The ninth episode of Luke Cage is titled “For Pete’s Sake” — and that truly couldn’t be more apt.
We open with a slapstick comedy playing out between Luke, Misty, Mariah, Tilda, and Luke’s father. They’ve called in a favor from The Immortal Iron Fist (who we — thankfully — have yet to run into). He’s hooked them up with a safehouse (an unopened clinic he owns in the city). And the group bounces back and forth between cracking on one another, cracking one another up, and cracking to pieces: there’s a prayer circle! There’s friction! It is clear from the outset that this will be a very long night. Or a very long episode. Or both, simultaneously. But, for better or worse, it’s what we’ve been building up toward — the series has nearly eclipsed the absurdity of a K-Drama at its peak. The problem is that, so far, Luke Cage isn’t nearly as pleasing.
Tilda talks to Luke’s father, the Reverend, about nightshade (when he asks her if it’s poisonous, she tells him that it’s fine in small amounts). Mariah still refuses to give her story to Misty, but after some persuasion from Luke, she eventually agrees to go on the record — but only with the assurance of total immunity on those gun charges. It’s an offer that Misty declines.
While our heroes circle around one another at Danny’s place, Bushmaster stakes out Tilda’s shop. When he finds she took all of her nightshade, he has a whole fit. And Bushmaster ups the bounty on Mariah and Tilda to $3 million apiece, with the caveat that he wants them both alive.
When Misty returns to the department to check in (leaving the rest of her crew at Danny’s place), she finds that there’s a brand-new police chief — and it’s Ridley. Her frenemy from season one! Hey! In private, Misty explains the potential deal with Mariah to Ridley. Her new-old boss signs off. Ridley tells Misty that she’s “grown” in her absence. And she adds that Misty ought not tell anyone else about the plea until they’ve reached the D.A.
Later, Ridley tells Misty that the plea deal is “the right play,” adding, “You can’t stop the tide. You can only try and save as many people as you can from the flood.” But Nandi looks on at the two of them with a face that doesn’t exactly agree — is she planning on selling them out? She is! And she does! Nandi shows up at Harlem’s Paradise to hand over Marah’s whereabouts — and just as Bushmaster is still looking for a way to track them down.
Back at Danny’s place, Luke and his father talk about Claire. They talk about how Luke, when he’s stressed, has a tendency to push people away. And on the other side of the compound, Tilda has her own discussion with Luke — she’ll do her best to cooperate with him, but only if Luke tells Tilda the full story about her mother.
Not that he needed to! Because, later, Tilda and Mariah confront one another. Tilda asks her mother if she’s always hated her for being light-skinned (which Mariah denies), and the truth comes out about Tilda’s real father: Mariah tells her daughter that it wasn’t her husband. Mariah’s marriage was actually only an arrangement of convenience to mask her husband’s queerness: Mariah actually says, “The gayness evaporated.”
Tilda says, “Luke Cage was right. You can’t be trusted.” Tilda asks her mother if she killed Cornell — and Mariah admits it. She said it was “because he loved Uncle Pete more than he loved me,” and we can already start to see where this conversation is going. But that’s when Mariah comes right out and says it: Tilda’s real father was Mariah’s uncle. Tilda was a child born from her rape. Mariah tells Tilda, “I never wanted it. And I never wanted you.”
“I tried to love you,” says Mariah. “I tried. But I don’t. That’s the truth. Because every time I look at your face, I see Pete.”
As Tilda deals with that news, Mariah takes off to sign her newfound plea deal with Luke and Misty. Simultaneously, Chief Ridley arrives at Harlem’s Paradise — only to find that it’s empty. And to the tune of reggae, the Stylers arrive at the Rand building with Bushmaster in tow. Bushmaster informs Luke that, if he gives Mariah up, everyone else can go free. And after a brief moment where Luke considers giving up Mariah, he demurs, telling her that there’s only one thing keeping her alive: “Unfortunately, I was raised better than that.”
When Mariah doesn’t emerge from the building, Bushmaster says, “Fine. War it is.” There’s an extended fight scene where Luke fights a whole swathe of Stylers, before Misty battles her own swathe of Stylers, and Bushmaster sets his sights on Luke. Mariah even picks up a gun, firing off in a scene that is so cringe-inducing that it’s nothing short of astounding. And Bushmaster is, it turns out, still really good at fighting, but Luke kicks his ass (eventually).
Afterward, the cops arrive and cuff Bushmaster. Luke and his father have a tearful exchange. (They note that they love one another, and Luke’s father says, “I have never been more proud of you.”) With the Styler problem solved — for now — Misty and Luke agree that moving on Mariah will be the next big move. With Bushmaster subdued, she’s made her own escape, tearing up the place on her way out. But it turns out that Bushmaster isn’t ready to settle down entirely. In what appears to be a motif among Marvel’s Netflix series, Bushmaster breaks out of the van delivering him to the prison (with an explosive).
The next time we see him he has (somehow) made his way to Tilda’s shop, staking her out. She arrives there shortly afterward, with no choice but to help him — but her mother hasn’t given her much incentive not to, either. And on the other side of town, Shades finds Mariah walking on the side of a very dark road. For the 47th time this season, they kiss. Mariah tells Shades she’s done “playing by the rules.” And that’s exactly what Shades wants to hear. In the trunk of his car, he’s gagged Bushmaster’s uncle, further complicating their blood feud.