“I’m Luke Cage!”
And this episode starts where we left off. Luke’s being treated for his Judas induced bullet wounds by getting deep fried in acid. He’s undergoing cardiac arrest because being submerged in acid is a bit of a shock to the system. For some reason, Doctor Burstein didn’t think to keep a defibrillator on hand with all his other medical equipment, so it was up to New York’s fastest thinking nurse to improvise by throwing an appliance into the acid bath. And this being fiction, of course, it works.
Still, unable to make headway with the procedure, Claire deduces that they need to turn the heat all way up, as Rackham did during the original experiment. It turns out to be the trick and it’s time to cut into our hero. Though of the operation, it appears to this viewer that Claire only extracts shrapnel from one wound. Luke was shot twice. What gives? Besides this baffling lack of surgical continuity, Luke makes a full recovery. Though Doctor Burstein wishes to further use Luke to continue his research. Claire and Luke decide they can’t trust him, but before they leave Luke wants to take a look at some of the videos on the jump drive that have been unlocked by Burstein’s password.
Revealed are video diaries of Reva’s that show that she was complicit in the events that created Luke. This changes and darkens the characterization of Luke’s dead wife and perhaps helps open the door for Jessica Jones later on. When confronted with the information, Doctor Burstein confirms it and tries one more time to get Luke to help continue his research. But Luke’s not having it. When the doctor repeatedly refers to him as Carl, Luke bursts out declaring his name is Luke Cage and that Carl is dead. This serves to tie in with Luke’s embracing of his current situation and responsibilities. It also ties in with claiming the Luke Cage identity which Diamondback is working to destroy back in Harlem.
In a rage, Luke destroys Doctor Burstein’s equipment so that no one else goes through what he went through and goes off in search of answers about Diamondback in their hometown of Savannah. Luke and Claire head off to Luke’s father’s church and through a series of flashbacks, we learn that Papa Lukas wasn’t a faithful man. The pastor had an affair with Diamondback’s mother and the villain’s disdain for Luke stems from Papa Lucas’ hatred of the very idea of his bastard child.
While Luke takes a trip down memory lane, Diamondback and Mariah meet at the former’s weapon’s cache and go over the mass production of Judas bullets. But Diamondback sees the current outrage over Luke Cage as not enough to create demand for his product, so he’s going to have to create the demand. With the help of what looks like the old timey Nintendo power glove, Diamondback’s out to make Luke Cage public enemy number one. With power glove in hand, he assaults in kills an NYPD officer while shouting Luke Cage. The scene and plot are ridiculous but effective. The cops are now out for blood, but Misty’s not convinced. She’s able to get video footage of the power glove assault and match up the face of the attacker to Diamondback.
Luckily for Luke, Misty’s now looking in the right direction and discovers that Luke Cage is Carl Lukas and that Diamondback is at the center of the mess going on. Stalking the streets and hitting up Domingo, Misty confronts the mobster with a fact that has somehow eluded the rest of her department, all the other heads of the various crime families are missing. This line of questioning leads Domingo to point her to Harlem’s Paradise.
As our heroes search for answers, Mariah is none too happy with Diamondback’s plot, but there’s little she can do to control him. He tells her to get her “Sharpton on” and spin it. And spin it she does. The cops, unfortunately, give her plenty to work with. As the police hit the streets hard and things quickly spiral out of control. Lonnie, a kid from Pop’s Barbershop gets picked up because he knows Luke and the interrogating officer flies off the handle. The cop who was killed was a friend of his and he takes out his frustrations violently on the boy, resulting in yet another suspect getting assaulted in questioning at this department.
After Lonnie’s assault, Mariah strides into the police station with the boy’s mother and lets it be known that she’s going to use the event as political fodder. With the people of Harlem angry at the cops and the cops angry at Luke, the neighborhood’s in chaos and the table is set for the police to purchase Diamondback’s bullets.
“Any time one of Harlem’s finest is killed, we all suffer,” Mariah states at one of her publicity stops. This moment is one of the show’s interesting bits of commentary. Through the events of this episode, we are able to see from both sides how a frazzled and emotional police force reacts to a deadly attack on one of their own by applying force to the situation, which then causes more chaos when the force is applied to innocent civilians, which in turn creates a gulf of distrust between the police and the people they are supposed to protect. Police accountability is one of the most complex, emotional, and fraught topics of 2016 America. But the show is able to handle it in a way that is not too preachy and feels germane to the rest of the story.
Trying to harness and take advantage of the situation, Mariah continues to stir the pot by having her big speech at Harlem’s Paradise. She makes the case that the only way for the people of Harlem to be safe and not targeted by the police is if they’re equipped to handle a super powered menace like Luke. And it just so happens that Luke has stepped into the fabled club with Claire by his side. And in Cottonmouth’s old office, Diamondback grins at the situation he’s created. It’s fitting that he’s taken the moniker of a highly venomous creature. He spews poison by both the weapons he sells and by the chaos he creates.
All the loose strands are coming together with Luke, Claire, Mariah, Diamondback, and Misty all converging at Harlem’s Paradise for the big confrontation. But in the process of confronting Diamondback, Misty gets clipped by him and saved by Luke. The club then erupts into chaos and gunfire and the stage is set for the nightclub’s most explosive show of all, Luke vs. Diamondback round two. With a club full of innocents caught in the crossfire, Luke will have to take on his deranged brother and find a way to clear the name that he’s built for himself. Because, despite the villain’s attempts to besmirch him, he knows who he is now, and he’s Luke Cage.
Four Out Of Five Trips Down Memory Lane: This was an episode that did a lot of groundwork for the final set of episodes while still being entertaining in its own right.
The exchange of the episode belongs to Mariah and Diamondback. “You quote the bible like you actually believe in God,” Mariah yells at him. Diamondback retorts, “And you speak to me as if you’re not actually in the presence of death.”
Mention is made of Lieber Academy, where Diamondback went to school. Is
this perhaps a reference to Stan Lee’s family name?
Another Jessica Jones reference by way of Mariah when she speaks
dismissively about “a woman in Hell’s Kitchen that snapped a man’s
neck because he was mind controlling her”.