In the penultimate episode of Luke Cage’s second season, things heated up a notch, with Mariah finally getting involved in the drugs trade after all the build-up about her identity and family code as a Stokes. She’s becoming more dangerous by the minute, slipping into that new role of her character nicely. It’s interesting to see her frame Bushmaster by putting his name on the drugs, and the Bushmaster and Luke team-up makes a nice change of pace when Luke decides to intervene. It’s a contender for one of the best-directed and well-coreographed fight sequences of the season. The fight feels so refreshing from the repetitive natures of the Bushmaster and Luke showdowns that we’ve had so far. It’s just a shame that this dynamic is only temporary.
Shades’ interrogation was fascinating to watch too, and the build-up to the final confrontation at the end of the episode is remarkable. Mariah obviously knows that Shades ratted on her, and it doesn’t take her long to work out. He loses his cool once Comache’s grandmother works out that he killed her, and now Shades has handed over his gun to the police. Mariah is taken into custody after an extended speech where she’s bought into her own delusions, ranting about how she’ll spin this as the police wanting to tear her down for simply being successful. It’s pretty clear it won’t be the last time Mariah will show up given how big a factor she’s been this season, but what will be more interesting is if she shows up again in Season 3, and under what capacity. She’s dangerous now, and that represents a real threat, whereas before her policies and code kept her largely intact, subscribing to the Melvillian code of criminal activity.
It makes Mariah much more compelling as a character and her complex nature means it feels so much different than the usual ending where the villain is arrested at the end of the season. Both Mariah and Bushmaster have been excellent villains this season, and the show goes out of its way to put real care into developing their characters, which is one of the few things to benefit from the 13 episode count.
Tilda also got to visit Cornell’s grave in this episode and it feels reminiscent of superhero moments in its own right. How many times have we seen Bruce Wayne standing at his parents’ gravestones? Or Spider-Man with Uncle Ben or Gwen Stacy? The single rose at the spot of Cornell’s gravestone is one of the quieter moments of the show so far, but that doesn’t mean it loses any of its impact.
But now Bushmaster is on the run, escaping from the conflict after showing up to try and take Mariah down. He’s full of poison. Like Mariah, he’s no longer himself, and as we see from Mariah this episode, people who aren’t themselves will become all the more dangerous as a result.
The gauntlet is thrown down for what should be an exciting climax, and hopefully the show will find a way to make the inevitable showdown between Luke Cage and Bushmaster refreshing.