The battle for Harlem’s soul continues, and some pertinent information is revealed in Episodes 4-6 of Luke Cage. Don’t just lay in the cut, come and see what happened!
Episode 4: “Step in the Arena”
The next episode begins at ground zero of what was formerly Genghis Connie’s after Cottonmouth actually blew it to hell. Misty and Scarfe are on the scene, and they already suspect that this bombing was foul play.
For the rest of the episode, we are given a TON of backstory, and it is not pretty. This isn’t Orange Is the New Black‘s take on prison. This is Seagate.
We are introduced to the terrible Officer Rackham, who acquaints us with his “rules”…which are barely rules, to be honest. He singles out Cage, stating that he was formerly law enforcement himself. We also learn that Cage is really Carl—Carl Lucas.
We transition to another familiar face, Reva, leading a group therapy session. We only saw her in Jessica Jones, but did not have the chance to hear her speak, nor witness her impact on Cage. It’s not the best environment to cultivate love, but okay. Reva calls on Cage, who is really not up for sharing. In fact, Cage stating that he’s law enforcement would probably put him in enough trouble to begin with. He doesn’t trust anyone, for good reason. At the end of the session, an inmate named Squabbles tries to reach out to Cage, but he sticks to his word about toughing out this trial alone.
Shades makes an appearance in the next scene, as he, Comanche and Rackham spy on Cage. They speculate that he either did something despicable, or that someone else pulled some strings to lock him away forever. It turns out that he was framed, which is revealed later on.
Later that night, Shades and Comanche attack Luke as a test, and ultimately get their asses handed to them. Rackham watches creepily as he finds what he wants in Luke, and later pulls him aside in to bribe him. Essentially there’s a fight club in Seagate, and he wants Luke to be his “gladiator”, which is another form of mandingo fighting, if anyone is familiar with Django (and you know, general black history). But Luke whips out the line “slavery always looks good to a master” and I’m swooning. What a rejection!
Luke tries to track down Shades and Comanche to hand out another beating, but Squabbles stops him before he gets thrown in solitary, or worse.
Back in therapy, Luke interrogates Reva about her past. Right after class, he gets the answers that he asked for, but is also encouraged to share about his own life. Luke is astounded that someone actually cares in Seagate (even though Squabbles has done him a few solids already). By the third session, Reva is answering some questions about possible experimentation going on in Seagate. She is slow to believe it, however the inmates have more than one story about it. Still, she outright rejects the notion.
Rackham keeps trying to persuade Luke, getting to the point where he frames Squabbles for violence, getting him beaten. Luke finally pushed to the breaking point, he agrees to joining Rackham’s fight club. Ironically, Squabbles offers to train him.
As Luke gets dragged into the ring, he’s asked one poignant question before he proceeds: “what kind of n**** are you?”. Luke responds in kind by kicking the shit out of everyone, with no want or need for the “perks” Rackham was giving. He didn’t want to owe anyone a damn thing.
However, he loses himself over a few months, refusing to care for himself and becoming even more of a recluse. Squabbles and Reva both notice. Luke remains his cryptic self, and ultimately pushes both away. But it’s too little too late, as Rackham sees a few vantage points to controlling Luke.
Luke tries the best he can to build up evidence against Rackham, but he’s easily found out. Shades and Comanche go for a round 2, but attack the unarmed Cage with weapons. In the infirmary, Reva divulges to Luke that Squabbles was interrogated and killed. She then begs for Luke to be saved. Doctor Burstein tries…by using those rumored experiments on him. One pissed off racist cop, a temperature spike and an explosion later, a hero is reborn with a lovely 70s style vocal backing theme. Rackham is dead, but the doctor is merely knocked unconscious. He escapes in a mirror form of the original comics: punching through Seagate’s walls.
He ends up finding Reva, and with her help and inexplicable access to quite a few files, Carl Lucas is dead, and Luke Cage is born. Oh…and SHOUTOUT TO THE POWER MAN COSTUME. It looks just as ridiculous as I expected it to be and I love it!
To be honest, any scenes in the present were Misty oriented or Cage and Connie breaking out of the rubble…and neither were very interesting. A couple of notes, though- why is Connie at all surprised when Luke pushes that rubble away from them? Did she black out during that fight scene in the first episode? Anyway, we’re almost done.
In the final scene, Luke tries to run back to his accustomed obscurity, but media is hot on his tail. He finally introduces himself as the hero he is, not the criminal he has been.
Episode 5: “Just To Get A Rep”
Jidenna’s “Long Live the Chief” blasts through Harlem’s Paradise as Cottonmouth contemplates the next move in his battle to get back on top. The song is amaaaaazing because it’s a musical rendition of Cottonmouth’s mindset. By now, the news about Luke has spread to him, so he must resort to other methods of keeping Harlem in his pocket.
Another important appearance in the opening sequence is…
CLAIRE! SHE’S BACK HOME!! YES MA’AM I’M GLAD TO SEE YOU FAR AWAY FROM HELL(‘S KITCHEN) AND BACK WHERE YOU NEED TO BE. She’s right on time to get mugged though…but what a scene that comes afterwards when she chases the assailant down and whoops his ass!!!! Yeeeeees!
*ahem* Anyway, back to the hostile takeover. Cottonmouth seems different. I guess C.R.E.A.M. is a motto for him, because the man is shook after the Crispus Attucks bust, and is expressing it the only way he knows how. He sends his boys out to do some hardcore panhandling- as in smashing pans into windows, and the like. If anyone has a problem, Cottonmouth advises them to turn the people’s attention- and hate- to Luke.
Down in Pop’s shop, Luke gets a makeover…for Pop’s funeral. He says that he wants to stay away from anything not focused on Pop today, but trouble has a way of finding him…
A woman named Aisha barges into the shop, one of many people looking for Cage at Cottonmouth’s request. Luke now has to embark on a scavenger hunt of sorts in order to get everyone’s belongings back, and all before Pop’s funeral. He does it, but not without giving Zip a black history lesson about legacy. It’s kinda corny, I won’t lie. To have all of this resolved in one episode does show that Luke won’t lose the heart of the people that easily, but it would’ve been nice to see some tension rise here. To top it all off, he gets holes all in his new suit. Come on, Luke. You just got that TODAY.
No offense to Misty, but she’s being quite the asshole this episode. Taking Luke’s picture of Reva for “evidence”. Accusing Luke of what seems to be the wrong things. Of course it’s all connected, but not in the way she thinks. To top it all off, she’s backing the wrong horse. Her commander (who my boyfriend and I have dubbed “Momfasa”) is investigating Scarfe on the grounds that he may be dirty and dealing with Cottonmouth…and she doesn’t believe it! Of course she’s biased but wow, for all the “hunches” she gets she’s in some serious denial, at least in this episode.
The system gets dirtier, to nobody’s surprise. The higher ups are playing Scarfe’s two-timing games as well, and plot to steal back Domingo’s guns out of lockup for Cottonmouth.
Luke goes to confront Cottonmouth himself after all the muggings, and reveals his powers to him and an old acquaintance. It’s a standoff that we’ve been waiting for, villain and unwilling hero finally flexing in close proximity. After Cage leaves for Pop’s funeral, Shades quickly spills all that he can about the man formerly known as Carl Lucas. He then shows Cottonmouth a bullet juuuuuust suited for his rival: the Judas. Of course, it comes at a cost- expensive as hell, in order to raise it.
Meanwhile, Claire is chillin’, trying to piece together just what happened in Hell’s Kitchen. I would have major PTSD after the roller coaster that was Daredevil’s second season too, girl. She describes killing a zombie to her mom, which can ONLY go over well. Of course, Mamma Soledad lays down some wisdom, and basically tells her that she’s destined to care for meta-humans since she decides to align herself with them.
Pop’s funeral was just as much Switzerland as his shop before the shooting. Nothing popped off at the event, but there was definitely trouble brewing underneath. It does, however, become one giant call-out session between Cottonmouth and Luke. Just shade being thrown for two straight eulogies.
After one last tense faceoff with Cottonmouth before the real fighting starts, Misty catches up to Luke after the funeral. The last scene is a discussion of justice, and the proper form of achieving it. No offense to Misty but she’s looking right at someone who wants to deliver it to her doorstep and she’s just stomping on it. Her ideals are blinding her, which surprises me somewhat. Considering I know who she becomes I guess I have too much context, but we basically end on a huge “F*** the system”, which nicely ties into the previous and next episode.
Episode 6: “Suckas Need Bodyguards”
Aaaaaaaay, it’s Trish! She’s from Jessica Jones, if you’re not familiar. It’s a nice shout-out, especially since she knows full well who Luke is. And she’s 100% advocating for his brand of justice, along with some well wishes.
We jump from the warm welcome to a raucous reunion. Scarfe and Cottonmouth battle it out over the artillery, and Scarfe almost dies-bitten by the wrong snake.
Up next is Mariah, who I haven’t seen in a minute. She’s shooting another “I heart Harlem” commercial, but Cage is watching and waiting, and she knows something is coming. When she confronts Cottonmouth about both him and shooting Scarfe this morning, there’s a noticeable change when she realizes that her empire is threatened with Cage’s existence. Now the entire Stokes clan is on the hunt.
By some comic style clandestine happenings (and a few well-timed texts), Claire and Luke meet again in her mother’s diner. And it’s really awkward. It feels like Luke is accepting of his powers one minute and then he refuses to talk about it the next.
Misty gets interrogated about the shootout that morning, with the captain speculating that Scarfe must have let something slip. Misty is understandably on the defensive, but is she really not putting any of this together? After all of those “cop clairvoyance” scenes and the evidence that’s right in front of her, she can’t wise up a little bit faster?
We finally find where Scarfe went- right to Cage. He’s sprawled out on Pop’s floor, getting blood all over the walls and whatnot.
What a coincidence that Claire is with him, right? At this rate though, patching him up probably won’t save Scarfe. He has tread on Cottonmouth, and the snake is out for blood. After Claire gets the bullets out with crazy precision, Scarfe confesses to killing Chico, among other things. Luke *almost* chokes him out, but like Claire, we expect better of him.
Scarfe leverages himself to salvation just in time, as a man of his character would. He gives Luke the location of enough info to put Cottonmouth away, but Luke has to go get it himself. He runs into Misty along the way, as she and her new “partner” stake out the place. Cage gets away but now has to move Scarfe, as the 5-0 and Cottonmouth’s people are on his trail.
Misty suspects that her new partner is up to something, and finally does what I’ve been needing her to do! She records, restrains and escapes from Perez, going out on her own to track down Scarfe.
Speaking of recording…as the Madam Councilwoman prepares for her interview, there’s a bit of tension between the newscaster, Thembi. However, Thembi has other plans in the form of an exposé. We get some more insight into Mariah’s upbringing with Mama Mabel, and Cottonmouth’s role in her plans. Scorned at the sharp turn of the spotlight, Mariah shuts down the interview. But the footage is already there.
A car and foot chase ensues as Cottonmouth’s people try to track down and kill Scarfe. A car is almost the thing to kill him and Claire before Cage just pile-drives the thing. It’s a glorious scene, really. Eventually though, Scarfe dies from his wounds and leaves Misty mourning.
The Stylistics take us out with “People Make the World Go Round“, a song about corruption in the system. The song brilliantly overlays a scene where Cottonmouth gets arrested, and Thembi gets the jump on Mariah Dillard.
As Claire slowly replaces Pop as the ultimate guidance counselor, something else starts to pop up in her and Luke’s relationship. A mutual respect perhaps? Or maybe a coffee date….
We’ll see in the episodes coming up! Keep talking in the comments, it’s fun. 😉 I’ll see you all next week!
Images courtesy of Marvel and Netflix