Crispus Attucks was the first on the front lines during the battle against the British in the Boston Massacre.
Now, Luke Cage was the first on the front lines in the battle to save Harlem’s soul. Expect Cage is armed with fists of rage and a bulletproof aura.
And the opening sequence we remain eyewitnesses outside the building Luke Cage was scoping out in Episode 2. The sound of gunfire connotes the Attucks building is the stage for an all out war. Men regurgitate themselves from the demolished hole in the building that was once the entrance. And exploding in glass a random couch is thrown through a window on to the street.
And after all the perceived chaos, a monolith exits. Hoodie up, with a gait of a god, duffle bag in hand. It’s Luke Cage. And his expression is bereft of fucks to give.
In the aftermath of Pop’s killing by the now deceased goon of Cottonmouth, Luke Cage is understandably sorrowful. Meanwhile on Harlem streets, things intensify between the black and latino gangs over the botched weapons deal.
Luke goes to the funeral parlour to make funeral arrangements for Pop’s and with the way of the world, it’s just as expensive to die as it is to live. But low and behold Cottonmouth enters, and as one would expect flaunts his cash and muscle around saying he’s paying of Pop’s funeral. Cottonmouth also had other business at the funeral parlour; he pays the undertaker to take care of any bodies he does not want to be found.
Cottonmouth and Cage have, albeit, a tense exchange and Luke makes his intensions and disdain known; Luke plans to take him down. Cottonmouth’s remarks to his former dishwasher is one of flippancy. Something tells us he’s about to have a rude awakening.
And Luke’s cash flow problems go beyond paying for Pop’s funeral. With the Barber shop riddled with bullet holes and utilities and bills that need paying, Cage needs a serious injection of money to fix the shop up and keep it open. 80 racks worth. So the plan is to go The Wire Omar on Cottonmouth’s operation, taking out his network of criminals whilst dipping his hands into his pockets.
Meanwhile it is apparent Chico did not die in the Barbershop hit, and Misty and partner Scarfe goes to the hospital to press him about the gun heist / deal. Misty and Luke cross paths again at the hospital where Chico is, and her suspicion of the big lug only intensifies, being connected to the string of incidence involving Pop and Cottonmouth. And while Misty wanted to press Chico to testify on what happened to get at Cottonmouth, Cage was also there to do some pressing of his own- to learn more of Cottonmouth’s criminal operation. And as it turns out all the money generated gets held in Mariah’s Crispus Attucks building – aka Cottonmouth’s “Fort Knox” – in case his numerous stash-houses across the city gets raided. Mariah, essentially his bank, calls out Cottonmouth’s “Fort Knox” ‘plan’ a reaction’ which makes her, in my opinion, the top one-line quote-worthy machine of the series thus far.
So Luke’s begins his mission to force Cottonmouth’s “Fort Knox” initiative into action, leveraging the current Domingo / Latino and Cottonmouth / black gang tensions to do it. The music for this episode was particularly fantastic (James Brown’d be happy) So Luke goes in like a one-man hit squad breaking into Cottonmouth stash-houses and leaves the evidence including cash to the police.
The last stash house Luke hit was a particularly nice sequence. The camera tracks from Luke Cage, who dishes out the business to thugs and bending firearms like tin foil, to dope fiend and seconds later Misty and Scarfe stand in front of her questioning her about what happened. The idea of drug intoxication making time relative causing lost time was a nice touch.
And more is revealed when cousins Cottonmouth and Mariah meet during the security reinforcement of his “Fort Knox” fortress, where we get to see exactly their ideologies stand. Mariah’s character feels a little deluded to the point where it feels she actually believes her own propaganda. From the building of her “affordable housing community” won’t become the ‘Projects’ to selective memory of her family’s long standing history of crime and blackmail in Harlem.
Cottonmouth however sees his cousin’s standing in the community as his personal bank and laundrymat, to wash his dirty money clean.
The exchanges between the characters in this episode felt superbly organic and the exchange between Misty and Scarfe was particularly fun talking about Pop’s influence on her growing up with her father. They spoke about basketball, and even if you weren’t familiar with the NBA and the teams, your still bound to have a smile on your face. Misty also recalls the safe haven the shop was for the community, a “Switzerland” as Pop’s called it. Until the shootout. And for Misty, it stopped being a haven when Luke Cage came into the picture.
Another delightful exchange was between Cottonmouth and Domingo, who Cottonmouth suspects is robbing his stash-houses. Domingo, a short-runt of a dude strolls in like a god flanked by muscle and does one of the most disrespectfully delightful things a gangster could do. Talking to cottonmouth he eats half a bite of chocolate (damn, I could use a milky Way right now) and then drops the wrapper and half eaten chocolate on the floor of Cottonmouths Harlem Paradise nightclub. And when you think he is done, he takes out another bite of chocolate, and does the same thing again. And the height of Cottonmouth over Domingo just adds to the dynamism of the exchange and scene. The plover bird / crocodile analogy was beautifully done. Domingo wants his money or the weapons back from the messed up weapon’s exchange. Which is all but a fair request in all honesty. Cottonmouth is not having it. Now the war between the two gangs are indubitably on.
And another mention of this ethereal Diamondback, Shade’s employ has us waiting for the next shoe to drop like the ‘Blacksmith’ in Daredevil Season 2.
Cottonmouth’s dirty money gets moved to Attucks, and Luke Cage puts his Fort Knox raid into motion, done to the greatest soundtrack imaginable: Wu Tang Clan’s Bring The Ruckus. Armed with a fucking car door. Your welcome. This is what we’ve been waiting for. The ambitious long takes of Daredevil Season 1 and 2 is dropped for laser-precise editing and the choreography is on point with this one as well. Hell, it would have to be if your weapon of choice is a car door and a sofa.
In the end, Luke Cage’s effort to break Cottonmouth’s organisation may have been a bit shortsighted, as Cottonmouth’s network stretches far beyond gang ties. He also has the police in his pocket. Scarfe, Misty’s partner, for starters. A reveal that put’s his shoddy flippant attitudes of the first few episodes into context when he meets Chico alone. Chico, on Luke Cage’s suggestion looks to become an informant to expose Cottonmouth and implicitly reveals Cage being behind the squeeze on Cottonmouth’s organisation. Scarfe then takes the information back to Cottonmouth, not before strangling Chico to death with his silk tie. And what Cottonmouth does with this information is heavy handed. Like way up there. A stinger missile taking out his apartment block and landlord restaurant with him and the landlord in it? Damn. Hopefully they have insurance. And are alive. That’s be important too.
A few nice sequences in this episode propel the series forward, always. And we don’t the Cage is showing no signs of stopping or slowing down.