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Luke Cage: Manifest

"I'm sending you to jail."
"No, I'm sending you to jail."
"Family first. Always."

We finally got to know Cottonmouth, his past as his grandmother's victim, and discovered that it was even possible to empathize with the guy.

And now oops, he's dead. In her review of the previous episode "Suckas Need Bodyguards," my friend Laure said about Scarfe, "I hate that TPTB tried so hard to flesh his character out at the last possible minute." Yes, they did it again.

Abandoned by his parents, fourteen-year-old Cornell Stokes longed for a musical career. He could have gone to Juilliard; he could have been a professional musician (he coulda been a contender). Instead, he was criminalized by his grandmother. He even had to kill his own uncle, the one who believed in his talent and paid for his music lessons.

Mama Mabel. What an introduction. A minute into the flashback, and she's chopping off a kid's finger and ordering his death. (Even though we didn't see it, I am assuming Cottonmouth killed him. That praying together with bloody hands thing was memorable.) Mama Mabel was a caricature of evil, even though she started out with limits. (Drawing the line at drugs isn't a new theme. I seem to remember it being a plot point in The Godfather.) But talk about intimidating. Even a young Pop was paying tribute to her.

And what a mantle for Mariah Dillard to inherit. The flashbacks emphasized what happened to a young Cottonmouth, who was corrupted and emotionally destroyed by Mama Mabel, but whose childhood was worse? We didn't see the teenage Mariah being forced to kill, but she grew up at home with evil too, and was sexually abused by Uncle Pete. It's interesting that Mama Mabel was all about protecting her people from getting hurt, including local kids and even a transsexual hooker on the street, how did Mariah's sexual abuse get past her? Was that really the reason why Mabel sent Mariah away to school, a move that Cottonmouth took as an unfair preference for Mariah over himself?

Mariah just lost her job as councilwoman, something that meant the world to her. And then she lost her temper and killed Cottonmouth, the last remaining member of her family. The flashbacks showed how much resentment was seething beneath the pretense on the surface of the Mariah/Cottonmouth relationship that was supposedly all about family unity. While Mahershala Ali did a terrific job as Cottonmouth, I'm a fan of Alfre Woodard and I'm simultaneously anticipating and dreading her descent and full immersion into supervillainy. (It's coming, right? I haven't seen any episodes past this one, but it's pretty obvious that we're going there.)

I'm starting to find Shades interesting. In the scene at the club after Cottonmouth's murder, Shades was strangely seductive with Mariah. He wanted her to get dirty, and wow, she most certainly did. Was that what he was looking for when he visited her home earlier in the episode? When Cottonmouth wanted to kill Luke, Shades said Luke was ice cream and Cottonmouth should be focusing on keeping steak on the table. I wonder if he'll tell Mariah the same thing? Or will Mariah and Shades find a way to pin Cottonmouth's death on Luke?

(I'm also confused about the relationship between Shades and Diamondback. What's going on there? Who's really in charge?)

Developments on the cop front are suggesting that Misty might be ready to see Luke as the bad guy. Misty's new boss Priscilla (come back, Kima!) didn't have to point out the obvious to Misty, that if you look at her wall display of cases, Luke was the common factor in all of them. What will happen when Misty learns about Seagate? And you know she will.

This episode was more about a re-set of the villain than the adventures of our hero, but the fight in the boxing gym was great, the ongoing clothing joke was enjoyable, and it was really nice to see Luke confiding in Claire... at least until everything went to hell and Luke got shot and was actually bleeding. Now we know that our bulletproof hero can indeed be damaged. And the episode started out so well, too. I thought it was hilarious that all Luke had to do to fight crime was show up. Oh, well.

Honestly, with all the talk about Luke walking on water, I was expecting the bad guys to try to drown him. Want to bet that's still on the menu?


— Luke told Claire that his father never wanted a criminal for a son and doesn't know Luke is still alive. Claire told Luke that everyone in Harlem knew someone in prison, and that Luke should stand up.

— Fun fact. LaTanya Richardson Jackson, who was impressive as the frightening Mama Mabel, is married to Nick Fury.

— Much of this episode took place in Mama Mabel's brownstone. It looked so different in the past that I didn't realize at first that it had to be Mariah's current home, too. Mariah is still living in Mabel's home, and has pretty much just become Mabel.

— I'm starting to like the music. Maybe I'm just getting used to it.

— There were references to Daredevil in Hell's Kitchen beating up bad guys, and Luke as Harlem's Captain America.

— The barber shop has been repaired and repainted and is looking good. Although they still don't have customers, or anyone around who can actually cut hair.

— Was Claire about to recommend Jeri Hogarth's legal services to Luke?


Misty: "You calling me a dog?"
Cottonmouth: "No, I believe the brother said 'dogged,' as in determined. Although true, the word is derived from the description of a dog's persistence. See, that's the problem with a bitch. Once they get their mouth on a bone, they can't let go."

Later, Inspector Priscilla said Misty was still in the doghouse. Was that their way of implying that the Inspector was a bad guy?

Cottonmouth: "I just shot a cop and walked away free. What's there not to like?"

Boone: (to Mariah) "You're tainted. And the infection is contagious."

Cottonmouth: "See, you thought I only had a hand in one of the pies. But I own the whole goddamn bakery, son."

Luke: "I'm about sick of always having to buy new clothes."

Luke: "You got this one in a double XL?"

Mama Mabel: "Pigs get fat. But hogs get slaughtered."

Misty: "Nice sweatshirt. You box now?"
Luke: "What I do is more like CrossFit."

Luke: "Maybe I should get a mask, after all."
Claire: "No. Too much in Harlem happens in the shadows. People fear what they can't see."

Best episode so far. Was this four out of four hoodies in a double XL?

Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.


  1. I think Cottonmouth was pretty well rounded before his backstory/demise..As was Mariah..Snippets of there characters have filtered into every episode they have been in...
    Even Scarfe although lazier and i agree with the rushed nature of the reveal we did get a sense of his character through his prior interactions.. Although his story was hastily added all it did was confirm why his character acts the way he does..A line from Misty when she says ''he cracks a lot of jokes but rarely smiles''. Like Cottonmouth it did not redeem him but just showed a slice of his life that shaped him.
    My favorite part of the episode was when Luke praised Cottonmouth's musical talent and he swelled with pride despite himself.

  2. I'm also confused about the relationship between Shades and Diamondback. What's going on there? Who's really in charge?

    Yes! What's going on with Shades in general? In the first episode, I thought he had a superpower (Eyeballs of Truth) from the way he took of his glasses and looked meaningfully at Cottonmouth. But we haven't seen any more hints of that.


  3. Before this episode I even suspected that Shades is an undercover cop. Because, being among criminals, he managed not to do anything, you know, evil.

    I don't really understand what's his and Mariah's plan about Luke. They were planning to blame him for Cottonmouth's death; fine, but why also shoot him then? Well, maybe we'll see.

  4. Cottonmouth had more depth before this episode than Scarfe did in his last, but it's so odd that the writers keep waiting until moments before a character dies to tell his full story. It leaves an even worse taste in my mouth this go around.

    And YES! What is up with Shades?

    Great review!

  5. I think Claire was probably going to recommend Matt/Foggy to Luke, not Jeri!


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