A blast from the past hits Luke Cage
Credit: Myles Aronowitz/Netflix

The twists keep coming in this jam-packed episode of Luke Cage. While at the same time cementing Mariah as a Big Bad, “Blowin’ Up the Spot” also introduced what looks to be the series’ ultimate Big Bad: Diamondback. And, he makes quite the entrance.

The episode takes its time revealing this, but Diamondback, a.k.a. Willis Stryker, is the one who shot Luke with the Judas at the end of the last episode. And, their beef goes way deeper than just Luke Cage messing with Cottonmouth’s business. It turns out Luke and Stryker grew up together, and Stryker has been behind some of the misfortune in his life, including his torture in prison. For reasons that have yet to be explained, Luke feels guilty for doing something to Stryker, who accuses Luke of leaving him to rot in the gutter.

In his first appearance on the show, Diamondback seems to share part of Kilgrave’s sadism. He has a big smile on his face as he chases Luke and Claire through the streets of Harlem and seems almost gleeful when he disarms Misty Knight and prepares to execute her in an alley. (He changes his mind at the last minute because he wants to make Luke suffer.) Erik LaRay Harvey plays Diamondback very broadly and seems to be having a lot of fun menacingly taunting Luke with Bible verses. His scene-chewing performance is definitely at odds with the show’s tone, but I like how much he contrasts with Luke’s stoicism, which is heightened by the fact that he’s very wounded.

“I gave you wings…I sent you to hell and you come back with superpowers,” is just one example of Diamondback’s theatrical dialogue.

Their chase eventually leads them to the United Palace Theater in Washington Heights (we ain’t in Harlem anymore, baby!), and they finally come to blows. I continue to be impressed with the show because its fight sequences are still interesting and it’s branching out from just having Luke throw people around. Since he’s wounded, he’s forced to face off with Stryker in semi-hand-to-hand combat, and Stryker is definitely a trained martial artist, which makes the scene more dynamic than other fights we’ve seen so far on the show.

Eventually, their fight returns to the streets. Right before he takes another shot, Stryker tells Luke he’s his brother, which is news to Luke’s ears. But, before he has time process it, Diamondback fires off another Judas round and Luke falls into a conveniently placed garbage truck and is whisked away to places unknown.

NEXT: Misty Knight smells something fishy

Before being briefly taken hostage by Diamondback, Misty Knight was investigating Cottonmouth’s murder. She knows something weird is up and doesn’t buy Mariah’s story that Luke Cage killed him, because it’s too passionate. However, right after Mariah murdered her cousin, Shades went into Olivia Pope mode and started covering it up. They even enlist Candace to lie and say that she was sleeping with Cottonmouth and saw Luke Cage with the body after she got out of the shower.

But, Misty isn’t a fool. She remembers that Candace didn’t like Cottonmouth. Unfortunately, Candace isn’t breaking and neither is Mariah. Also, Inspector Ridley starts breathing down Misty’s neck to just find Luke Cage, especially after the cops search the barber shop and find the bloody gloves Shades planted there.

After surviving her encounter with Diamondback, Misty loses track of Luke and heads back to the precinct where she interrogates Claire. But, she’s clearly shaken from almost dying and flies off the handle when Claire questions her ability as a cop, which Misty is already questioning herself since she was so easily disarmed, and throws her up against the wall. Having Detective Knight get physical with Claire is another provocative move on the show’s part. Ridley rushes in, breaks them up and lets Claire go.

Meanwhile, the show also continues to add some more shading to Mariah. After Candace does her part, she meets with her and pays her off. “I’m not a whore,” says Candace, who feels guilty for taking money to lie about sleeping with Cottonmouth. “No, you’re not a whore. You’re a businesswoman…and that in your lap represents a chance to change your life and that of your whole family. That’s power,” says Mariah. It’s interesting that Mariah is diving into her new role as crime boss so easily because just a few episodes ago, she was saying respect was the ultimate power. Now, it seems as though she’s come over to her deceased cousin’s side of things. At the same time, however, part of her is still uncomfortable with this newfound position. She returns home, sees a picture of Mabel and slams it down saying she’s nothing like her.

Additional Thoughts:

  • Diamondback taunting Luke with everything he’s done to mess with his life reminded me of that scene in Spectre where Oberhauser says, “It was all me, James. It’s always been me. The author of all your pain,” to James Bond.
  • Before seeing the United Theater, I could tell they were in Washington Heights because my roommate really likes that restaurant Malecon on the corner. It doesn’t entirely make sense how they got from 128th Street (where the ambulance went down) area to all the way up there since Luke is severely wounded, but that’s a pedantic complaint.
  • Why is no one suspicious of a military hummer driving through Harlem?
  • Stryker’s return into Luke’s life definitely complicates Luke’s attempts to move on. Sorry Pops, “Forward, always” isn’t as easy as it sounds.

Episode Recaps

Marvel's Luke Cage
The third colloboration from Marvel and Netflix, Luke Cage is based on the comic of the same name. Mike Colter plays the titular character, who is a former convict with superhero strength. Cheo Hodari Coker developed the series.
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