“The Basement,” the sixth episode of Luke Cage’s second season, picks up where the fifth episode left off, Luke shielding Piranha Jones as they run from the horde of Bushmaster’s gunmen. It’s a game of cat and mouse, as they can’t hurt Luke, but he has to try and keep Piranha safe. It’s a well-done rooftop chase with some twists by Luke that set it apart from other action sequences.
At his café hangout, Bushmaster smirks at the horrified reactions of the news covering the heads found at Mariah’s complex. That man is seriously dark. His head thug, Sheldon, calls in to say he lost Cage, and Bushmaster gets annoyed. He gets even more annoyed when some kid that happens to be there turns out to be one of Luke’s fans. Bushmaster sends out a fleet of cabs to look for Luke and many of the locals wisely decide to take cover for the night. Luke finds a place for him and Piranha to hide out for a while, and Luke leans on Piranha for some clue as to why Bushmaster is after him. Piranha says he has no idea and is generally unhelpful, making several comments that irritate Luke even more.
Luke does get off a classic line from one of his more notable comic book appearances.
Shades is sending out all their thugs to try and figure out what’s going on with Bushmaster and Piranha. He and Comanche have a talk about Ray-Ray and Cockroach getting killed. Comanche offers some advice to Shades, which I actually pretty much agree with, but Shades isn’t going to listen. Their conversation does give us a clue why Bushmaster wants Piranha so badly. The two of them arm up and repeat a ritual they seem to have done before.
At the precinct, Mariah sits in interrogation as Misty looks on, flexing her new hand. Ridenhour comes back from talking to the chief, and doesn’t exactly have the news Misty wants to hear. Ridenhour isn’t happy about Misty continuing to involve Luke in the case, and doesn’t seem to be a big fan of Luke’s in general. Ridenhour then starts picking apart Misty’s story about the discovery of Cockroach’s body before sending her home. A frustrated Misty lashes out and learns what her new arm can do.
Hidden in their temporary refuge, Piranha tells Luke about his connection to Mariah, and it goes back farther than I thought. They start to make their way out to the next place they can hide as Ridenhour goes in to talk to Mariah. They, too, have a connection I wouldn’t have guessed at. They go back and forth in a verbal dance until she finally decides to leave and take her chances with Bushmaster and his literal headhunters. Piranha, being the lunatic that he is, checks his phone for news about the attack on his party, and is impressed with foreign press coverage. He ends up telling Luke about some more details between him and Mariah. Piranha also reveals a very important detail that explains Bushmaster’s interest in him. He complains about Luke’s business ethics when Luke comes to a decision about what to do next. Luke gets a call from DW, who warns him that he saw people go in the back of the barber shop. This turns out to be Shades and Comanche, who show some great teamwork as they wait there in case Luke turns up.
Misty meets her therapist for dinner and gets some sound advice. Bushmaster closes down his auntie’s café for the night, and argues with his mentor, Anansi. The taxi fleet keeps searching for Luke and Piranha, and Shades and Comanche wait for them in the shop. They have a very long conversation, and we learn some things about them I didn’t see coming at all. Points to the show for covering this and doing such a good job of it.
Mariah spends some time in her office, regarding some family pictures. She tries some phone calls, gets no one she wanted, and nearly hits her poor aide Alex as he comes in. She has him pour them drinks, and gives a bitter toast that he doesn’t join in on. Mariah muses that the only person helping her is her sworn enemy.
Morning finally comes, and the cabs keep searching for Luke and Piranha. Piranha whines about not having his phone anymore and goes into more of his background. There’s a link between him and Mariah that reaches back farther than I’d have guessed. Piranha goes on about his difficult family history, and suggests Luke drop in on his own father. Luke, over Piranha’s objections, reaches out to Misty for some help. They share notes on the hunter-cabs, and Luke ends the call to find that Bushmaster’s thugs have ninja-ed in and taken Piranha. That man is more trouble than he’s worth. Luke stages a rescue doing some Batman-level stalking and giving Piranha a big fanboy moment.
Shades gets back to Mariah’s office. Her rant at him gets interrupted when he stands up for himself, which was good to see. Mariah starts tipping over into despair, and Shades tries to encourage her. Mariah starts blaming herself for everything, and Shades tells her it’s a waste of time to do that. He also offers some good news on the Bushmaster front for once, and Mariah is thrilled as they formulate a plan. Even as they move forward, Mariah has some suspicions about some recent events.
Misty’s conscience finally gets to her and she goes to Ridenhour about what she almost did. He has a very unexpected reaction which finally shows something you might call admirable about the man. I really was having my doubts about him as a character. Misty does one of the big stereotyped movie/tv cop scenes, which Ridenhour objects to but she ignores him. Luke, truly desperate, takes Piranha to one of the last places Luke wants to go. Personally, I don’t think it’s a great decision on a few fronts, but I get that he doesn’t have a lot of options.
Luke tries to end things by calling out Bushmaster. They pick a very pretty spot for their showdown, I have to give them that. After a lot of verbal posturing, they finally have their big fight. Bushmaster is clearly a lot more skilled as a fighter than Luke is, but Luke just doesn’t know how to quit. The Hero of Harlem is finally winning when, to no surprise, Bushmaster cheats. The villain pulls a trick that not only wins him the fight, it ends with a nasty cliffhanger with Luke in actual danger of dying.
What I liked: Ridenhour impressed me for really the first time. He might actually be a good boss after all. The Shades and Comanche scene really was well done and surprising. Luke is finally acting more like a hero and less like a combination of major macho jerk and petulant toddler. The hunt through the streets, and especially Luke’s stalking the bad guys in the theater, was really nicely done. The ending put Luke in believable jeopardy and showed Bushmaster for the coward that he is.
What I didn’t: I understand the impulse, but Misty’s big decision to me feels like it’s more about making herself feel better and not about helping with the current crisis. Mariah seems like she’s spinning more and more out of control, and I’m not sure how she’s holding on there, and how much longer Shades is going to be able to stick with her before his self-preservation kicks in.
A lot of things pivot in this episode, and for the better. I’ll give this one a 4 out of 5. The nature of Luke’s powers should make his current difficulty even worse. It’ll be interesting to see how he gets out of this.