Luke Cage: Wig Out
June 24, 2018 10:37 PM - Season 2, Episode 3 - Subscribe

Worried Luke is headed down a dark path, Claire pays a visit to his father. Bushmaster makes a bid for Mariah's guns. (directed by Marc Jobst, written by Matt Owens)

AV Club review - A tremendous emotional scene sets high expectations for the rest of Luke Cage’s second season

- At Cockroach's place, after Luke's beatdown on Cockroach, Claire tends to Drea and her son. Misty lays into Luke for losing control and crossing the line with Cockroach, damaging the chance for the police to get at Mariah. Luke counters that there's still one player left, Nigel the Jamaican.

- In Brooklyn, Sheldon catches Bushmaster up on the news of Arturo Rey's death and Cockroach's falling at the hands of Luke Cage. Sheldon tells him that Mariah's men are coming to pick up Nigel's money, but Nigel is dead; Bushmaster suggests they go through with the buy anyway, to build up Mariah before Bushmaster makes her take a long fall. (I know that's the not the analogy they used but this one sounds less... misogynistic). He asks Sheldon if their little bird (a spy) is still at Harlem's Paradise, and Sheldon confirms yes. Bushmaster says soon they'll know everything, and Mariah must burn.

- At Mariah's house, Tilda and Mariah have a meal together. Tilda remembers the good and bad memories. Mariah insist that every family have dark corners. Shades interrupts the meal and Mariah chides him for showing up without calling. Shades: "I thought I was family." He tells Mariah that the only one left for the deal is the Yardies. Mariah commands him to go to Brooklyn and Shades reminds her he's not the help, he's her partner, among other things. Mariah: "You really gonna talk to me about your feelings, right now?" Shades stare down Tilda on his way out.

- At Pop's Barbershop. Luke circles Brooklyn on the map. Then takes a nap.

- At the hospital. Cockroach wakes up to Misty standing over him. She tries to get him to flip on Mariah, or she'll let Mariah know that he's been talking to cops. He asks for a lawyer and makes sexual comments at her. Nandi and Bailey interrupts and pull her out of the room, Nandi tells her it's not her investigation and Bailey asks why she let a perp go (Luke Cage, after beating Cockroach). Misty mocks them for trailing after her on their own investigation.

- Back at Pop's, Bobby Fisher finds Luke sleeping and asks if he's in the dog house. Guy talk happens as Claire walk in on them. Bobby leaves to "call Nike back". Luke is upset she called police on him and she clarified she called Misty and an ambulance and they called the cops. She then asks why Luke was so brutal and he replies that sometimes brutality gets shit done, then leaves for Brooklyn.

- At the police station. Captain Tom Ridenhour chews out Misty for unauthorized actions (going to crime scene, let perpetrator walk) and that he would fire her but the department won't let him because she's their "Private Ryan". Misty is angry.

- In Brooklyn, Luke enters Gwen's (it's unclear how he knew this was the place to ask around) to find Nigel of the Yardies. The woman behinds the counter tells him to check with old men playing dominoes, but they mock and dismiss him because he said he's faster than Usain Bolt, he replies he's never said that as he notices a young man in the corner quickly leaving to call someone. He follows.

- At an unmarked building. Shades enter to find Bushmaster and Sheldon. Bushmaster tells him Nigel's business is his business now. "I'm here on behalf of Mariah Dillard--" "Stokes! Mariah Stokes." Sheldon throws over a bag of money, which Shades open to find Nigel's head on top of the cash. Bushmaster tells him that Nigel had no vision, and he's been rethinking the value of this gun deal and need Shades to convince him.

- Meanwhile, Luke follows the young man from Gwen's through Brooklyn. He tries to evade Luke but fails.

- At the Family First Initiative fundraiser. Mariah chats up the guests as Tilda arrives. Alex, Mariah's assistant (for the slightly more legitimate side of things) updates Mariah that Mark Higgins is there hanging out with Piranha Jones and eyeing Stephanie/Billie. They all will be meeting at Harlem's Paradise later.

- In a gym, Colleen (!!) is training Misty in a boxing ring to fight with her remaining left arm, as Misty tries to work out her anger. Colleen tries to convince her that she only lost an arm, not herself. Misty confides that she lost a big part of herself and that she can't see a crime scene like an expert detective she once was. Colleen tries to get her to channel her chi to center herself, but Misty is skeptical. Colleen then pushes Misty around to get her to fight back, but she's easily taken down. "You don't know what it's like to feel powerless." "I do, actually." She tells Misty she admires Misty for jumping in and saving her, so she'll never pity Misty. Then she suggest they go get something stronger than water.

- At Rev James' church. Claire finds James Lucas by himself, and talks to him about her troubled boyfriend. She's concerned he's going down a dark path, that he's lost his purpose. James suggests she can't help him unless she states her purpose. Claire says she was a nurse and now she helps people with "special abilities", including "Luther", who she can't help now. James tells her that she can't save her boyfriend without saving herself first, with a reference to the Titanic door. When he asks if she loves "Luther", she mistakenly replies that yes she does love "Luke". James notices, and tells her to search her heart and she will find the answer.

- At the warehouse in Brooklyn, Luke catches up with the young man and busts in. Gangsters step out with weapons along with Bushmaster. Luke says he's looking for Nigel and Bushmaster tells Luke that Nigel "headed elsewhere". Luke tells him the gun deal with Mariah Dillard ("Stokes! Mariah Stokes!") ain't happening (but this is after Shades already got the money) and that he's stopping anyone in bed with Mariah. Bushmaster suggests they join forces, but Luke tells him that he's trouble, so stay out of Harlem. As Sheldon secretly records them, Bushmaster then directs several to fight Luke one-on-one, then in a group, then shooting him with a gun, then finally one throws a grenade at him. Luke catches and then covers it with his barehands as it explodes, with no harm. He leaves.

- At the fundraiser. Mariah makes a speech about the new Shirley Chisholm Center, the inaugural goal of the Family First Initiative. Its purpose is to provide day-care, rent control housing, and financial planning for single mothers in need, separate from government assistance. She tells the story of meeting Jackson Dillard and falling in love, then eloping against her family's wishes. He was killed in Nicaragua by Contras while providing medical services and training to campesinos. She then returned home to Mama Mabel, whose motto was "Family First", no matter how complex. She points out Tilda to the crowd (who gets embarrassed), and brings it home that the patrons are donating to help single mothers, that Harlem is focused on family first.

- At a bar. Misty and Colleen discuss what they would do with a million dollars when a man interrupts to hit on them. Turns out he recognized Misty as the one that put his brother in jail. He starts a fight and at first Misty forgets her missing arm and swung with her right and gets smacked down. Colleen sits by and watch, motivating Misty to changing her tactics and fights with her left arm. She starts taking down the punk and his friends, and eventually Colleen joins in the fun. They kick ass and leave the bar.

- At the warehouse. Bushmaster inhales more of the Nightshade concoction in another Obeah ritual. He watches the video of the fight in the warehouse from earlier and practices his moves to go against Luke Cage.

- At Harlem's Paradise, in Mariah's office. Piranha asks Mariah for fragments of the bullets shot at Luke Cage in season 1, Mariah comments that he sounds like a fan. Alex let in Mark Higgins, who applauds Mariah's speech from earlier. Mariah tells him bringing people joy ain't free, and in walks Stephanie/Billie with a dossier of photos of her and Mark together. She tells Piranha to leave the room for his protection, along with Billie, and then tells Mark he needs to approve the sale of his company, Atreus Plastics, to Glenn Industries. Mark relents, since there's also video.

- Then Tilda walks in and Mark exits. She tells Mariah how she was moved by the speech and that she believed her. She apologizes and Mariah tells her that she's always tried to bring the family into the light from the dark, and now they can make up for lost time.

- Shades then walk in with the bags of money from Bushmaster. Mariah says goodnight to Tilda and Tilda exchanges a glare with Shades as she exits. Shades reveals that the Jamaicans actually paid way over the asking price. Mariah is surprised Nigel had it like that, but Shades tell her it's someone else way more aggressive. But it doesn't matter to Mariah, since they got their cash. As Tilda leaves, she turns and through the window catches Shades and Mariah kiss while Mariah has bundles of money in her hands. Mariah calls Piranha in to celebrate and start the stock trade.

- At Gwen's, Sheldon sits at the bar and Stephanie/Billie walks in. Turns out she's the spy for Bushmaster. She tells Sheldon that Mariah is buying stocks in Atreus Plastics with their money using Piranha Jones. She asks if she can quit yet but Sheldon tells her to stay in it. Sheldon comments he likes fish, so many way of filleting it.

- At Claire's apartment. Luke walks in. They argue. Claire says she loves him, so she'll lecture him. He says he loves her too but she can't castrate him. She asks how preventing him from going to jail lessens his manhood. He replies that he's getting results doing things his way, that he can be rough and still be a hero. She says he's scaring people, and her. He points out that he's a black man in a hoodie, he's always been scary to people. She counters that as an afro-cubana, she's dealt with racism at home with her family. He says a black man only has two choices, lean into the fear and be scary and effective, or play a big docile house cat with a smile. She compares that with saying a woman can only be a ho or a housewife, it's not that simple, and that he doesn't need to feed his anger to prove a point. He says as a full-fledged man his anger is real, but the anger and the fear makes his work effective. She says it's fine to use anger as a tool, but not as a crutch. He replies that she can't choose which part of him to like or dislike, she has to be down with all of him. She answers that she gets having to step on a cockroach, but he's enjoying the stomping. He says he doesn't seek any of this out or want it, that it was her and Pops telling him to step out of the shadows. She cuts him off and tell him to take responsibility. He yells that he is, by taking them out one by one. But she says he's actually running, and blaming her, his father, and Pops. He tells her to not talk about his father, and she reveals that she met James today. She says James is not the ogre Luke thinks he is, and that Luke needs to talk to him. She says he's changed and Luke can't use him as an excuse for the anger, and that he would be ashamed of what Luke did this morning. When she implies that Luke is the on that's become the ogre, he yells "Enough" and punches the wall a few times, leaving a big hole. Claire is frightened and says “I need the ocean. I need time. I need space. I need perspective. I need to go see my mom and abuelita in Havana.” He asks her not to leave. She doesn't want to talk now, and that the hole reminds her of a traumatic childhood with her parents. She told herself she would never live with anger again. He says he would never hurt her. She tells him to leave. He says he'll be at the barbershop and to talk tomorrow after they've had time to think. He tells her he loves her and he's sorry, and exits.

- On the streets, as Luke walk in a sulk, he gets surprised by Bushmaster with a punch.
posted by numaner (19 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
wow that took forever to write up, but I was also rewatching the entire episode to get all the details right.

This was a pivotal episode, though it's still early in the season. A lot of major foreshadowing is happening here as well as very strong emotions.

Things with Mariah seems to move at a quicker pace than the rest of the cast, but she's dragging everyone along with her. It's clear that she's the protagonist so far and everyone is an antagonist. I was really expecting Tilda to see through the speech, that she's being used to help the Family First Initiative, as the campaign assistant from last episode (who I have a feeling we'll never see again) suggested to Mariah. But Tilda really doubled down. Although, a different reading is that Tilda knows what she's getting into, and perhaps want to get in on the family business.

Man, that fight scene at the end was brutal. I know they haven't stated what style that is, but it looks like Capoeira to me, which is always amazing to watch. Although I also want to see Shades and Bushmaster go at it, with the latter depowered, of course.

So, I'll be frank, I found the argument between Claire and Luke to be out of character, especially for Luke, and maybe it's the dialog. The emotions are real, but I think the steps they took to get to the conclusion felt clunky. This is why I laid that scene out in my recap basically in its entirety. I would've pasted the entire transcript, but I thought that might be overdoing it.

In Luke's case, taking that leap to castration was already out of left field. The Luke of season 1 would never talk like that. Hell, even the one from episode 1 of this season wouldn't. He never struck me as someone that bought into toxic masculinity. The jump to racism also felt odd when you consider that for a couple who knows each other that well, he should've known about the racism in her home. She shouldn't have had to tell him that like it was the first time. And for someone who spent all of last season not worrying about how people fear him in his hoodie, and that he was out there against Cottonmouth and Diamondback to protect his neighborhood, to now suddenly use the fear of a black man (as true as it is) as a crutch for his anger and his brutality, felt really out of place.

In Claire's case, while she's right in addressing his anger issues, it was out of character for her to suddenly throwing the word "ogre" back at him, it was (like the AV Club review stated) very dehumanizing, especially in light of how he just talked about leaning into the fear of the black man. She's always been the one to bring the heroes back from the dark path, as she's trying to do right then, and to suddenly say these things to Luke was very odd.

I did find the poetry in Claire's final words very well done, and of course Rosario Dawson gets miles out of them with her great acting (admittedly, Mike Colter is upping his nuanced-face game since last season). And I think the scene would have flowed better if the beats were focused on his anger issues, possibly stemming from his father and having to be in the spotlight, staying away from the unresolved racism discussion, and Luke snapping at something that made more sense than Claire suddenly calling him an ogre.

I can understand the value in the drama of having these two fight and eventually get back together, but this felt forced, and I do not like it. We have so few great couples (especially couples of color!) in superhero shows, and this possible break up left a really sour taste in what is otherwise a very savory episode.
posted by numaner at 11:12 PM on June 24, 2018 [6 favorites]

See, I've been struggling this season and I can't really put my finger on why. The episodes feel long and drawn out like they're all double length. I mean, I love all the main story lines and enjoy the interplay and yet I found myself fiddling with my phone through a lot of this episode, so I'm glad for the writeup. But I can still only really digest about an episode per night.

Which is fine, it's a slow summer season this year, only Killjoys I think? So I need to stretch out my media, y'know?
posted by Kyol at 8:57 AM on June 25, 2018

following up on oh yeah!'s comment in the previous episode:

The show is obviously throwing his dad into the mix for this season, with his monologue in the first episode, their subsequent run-in on the street, and his repeated attempts to reconcile with Luke. However, Claire bringing up his father was kind of random, and as oh yeah! said, something not recommended for mental health. She knows that his dad lied about Stryker/Diamonback. You can even see a logical line of how that lie led to Luke being framed, coming to Harlem, then facing Diamonback. There's a huge vertical cliff at this point to climb to forgive James.

And my other major gripe with the argument that he needs to reconcile with his father is that she herself was a child of an abusive household and she immediately went to that place again when he snapped. I would expect someone with her trauma to understand that it's not easy to overcome such anger when faced with the source of it. I can buy that she was wrong in seeking out his father but she just wanted to see for herself, but to turn that right back on Luke, expecting him to reconcile right away, is a clear mischaracterization for her.
posted by numaner at 11:37 AM on June 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I was struggling to remember why Luke hated his dad so much - I knew he had issues with his brother because of pops, but these seasons are far enough apart (with The Defenders in the middle, even) that I sorta wish they ran through more of that a bit? On the other hand, this season's focus seems to be family, so I mean I guess?
posted by Kyol at 1:46 PM on June 25, 2018

yeah I had to recap the last season a bit before starting this one
posted by numaner at 4:46 PM on June 25, 2018

The Luke/Claire breakup thing was very badly handled, I agree. I binged the episodes over 2 days so maybe not watching them back-to-back lessens the effect, but it felt as if Claire was pushing him about his dad in literally every scene after she finds out about him. He's putting out very clear "I do not want to discuss my dad right now" vibes from jump, even basically saying so, and she just will not let it go. I get that she has a motivation for this, but for a character that generally exhibited more tact it didn't feel earned. I think that it was especially jarring because it happened so fast and everything else about this show has felt very slowly paced.
posted by axiom at 6:55 PM on June 25, 2018 [3 favorites]

Mod note: Couple comments deleted, and removed unintentional spoiler from the post. Carry on!
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:08 PM on June 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

thanks LM!

for a character that generally exhibited more tact it didn't feel earned.

yessss. "tact"! that's the damn word I was trying to think of the entire time.
posted by numaner at 8:11 PM on June 25, 2018

Den of Geek episode 3 review - Hey look! It’s the best thing about Iron Fist! Colleen Wing!
Den of Geek comics references info: "Piranha, who appears in this episode, first turned up in Power Man #30 (1976) where he has very sharp teeth."
posted by oh yeah! at 4:48 PM on June 26, 2018

Luke & Clair's conversation felt off to me too.

Here's what keeps me from just getting off the boat, though. There are two large emotional bombs going off in Luke during this conversation:

1) Shame. Luke knows he went too far with Cockroach. He hates hearing it, he wants to justify it, and honestly, it's understandable, since C is a low life who did in fact manage to hurt him a little with that weird 6 barrel contraption and also is in the process of domestic abuse when they next meet. But it doesn't matter. He knows it was too far. He's ashamed of it, but he doesn't know how to own and manage it and what it might mean about him yet. So of course he's grasping at all kinds of straws, like people often do when they know they went too far.

2) The stuff with Luke's Dad. Claire is out of line. She spent a half hour talking to Reverend Daddyo and really thought she knew who he was? Well enough to weigh in on whether Luke has a legitimate complaint or a right to his anger? Even in the likely event she's right that Luke's issues are centered there that deserved a more cautious tread if it's so obvious that's a deeply sore spot.

Like I said, it still feels like there are some seams in the writing here, but the basic premise works for me -- it makes sense to me that this combo is highly reactive and we see erratic behavior come out of Luke as a result.

And hell, I've had relationships where weird out of character behavior was suddenly manifest or things even shook apart over less.
posted by wildblueyonder at 2:07 AM on June 27, 2018

Sorry for the delay on an episode 4 post - I started drafting it last night, but crashed early (when oh when will my ability to stay up late return from the wars?) and couldn’t finish cleaning it up this morning before I had to leave for work. I’ll post tonight unless someone beats me to it.
posted by oh yeah! at 7:35 AM on June 27, 2018

Is this the one with Esperanza Spalding in? If so, I just wanted to drop by and mention that I think she's fantastic, especially Emily's D+Evolution. She wears her admiration for Joni Mitchell right out in full view and obvious, but that's OK because I share it and I really couldn't live up to my Joni-love the way she can hers.

If not... well, she's still fantastic.
posted by Grangousier at 11:58 AM on June 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

This may sound stupid, so sorry if it is... I find it sort of funny. But I keep being surprised by they way that they use Shades' shades in an emotionally evocative way. In the last episode, he expressed his anger by pointedly removing his shades. I couldn't help but laugh because it was so... what's the opposite of on-the-nose? Then, in this episode, Mariah is chatting with her daughter and everything is cool and then they show that Shades is standing there listening and staring right at them without his shades. Aaagh!

Luke getting a swell head is such a well-worn superhero trope that it's hard to get invested in. I'm glad they're spending as much time as they are on Mariah & Shades because they are sooooo interesting.

I agree with others that the dialogue in the big fight felt out-of-character in places for both people. The scene still made me feel awful. Several times, Claire quietly paused, and I thought to myself, Now say you're done and leave. Tell him you can't be here. Go pack a bag! I was so grateful that she decided to go. I wanted to go with her after that, not follow Luke around. Bleh.
posted by heatvision at 4:19 AM on June 28, 2018

Isn't the Yardies a really generic term? Like would Luke saunter in somewhere and say "I'm looking for Tony. I think he runs with a gang called 'The Mafia'. Have you heard of them?".

Oh, and on a different note, while it was really fun to hear Chase the Devil, my brain is currently humming "I'll take your brain to another dimension" over and over to itself.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 6:08 PM on July 2, 2018

Isn't the Yardies a really generic term? Like would Luke saunter in somewhere and say "I'm looking for Tony. I think he runs with a gang called 'The Mafia'. Have you heard of them?".

Sorry, that's my bad -- I wasn't familiar with the term so on first watch I thought it was the name of Nigel's organization. It was clearer in subsequent episodes that specific gang name is "the Stylers"
posted by oh yeah! at 7:22 PM on July 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

Oh, no, sorry, I was talking about the dialog in this episode, not comments in this thread. Glad to hear they'll sort it out in later episodes :)
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 4:38 AM on July 3, 2018

See, I've been struggling this season and I can't really put my finger on why. The episodes feel long and drawn out like they're all double length.

Like Kyol, I feel like these episodes are really dragging. I'm struggling with Mariah and Shades, as I mentioned in the threads for previous episodes, although the tension with Tilda is helping there. I'm also finding the Luke and Claire argument to be entirely out of character. It also seemed like Claire decided that Reverend Dad was OK because they both felt the same about the end of Titanic.
posted by minsies at 5:28 AM on July 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

The writing is weak but the actors and performances are so strong, I don't mind so much. The actual things Luke and Claire said seemed really off (especially some of the stuff coming from Luke), but they both sold it really well. And really, the dialogue kind of worked for Luke. I got the impression he didn't really believe what he was saying, that he was feeling angry and guilty and defensive and unable to deal with his feelings and taking refuge in a character, an angry black man script.

I was pretty disappointed in the way he beat up Cockroach, trashing the place and getting so angry. It seemed almost cowardly to lose his cool that way given how much stronger Luke is. Although I did wonder when Cockroach dislocated his shoulder how long it had been since Luke had felt any significant physical pain and if that wasn't kind of traumatic given how rare it is for him to feel pain.
posted by straight at 12:34 AM on August 3, 2018

But my main reaction to this episode was, "Why am I not watching a Heroes for Hire show that is about 60% Colleen and Misty, 35% Luke Cage, and maybe 5% Danny Rand (with Claire featured throughout, of course)"?
posted by straight at 1:14 AM on August 3, 2018 [2 favorites]

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