Luke just keeps taking “L”s this episode and I, for one am so on board!
In this episode of Luke Cage, our boy takes hit after devastating hit… and it already seems to be knocking some sense back in to him. After getting knocked out by Bushmaster, video of the encounter goes viral, and Luke gets a taste for how fickle fame can be. Everyone seems to be getting some joy seeing the “king” get knocked down, save for a few friends that care (Misty and Bobby). But those aren’t the only licks he’s taking. Luke is also taking an emotional beating with Claire having left. Throughout the episode, Luke tries to keep his mind preoccupied with other things, but every time there is a quiet moment, he looks at the letter she left behind. Awwwwe. Luke tries to power through his emotional and physical pain, but then, just when things seem like they couldn’t get any worse he gets knocked down by another one-two punch of bad news. Bobby is leaving to help his sick daughter, and he’s being sued.
Guess it’s just one of those days.
One technical aspect I noticed about this episode was that, in the beginning, after Luke gets knocked out, the camera movements sway pretty noticeably, even as he’s talking to other people (like Bobby). The shakey cam gives off a feeling of being unbalanced, which is appropriate given the circumstances.
I also thought it was poetic how Bushmaster introduced himself to the world. After taking down Luke, Bushmaster looks at DW and speaks into the camera, stating his name and that he is “the stone the builder refused”. It is reminiscent of Luke’s declaration in episode one… just WAY cooler. No half-assed dabs, no cheesy machismo – just straight bad ass-ery.
But it isn’t just Harlem that get’s a healthy does of Bushmaster this episode – we do too. Over the course of the episode we get to learn more about Bushmaster’s motivation for going after Mariah. His real name is John McIver and he is described as a Jamaican boogeyman who used to be a low level “Styler” that worked his way up. Through Misty’s interrogation of one of his brethren and the hostile conversation between Bushmaster and Mariah, we learn that his family worked with the Stokes family a long time ago, but they were somehow wronged. Their “conversation” serves to confirm something that we already figured out: Mariah knows exactly who Bushmaster is, why he hates her, and she doesn’t care. She is determined to see Bushmaster as a non-issue. But just as we’ve seen with Luke, Mariah is showing that her arrogance is likely going to bite her in the butt, big time.
We see the start of this early in the episode. Mariah and her accountant discuss the merger of the plastics company they bought shares in. Her accountant (who’s name I now realize is Piranha) assures her and Shades that their investment, on paper, is worth $350 million, their liquid assets are in offshore accounts in the Cayman Islands, and they’ve put up the club as collateral. Shades expresses distrust in “money you can’t see” but Mariah and Piranha brush off his concerns. Strike one!
This is such a huge red flag. First of all, who the hell trusts their money to a guy called Piranha! Oh, this is gonna be bad, isn’t it?
But it isn’t nearly as bad as Mariah’s willingness to overlook Mr McIver. During this scene, they also see the video of Bushmaster knocking out Luke, which gets Shades nervous. Why would a guy who could take out Luke Cage barehanded need their guns? He realizes that Bushmaster is gunning to take down Mariah, and tries to convince her to confide in him, however, Mariah deflects. In fact, she seems perfectly willing to ignore Bushmaster completely, but suddenly changes her mind after going through a family scrapbook.
Mariah and Bushmaster’s meeting at Harlem’s Paradise was definitely the standout scene of the episode. It was tense, and threatening, and the music choice (“I Put A Spell On You”) was perfectly suited. Despite, Mariah’s attempt to undermine him, Bushmmaster walked away looking far stronger and far more threatening, and everyone could tell. Between this display and the issues presented earlier, I can see how the deterioration of Shades and Mariah’s relationship will go about. Shades seems to be making one good point after another, but Mariah, blinded by her desire to go legit and shake clean of her family’s sordid past, refuses to acknowledge any of it. What’s worse, she is pulling away from Shades, keeping him at arms length, and without him, she is weaker.
Yet despite Mariah’s apparent willful obtuseness, one thing she seems to be completely on point with, is her distrust of Shade’s right hand man, Comanche. We find out this episode that Comanche is reporting to Captain Ridenhour (I just figured out his name this episode) to get information. However, he has hit a wall because of Mariah’s distrust and distaste for him. I don’t blame her at all. He’s disgusting! I don’t understand why Mariah allows someone like Comanche to disrespect her to her face in her own club! I don’t understand why Shades doesn’t check him on it. Like, I know they go way back but, really? To be able to get away with talking to Mariah the way he did, dissing Shades about his relationship with her, and going missing towards the end of the episode while he was out reporting to Ridenhour, he and Shades must be extremely close – which makes his betrayal all the worse.
But let me get back to Luke.
Despite all the hits Luke takes this episode, one bright spot would have to be his relationship with Misty. I hope they don’t try to make them a “thing” again because their friendship and partnership is definitely a breath of fresh air. Misty is dealing with her own issues. It’s now clear why Ridenhour is on Misty’s butt so much about poking her nose in the investigation. He has his own cards to play, but it doesn’t make her situation any better. However, despite the tough time she’s having, Misty still takes a moment to talk to Luke about Claire and his aggression issues, while keeping clear boundaries in place. While searching for Nigel, the two have a great rapport, each helping and supporting the other.
Wow. A man and a woman, who are just friends, who can both kick ass, who are both considered heroes yet facing backlash for doing what they think is right, who both have some attitude issues in need of addressing, and who respect one another? Go figure – it works!
One new relationship that does tease to be something more, is the relationship between Luke and Tilda. It should come as no surprise that she is much more on the ball than Mariah gives her credit for. After seeing the Luke Cage Knockout video, she recognizes Bushmaster from when he came to get ingredients from her store. After doing some research she figures out that he was creating Nightshade. Just as soon as she figures this out, Luke Cage comes walking through the door and her flirtatious line of questioning masks a deeper interest in the way his body is structured. Her behavior towards him makes me think there is something deeper going on with her. But there were two important lines of dialogue in this scene that I feel tie in to what this season will be about. The first is:
“Looks like your mother and my father had the same teachers.”
The theme of family ties has been very strong this season. The family you have versus the family you create. Tilda and Luke are similar in that they both come from dysfunctional households and have a lot of pent up anger towards their last living parent. Both of whom, suddenly want back in their lives. However, while Mariah comes with honey, Mr. Lucas comes with vinegar – and the difference between how these two children respond is stark.
There are also the families that you create. This entire episode, Luke’s created family; Claire, Bobby, DW – has been getting smaller and smaller. Compare this to Bushmaster, who returns to Brooklyn and is greeted by a room filled with family that is happy to see him. Luke has never been so alone.
The other important line of dialogue in Luke and Tilda’s scene was:
“It’s good that toughness… but it’s what’s on the inside that counts.”
As we’ve seen this season, Luke is a strong person, capable of incredible feats. However, it is the inner turmoil that is weakening him. Her words of warning works both on a mental and emotional level as well as a practical level. Bushmaster doesn’t have impenetrable skin, but he inhales herbs to make him stronger from the inside. Luke, might not have a scratch on him, but he walks around this entire episode with a concussion. This is season Luke will have to be very aware of what’s happening inside of him.