Luke Cage: Season 2, Episode 8 – “If It Ain’t Rough, It Ain’t Right” Review

The episode opens on Shades, a rare turn for the series, as he replays the events of the previous evening.  Meanwhile, after getting Mariah and Tilda to safety, Luke and Mariah have a tense exchange. Despite everything that has happened, Mariah still has a bit of a chip on her shoulder, but it get’s knocked off with a vengeance as the reality of her situation begins to settle in. She has nowhere to go, and Luke is only willing to give her the bare minimum as far as protection. With no money, she can no longer afford to  hire her lawyer to get her and her guys out of trouble.

But Shades isn’t the only one having a hard time. Everyone is reeling after the evens of the previous episode. Feeling more than a little guilty after Ridenhour’s death, Misty steps in and takes charge of the department and the investigation into his death. Luke works his magic on Tilda in order to get answers. Shades struggles to come to terms with killing Comanche, and after believing that Mariah has abandoned him as well, he begins to fall apart under Misty’s interrogation. As for Mariah, with nowhere to go, Mariah turns inward, placing her faith in the only family she has left, Tilda. Not even Bushmaster is having a good day. As he learns that Mariah, Tilda, and Luke are all still alive, he places a hit out on them and everyone they care about.

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It was actually pretty sad seeing both Misty and Bushmaster tearing in to Mariah and Shades while they were both at such low points. Despite all of her earlier bravado, Mariah cannot maintain her composure upon walking back into her burnt down home. It is here, in the charred remains of what once was, that we are treated to one of the most powerful moments in this episode.

After somehow managing to get through Misty’s interrogation, Shades arrives at Mariah’s brownstone and the floodgates open. Mariah doesn’t trust Shades and airs her suspicions that he may be a snitch, just like Comanche. When Shades questions her on why her lawyer abandoned him, she further confesses that he quit because she could no longer pay him. Shades then confronts her on the missteps she made, selling the gun business and leading Bushmaster straight to them. But all is not lost. As he often does, after breaking her down, Shades begins to piece Mariah back together. They are not done – she has been a gangster since the moment she killed Cornell, so she needs to act like one. Mariah shouts, Shades yells, they kiss, embrace, and the two of them begin the uneasy path towards reclaiming what is theirs. However, there is something irreparably broken between them now. As Mariah saunters away, Shades pulls out her Peal handled pistol – seemingly swiping it as he consoled her.

A few things I liked about this episode:

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Misty in charge. With her resignation unofficial, Misty becomes the head honcho at the precinct and she is taking no prisoners. It was nice to see people stepping in line and following her hunches. It was also refreshing to see Misty measure herself. Heavy is the head that wears the crown, and as the leader, Misty can’t afford to fly off the handle. Despite moments of anger and frustration, Misty kept her composure and kept her eyes on the prize, utilizing every tool she could. Including Luke.

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Luke and Tilda’s dynamic. Tilda’s fascination with Luke’s skin, it’s composition, and how it works should not be ignored. Despite being thoroughly shaken by everything that has happened and her determination to leave it and her mother behind, I can’t shake the feeling that she has the potential to do some real damage in the future. Luke turns on the charm at the station and gets her talking about Bushmaster and everything she has learned. Their interactions with each other are sometimes flirtatious and always interesting, but that’s what worries me. Both Luke and Tilda are children with complicated relationships with their only living parent. The idea of family bonds and forgiveness run strong with them both – as they both seem to have come to terms and forgiven their parents. But while Luke’s newfound relationship with his father seems to have a healing effect on Luke’s soul, what will Tilda’s reconciliation with Mariah lead to? Will Mariah lead her daughter down a more sinister path?

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Mariah and Shades simultaneous breakdowns. Although Mariah has been far from the most emotionally stable villain of the series, it was heartbreaking for me to see her walking through her burned down home – sifting through her things and attempting to find anything salvageable. Although I’ve felt for her a lot since season 1, I think this scene elicited a more visceral response for me. On the other hand, Shades has been nearly unflappable since his introduction, so seeing how hard the death of Comanche is for him, was really intriguing. The show has done an admirable job of creating wounded animals out of these characters – and they now seem poised to strike back. Poor uncle Anansi.

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The unflappable Ben Donovan. I’ve always loved Mariah’s slimy lawyer, Donovan, but never as much as I did this episode. Despite Mama Mabel, as Mariah points out, paying his way through law school, when the money dries up, he’s out the door. No warning. No sugar coating. He is loyal only to her money, and he goes where the money goes. Which is why it was so hilarious seeing him show up at Harlem’s Paradise only a few minutes after leaving Shades to flounder in the interrogation room – to come to the aid of his new client. Bushmaster.

Now that we’re more than half way through the season I feel free to say that I’ve really been enjoying this season much more than the first, however, I can’t say it’s better than the first half of season one. I feel like I’m still waiting for Luke to really low me away somehow, or give me a moment as powerful as the one Mariah or Shades or Misty have given me, but it just hasn’t happened yet. Even the buildup of the father/son drama seems to be a bit of a letdown since it seems to have resolved itself so quickly.

A few thoughts:

Is there more to Anansi than meets the eye. I know in the African folktales, Anansi was a spider. He was a storyteller and a trickster, legendary in many African folktales for using his smarts to get the upper hand against other animals – so I wonder if there is any connection there. It would play in to the overall theme of the season.

Also, Mariah seemed upset by Ridenhour’s death but not as much as I was expecting. It’s causing me to rethink my initial thought that he was Tilda’s real daddy.

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Finally, I’m growing fatigued of the references to “Hero for Hire”. The show has dangled that carrot a number of times this season and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Bobby Fish and Claire brought up the idea of being compensated for his work, he was “hired” to protect Piranha – who he subsequently did not protect and ended up getting beheaded, and was propositioned by Mariah last episode, but he seems uninterested in making deals with her. I think focusing on that might have given Luke’s character a bit more dimension than the family bonds theme they’ve focused on this season. Especially since it’s caused us to retread issues we’ve already addressed last season. He’s kinda gone back to being a goody goody with occasional anger issues and it’s somewhat disappointing.

But things are picking up and who knows that the next few episodes will have in store. Personally, I’d love to see our heroes and Mariah and Shades stage their counter attack.

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