The second season of Luke Cage has seen the hero suffer a major fall after getting too much fame too fast, rejecting a father who abandoned him and is trying to make amends, and losing a battle with another super-powered man who actually has a different target. Later, it shifted to the war between Mariah Dillard and Bushmaster in a family feud that threatens to burn Harlem down, with Luke wondering which side to support.
The final three episodes resolves both of these major plotlines, but in a surprising way that is also disappointing, too. Moving some things around could have created a better ending, but the final result may make fans worried about Luke’s future.
Episode eleven gives an extensive flashback on how Mama Mabel betrayed the McIvers for the Bushmaster rum and Harlem Paradise. It even includes Mama Mabel telling young Bushmaster (Mustafa Shakir) she doesn’t regret killing his mom because she didn’t want to deal with lawyers. It’s also revealed that Bushmaster had an injection that somehow made him stronger (although it’s not explained what it was), and that he was nearly shot to death by Uncle Pete. He was saved by the nightshade and whatever was injected into him. These details were the most far-fetched parts of the flashback, but it should have been used earlier in the series instead of him explaining what happened.
At this stage, Mariah is looking for a way to stay as the Queen of Harlem, despite looming legal problems. She installs a panic room, and plans to get into heroin. It’s also revealed Bushmaster’s Aunt Ingrid had survived the shootout. She also tries to get him and Luke to maybe unite against Mariah. There’s even a scene where Shades (Theo Rossi) nearly strangles Mariah to death. It seems the show isn’t sure what to concentrate on as the end gets closer.
Eventually, the final plot arc develops into Luke trying to keep the peace in Harlem. It starts with Harlem in violent chaos because of a stronger heroin called ‘Bushmaster” along with shootings and deaths all over the place thanks to a new rival in Carbone (Annabella Sciorra), who seems to have been added at the last minute. Mariah is finally arrested for her crimes, thanks to Shades giving over the gun that killed Anansi (Sahr Ngaujah), yet in the arraignment she insists she’ll escape the charges only because she thinks without her, Harlem is doomed.
Bushmaster is not in very good shape, either. He demands nightshade from Tilda (Gabrielle Dennis), who’s now sided with him now that she knows the truth about her mom. She does heal him, and has one last battle with Luke in the panic room. Bushmaster is knocked out by Luke’s sleeper hold although Mariah prefers that he break Bushmaster’s neck. He winds up leaving town, which is a disappointment. If he was the main villain in the series, he should have stayed to have one last confrontation with Mariah.
Her final fate does make the ending unforgettable. She battles guards and fellow inmates to become “queen” of the jail, then has one last talk with Tilda that ends with a kiss between them.
It’s odd, until Mariah has a talk with Luke, and she suddenly collapses. Tilda poisoned her mom with the “Kiss of the Araña” or “Kiss of the Spider.” After that, she even sings a song that shows her determination to leave the sordid history of the Stokes behind.
Mariah’s death was a major shocker, and people will wonder what the show will be like without her. It also pulls Shades back behind bars. Misty (Simine Missick) tells him his immunity deal is toast because Mariah died before she was convicted of her crimes.
As for Luke, he decides to broker a peace deal with Carbone. Not only that, he learns he has inherited the Harlem Paradise. Mariah thinks having the place will corrupt him, and will soon be no better than she is. Even his friends are worried about that. Still, he thinks he can keep an eye on Harlem from the crow’s nest inside the place while Misty Knight keeps an eye on him.
It’s an interesting theory, but Marsia Powers, who runs this site, says she remembers when Angel took over Wolfram and Hart in hopes he can make it less evil. That didn’t quite work out, and there’s even Luke may be headed to another fall. The first sign is when he’s told Claire is waiting for him outside, but Luke tells Sugar to tell her to go home. It’s the start of many sacrifices Luke will make for Harlem….or the first piece of himself he’ll never get back.
It’s an interesting position for Luke: he is the Hero of Harlem, but now in a fancy suit instead of a hoodie. Will this make him more effective? Will he head to the dark side, even slightly? Will be wind up being the bad guy, and maybe fight Iron Fist?
This season features Luke Cage experiencing a big fall when he too famous too fast, before he got knocked down by a guy who got bulletproof in another way. Then, he’s torn over which side to take in a literal family feud between Bushmaster and Mariah. Eventually, he becomes the Big Man in Harlem, who thinks he can keep his neighborhood safe. However, it comes at a big cost
Misty Knight comes out ahead. She started with just one arm and an uncertain future. Now, she has a new bionic arm and an important role to keep Luke in check which may be tougher than it should be.
Fans may find out if there is a third season next year, and maybe there will be another guy who thinks he’s the real Hero of Harlem. We’ll have to wait and see.