Welcome to the Luke Cage watchalong! This new entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe joined its brethren (Daredevil and Jessica Jones) on September 30 on Netflix, and we want you to watch along with us. Over the next several weeks, we’re going to run recaps and reactions to all thirteen episodes of the show’s first season. If you haven’t started watching, read this article at your own risk. SPOILERS will occur!
If you haven’t already, read the recap for the previous episode, “Suckas Need Bodyguards”.
You might think that after Chapter 6 of Luke Cage, it would be time for a change of pace. The show desperately needs it. When we last left our heroes, Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes was in handcuffs for the murder of Detective Scarfe. The higher-ups at the NYPD now know of the corruption among their ranks. And everyone knows Mariah Dillard is dirty, too. But the opening few minutes of episode seven negate most of that.
A cold open shows us what Zip has been doing since his boss’s arrest. Luke interrupts one of Zip’s arms deals, and Zip tells him that Stokes will soon slip out of the NYPD’s grasp. Sure enough, Stokes’s lawyer negotiates his release. There isn’t sufficient evidence to prove his guilt. Misty vows to put Stokes behind bars.
Since shooting a rocket at him didn’t work, Stokes and Shades discuss bringing in Diamondback to deal with the meddlesome Luke Cage. Meanwhile, Luke is still having a crisis about superheroic responsibility. He and Claire have an argument at Pop’s. “Why me?” He asks her.
“Cops can only do so much,” she replies. “You have the power to do more.” Claire tells him to be more like Daredevil, but because this is a Marvel Netflix show, they don’t say his name. Luke calls him “that cat running around beating people up,” which in this universe could be almost anyone.
Claire, as frustrated with Cage as I was, brings up a salient point. “There’s nothing that can hurt you. So what are you so afraid of?” What indeed, Luke Cage? But before Luke can answer the question, the phone rings. It’s Stokes, offering Luke a parley. They decide to meet at Harlem’s Paradise.
Meanwhile, Internal Affairs is investigating Misty’s department. Misty’s boss, Captain Audrey, loses her job. She tells Misty to drop the investigation against Stokes. We meet Inspector Ridley who grills Misty about Luke Cage’s involvement at almost every location in the case.
Mariah Dillard is in damage control mode. Reporters are all over her, and she needs help. Mariah speaks with Damon Boone, her political rival, at her home. Knowing she’s up to her neck in trouble, he offers to take her spot on the council. She tells him to get lost. He leaves, and Shades walks out of the shadows. He says they need to speak in private.
As Stokes waits at Harlem’s Paradise for Luke, he plays some mournful licks on his Rhodes piano. In a jazz-induced flashback, a 14-year-old Stokes plays piano at his grandmother’s house, which is also a brothel. Stokes’s grandma Mabel (LaTanya Richard Jackson) is the madame. We meet Uncle Pete, who encourages Stokes’s pursuit of music. A young Mariah studies at the dining table. Young Pop shows up with a kid named Donnie in tow. Pop asks the young Stokes to come out for a night on the town. Donnie brags to Mabel that he’s been selling crack. Mabel, not in the drug trade, snips his finger off with a pair of pruning shears.
Back in the present, Luke Cage arrives at Harlem’s Paradise. Stokes reveals that he knows Luke’s real name, and all about his sordid past at Seagate Prison. Stokes’s parley is thus: Luke is under his command. If he refuses, Stokes will expose Luke’s past and send him back to Seagate. Luke, in typical doormat fashion, has no reply.
Back at Mariah’s, she and Shades have a heart-to-heart. He talks to her about the legacy of Mabel Stokes, and how the Stokes name meant something to him growing up. He menaces her, calling her an empty politician. Shades puts on his shades like a real cool guy and leaves.
At Pop’s, Claire catches Luke getting ready to skip town. He tells her about Stokes’s parlay and gives the standard superhero “people get hurt around me” speech we all know. “Enough with this defeatist bulls***,” she says. I give her a standing ovation because we’re seven long episodes into this season and Claire seems to be the only one who realizes that. Claire reminds him that if he takes down Stokes, then he’ll save himself and maybe save Harlem in the process.
Taking action, Luke talks to a young dude hustling bootleg Blu-rays on the corner. He and asks the kid if he knows where Domingo Colon is. The answer? A boxing gym. Luke breaks down the door, beats up a few thugs, and threatens Colon. Luke wants to know where the Justin Hammer guns from Stokes’s arms deal are. Colon tells him.
A party chairwoman forces Mariah to resign from the council. Pissed off, she heads over to Harlem’s Paradise. In another jazz-induced flashback, young Cornell Stokes confesses to Mabel that Uncle Pete is getting into the drug trade with some Puerto Ricans in Spanish Harlem. Mabel confronts Uncle Pete about this and forces young Cornell to shoot Pete while young Mariah watches.
We return to the present. Mariah bursts into Stokes’s office and tells him to drop the whole Luke Cage thing and get back to the grind. The funding for her complexes has dried up since Stokes’s arrest. She needs to make some money and repair her reputation. Stokes gets angry. He resents Mariah because Mabel put her through college and forced him to give up his musical aspirations to run the family business.
This argument escalates into a shouting match. Stokes accuses Mariah of trying to seduce Uncle Pete when they were young. She’s not having any of that, so she pushes Stokes out of his second-floor office window. He lands crumpled on the dance floor. Mariah then beats him to death with a mic stand, and there goes one of the best villains the MCU ever had. Shades saw the whole thing, and he praises Mariah for stepping up and taking control.
Meanwhile, Luke Cage texts Misty, and they meet up on the street. He hands over the Justin Hammer guns, but Misty’s still not happy with him. His vigilantism isn’t solving the trouble he’s put her through. Luke tells her he’s going to bring down Cornell Stokes, not knowing Mariah’s already killed him. Because Luke won’t tell her what he knows about Stokes, she accuses him of being an accessory. The scene peters out, and Luke just walks away. Back at the station, Misty gets an urgent phone call.
Later that night, Luke and Claire take a walk. He reveals his past to her and talks about his father. Before Luke faked his death, his father was ashamed of Luke’s criminal status. They haven’t seen each other or spoken since. Suddenly, a sniper’s POV reveals that Luke and Claire are being watched from a nearby Humvee. The sniper says “Hey, Carl. One Judas for another.” He fires, hitting Luke in the gut. And for the first time, we see that the bulletproof man may not be bulletproof after all. He falls to the sidewalk, screaming and bleeding.
- God, I’m going to miss Mahershala Ali. He was the best thing about this show. I’m really unhappy they killed Cottonmouth off. There was so much potential in him.
- They use a Marvel hero’s name, for once! “You’re Harlem’s Captain America,” Stokes says to Luke.
- Another perfect Mahershala Ali line delivery: “You thought I only had a hand in one of the pies. But I own the whole goddamn bakery, son.”
- Claire telling Luke to get his act together (twice!) is a shot of reason this show desperately needed.