The season finale of Luke Cage Season 2 knocks it out of the park, delivering a memorable finale that ups its game. Predictably, Mariah isn’t quite done with the game yet in prison, and decides to start covering her tracks, taking out the women who tried to recruit her or kill her. Outside, streets of Harlem have descended into a warzone in her absence, with the various gangs taking out on one another one-by-one. Mariah plans to pin it all on Shades. This involves a tour de force in performance by Alfre Woodard, who has been utterly fantastic all season. In this episode, she steps up her game again, as Mariah’s shell breaks around her and she’s reduced to tears confronting Shades as to why he snitched in his cell.
The massacre of everyone that Mariah knew is cold-blooded and ruthless. Cutting off her people who worked at Harlem’s Paradise to hide the evidence show how scary she is, how she views herself as a necessary evil, killing off even the ones she reportedly liked, like Alex. If there is a single person from Harlem on her jury, Mariah’ll walk. She knows the odds are in her favour, even If Tilda isn’t keen on it, saying that she was pushed away by Mariah. Mariah justifies this by saying that nobody will ever hurt her because nobody will ever hurt her worse than she did. But then the twist comes, and Mariah is killed off by Tilda, who chooses to embrace the dark side after hiding a wounded Bushmaster from her mother’s killing spree. It’s a shame to see someone with a charisma and a talent for scenery chewing like Alfre Woodard leave the show, but it does allow Tilda to position herself as her mother’s replacement, even if she’s not sporting the name Shades anymore. The last of the Shades name is dead, as far as she’s concerned.
Luke Cage Season 2 delivers one of the best finales that I’ve seen in a Marvel Netflix show. It was carefully planned and plotted, leading up to a memorable change in the status quo that moves in a direction few other shows have. Positioning Luke Cage as Harlem’s new Sherriff and having Mariah leave him Harlem’s Paradise in her will, she needs to know it belongs to someone who cares about Harlem as much as she did. Luke cares about Harlem in his own, different way even if it means freezing Tilda out in the process, and we could very well see it Luke’s reign over Harlem threatened by Tilda. One thing we shouldn’t worry about with Woodard leaving is Gabrielle Dennis’ ability to replace her. It also means potential for more musical numbers from her and, based off her delivery of Family First, I hope this isn’t the last we’ll hear from her.
The music in this finale was on fire, as the show continues the stylish look and feel of the series. Rakim King’s Paradise plays at the end of the finale in the montage that ends with Luke shutting out Claire from returning to his life with all the gangsters falling in line. Even the Jamaicans are seemingly glad that Harlem is under his protection. Crime has fallen, and as far as Luke is concerned, he’s doing the right thing.
But the right thing can come at a cost. Misty isn’t keen on his new direction and she’s warning him that if he takes one foot out of line, she’ll be there to bring him in. That’s what’s Luke’s counting on. Power corrupts, though, and it’ll be interesting to see if he’ll go quietly if he ever ends up crossing the line. Right now, that line is balanced on a knife-edge, and whilst it is a shame to see Luke leave the Barbershop, Dave Griffith does have a point. At the end of the day, a crime boss is a crime boss, and they’ve just traded Mariah for Luke.
At the end of the day, Luke Cage Season 2 at least manages to be more consistent than the first even if it isn’t entirely mind-blowing. It picks up towards the end with the last few episodes, oddly in a complete reversal from Season 1, and hopefully this good form that the writers have found can continue into Season 3.