EPISODE 3: ‘Wig Out’
While watching “Wig Out,” I couldn’t help but be reminded of Jessica Jones. In its second season, the Krysten Ritter-led show explored the origins of female anger and how women handle it in a society that’s built against them, which gave the season a very strong and timely thematic element. Based on episode 3, it seems as though Luke Cage is also diving into a similar well, specifically focusing on how black men and women deal with their anger in a world that’s working against them.
This theme presents itself from the beginning of the episode, which picks up immediately after the preceding one. Claire arrives at the apartment and finds Cockroach’s family cowering in a corner, a bruised and beaten Cockroach barely clinging to life on the floor, and Luke in the opposite corner. The main takeaway from the concern on Claire’s face is that Luke has finally let his anger get the best of him. There isn’t much Claire can do there, so she calls Misty and some paramedics. Obviously, there’s concern that Luke could face jail time, but luckily, Misty lets him leave the scene of his crime.
With Arturo dead and Cockroach in the hospital, Luke turns his attention to the Yardies because he knows they’re Mariah’s last remaining buyer. I’m going to be honest, the most unrealistic thing about this episode so far is that Luke doesn’t complain once about having to trek all the way from Harlem to Crown Heights. New York subways are terrible right now! But I digress.
When Luke arrives in Brooklyn, he makes his way to the restaurant Bushmaster and his partner have been frequenting in one of my favorite scenes of the season so far. He starts inquiring about the Yardies, and the woman behind the counter directs him to some men who are playing dominoes. But these guys have no time for Luke Cage and don’t care who he is because he’s interrupting their game. They spend the entire interaction just dunking on him. As someone from Guyana, I loved this entire scene because the men’s cleverer-than-thou attitude reminded me of how my old family members interact with each other. Related, I also appreciate the show’s use of Jamaican patois, which brings a level of specificity to the story that most of these Marvel-Netflix shows lack and reminds the viewer that the black community isn’t a monolith.
Luckily, Luke stumbles on a lead and follows one of the Yardies all the way back to Bushmaster’s hideout. Had he been a few minutes faster, he would’ve arrived in time to see Shades collecting money from the Yardies. Alas! When Luke shows up at the Yardies’ warehouse, he finds Bushmaster and his men waiting for him. We know Bushmaster is capable of fighting Luke, but instead he hangs back and studies Luke as his men try everything in their power to take him down. For Luke, this is a great outlet for his frustration.
Speaking of frustration: Back uptown, Misty is in the ring with Colleen Wing working through her anger at some recent developments. Her colleagues keep blocking her from working on the Arturo/Mariah/Cockroach case; Captain Ridenhour referred to her as “the department’s Private Ryan”; and she’s been called a bitch way too many times in the past day. All in all, she’s frustrated because losing an arm has changed so much and she still hasn’t adjusted. Colleen tries to help by walking her through harnessing her chi, but that doesn’t get Misty her mojo back because she doesn’t buy any of that.
You know what does help her regain her swagger? Getting into a bar fight with some drunk idiots who call her a bitch. The adrenaline of the moment helps Misty figure out how to fight with just one arm. Eventually, Colleen joins the fray too. As always, watching these two women kick ass is great, but them doing it together was even better and has convinced me that we need a Daughters of the Dragon spin-off, or at least a standalone episode about them. Furthermore, this crossover works better than most crossovers on Marvel-Netlfix shows because it feels natural. It totally makes sense that Colleen and Misty would hang out now since they went through a traumatic experience together in The Defenders.
Meanwhile, Claire is still very concerned about Luke’s anger and decides to go have a chat with God — or rather, Rev. James. Their ensuing conversation reveals a softer, less blustery side of Luke’s father and helps Claire work through some things. By the time Luke returns from Brooklyn, she’s ready for a chat; however, their conversation doesn’t end well at all. Claire tells him he’s scaring people in a very unheroic way, but Luke points out that he scares everyone as a black man. In his mind, his recent confidence and violence are his way of both using his own anger for something productive and using people’s natural fear of him against them. The entire conversation, which touches on respectability politics and racism, verges on being didactic, but the script never loses sight of the real issues and emotions here — especially once the argument goes critical and Luke punches a hole through Claire’s wall. Claire is beyond unsettled by that outburst and tells Luke she needs some space because she grew up in an angry, violent household and refuses to live in one now.
Luke leaves, but he’s not done feeling the pain. Out of nowhere, Bushmaster — who was busy getting pumped up by sniffing nightshade and watching footage of his men’s fight with Luke — wallops him to the ground in the middle of Harlem. “But Harlem’s not your yard, boy. It’s mine,” Bushmaster defiantly declares as the episode ends.
- While all this is going on, Mariah’s relationship with her daughter continues to improve; however, Tilda catches wind of Mariah’s shady activities when she sees her mom and Shades celebrating the cash they got from the Yardies.
- I love how every Jamaican character is hung up on the news suggesting Luke Cage might be faster than Usain Bolt. “You not faster than Usain Bolt, you know?” Bushmaster says the first time he meets him.
- UPDATE: I changed the grade on this recap from a B+ to an A- because episode 3 was truly great.
(Click ahead for episode 4)