The end is almost here, as “Can’t Front On Me,” episode 12 out of 13 for Luke Cage’s final season, spins up. There are plots and schemes and wheels within wheels going on here. I’m impressed that, with as many different forces pushing and pulling in different directions, I never felt at a loss as to who was doing what. That’s some impressive writing.
The episode opens with a party going on, and a young couple slipping away. They’re not going to hook up, they both snort some drugs instead, and it doesn’t go well. This is definitely a bad trip, and the stamp on the package is a very familiar name, as well as a bit of déjà vu. The hostess of the party goes to the barber shop to tell Luke what’s going on and not so much ask for his help but tell him he has to stop this new drug. DW and Luke talk over what to do next, with Luke being a bit more cautious and DW leaping to conclusions. Luke’s newest ally, Sugar, comes in with some new information, and Luke asks him to find out something else he needs to know.
Mariah attends an auction, which is really just a cover for some organized crime folks to have a meeting/summit/argument. Of particular note, and not really impressed with Mariah, is Rosalie Carbone, who, in the comics at least, is a thorn in Punisher’s side. Mariah makes a decent sales pitch, and she and Yang leave together. They discuss the possibility of Bushmaster watching them, which he is. Mariah hopes that’s the case, as it’s the point of “cheese in a rat trap.”
While Bushmaster follows Yang, Shades takes a nap in interrogation. This prompts a debate between Misty and Deputy Chief Ridley about whether or not guilty men sleep in those rooms. Personally, I’ve noticed over time the ones most likely to doze off in court are the frequent fliers and career criminals who spend so much time there. Misty argues in favor of making a deal with Shades, and eventually wins Ridley over.
A recurring theme this episode is Luke having to help people he doesn’t like, and that happens when Bushmaster blunders into a trap at Yang’s processing facility. Luke arrives at the last minute and agrees to help the criminal, with a few provisions. What follows is an action sequence of two superpowered men wading through a horde of normals, dealing with automatic weapons fire and various hand weapons. Luke and Bushmaster agree on the importance of a person’s name and reputation, but that’s about it and they don’t part on the best of terms.
Tilda pays a call on a cast member who has been gone a while, reflecting on everything she’s learned lately. Luke goes to Harlem’s Paradise to pay a call on Mariah. She’s at her slimy best, and while I can’t stand the woman, she’s a shrewd judge of character. She has Luke pegged perfectly. He leaves, making a vague threat, and Mariah sets things in motion for a big plan to protect her and bring a lot of business to her club.
Shades makes his deal, represented by attorney Patricia Wilson. He starts a long, rambling discourse which begins with his days at Seagate and ties in to Luke’s origin. As Luke himself walks along the streets, a radio talk show provides the voiceover as they debate the various things that have used the name Bushmaster this season. Speaking of Bushmaster, he gets a surprise visitor, some shocking news, some useful intel, and a gift. Shades goes over a chilling recounting of some of his crimes that he’s both committed and witnessed over the last two seasons. The man is a hardcore sociopath. He even manages to freak his attorney enough that she recuses herself, tossing a few choice insults as she goes.
Back at the barber shop, Luke, DW, and Sugar debate what to do about Mariah’s latest stunt. Luke is disgusted by how much he’s lost, and so much of it because of Mariah. He wanders around as the argument continues in voiceover, ending up at the elevated garden he briefly trained with Danny Rand in. Shades continues his tale, shaking up Misty at one point. The man truly has no regrets about anything… or almost nothing. Ridley and Misty arrange a surprise that shakes him up, and then Misty pushes him to do something to cement the deal.
Night falls as Luke and Bushmaster get ready in different ways. Bushmaster’s friend/right hand man Sheldon is worried about this plan, but Bushmaster shrugs him off. Luke makes a really questionable wardrobe choice for the night’s activities. Everything comes together at Harlem’s Paradise, as Luke, Misty, Bushmaster, and Shades arrive at different times, each with different goals. The place is packed as the acts perform on stage. Mariah sees Luke and gets in a dig at distance.
Shades has a very tense meeting with Mariah, while Luke and Misty run into each other and debate strategies. Bushmaster meets his new source and finds a way into the club that isn’t being watched or guarded. That’s kind of a glaring flaw, but I can halfway see it. This is when things really kick up a notch.
Bushmaster makes his grand entrance right about the time Shades and Mariah’s meeting goes south for one of them. This is essentially a very long action sequence of Bushmaster fighting his way to the panic room Mariah upgraded recently, and Misty, Luke, and Shades taking turns fighting him. Mariah is utterly useless, which kind of surprised me. Luke almost crosses a line but Misty talks him down. At the end of things, someone gets away, someone else is arrested, a betrayal is completed, and someone worries that this is far from over. I agree with them, but it can’t be too far with only one episode left to wrap all this up.
What I liked: Luke is facing some darkness on many fronts, but he remains a hero. Misty is dogged and unflagging in her pursuit of justice. Mariah, much as I loathe her, is clever and insightful. Shades is true to himself, if nothing else, and apparently takes pride in his work. Bushmaster is willing to sacrifice everything to do what he thinks needs to be done.
What I didn’t: Luke is being manipulated too easily, but damn if I can think of what else he should have done. The gambit with the drugs they’ve done already, but at least they acknowledge that.
It was another great episode. I’ll give it a 4 out of 5. As much as I want to see how this comes out, I don’t want the season, and series, to end.