PREVIOUSLY: Luke Cage episode 4 recap
Watching this episode, I couldn’t help but be reminded of that Ultron quote from Avengers: Age of Ultron (which happens far too often): “Everyone creates the thing they dread.” It feels quite applicable to Cottonmouth, whose impulsive action to get back at Luke Cage for the siege on Crispus Attucks turns Luke into an even stronger figure in Harlem.
Needing to restore his coffers, Cottonmouth sends his goons out to hit up all of the businesses between 110th Street and 155th Street. Cottonmouth instructs his men to make the good people of Harlem know they’re being taxed because of Luke Cage. This is Cottonmouth’s attempt at turning the neighborhood against him and showing the price of trying to be king.
However, Cottonmouth’s action only galvanizes Luke. When all of Harlem’s residents come to Luke’s doorstep with their complaints, he steps up and goes after Cornell’s men to get their stuff back. He’s being the hero they deserve. He also pays Cottonmouth a visit to make sure he knows who he’s dealing with, i.e. someone who is impervious to bullets. Shades finally recognizes Luke Cage as Carl Lucas and gives Cottonmouth the low down on him, including finding a gun that could potentially take him down. But, Cottonmouth can’t afford to buy it and has two options: Pay for it himself or ask Diamondback to handle Luke Cage. Shades warns him that if Diamondback fronts him the money, he’ll take Harlem from Cottonmouth.
The episode climaxes with Pop’s memorial service, which both men attend and is probably one of my favorite scenes so far in the show’s run. First, Cottonmouth steps up to deliver a eulogy where he calls Luke Cage a “stranger with arcane abilities” as a way to turn the neighborhood against him. At first you’re worried Luke won’t be able to sway them, but he comes through with a rousing message. He admits his actions so far have been rather selfish, but now he’s going to try something different to honor Pop’s memory.
“I don’t believe in Harlem. I believe in the people who make Harlem what it is,” he says, declaring he’s no longer just out for revenge. He’s standing up for them.
NEXT: A familiar face returns to Harlem