Season 2 of Luke Cage had plenty of good villains to go around, but perhaps none as interesting as Tilda Johnson (Gabrielle Dennis). Tilda started the season as a doctor and an unwilling pawn of her estranged mother Mariah Dillard (Alfre Woodard). At first she was more concerned with healing and than running Harlem. However, as the season progressed, Tilda came into her own and started talking actions closer to that of her comic book counterpart.
With Mariah out of the picture, could Luke Cage be setting up Tilda aka Nightshade as the Big Bad for Season 3? With her intelligence, she would make an interesting foil to Luke (Mike Colter), who wouldn’t be able to punch his way out of a conflict with her. Let’s take a look at Tilda’s comic book history and where it could potentially lead her character in the upcoming season of Luke Cage.
Tilda Johnson was first introduced in Marvel comics in 1973. She was an only child, born into a poor family in Harlem. At a young age Tilda realized she had an aptitude for science, much like Shuri from Black Panther or Moon Girl. Tilda hid her intelligence and began a life of crime, thinking that it was the only way to escape the poverty of her upbringing. She hid behind powerful men and played the role of an innocent young girl so no one would suspect her. She caught the attention of Yellow Claw, who financed her criminal activities. Tilda’s first plan involved creating chemicals that would transform convicts into werewolf like creatures that would do Yellow Claw’s bidding (really). However, she was stopped by Captain America and S.H.I.E.L.D.
Eventually Nightshade returned to Harlem. She worked on creating life-like robots that would help her take over the crime world. This put her in direct conflict with Power Man and Iron Fist who captured her and sent her to jail.
However, Nightshade’s comic book history isn’t all bad. One night she was held at gunpoint by thugs and realized she was wasting her potential. She decided to turn her life around if she survived- which she did with help from the vigilante Nighthawk. Tilda decided to work with Nighthawk, creating his equipment and acting as his (wo)man in the chair during missions. She even went on to work with Hawkeye on a case.
Tilda’s Role in Season 2
In Luke Cage, Tilda has a very different background. In the show she is Mariah’s daughter, a product of both incest and rape at the hands of Mariah’s Uncle Pete (Curtiss Cook). Tilda is horrified to learn the truth about her parentage, adding further strain to an already contentious mother/daughter relationship. Throughout the season Tilda tries to understand her mother’s actions, only to be driven further away each time. Tilda does not agree with Mariah’s violent methods and tries to distance herself as Mariah becomes more and more dangerous.
One thing that remains the same is Tilda’s intelligence. She is a skilled holistic doctor who finds natural remedies to treat her patients. In fact, she is the only one who knows how to wield the deadly nightshade plant (from which she receives her comic book name) and is the able to use it to heal Bushmaster (Mustafa Shakir). Tilda has an uneasy relationship with both Luke Cage and Bushmaster. Neither man trusts her completely, but they do rely on her help and knowledge.
Luke Cage Season 3 Theories
With her special beso de araña (spider’s kiss) lipstick, Tilda kills her mother and puts an end to her reign over Harlem. However, instead of assuming the throne, it is Luke Cage who is installed as the king of Harlem’s crime empire. This puts Luke in direct opposition to Tilda, who like others before her, views Harlem’s Paradise as her birthright.
Season 3 of Luke Cage could go two ways: either Tilda could become a vigilante like in the comics and team up with Luke (unlikely seeing how things ended) or she could be the next Big Bad of the season. With her intellect and ability to harness the power of the nightshade plant, Tilda could be a dangerous foe to Luke Cage in a potential Season 3. Plus, Tilda did save Bushmaster, making it possible for him to return and for them to work together. If Netflix wants to follow her comic book story more closely, she could potentially use her scientific knowledge to create some kind of drug to poison Harlem’s citizens or create other individuals with super-strength. In a world with a bulletproof man with a friend with a glowing hand, nothing is really out of the question. Plus it would be great to see Luke Cage continuing their theme of using female villains.
Luke Cage Season 1 & 2 are currently available to stream on Netflix.