Luke Cage SN1 EP07-‘Manifest’

A shocking episode saw a significant shift in the status-quo.

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Oh my. As we entered the halfway point of the season there was a sense that it was the calm before the storm, as everyone figured out their moves before the real war started. Though Cottonmouth promptly entered and exited jail, his operation was on the rocks. As a result, Mariah’s career hit a wall, and Luke was allowed a moment of relative piece…that lasted all of two minutes. From the very beginning this episode felt like a transitional period. Everything before was fluff compared to what’s coming next, and boy did that ring true.

Rather than skip to that shock ending, let’s discuss some of the other key moments from this episode. Misty was given a strong showing throughout this episode, but her character still continues to conflict. The material with her new captain, though limited, was great as it became clear we were viewing two women of very strong character. Their obvious shared past will no doubt be explored down the line, but for now it was fun viewing two people with such clear animosity towards one another. It’s just a shame then that her new captain pushed her to pursue Luke. As great as Misty can be as a character, all her material to do with Luke is frustrating. In a show about a vigilante, seeing fellow protagonists go against him is more of an annoyance of anything else. It’s possible that Misty’s insistence on trusting the system is rooted in events from her past, but until such time a proper explanation for her attitudes are given, the character will continue to be a problem.

Whilst Misty continued to push for justice, Luke was quite ready to run away. With jailtime off the table, Cottonmouth put everything he had into finishing Luke once and for all, revealing facts about Luke’s past in order to blackmail him into working. It was an interesting move on Cottonmouth’s part as it didn’t guarantee Luke would fall in line, however it did help conclude a running thread from episode one. Ever since we met him Luke’s wanted to hide away from being a hero, to stay in the shadows. Here then, Claire finally pushed him in the right direction. Her role in the series is larger than I thought it would be, but it’s paying off dividends. The problem with Luke is that he’s quite happy to run away from a bad situation if it will affect the little bubble of secrecy he’s created around himself. Claire then acts as the guiding hand he so desperately needs. This first came in the form of Pop, then Bobby Fish, and now Claire. It stresses that Luke is still human. He’s just as reliant on others as the rest of us, maybe even a little more so, and it adds yet another layer of depth to an already layered character.

Luke’s ultimate decision to stay despite the consequences means we’ve likely seen the last of his brooding, non-committal days, and the hero for hire is about to come out in full force. Or at least he might’ve had he not been shot with the only bullet in the world that can harm him. I expected this to come into play at some point in the future, but certainly not yet. There’s a whole other villain yet to appear in the series, and given the rather ominous way he lurks in the shadows, his introduction had to be big. This moment here then acts as the prelude to the inevitable horror Diamondback will rain down upon our heroes. The first time actually seeing Luke get hurt was always going to be a pivotal moment for the series, and given the seriousness of the way in which it was done, there’s the chance for things to get crazy before he’s fighting fit again.

Speaking of crazy, let’s move over to the meat behind this episode, and the reason I’ve seen so many people proclaim it as the best one. We were finally given a rather surprising backstory to Cottonmouth this episode, and in a trope that has become all too common in TV, he died soon after.

Yup. I’m still processing that too.

I always assumed Cottonmouth would stick around, at least until the final episode, with Diamondback taking his place during a stint in prison. After all, Cottonmouth was billed as the main villain. However, it turns out that the true villain was lurking in the background all this time, and her name is Mariah Dillard. The moment she snaps and starts beating Cottonmouth was one of those truly shocking moments of television. There was no real build-up to it. The audience had been conditioned to believe Cottonmouth would be staying put. It was just plain shocking.

Through the terrific flashbacks we got to witness first-hand the somewhat disturbing and notorious legacy the infamous Mama Mabel built for herself, as well as how this shaped both Cottonmouth and Mariah. There’s been hints throughout the season that Cottonmouth isn’t all that comfortable with what he does. It was interesting to learn then that he was once a musical prodigy, but he let the wrong people influence him and he turned to a life of crime. It was surprising to her him say all that out loud before he met his ultimate demise, but it was clearly something he had always kept bottled up. At the end of the day, Cottonmouth knew he could’ve been something better, and that realisation is tragic in its own right.

It’s the same realisation that Mariah came to this episode, just with a little help from Shades. Her brutal murder of Cottonmouth was the beginning of what promises to be a very raw, but very powerful transformation. She was clearly shaken by what she did, but her actions have made the character more exciting than ever. Now that we’ve seen her commit such a violent act, it will make her political spin all the more interesting to watch, and promises more of the same going forward.

In such a shocking and eventful episode there are bound to be moments that are looked over, so other notable highlights include:

  • I love the casual way Luke just walks up to criminals now. It’s a true reflection of his power, and it also helps that it’s hilarious.

  • This episode was actually big on the funny. Some exceptional quotes: “I’m really tired of buying new clothes” and “*Pointing at hoodie* Do you have this in double XL?”

  • Shades continues to be such an intriguing character. His role was stepped up this episode, but he’s just that one character that always simply seems to be there. No big purpose, he’s just there. I wonder what his end game is?

  • I feel like it’s been a while since I commended the music, which is wrong of me because the music continues to be epic. The way they tie it into the visuals is just so unique.

  • The brutality of Cottonmouth’s murder has to be commented on again. Whilst Mariah might have always been shielded from what Mama Mabel had going on, you got the sense during the flashbacks that she was silently noting everything that went on. And wow did it mess her up!

So Luke Cage’s most shocking episode yet marked a significant shift in power going forward. With Cottonmouth well and truly out of the picture, it’s time for Mariah to step out of the shadows, whilst the ever ominous Diamondback inches closer towards and appearance. Luke seemed to finally accept his role as hero with some pushing from Claire, but contending with a serious wound, Harlem is up for the taking.

 

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