We start the fifth episode with Luke caught in a deposition — and by Cockroach, no less, for that thorough beatdown Harlem’s Hero gave him. And irrespective of the fact that Cockroach was in the process of assaulting his girlfriend, Drea, he tells the story as if he was attempting to put his life back together, only for the system to subject him to undue distress.
Foggy, it turns out, is the guy who’s defending Luke, which is usually a cause for relief. But in the middle of the deposition, Luke loses his temper, and snaps a conference table with his bare palms. Once the meeting has wrapped itself up, Foggy tell Luke that this is exactly the reason they don’t want him in a courtroom. He asks if our hero has ever considered wearing a mask. And as Luke declines, he’s informed that he can either just pay Cockroach the $100,000 settlement offer on the table — allowing the case to disappear altogether — or go to court. But if Luke aims for a trial, he will almost certainly lose. And Ben Donovan, Cockroach’s lawyer, has a 72-hour clock on that offer.
Across town more deals are being made: Mariah runs into her daughter — out of the blue! — just in time to introduce her to the FamilyFirst initiative building. The clinic has a day care, job-placement center, a dentist, and a pharmacy. All of it is free. And it’s all to help local young mothers. Mariah shows it off to her daughter expecting nothing but praise, but Tilda calls it ironic that her mother is creating a foundation for one of Harlem’s greatest villains (Mariah’s grandmother) — a fact that Mariah brushes to the side entirely. “You want to talk about what we come from,” she says. “I want to talk about what we’re made of. Focus on a bright future, not a painful past.”
At the tour’s conclusion, Mariah cuts to the point, offering her daughter the position of medical director. When Tilda says that she might not want to heal people with “bloody money,” Mariah mentions the sale to Glenn Industries — and how she’s finally found little bit of the cash that she’s been seeking. “I ain’t frontin’, T,” says Mariah. “Will you help me?” Tilda’s less than enthused by the offer, but she considers it nonetheless.
Misty, on her end, is making some improvements of her own. We find her testing out a brand-new bionic arm, courtesy of a hookup from Danny and Collette. The arm’s been programmed to respond to the nerve endings remaining in Misty’s muscle. The doctor tells her that it’ll take some time to come to fruition. But time is the last thing that Misty has — which makes her a little bit like Luke, who’s been sleeping in the barbershop. And we watch as Foggy calls him up with a possible cash-flow solution — working a party — which Luke turns down immediately. In protest, Foggy asks, “Do you know how much Beyoncé got paid to do a bar mitzvah with Destiny’s Child a decade ago?”
Once Misty finds Luke at the barbershop, she takes a look at the Bushmaster pinboard he’s set up beside his sofa. They talk about the villain, who no one can seem to find. They try to deduce why Bushmaster has beef with Mariah. And the pair mourns the fact Cockroach is suing Luke, which Misty claims is her fault. Cockroach was one of Scarfe’s tainted cases. If not for that blemish, Luke might never have gotten involved. But once Luke brushes that reasoning off, Misty offers to call the Immortal Iron Fist for an assist, which he declines. Although what Luke does do is field calls from shoe companies, the NFL, and a documentarian — before deciding to call Foggy back to elaborate on that earlier gig offer. It is hard, he realizes, to find work.
It turns out that Foggy’s offer was actually with Piranha. When he enters the office with Luke, they find something like a memorial to the Harlem Hero. It’s what Piranha emerges to call his “Luke Cage Hall of Fame.” He tells Luke that any time “he does his thing,” Luke creates “instant collectibles.” And when Luke asks about that gig, which turns out to be a private party of sorts, he requests 150,000 bucks to appear — an offer that Piranha accepts immediately.
Across town, Mariah and her assistant are plotting beside the clinic when Tilda appears, along with Misty’s co-workers. They’ve come around looking for Mark Higgins, the man Mariah bribed for her start-up funds. She doesn’t know where Mark is, or at least she claims not to know, and the cops aren’t the only ones in pursuit at the moment. Shades is across town looking for Bushmaster, too. When he reconvenes with Mariah, he informs her that they need to get her out of town. She resists, and they talk about legacies, and Shades tells Mariah that Harlem’s Paradise is the thing that he’d like to leave behind — he even makes an offer to buy it from Mariah. She declines, and asks him about Mark’s whereabouts. Shades replies that he doesn’t know, but, “For once, we ain’t do shit.”
It’s heartening news for Mariah, but, later, when her daughter approaches her about it, it isn’t enough. Tilda tells her mother that she isn’t going to the clinic’s opening, or standing around for her adulation, unless Mariah tells her everything — so that’s what her mother does. Mariah tells her daughter that she blackmailed Mark Higgins with the sex tape. Mariah tells her daughter about how she sold off the family gun business. When Tilda asks if her mother is truly okay with all of that, Mariah tells her that all she’s doing is “paying it forward.” “It’s better to do a little harm for a whole lotta good,” she says, “than to do no harm, for jack shit.” And when Tilda asks where Mark Higgins is, Mariah tells her that she has no idea. So Tilda leaves the room without a word — but she hasn’t cast off her mother.
In addition to Mark Higgins, Ray Ray, an associate of Shades, is also among the missing. Shades tells Comanche that he needs to find him. But their conversation shows that, for now, it looks like Shades still hasn’t caught on that Comanche is working for the cops. When Comanche meets Captain Ridenhour that night, he tells the cop that he has nothing to report. Comanche claims that Mariah’s gone legit. When Ridenhour accuses Comanche of protecting Shades, Comanche tells him to lean on Ray-Ray instead, but Ridenhour has no idea who that is. For the first time since he learned about his disappearance, it looks like Comanche is worried about that absence.
Misty’s also moving around: We watch as she decides to check in on Cockroach, an unrepentant harasser who’s still faking his injuries from Luke. When Misty tells him to drop the charges, Cockroach goads her about Scarfe, Misty’s former corrupt partner. It almost prompts her to put hands on him, but she stops herself. And knowing Cockroach has the advantage here, Misty leaves to consider her options, but not before exchanging a look with Cockroach’s girlfriend, Drea.
It isn’t the last time the two run into each other. Later, Misty receives a call that Drea has dealt with yet another assault since we last saw her a moment ago. Misty’s tells her that Cockroach will keep doing this until he kills Drea, or her son, but Drea doubles down on her fear — and that fact she doesn’t think there’s anything Misty can do to stop him. So Misty heads back to the office to root through desks for evidence, only to find a bottle of liquor from Scarfe. It prompts her to recall the many times she should’ve seen that he was a dirty cop. But she hadn’t allowed herself to see it. It also prompts Misty to reevaluate her whole approach toward the law, but that reflection is cut off when, in the next scene, it looks like, Misty, too, is extracting evidence to plant on Cockroach.
Meanwhile, we find Luke en route to Piranha’s gig. He’s even been given a uniform! (He calls it “goddam cosplay.”) But at the party — which Luke shows up to with Foggy in tow — it turns out that the only reason he’s there is for appearances. He snaps selfies. He stands around for anecdotes. Eventually, Luke gets a bottle broken over his head by some fucking bros. And at one point, he’s asked to play doorman for Piranha as he heads upstairs, and he catches sight of a man in the crowd that may or may not be one of the Stylers.
Before the episode ends, we catch another scene of Scarfe’s reacting to his son’s death. Scarfe called it punishment from God. Misty tells him that God wouldn’t do that. But when Misty arrives at Cockroach’s home in the present she doesn’t plant the evidence she’s brought with her, but she’s found something else: Pirhana’s beheaded body. And she isn’t the only one to find a surprise that evening. As Mariah finally celebrates the opening of the FamilyFirst clinic, with all sorts of media in tow, she opens the door to find the heads of Ray-Ray, Mark Higgins, and Cockroach. That’s where they’ve been! It’s hardly the opening press run that Mariah would’ve hoped for.
Back at the party, Luke runs into Shades. He asks if Shades has seen Bushmaster, and they both realize, simultaneously, that the Stylers have staked out the party. But before they can act on that info, Piranha pushes his luck with Luke. He asks the crowd if they’d like to shoot a bulletproof man, prompting a charade of sorts, but it’s entirely the wrong move given that Bushmaster is after Piranha, and the Stylers’ attempt to kidnap him accordingly.
There’s a short pursuit. Everyone, once again, forgets that Luke Cage is bulletproof. For the briefest of moments, Shades and Luke are fighting on the same side, and Luke manages to stop the Stylers from kidnapping Piranha. But he informs his benefactor that, if he wants protection, “the price just doubled.” It looks like we’ll be stuck with the man for a little while yet.