Luke Cage continues a good second season with a great episode. “The Main Ingredient” could just as easily have been called “Heroes for Hire” as it brings back a classic Marvel pairing that has a lot of fans. The episode starts with Luke strutting down the street, but he gets shaken out of his good mood quickly. The residents of Harlem aren’t happy that Bushmaster is still on the loose, and they let him know it. Battered on all sides, Luke finally gets into the Barbershop, where he and DW argue about what’s happening with Luke’s reputation and popularity. Their snapping at each other and a review of DW’s new t shirts gets interrupted when they get a visitor- Danny Rand, the Iron Fist.
Danny and Luke talk, with Danny teasing his friend about getting a selfie and the Harlem Hero app. Luke tries to tell him that he doesn’t need any help, but Danny disagrees, saying his friends’ fights are his fights. DW is impressed with Danny’s attitude, and Luke brings up the Iron Fist name. DW likes it, and muses about a Power Man and Iron Fist t shirt, as a nod to the old comic. Danny talks about them defending different parts of the city, and Luke reluctantly agrees to take the help.
Misty is hard at work at the precinct, worrying about her co-worker/rival Nandi Tyler being absent. Mariah tours Harlem’s Paradise, displeased at the “Voodoo shit” Bushmaster’s crew left behind. Slimy lawyer Ben Donovan explains what he’s done to help Mariah regain her property. Mariah is less than impressed, and shows her displeasure in a unique way. After Donovan leaves, Mariah and Shades plot ways to capture Bushmaster.
Back at the Barbershop, Danny meditates. Luke isn’t quite as patent as Danny, and DW is even less so. Danny offers some of his sage advice, which Luke uses to mock DW a bit. Danny presses Luke for details on the fight he had with Bushmaster, and drags a few details out of Harlem’s Impatient Hero. Danny shows some skill as a detective, and Luke gets an idea, leading the two to set out on the hunt. They walk down the street, debating the feel of the streets, focus, and the nature of power. Luke comments on Danny seeming different, and I agree. Danny has changed for the better. Danny brings up a concept that will repeat throughout the episode, power flowing from stillness.
Misty goes to Bailey, Tyler’s partner, with her concerns about Tyler. He brushes them off at first, and then she brings him to another room. In the interrogation room, Deputy Chief Ridley is waiting, and she has some pointed questions for the man. To his credit, Bailey tries to defend his partner, but seems to be slanting towards accepting the inevitable. The Chief lays out their evidence about Tyler so far, and Bailey still struggles against it.
Luke and Danny get to Mother’s Touch, which has certainly seen better days. As they sift through the wreckage, Luke tells Danny about Nightshade and its connection to Bushmaster. Danny says the shop reminds him of an apothecary back in K’un Lun. After an amusing digression about music, Danny talks about some concepts in medication back home that seem surprisingly relevant here. Luke comes to the reluctant conclusion that the next person they need to see is Tilda, and the only way to find her is to talk to her mother.
Speaking of that particular devil, she and Shades are at Harlem’s Paradise. Mariah goes on about everyone that stood on this particular spot, her place in the balcony looking down on the club floor. She and Shades have an odd exchange about a gun, and its history. As Mariah savors her drink, more thugs bring in Anansi, tied and gagged. The old man is not having a good day.
Bailey is checking video surveillance while Misty brings him coffee. I think that’s pretty gracious of Misty, all things considered. She sees something Bailey missed, which makes me wonder how hard he’s trying at this point. I’m really not clear why the police have surveillance set up at this particular place, and how no one has found it yet. Deputy Chief Ridley comes in and prods Bailey a bit to do some more checking, which leads to something else Misty needs to check on.
Mariah and Anansi settle into a glaring contest for a bit before Mariah tells him she’s not afraid of him. Considering he’s tied up, surrounded by her gunmen, and in her hideout, that comment speaks volumes about Mariah, and Anansi launches into exactly how afraid she really is. I think the man has a point. The sorta-interrogation gets interrupted when her thugs report that Luke Cage and Danny Rand are downstairs. Mariah makes the wise decision to go see them and they hurl insults and innuendos back and forth. Luke finally asks about Tilda, and Mariah is about as helpful as you’d think before veering into some comments about Luke’s father. They argue about Bushmaster some and the duo leaves. Mariah is impressed Anansi sat silent through the exchange, and he says both their fates are sealed, but he won’t give up Bushmaster to her.
Misty wraps up some loose ends out at the airport, where someone does something stupid and lets Misty do something she’s probably wanted to for a while. Luke and Danny go to one of the elevated gardens in New York City for some reflection. Danny turns it into a sparring session, and Luke shows he could use a bit of help by how badly he does. They talk some, and Luke comes up with an idea of how to proceed. As soon as this scene ended, I knew who they were going to go see, and I was right.
Back at the precinct, we get some motive out of Misty’s suspect, and it makes a twisted sort of sense. This is one person I’m really coming to strongly dislike, and I hope this is the last we see of them. Mariah gloats to Anansi about the generations old rum theft, and the man is strangely unphased, making some insightful comments back that rock Mariah. He offers some old but worthy advice that Mariah ignores, and it sounds like things are going to get worse.
Luke and Danny pay a visit to the man who is probably second only to Claire Temple for most appearances on the most Netflix/Marvel shows: Turk. He claims to be legit now, running a head shop and out of the gun-running business. Luke leans on him a bit hard, and they get an idea where to look next. Turk actually offers Danny a compliment, which is entertaining, especially Luke’s reaction. This leads to one of, possibly the, best action sequences so far in Netflix/Marvel, as Danny and Luke take out Bushmaster’s grow house. The two of them fight really well together, and there are some great moves. Highlights include Luke’s new “pattycake” maneuver, and borrowing the X-Men’s fastball special. This, to me, shows what a Power Man and Iron Fist series could have been, and makes me even sadder we’ll probably never see it with the Netflix/Marvel split. Finn Jones has been training more, and his fight moves are a lot better. They talk some more about the nature of power after the fight, and Danny reveals he pulled a slick rich man’s move ahead of time.
Misty’s suspect is led through the precinct in cuffs, to the scorn of everyone they run across. Chief Ridley pulls Misty into her office for a quick chat about her future. Misty is surprised to say the least, and wonders if anything like this has ever happened. Ridley, amusingly, counters with a comment about living in a world with bulletproof black men, so precedent is pretty much out the window.
Shades tells Mariah about the destruction of the grow house, and she decides that means it’s time to act. They haul the bound Anansi down the street. Sugar, who seems the least thuggish of the hired muscle, gets enough bad vibes that he bails out, risking his own life to get clear of what’s coming. And boy did he make the right decision. Mariah and her crew make a big entrance at the café Bushmaster has been spending time in. She settles accounts with Billie/Stephanie for betraying her earlier this season, and then makes a big dramatic statement that left even Shades looking uneasy. Mariah has gone over the edge completely into full evil, and isn’t looking back. She’s even changing what she’s calling herself, for this scene at least. Afterwards, Mariah goes back to Harlem’s Paradise to enjoy some more live music and move up a notch on the sociopath scale in my opinion. Shades does something either symbolic or actual or both about the new dynamic with Mariah.
The episode ends with a scene I absolutely loved. Luke and Danny go to Genghis Connie’s, a name that amused me every time I saw it back first season. It was a great throwback to the show’s history. Connie makes an offer and obviously doesn’t care about the risks Luke is worried about. Danny and Luke talk, the topic ranging from “Zen shit” as Luke puts it to their alliance, to the fact that Luke isn’t alone and a message, of sorts, from Claire. It’s a great scene that could show the beginning for one of Marvel’s strangest but most long running friendships. It makes me wish even more whatever corporate dealings are going on behind the scenes weren’t ending all these shows.
What I liked: Bushmaster never showed up, but was a looming, unseen presence, and that really worked. Danny and Luke together were fantastic, from training to talking to fighting. Mike Colter and Finn Jones had some great chemistry. There were a few references to the Defenders and the other characters that made a lot of sense. Sugar bailing out and Shades’ actions at the end both made sense and showed those two men are smarter than given credit for. Turk had another, entertaining, bit part that worked well.
What I didn’t: While some parts of the airport scene were satisfying, they were equally foolish. The scene in the café was really disturbing on several fronts.
I thought this was one of the best episodes to date, although I admit I may be biased since I’m a fan of Power Man and Iron Fist from back in the original run of the comic. I’ll give this one a 4.5 out of 5. Well done, all.