Well that escalated quickly.
Episode three of Luke Cage picks up right were the previous episode left off. After nearly beating Cockroach to death Luke calls Claire, who in turns calls Misty (and by extension the rest of the police force). With Cockroach out of commission and Arturo dead, Luke only has one option left to track down Mariah’s guns: the very dead Jamaican, Nigel.
This episode got me excited for a few reasons. One of the biggest was the screen time given to Bushmaster. For the first time this season we get a good look at who Bushmaster is, who his main target is, and how Luke Cage fits in to it all. Turns out, Luke is merely a stepping stone for Bushmaster – an obstacle that must be removed so that he can take his place in the hearts of Harlem’s residents. But his true beef is with Mariah, or more specifically, the Stokes family.
Speaking of the Stokes family, does anyone else feel that they were leading to some serious foreshadowing in the scene where Mariah was eating with her daughter Tilda? Tilda plays her uncle Cornel “Cottonmouth” (may he rest in peace) Stoke’s keyboard, much like he used to, and Mariah comments that her hands are “pure Stokes”. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I feel like they may be insinuating that Tilda may be even more of a “Stokes” than Mariah. And if so, will that make her a target for the Bushmaster? I also appreciated the use of color in that scene. Mariah clad in white, Tilda clad in gold – they match the rest of the room they are eating in. They belong there. But when Shades comes in, Mariah must literally step into the dark side. Thus it seems fitting that Mariah is wearing white and Shades is wearing black. It can almost be seen as representative of the worlds they are tying to navigate. Mariah appears to genuinely want to go legit, and will resort to any means (including blackmail) to get there. Also, to my surprise, judging from the speech she gives later in the episode during her fundraiser, and her continued interactions with Tilda after the fundraiser is over, it seems like Mariah actually does want to repair her relationship with her daughter for more than political reasons. Shades on the other hand, seems perfectly content to stay in the world and the position to which he is accustomed, and seems to resent Tilda’s presence – which may be a source of division for them later.
In the meanwhile, Shades manages to procure the money they need from Bushmaster and Misty gets some overdue fight therapy. I seriously feel so bad for both of these guys. Shades just wants Mariah to acknowledge him! And poor Misty keeps getting the crap beat out of her, emotionally. So it was nice to see them both get a win this episode – though Misty’s seems a bit more long lasting than Shades.
One aspect I’m absolutely loving about this season so far, is something that I think is going to annoy most viewers. I really like what’s happening with Luke! I know, it’s a shock to me too. Now hear me out.
Luke keeps messing up. Big time. He’s angry, he’s stubborn, and he’s getting cocky. But I also feel that this is a natural escalation. In the first season, Luke was pretty much a boy scout. I complained that the presence of Claire only exacerbated this because, in Claire, there is a built in Mary Sue character that always supports him and is always justified in the end. With her there, there is no room for Luke to *ef* up, learn, and evolve. So in the first season, Luke was probably one of the least interesting characters in his own show. He was too righteous. But that also made him a super popular hero in Harlem. Now, he’s begun to feed into his own hype and struggles to meet the expectations placed on him by the community and by himself, all the while knowing his father is nearby, waiting to say, ‘I told ya so, CARL!’.
Luke is devolving, and it’s interesting! Weighted down by the pressure he feels all around him, it is all Luke can do to retreat into what he feels confident in: his abilities, his aggression, and his capacity to ‘get shit done’. One of my favorite scenes in the episode is where Luke is trying to get information on Nigel, and he quickly realizes that he’s not in Harlem anymore. Bushmaster is their guy, and they aren’t intimidated by Luke at all. When they won’t cooperate with him, Luke asks, “Do you know who I am?” which is so reminiscent of an indignant celebrity complaining about not getting the kind of special treatment they’ve come to expect. Not only that, but later in the episode, as he chases a Yardie down to Bushmaster’s hideout, his arrogance causes him to act sloppily. Assuming that his display of power, beating up a few goons, and telling Bushmaster to “stay off his yard” is enough to intimidate the man; he walks away, never considering that this man could be a legitimate threat. This is a dumb move! One that comes back to bite him (or punch him) later.
Finally, as the episode draws to a close, there is the big blow up between him and Claire – a fight that has been brewing since the beginning of the season, if we’re to be honest. The biggest issue, as I’ve mentioned in an earlier review, is that without anything for Claire to do, the only thing she can do is stick her nose into Luke’s business. Specifically family business. It also doesn’t help that she’s written to be morally justified. Always.
Despite the fact that she betrays his feelings by going to see his father, not once but twice, she is justified because she does it out of love and concern for him and because inevitably, he will need to come to terms with his father. However, as a wise man once said, being right, doesn’t make you right. The escalation of their arguments throughout the episode, his childish lashing, and him punching a hole in her wall, are all on Luke. He is, without a doubt, in the wrong. However, I loved seeing it play out, and watching Claire come to the realization that she can’t stay and hold his hand through this. For the sake of the story, Luke needs to lose everything, and be broken down completely, and build himself back up. Besides, if Luke immediately does what Claire tells him to do without resistance, he will have zero development and be boring again.
Or maybe I’m just a hater. Who knows? Either way, they have my attention.