written by Kiara Williams
SPOILER WARNINGS ARE IN EFFECT
Phew, that wasn’t the finale I was thinking we were gonna get.
We didn’t get a huge final fight. We didn’t get Luke fighting for the people of Harlem in front of them like in Season One’s finale. Luke does knock out a few jobbers and blocks a few bullets, but all the main players who are spoken to by Luke are mostly just that – spoken to. That’s it.
The one who was marketed as the main villain of this season, Bushmaster, just gets into a van with his aunt and…leaves. That’s the end of his plotline: defeated by his own nightshade and shipped back to Jamaica. He warns Tilda that Mariah needs to burn; evil only fuels more evil. But still his story ends – not with a bang, but with a whisper.
Dialing it back a bit, the episode starts with Mariah in court. As much as her lawyer tries, the judge isn’t very favorable to Mariah, even when she warns that Harlem needs a Stokes to maintain control. For a while, that seems true, as shootouts erupt across the city. Innocent people cower from the crossfire.
Meanwhile, Mariah is hauled off to jail, and it takes roughly 7.8 seconds for her to take it over. She pays off a couple of inmates for protection after slitting their original leader’s throat. Not satisfied with that amount of murder, Mariah sets it up so that everyone who’s ever worked under her is killed. However, she makes an exception for Sugar, because his wife gave her clothes when she had none. Funny how a bit of kindness goes a long way. Even Alex the assistant gets axed eventually, but a small act of grace when Mariah was at her lowest saved Sugar’s life.
Luke storms Rosalie’s office and tries to threaten her into leaving Harlem, but he doesn’t have any real leverage. He can’t kill Rosalie because the Russians will retaliate for messing with their money, so he makes a deal to keep her movements contained. So that’s where we are now. Luke Cage, the Hero of Harlem, is making deal with drug dealers in order to keep it safe. Luke is turning into Mariah and I don’t like it.
Shades visits Mariah and gets a bit of closure with her. He wanted to get out of the crime game and he had given Mariah a way out as well, but she didn’t take it, so here she is. Despite Shades still loving her, he has to leave her behind, leaving Mariah to cry by herself. I think Mariah genuinely loved him, but she has no idea how to love him. More importantly, she loves power more. Tilda also visits her mother, and she’s offered a chance to be alongside Mariah at Harlem’s Paradise, since Mariah insists she won’t be in jail for very long. “That’s the thing about black excellence, baby.”
Tilda leaves a kiss on Mariah’s lips before leaving her, and Mariah tries to convince her that she doesn’t mean any of the things she said, and that she’ll come back to her. Maybe she was trying to convince herself more than anything, because I believed Tilda immediately. She’s not going back to her.
Tilda’s meeting was immediately followed by Luke’s, who has now made nice with all of Harlem’s gangs, and Mariah declares him the king of Harlem. Luke only calls himself a sheriff, but he’s very much working outside the law, so how well does that title fit, really? Mid-conversation, Mariah begins coughing up blood. It turns out that Tilda pulled a Poison Ivy and put poison in her lipstick, giving it to Mariah when she kissed her. Mariah collapses and soon dies in Luke’s arms, thankful for his company as she goes.
In the wake of this, Shades gets arrested, as his immunity was only good pending Mariah’s successful conviction, which can’t happen now that she’s dead. It’s a little messed up, but it’s not like Shades is without his own sins. As much as Shades tried to help this season, this bit of karmic justice was a long time coming.
At the barbershop, D.W. asks Luke how he was able to get Harlem back to relative normalcy, and figures out that he’s working with the crime bosses to keep them in line. He’s disgusted that Luke would dare become a part of that, and threatens to buy the lease for the barbershop and close it to Luke should he continue to head down this path. Luke simply accepts this as Ben, Mariah’s lawyer, calls on Luke to hear the reading of Mariah’s will; Tilda is also present for this. Harlem’s Paradise, deed and all, is left to Luke.
Tilda gets Cornell’s keyboard. And that’s all.
Tilda storms out, feeling cheated. She looks quite bitter, and I wonder if this is setting her up to be a villain in Season Three. It’s a pity, because I really liked her, but she’s quickly spiraling into her mother’s habits. Evil breeds more evil.
Ben asks Luke what he’s going to do with Harlem’s Paradise, and we’re hopeful when Luke says that it needs to burn. However, later on we see that the club still stands and Luke is running it, wearing a fancy suit in front of a Muhammad Ali poster on the wall.
Misty visits Luke in his office, and he talks about the future and how they can work together, Misty inside the law and Luke outside of it. This immediately sets off Misty’s alarm bells and she tells Luke that she’ll take him out like Mariah if he gets out of line. It seems like a light warning, but Sugar comes in to tell Luke that the drug leaders are downstairs, and Luke willingly hosts them at the club as if they’re friends. Misty says nothing, but she’s clearly upset. If Luke is working with drug bosses, she can’t work with Luke. Their partnership is over.
Sugar comes back one more time to tell Luke that Claire, who’s been gone since Episode 4, is downstairs. He pauses for a long moment, so long that I thought my internet was hiccupping again. He finally makes a decision, and what does he do?
Luke sends her away. He tells her to go home.
Maybe he doesn’t want to get Claire involved in his new life, or maybe he doesn’t want Claire meddling in his life again. (We all know my problems with Claire from earlier in the season; I won’t bore you with those again.) Either way, we don’t entirely know this new Luke, and that makes me worried for when Season Three rolls around.
I’ll round out this review by saying thank you all for reading these reviews if you’ve gotten this far! I’ve never really done anything quite like this before; I’m just a smol webcomic artist, but it was fun! Thanks to Dayna for bringing me back to review Season Two! I’ve really enjoyed reviewing this season, and if the stars align, I hope to be back for Season Three!
Till next time!