anxious to see how her role will grow especially since her and Mariah’s relationship plays in direct contrast to Luke and his father’s.
I was glad to see a bit more of Bushmaster this episode, though I greedily wanted a bit more. As expected, the Bushmaster seems to be doing some spell casting (Tilda remarks that the list of ingredients he’s asking for are used in ‘obeah’) and you see him grinding and burning the ingredients. Bit by bit, we are learning more about Bushmaster, but I think I’m ready to see him really jump into the fray.
One character I could have done with a little less of, on the other hand, was Claire. I realize that my dislike for her character (in this show) may put me in the minority of Luke Cage viewers, however, I simply find her character wholly unnecessary. While it is obvious that Luke has gone through a personality shift and is dealing with a lot of anger and aggression issues, her methods are doing more harm than good. Despite warnings to back off, both from Luke and from their friend Bobby, Claire continues to poke the sleeping bear that is Luke’s feelings towards his father, resulting in further aggression from Luke. There is no doubt that her arguments are valid, and I believe that Luke will eventually do exactly what she’s telling him to do, but completely undermining his feelings and going to his father’s sermon only goes to further my belief that she is out of place in this series. She is a Mary Sue. A moral compass for Luke to follow, who is portrayed as doing no wrong. And because she has no story of her own, the only thing she can do is stick her nose in whatever Luke is dealing with. I truly feel that they need to give her something else to do, otherwise her and Luke’s increasingly loud and hostile arguments will only drag down the show.
Other than that, I’d say the second episode was a fairly solid one. I’m just eagerly anticipating how Bushmaster will go about stepping on Luke and Mariah’s toes. Will the former enemies be forced to team up? There are many possibilities.