Luke Cage’s eighth episode is “Blowin’ Up The Spot,” and opens where the last one stopped, with Luke and Claire both very surprised that he got shot. He gets taken away in an ambulance, which Claire says is being driven by a friend of hers who is “discreet.” It doesn’t matter how discreet he is, as the shooter follows them and uses some kind of explosive to knock the ambulance over. The shooter stalks them, and apparently knows Cage from his early life, as he calls him, “Carl.”
Over at Harlem’s Paradise, they do some interesting cuts between a few different things. Shades coaches Mariah on how to deal with her cousin’s death. Shades is very clever, you have to give him that. Mariah is in shock at first, but her ruthlessness comes out. Misty and the police are working the scene, which is also visually interesting since Misty does her reconstruction trick and “sees” parts of Stokes’ death. Misty is very suspicious of Mariah, and they clearly don’t get on. There’s also a surprise witness that the viewers know is lying. When Mariah gets home, she gets swarmed by the press and does her best to cast doubt about Luke Cage in the public eye.
Claire, ever the creative problem-solver, gets Luke to a clinic and uses an ultrasound machine to hunt for the bullet. They don’t exactly get good news. He takes off something that looks like dog tags, which I don’t quite get as there’s been no mention of him being in the military so far. Maybe it was the thumb drive he spent so much of Jessica Jones Season One looking for. He explains why he won’t let her give him any painkillers as she probes the wound, which clearly doesn’t feel good. She jokes about calling him macho man, and he replies that Pop called him Power Man, another nod to his comic book version. Luke’s situation is getting worse.
Misty has a lot of work to do. Her interview with that witness gets interrupted by a shady lawyer showing up, who she clearly can’t afford. Misty pokes some holes in the story before being told the lawyer is ending the interview. Misty then tries to deal with Mariah, but apparently the Councilwoman has some connections even inside Misty’s precinct. Mariah is nasty, and things aren’t looking good for Misty or for Luke.
Claire and Luke are having problems trying to treat him. His powers aren’t making anything any easier. She recalls what they did to help him during the events of Jessica Jones, pointing out she’s done this before. This is about when Misty calls, and Luke learns Cottonmouth Stokes is dead. Misty demands he turn himself in, and Claire says she’s been with Luke all night. Misty manages a partial trace before Luke figures it out and hangs up.
There’s an amusing interlude of Shades at Harlem’s Paradise. He’s in charge now and is explaining to the thugs how things will work. While this goes on, the cops are all over the barbershop and find evidence that just happens to perfectly match the story told by the very questionable witness. Misty finds Luke and Claire, and is thrown for a loop by Luke actually being shot. Their debate about what to do next is interrupted when the shooter comes back, strafing the clinic. First off, I’m very glad the place was closed. Secondly, for bullets that are as expensive as they talked about early in the series, this guy’s using up a lot of them. They do get to see how oddly the bullets behave. The fight gets ugly, and Mystery Man ends up kidnapping Misty.
The shooter taunts her about being Carl’s type, but Misty isn’t in on the Carl/Luke secret, so it’s kind of wasted on her. For no real good reason, the shooter spares her instead of killing her. Luke and Claire find her, and Claire stays to take care of her while Luke staggers off after the killer. He’s really mobile for someone who has been gutshot. The gunman is apparently called Stryker, and they have a history.
They go through a cat and mouse stalking in a theater, which is where they start to lose me. Luke has a bullet in his gut. Stryker has been bleeding enough to leave a trail and then beat on by Cage and his strength. Either he has powers, too, or this is just plain badly written. Stryker is apparently also called Willis but prefers Diamondback. There’s clearly a history here, but at least we’ve finally seen who Diamondback is.
This is also the point when I think they’re either writing Misty horribly or she’s having some kind of breakdown. Misty has Claire in custody for… saving Misty’s life? Claire hasn’t done anything wrong. Misty gets abusive with Claire, both verbally and then physically. It’s a really weird, out of character scene that I didn’t think worked at all. At the end, she’s very understandably in trouble with her boss the Inspector.
Cage and Stryker/Willis/Diamondback’s fight spills out into the street. It was completely empty earlier but now is crowded. How long were they in the theater? And yes, these are New Yorkers, but no one noticed the guy in black with the big gun who was bleeding, or the big bleeding guy looking for him? The wrap up scenes show just how vicious and conflicted Mariah is, and gives us a cliffhanger with Luke and Diamondback. That also reveals their relationship, and it’s a big surprise, and another unlikely link between Luke’s past and this corner of New York.
What I liked: Claire is becoming one of the best characters in the Netflix part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I like her resourcefulness and determination. Luke is bound and determined to help people, and is putting himself on the line. Mariah is evil and ruthless, but smart about it.
What I didn’t: The endless fight between Luke and Stryker (odd his name is the same unusual spelling as Logan’s big foe in the X-Men movies) just didn’t work. He went on too long for the injuries shown. The streets going from abandoned to full that quick was weird. And Misty is either being written horribly or has been replaced by a Skrull or something.
I don’t think this one is anywhere near as good as the rest of the series. Did they change writers for this episode? I’m giving this one a 3 out of 5, which is low for this series, and I might be giving it some credit for how good the rest of it has been.