Luke Cage: If It Ain’t Rough, It Ain’t Right



The Harlem Axis of Evil

After the surprises and twists last time, “If It Ain’t Rough, It Ain’t Right” tries to clean up a lot of the mess from last episode, as well as push the plot further forward. Shades is dealing with the fallout of his decisions, and having a hard time with it. It’s the only time I can remember seeing him look sad. Then again, he’s not generally all that emotional. Shades is one of several characters battling flashbacks this episode.


Following their near-immolation, Tilda and Mariah are at the police station for both questioning and protection. Tilda is shaken by what they’ve been through, as we can see when she tries to pour coffee. Mariah is very nonchalant about the whole thing, and drills home the point that they don’t talk to the police. At all. Because that’s what you should be teaching your daughter. Right? Cage comes in, glares at Mariah, and leaves again. There’s no love lost there, that’s for damn sure. Tilda points out they are only still around because of Cage, and wants to leave, while Mariah points out their limited options.


Cage wanders the station, wondering where everyone is. No one told him about Captain Ridenhour’s death yet. He and Mariah argue about what to do next, which is a weird way to persuade Luke to work for her. She also keeps up her façade of not knowing who Bushmaster is. At this point, I wouldn’t blame Luke for just walking away, but I think he wants Bushmaster more than he wants to see Mariah get what she deserves. Misty finally comes in, spitting fire, locking horns with Mariah. Luke finally learns about Ridenhour and is clearly surprised. Misty compares what happened with Ridenhour to last season’s murder of Candace.


Shades pays a condolence call on Comanche’s mother, which must be really difficult for him on several levels. She talks about Shades and Comanche as kids, and doubts the official story that’s going around how Comanche died. She also hates his street name, insisting on calling him Darius. Shades gets a call, and has to leave, after he tries to help her out and she refuses the money. That’s something else I’ll give the show points for. People die all the time in cop shows/action movies. Following up on the death, showing the family’s grief, is a lot more rare.


Tilda, maybe trying to distract herself from what she just went through, tries to figure out how Luke managed to not get burned. She theorizes about what might be able to hurt him, and he points out he hasn’t really tried to get burned by acid or anything along those lines. Luke leans on her for information about Bushmaster, but even though the man just tried to kill her and her mother, she’s more concerned about customer confidentiality. Tilda is still clinging to some illusions about her mother, and Luke shatters a few of them.


Misty is in Ridenhour’s office, looking around sadly. Detective Tyler comes in and they reminisce about the captain and their school days. The people at the precinct had a pool going on how long it would take Misty to come back after her resignation. Tyler also drops the news that, until upper ranks send someone, Misty is the ranking officer at the precinct. Tyler gives Misty a sort of backhanded compliment. Cage comes in just as they start wondering who the body is and supplies both Comanche’s name and some awkward timing on a comment about his and Misty’s past. They plot how to approach Mariah and Tilda, and discuss why there’s no official response from the higher ups about Ridenhour’s death so far.


Bushmaster is enjoying redecorating the office at Harlem’s Paradise. He’s feeling very smug about things, and is arguing with Anansi about Mariah and Tilda. Their argument, and Bushmaster’s good mood, come to an end when one of the thugs comes in and reports that not only is Mariah still alive, but Luke Cage is why. Bushmaster reacts with his usual calm unflappability.


Luke finds Tilda in the break room at the police station and tries the good cop approach. Misty and Mariah go through the bad cop routine. Mariah, of course, lies her ass off to Misty. They argue about Cornell’s death, and Mariah does her best to be of as little help as possible. After a great description of the conflict between Mariah and Bushmaster, Misty tells Mariah about Ridenhour. Mariah is clearly shocked, and even rattled. Misty be finally about to get somewhere when slimy lawyer Donovan pops up to be as obstructive as possible. They turn Mariah loose, but have come up with barely enough justification to hold on to Shades, who came with Donovan.


Tilda is finally talking with Luke when Mariah comes in and derails the conversation. Mariah and Luke spar about Claire without quite using her name, and Mariah tries to throw her weight around to get Shades free, which doesn’t go so well for her. Misty does her crime scene recreation trick, taking Shades along for the ride. She’s got it figured out, although his smirking self isn’t going to admit it. She is even wearing his trademark shades, which Donovan comes in and objects to. Then, Donovan gets his own call and has a change of heart, walking out and surprising everyone.


Bushmaster is not doing well in his new office, suffering the aftereffects of the herbs he’s been taking to try and equal Luke. Bushmaster is determined to get his revenge on Cage, and orders his thugs on a new plan of attack. Mariah gets some unexpected news from Donovan and tries to argue with him. Taking a moral approach with an unprincipled lawyer isn’t a great plan, and she should know better. Luke and Mariah come to an uneasy agreement about what to do next, and then get a big surprise when they get outside. Luke is very good at what he does. He learns there’s a big price out on Mariah, himself, and several others.


Shades talks about his past with Misty, filling in details of his friendship with Comanche and the origin of his nickname. They duel over the points of gang life vs corrupt cops like Scarfe. Misty’s momentum gets broken when Tyler pulls her out of the room. Misty is annoyed, but gets important news from Tyler about the situation outside. Misty gets in a few mind games with Shades on her way out to handle the new crisis.


Luke goes to his father’s church to give the preacher-man a warning. To no surprise, he refuses to leave, and drafts Luke into helping prepare for services. Mariah and her thugs walk through the ruins of her brownstone, searching through the rubble. She has a tense reunion with Shades when he manages to catch up with her. The man really needs to get away from her.


Misty leads the police to Harlem’s Paradise, where Bushmaster is waiting with a smirk and some extra legal backup.  Throughout the confrontation, we can see Bushmaster’s fixation on the Stokes name, correcting anyone who uses Dillard. After the cops finally leave, we see Bushmaster isn’t doing too well.


Mariah visits Tilda at her Mother’s Touch shop. That name is ironic given their history. Mariah spins a weepy tale of what happened in Tilda’s early life, and manages to get Tilda feeling sorry for her. How much of this was a show on Mariah’s part, I’m not sure, but it’s a real possibility.


Bushmaster argues with Anansi some more, and tries to recreate the herbs giving him his powers, despite Anansi’s warnings. Anasi stalks off, and is followed by someone who appears to be setting up to use some of Bushmaster’s own tactics against him. There’s a well-cut montage of Bushmaster trying to keep his powers going and Reverend Lucas preaching at the front of the church. Services are interrupted when more thugs storm in, trying to earn Bushmaster’s bounty. The fight is brief, with Luke being there, but provides for an amusing bonding moment. Luke then also manages a last minute rescue of someone else in danger from the bounty, and finally agrees to make a call he’s been avoiding.


What I Liked: Luke is back in full heroic mode, which I really like. Misty is a very dangerous, determined investigator. Tyler is finally putting aside some of the petty rivalry now that important things are happening. I still don’t much like the Reverend Lucas, but he’s showing some admirable qualities. Shades is a very complex character, but I keep finding myself liking him despite what he does.


What I Didn’t: A few too many things seem to keep breaking Bushmaster’s way. Some of that may just be his viciousness taking people by surprise, but he’s coming out on top an awful lot, especially for someone with his control issues. Donovan is just slimy, and the stereotype of the money-obsessed lawyer, showing no redeeming qualities at all.


It was a good episode, and the Bushmaster/Stokes (Dillard) war has been interesting, if brutal, to follow. I’ll give it a 3.5 out of 5.