After the shocking ending of “Straighten It Out,” thing are looking bad for Luke in his third episode, “Wig Out.” Which is exactly what he did. Luke leans on the wall and flexes his fingers as Claire arrives and checks out Cockroach after the beating Luke gave him. Luke half-heartedly tries to justify himself, but Claire isn’t buying it, and I’m not sure Luke is, either. The two are clearly at odds at this point, and Claire isn’t going to let Luke stop her from getting Cockroach the medical help he needs. After the EMT’s show whose side they’re on, Misty arrives to try and smooth things over and reassure Claire. Misty doesn’t pull any punches when she talks to Luke about what he just did. Luke, not satisfied with bickering with Claire, picks a fight with Misty. He’s burning his bridges fast, Mr. Cage.
Bushmaster starts off his day in a style most men would envy and then banters with his brother. Bushmaster is clearly obsessed with Mariah Stokes (not Dillard!) and isn’t willing to listen to other opinions. Bushmaster even assumes Luke is working for Mariah, despite all the evidence to the contrary and his brother telling him flat out he’s wrong. Bushmaster shows the depths of his obsession and unreasonableness during this conversation, and reveals some of his long term goals.
Tilda is in Mariah’s office, and playing the electric organ as Mariah looks on. Mariah compliments Tilda’s playing, saying the musical talent is pure Stokes, something Mariah lacks. Mariah tells Tilda the history of the organ she’s playing and discusses other gifts. Tilda talks about her childhood memories in the Stokes family, most of which aren’t good. Shades comes in during this, and Mariah shoos him out and scolds him for not calling, surprising her boyfriend/right hand man. Shades brings her news, and is increasingly dissatisfied with how she treats him. Cage studies his crime map on the back room of the barber shop and finally lets himself doze off.
Cockroach wakes up in the hospital with a very unwelcome guest. Misty, wasting no pity on the man in his sickbed, lecturing him about the domestic violence calls she’s worked on the job. Misty lobs questions at him, and Cockroach lawyers up, even claiming not to know who Mariah is, which is blatantly untrue, obviously so. Cockroach, ever the slime, paints himself as a victim stalked by an out of control Luke Cage. The interview, if you want to call it that, ends when Detective Bailey comes in and argues with Misty.
Bobby Fish comes in to the barber shop, sees Luke asleep on the couch, and gives some advice about romantic relationships. Claire comes in, worried about Luke, and Luke can’t manage to keep his temper for a few sentences. They argue about how the situation with Cockroach was handled. Claire makes perfect sense to me, and I think Luke is deeply wrong. Things aren’t going well for Misty either, as she gets chewed out by her Captain.
Luke is out on the street, trying to track down Nigel the Jamaican. He ends up at Gwen’s, the place we’ve seen Bushmaster before. The old men playing dominos there know who Luke is and are utterly unimpressed. Shades tries to have his own meeting with Nigel, and is greeted by Bushmaster instead. Bushmaster continues his compulsion to use the Stokes, not Dillard, name. Bushmaster offers Shades a payment with a bonus that surprises the gangster. While Shades makes new (work) friends, Luke follows one of the men from the dominos game. He appears to not be that good at shadowing people, but he does actually have a trick or two up his sleeve.
Mariah holds a fundraiser, and there are a lot of moving pieces involved that night. Tilda makes it, and shows one of the traits she shares with Mariah to Alex, Mariah’s long-suffering assistant. Billie/Stephanie from Harlem’s Paradise is also there, working the crowd at Mariah’s direction. Mariah demonstrates her faith in Shades while answering a few questions from Alex.
In a great guest appearance, Misty is doing a different type of physical therapy, working out with Colleen Wing of Iron Fist/Defenders fame. Misty is clearly frustrated by her missing arm and Colleen is a strict disciplinarian. Misty scoffs at some of Colleen’s techniques, but gives them a try. Colleen gives Misty a needed talking to and then invites her out for drinks. I suspect this is going to be an interesting “Girls’ Night.”
At a loss for how to reach Luke, Claire goes to the church where his father, James Lucas, is preaching. They have a very deep conversation, and manage to talk like adults, which is always nice to see on a tv drama, especially one focusing on superheroes. Claire hedges a bit about who she is, and the two of them share a joke about the movie Titanic. It’s a nice character scene, showing how much Claire cares and that James isn’t just a monster.
Luke has managed to find the lair of the Jamaican gang, and makes a very dramatic entrance. After some very ineffectual fighting from the gangsters, Luke talks to Bushmaster. Luke wants to see Nigel, and Bushmaster tells Luke Nigel is gone, Luke will have to talk to him. Credit where it’s due, Luke does try, expressing his concern about the gun deal with Mariah. Bushmaster isn’t exactly a receptive audience. There’s more fighting, and I’m betting until this moment, Bushmaster didn’t believe what he’d heard about Luke Cage. It’s an impressive scene on Luke’s side.
Mariah speaks at her fundraiser for her housing complexes and her “Family First” plan. It’s hard to tell with the scheming woman, but I do think she actually cares about this program. Her speech covers a lot of ground, and she ends up surprising Tilda with one of her announcements. Colleen and Misty (they are a team called the Daughters of the Dragon in the comics) go out for a drink, and Colleen shows she’s something of a geek, but definitely my kind. Some of Misty’s past catches up with them, and they get in a bar brawl that is well choreographed and lets Colleen make her point about Misty’s abilities.
Bushmaster does some kind of ritual while watching video of Luke Cage in action. Bushmaster is focused, you have to give him that. He’s also apparently quite a skilled fighter, doing what looks like capoeira to me. That’s a very acrobatic South American form, not native to Jamaica, but I could see it making its way there. Alex looks around Mariah’s office, and annoys her by sounding like a Cage fan. Mark Higgins, the business man Mariah has been so interested in, gets brought in to her office after Mariah and Tilda have a talk. Mariah, after getting Tilda out of the room, shows how ruthless she is. Shades makes her night by coming in later with bags of money, and Mariah carelessly dismisses the news that Nigel isn’t the one running things on that end anymore. A brief conversation shows that Mariah isn’t running quite as tight a ship as she thought.
Luke goes home and shows he has zero idea of how to handle himself, at least with Claire. They have a conversation that turns into a fight because of Luke’s attitude. Luke rages about racism, but he’s playing to the wrong audience with Claire’s background. They keep getting madder at each other and then Luke does something that kicks things up to a whole new level, shocking both Claire and himself. Claire very rightly tells him to get out, and he’s clearly shaken by what happened. Distracted by what just happened, Luke gets a major shock as he walks down the street. I hate to say it, but he had it coming.
What I liked: The action is very well done in this, as in all the Netflix/Marvel shows. I like Claire’s strength of conviction, and her trying to learn more about Like’s past. It was great seeing Collen again. She and Misty work well together, and their bar fight was great. I don’t like her, but Mariah is smart and focused, a dangerous combination. It was a nice touch with James not being all bad, and Bushmaster not buying Luke’s story. Bobby Fish would be a stabilizing influence if Luke would listen. The writing remains excellent.
What I didn’t: It’s bad when you can’t decide who is worse, the various villains or the “hero.” Luke needs a major attitude adjustment. His argument with Claire was ridiculous at first and then frightening. It’s jarring, and all the more so because it seems to come from nowhere. There was no hint of this in Luke’s previous appearances on his first season, Jessica Jones, or the Defenders.
Most of this was well written and even believable, but Luke’s attitude and actions are hard to watch. I’m giving this one a 3 out of 5. Luke needs to get his act together. So far, Misty is the hero of this season, or arguably even Colleen.