PREVIOUSLY: Luke Cage episode 12 recap
Luke Cage ends its uneven, but thoughtful and powerful first season with a super-powered street fight, which takes up about a quarter of the episode. It’s an impressively staged fight sequence that makes you feel each blow, and I’ll admit I loved seeing Harlem rally around Luke as he fought his brother, but I just wish it had felt more meaningful and had tied back to some of the themes explored earlier in the season.
“I mean, look at these super freaks. This is nothing less than the battle for the soul of Harlem,” says Mariah to a camera crew about Luke Cage and Willis Stryker’s street brawl. In the context of the show, she’s trying to spin the fight for own gains (and throw Luke under the bus, but more on that later), so we know it’s a load of BS. But, it made me wish that this fight actually were about Harlem rather than Stryker’s immature vendetta.
I mentioned this in my recap of “Soliloquy of Chaos,” but Diamondback distracted the show from it’s concern with Harlem. For Luke, this fight is about breaking away from his past, but it’s not entirely clear what it has to do with the neighborhood. The only reason Stryker is hanging around is because of him and that’s it. In theory, Stryker has no other ties to Harlem: his main business partner Cottonmouth is dead, he killed the heads of every other crime group in the area who could buy his weapons, and he basically told Mariah he was going to “evaporate” once he was done with Luke. In my ideal version of this show, this fight would have had bigger stakes if Diamondback had just supplied the suit to Cottonmouth.
In this episode, the show pulled the same trick it did in “Manifest.” It used flashbacks to Luke and Willis’ youth to flesh out their relationship; and with them shown here in the last episode, they’re a little too late to be as effective as they could have been. They just didn’t mean as much as what we saw when flashed back to Cornell’s youth.
But, as I said, the fight was still fun and having Harlem’s residents all out to watch made it worth it and never let us forget what was truly important. Having Aisha and Lonnie there was a reminder of the people Luke had touched over the course of the season, and having those two kids videotaping the fight on the 4K was a nice follow-through on a throwaway moment earlier in the season.
In the end, Luke prevails over Diamondback by letting him tire himself out before giving him the game-ending uppercut. With Diamondback arrested, Luke’s name is basically cleared, but Misty still needs to bring him in for a statement. On the upside, she says, he’ll be at the precinct to see Mariah go down for murdering her cousin.
Unfortunately, that’s not what happens. While Misty and Ridley are interrogating Mariah, Shades lures Candace, their key witness, out in the open and kills her. Misty and Ridley find out midway through their questioning and are forced to let her go. There goes their case. Ridley makes sure Misty knows it’s her fault. Candace should’ve been in police custody, but Misty didn’t trust the system enough and that’s why this happened. It’s another moment where the show makes sure to stand up for the system and show the importance it serves.
NEXT: What happens to Luke and thoughts on the entire season