Marvel’s Luke Cage
We start this episode with flashbacks of Luke sinking in the water, Bushmaster having put the hands on him in the last episode. And then, just as suddenly, Luke’s being tended to by his father in the church. The first thing Luke asks for is Piranha, and his father tells him that he thought Piranha was with Luke. He tells Luke that Piranha mentioned something about “chartering a jet at Teterboro and calling his mama.” So, great start, Dad. The man had one job. But when Luke stands up to begin yet another search, his father tells Luke that what he needs to do is rest. Eventually, the two men will reconcile and apologize to one another — about everything — but for now, Luke’s pissed. And his father isn’t meeting him there.
The next thing we see is Misty on the basketball court, practicing her shot — and that Captain Ridenhour has followed her there. He says he wants Misty back in the department. Unbound by decorum or rank, Misty flexes her newfound freedom, prodding Ridenhour on his relationship with Mariah (“Mae-Mae), and his “off the books” C.I. (Comanche). And Ridenhour plays along, mostly answering Misty’s questions, but one thing she won’t offer in return is her help asking for Luke’s assistance. Misty insists that she’s done being a cop. Ridenhour tells her that she knows where to find him.
But he’s not the only one outside of the loop: Mariah doesn’t know where Piranha is, either! But has figured out that there’s a snitch in her midst. In a meeting with her associates, she references the fact that Captain Ridenhour knew about Tone — and he truly shouldn’t have. Mariah shows that she can be vicious when she wants to, stabbing one of the men beside her — a part of character her henchmen may not have been privy to before. Afterward, Shades tells Mariah that “fear doesn’t always inspire. It alienates.” He asks her to “be better than Mama Mabel and Cornell.” And then they kiss! Again! Because they’re in love!
Shades tells Mariah that he’ll fix the situation, and everything will end up “irie.” But just as he’s reassuring Mariah, Tilda arrives at the nightclub (to listen to reggae, it seems). She and Shades make eyes at each other, reinforcing how much they dislike one another.
Naturally, it turns out that the Stylers have picked up Piranha. When Bushmaster approaches him about handing over Mariah’s fortune, Pariah cites his “professional integrity” at first, but ultimately reneges. Eventually, Luke and Misty pick up on their whereabouts — engaging in their own tag-team battle along the way — and afterward, they leave one of the guys conscious long enough to ask about Piranha. When he gives a lousy answer, Misty correctly diagnoses that something isn’t right — and it isn’t: the Stylers have beheaded Piranha, and fed him to a literal batch of piranhas. Our heroes were too late.
We cut to Tilda and her mother debating Mariah’s position — she tells Mariah to just leave the situation with the Stylers altogether. Mariah replies (just like Cornell), that “it’s not that simple.” She shows her daughter just how much their legacy is worth, in USD. And it looks like Tilda is nearly swayed, but not before Ridenhour arrives to disrupt the mood. After some preamble, he establishes that he’d like to cut a deal with Mariah — if she cooperates, she’ll get off relatively scot-free. Ridenhour wants her to throw Shades under the bus. He asks whether Mariah would like to live her life on the run from Bushmaster, or on the run from the cops. But he pushes his luck when he also brings up Tilda — when he asks if Mariah’s daughter knows her real age, or the identity of her actual father, Mariah immediately shies away from the conversation altogether. She shuts down, and asks Ridenhour for time to think her options through. But the moment he leaves, Mariah checks her bank account, only to find that Bushmaster has taken all of her funds. Now he owns her fortune. He owns the nightclub. Everything. So Mariah deduces that it’s time to leave, and she starts making arrangements accordingly.
When we see Bushmaster next, he’s being fitted for a suit. He and his uncle riff on whether the Stokes feud has consumed him. Bushmaster talks about his mother, and she believed that he was “a fighter, a warrior,” and that he’d always be free. “A McIver like my father,” he says. “Never a puppet or a slave.” Bushmaster tells his uncle that he won’t let go until he gets everything owed to him. His uncle asks what he really wants, and Bushmaster says he wants Mariah’s soul for his mother’s. “If you want to erase sorrow, you must burn it.” When he asks his uncle why he isn’t angrier, he tells him that he can’t bring Gwen back.
Once we finally check in with Comanche, we find he’s meeting Ridenhour, and he swears that Shades knows about it. Earlier that day, they’d talked about the possibility of a snitch over brunch. And it isn’t two minutes later before Shades does discover them, having tailed Comanche. In a last-minute ditch, Ridenhour attempts to cut Shades a deal, and Comanche makes his own overtime appeal to Shades for mercy — but neither of them work. Shades shoots them both. Then, he and Comanche reminisce for a moment: Comanche tells Shades that he wanted to get them both out of the life. Shades tells Comanche that he didn’t want out, and Comanche tells Hernan, “You my nigga. Always.”
Shades tells him that he loves Comanche. “What the hell does that say about me?” he asks, and shoots Comanche a second time. Which, under normal circumstances, would be more than enough for us to dwell on, but Shades should’ve stayed with Mariah. As he’s cleaning up the scene, Mariah’s in the process of being shepherded away by Bushmaster.
He ties Mariah and her daughter to a chair in her home, soaking everything in gasoline, before telling the story of how both Mariah’s grandfather and Bushmaster’s father were partners in New York — before Mariah’s grandfather double-crossed Bushmaster’s dad. They shot one another. It took Buggy Stokes five months to die. But Stokes also trailed Bushmaster’s mother back to Jamaica, and set her home on fire with Bushmaster inside. To close the circle, Bushmaster sets Mariah’s own home on fire — but not before untying Tilda. He leaves her with a choice: “Let’s see if you’re a better daughter than I was a son.”
And the episode ends with a spate of bad news: Bushmaster enters Harlem’s Paradise, which now belongs to him. Luke arrives at the scene of Mariah’s burning home, and proceeds to, uh, stare. But, eventually (when he gets around to it, I guess!), Luke does go inside, where he and Tilda manage to save Mariah from the embers. And as the pair carry Mariah to safety, she strikes an unlikely position: Mariah tells Luke that she would like to hire him for his services.