A character takes a step to the dark side, and someone sets their sights on Luke Cage
The flashbacks go a long way in explaining why Cornell is the way he is today, why he feels so insecure in his position of power, and there’s that aforementioned distance between him and the business. It’s because he never really wanted it. He wanted to become a musician. As a former musician, I found the shot of Cornell’s bloody hands hovering over his piano particularly powerful because it showed you just how much he was losing and how those hands probably weren’t meant for that.
His recent brush with the law and Mariah’s political problems bring all of these memories bubbling to the surface and it leads to an explosive scene. Cornell admits to Mariah he’s always resented her because she got to go to a fancy boarding school while he was forced into this life. And, Mariah resents Cornell because the only reason she was sent to that boarding school was so Mabel didn’t have to deal with the fact that Pete had been sexually abusing her, which is a shocking and upsetting revelation. (Watching Mabel protect victims of domestic abuse in the neighborhood while she did nothing for Mariah probably made living there even worse for Mariah.) Unfortunately, Cornell is so filled with resentment that he accuses Mariah of wanting it. And that sends her over the edge.
“I did not want it,” she screams as she knocks Cornell over the head with a bottle and pushes him out of the window of his office. He falls onto the Harlem Paradise dance floor and Mariah, filled with rage, runs down and starts beating him with a mic stand in front of the stage, which is rather symbolic, until he dies. Woodard’s performance in this scene is visceral and incredibly moving.
That’s when Shades walks out from the shadows and applauds her for going this far. And, that’s when you realize the show has been building toward this moment: Mariah is the real villain of the story. She’s been trying to keep her hands clean-ish for most of the season so far, so it only makes sense that something would push her over to the dark side. Luckily, Shades is there waiting for her with open arms.
Meanwhile, one of Diamondback’s men uses the Judas gun on Luke Cage while he’s walking through a park with Claire and telling her about his past. Once he’s hit, he starts bleeding and collapses to the ground.
- Make sure you read our postmortem with Mahershala Ali.
- Because music is so integral to Cornell’s life, you could make the argument that running the business out of Harlem’s Paradise is just as intimate as Mabel operating from her home. That’s his most personal space, and he’s letting both parts of the world — the Harlem he cares so much about and the crime world — into it.
- It’s super interesting that Luke Cage has introduced this sexual assault plot given that Jessica Jones did such a fantastic job of exploring the trauma of sexual abuse. It’ll be interesting to see how the show handles this going forward. I’ll admit, I’m kind of worried because the show is already juggling so many ideas at once.
- Inspector Priscilla Ridley for Internal Affairs is putting pressure on Misty Knight to focus her efforts on Luke Cage since he’s at the center of all three crime scenes they’re dealing with.