We’re coming back to episode 3 of season 2 of Luke Cage and if you’re looking for no spoilers, turn back now. This is a pretty intense episode that starts exactly where we left off, with Luke (Mike Colter) in Cockroach’s (Dorian Missick) apartment, with Drea — Cockroach’s girlfriend — and his son still sitting in the corner looking at Cockroach’s body. Claire (Rosario Dawson) arrives and checks on Drea and the son first, then goes to Cockroach. He groans when she rolls him over, and she announces that he has a concussion, broken ribs, and needs MRI. Luke makes it clear that this needs to be quiet because he needs to be able to flip him, and Claire points out that you can’t flip a dead man.
Misty (Simone Missick) and paramedics arrive, the latter tending to cockroach, and the former checking in on Claire. Claire tells Misty that she’s okay, just that it’s not her first time dealing with domestic violence and it’s bringing up bad memories. Misty stays to talk with Luke and lets him know that she won’t arrest him, but that the captain wants him to cut out his vigilante act. Luke says that if the cops were doing their job he wouldn’t have to do what he does. Misty corrects him, pointing out that she is trying to do her job, but that he has to work with her, at least a bit. With Nigel left as the only buyer for Mariah, he wants to make sure that he’ll be able to take care of the situation. Misty tells him to walk, quickly, before she changes her mind about addressing him.
We cut to Bushmaster (Mustafa Shakir) in bed with two women. He gets up to find one of the Yardies waiting for him in his living room like you do first thing in the morning. Bushmaster is set on seeing Mariah for her deal. He’s informed that Arturo Rey is dead and that rather than going to Harlem to see Mariah, they should have Mariah come to Brooklyn. Bushmaster switches subjects to Luke Cage because as long as Luke has their hearts, he won’t have Harlem.
At her mother’s house, we see Tilda (Gabrielle Dennis) playing the organ before dinner. Her mother (Alfre Woodard) compliments her musical skills, something Mariah never had. When they sit down Tilda recalls the last time she had dinner in the house. She was 10 years old and starts off reminiscing about Cornell and the smell greens and Mama Mabel. Then her face falls and she moves on to darker, bloodier memories. Mariah tells her that their family has always been dark, but that she wants to move past that. Tilda looks up and Shades (Theo Rossi) is standing in the doorway, unannounced and unheard. Again, like you do. Mariah excuses herself to talk in the hallway with Shades, telling him that he can’t keep just showing up since she’s now trying to protect Tilda. He tells her that Cockroach is dead, and they are down to one buyer. She tells him that Pariah needs the money in 48 hours. She tells him to go to Brooklyn to make the deal. Throughout the conversation, she is terse and direct and Shades reacts badly to be talked to like he is less than family. Mariah dismisses his discontent and returns to dinner with Tilda. Shades shares an uncomfortable momentary stare down with Tilda on his way out.
At Cockroach’s hospital room, Misty tells him about coming to domestic violence calls, but not being able to help the women who were being abused, then being called to the same address as a homicide detective to look at the same women’s murder. She asks him why he attacked Luke, but all he will say is that he wants a lawyer. He claims that he was targeted by Luke, and that he’s the victim. Misty points out that he may not be yet, but he will be once Mariah hears that he’s been talking to the police. Misty is kicked out of the room by Bailey and Nandi, and butts heads with them over the investigation once again.
Back at Pop’s, Bobby (Ron Cephas Jones) comes in to find Luke asleep on the couch. He asks if he’s in the doghouse, but tells Luke that whatever it is, he should tell Claire that she’s right and apologize. Luke says that sometimes Claire needs to be told no. From the doorway, Claire disagrees. Bobby excuses himself to go talk to the Nike rep while Claire and Luke begin to have a very controlled, quiet argument. Luke accuses Claire of calling the cops on him, but she says that she called an ambulance for Cockroach, and called Misty for him. She says that she’s never seen him be brutal. He tells her that sometimes brutality gets things done.
We cut to Captain Ridenhour ripping into Misty, and he reveals that she is the departments “Private Ryan”, that nothing can happen to her, and that if it were up to him she would be suspended already.
In the meantime, Luke takes a walk through the Jamaican neighborhood we’ve gotten used to seeing, in search of Nigel. He walks into Gracie’s Cafe, and begins to ask about Nigel and the Yardies. He’s told that nobody knows about them, but notices that a man in the corner suddenly grabs his phone makes a call and leaves in a hurry. Luke follows him out.
In a warehouse, Shades arrives to find Bushmaster sitting in an odd assortment of furniture, but nobody seems to take note of this. He says he’s there to speak to Nigel, but Bushmaster dismisses that with the statement that Nigel’s business is his business. Shades starts to say that he is there on behalf of Mariah Dillard, but Bushmaster stops him and corrects him, reminds him that her name is Mariah Stokes. He tosses a bag into the center of the room. Shades opens it to find a lot of money, underneath Nigel’s head. Bushmaster tells him that Nigel had a “big head, a big mouth, and small ideas” and tells shades that he now needs to sell Bushmaster on the gun deal.
At Mariah’s charity function that she’s been preparing for, she and Stephanie/Billie (Tarah Rogers) are talking and laughing with everyone when Tilda arrives and meets Alex (John Clarence Stewart), Mariah’s assistant. Alex hands her a glass of champagne, but she asks for something stronger. Mariah greets her, and Tilda expresses that she’s impressed with the event. Mariah sends her off to get a stronger drink and checks in with Alex. Mark Higgins is in attendance and has spent most of his time talking with Pariah, while keeping his eyes on Billie. Mariah states that Higgins needs to stay in their pocket, and Alex lets her know that Billie has invited him to the Harlem club for drinks after the event, and Mariah can finish her business with him then.
We cut to a mostly empty boxing gym, with only Misty and Jessica Henwick (Colleen Wing) working in the ring. Jessica asks if Misty is talking to someone, which she is, but reinforces that there’s nothing wrong with Misty. Misty says that she lost a big part of herself with her arm, that she was always right-handed, playing basketball or working with her hands, it made her feel at peace. Now she has trouble with her sight, it’s all cloudy when she tries to use it. Jessica tries to walk her through a brief exercise to get Misty to center her Chi, which Misty brushes off as hokey. She gets fed up with misty and pushes, twice, then when Misty goes to grab her, she throws Misty hard. Misty asks if she’s proud of taking out a cripple, to which Jessica responds that if that’s how she sees herself, then yes. She tells Misty that she is the reason that Jessica still has an arm, that she is selfless and that Jessica admires that. She tells her to never pity it, then invites her out for a drink.
At Luke’s father (Reg E. Cathey)’s church, Claire comes to see him. He doesn’t know her, and figures that he must have just forgotten her name, that she is a part of his congregation, so he introduces himself. She doesn’t correct him. They discuss Jesus, and he says that she looks troubled. She says that her boyfriend is troubled, that he is going down a dark path, that he’s lost his purpose and she’s not sure she can follow him. He asks what her purpose is, and tells her that she can’t save someone from drowning if she doesn’t have her own life jacket. He then asks if she loves her boyfriend and she says “Yes, I love Luke” even though she had used a different name for him earlier in the conversation. James blinks at the name, but doesn’t say anything about it. He tells her to dive into that love.
The man that Luke has been following bursts into a warehouse, and tells the two guards that Luke Cage is here, moments before Luke himself breaks through the double doors. He makes quick work of the guards, tossing one aside, and throwing the other into the air against the ceiling of the huge warehouse. Bushmaster and a group of well-armed Yardies appear, and when Luke says that he’s looking for Nigel, Bushmaster simply says that Nigel is gone. Luke tells him that his gun deal with Mariah Dillard isn’t going to happen, and Bushmaster corrects him, again, to Mariah Stokes. Bushmaster tries to convince Luke that they could work together. Shockingly, Luke doesn’t take him up on the offer, and Bushmaster dispatches several people to fight Luke. The fight is a demonstration in escalation, Luke’s opponents beginning with a single man with a chain going all the way up to someone pulling the pin on a grenade and tossing it to him. He holds the grenade in his hands, let it explode and drops the resulting ash to the floor before leaving.
At the fundraiser, Mariah is giving a speech pitching her Family First Initiative to donors, seeking funding to create affordable housing for single mothers in need. While at the podium Mariah tells the story of meeting and falling for Jackson Dillard, and how the day she found out she was pregnant was the day he was shot and killed by the Contras. After his death, when Tilda was born, Mariah returned home and Mama Mabel embraced her, leaving her with the philosophy of family first, no matter what, no matter how complex. She introduces Tilda, who tries to smile, but looks extremely uncomfortable.
Misty and Jessica are more than a few glasses deep at a bar, discussing what they would do if either of them got a million dollars when a man who introduces himself as Morty (Hakim Callender) tries to hit on them. They both dismiss him, especially Jessica, which only serves to make him switch focus to Misty. When she tells him to leave, he tells her that he is exactly where he should be, since she put his brother in Dannemora. Morty takes a swipe at Misty who starts to fight back but lunges forward when she tries to hit him with her missing arm. She takes a few hits and looks to Jessica, who is watching from the bar. Misty launches into action, taking on not only Morty but three of his friends. Jessica doesn’t jump in until one guy goes to grab a bottle. She checks in to make sure Misty is okay, and they finish the fight together.
At the Harlem club, Mark Higgins (George Bennet Watson) enters Mariah’s office. He’s delighted, telling her that she had their hearts in her hand. Billie brings a folder of pictures of the two of them, and Mariah threatens to show them to Higgins’ wife. He offers her money, but she says that instead, she wants his vote of confidence. Pariah and Billie are asked to leave the room for their “protection”, and Mariah states explicitly that she wants Higgins to push through the merger for his company, which Mariah is about to invest 20k in to. She also informs him that she has video. Their conversation is cut off when Tilda walks in, but Higgins silently agrees to Mariah’s terms before leaving. In a moment together, Tilda tells her mother that while she put her on the spot, she felt something from Mariah’s speech. She had never considered how things were from her mother’s side and apologizes for that. Mariah tells her that she wants to make up for lost time but quickly tells her that she’ll see her tomorrow when Shades enters with two large bags. Once Tilda leaves, Mariah begs Shades to tell her some good news, at which point he opens the two bags filled with money and tells her that there are ten more.
Luke comes home and finds Claire waiting for him. She tells him she loves him, and he says he loves her too, but she can’t “castrate” him. They argue about what they see as being a hero and what is required of one. Luke tells Claire that she’s never experienced bias and racism and judgment the way he has, and she says she never had to leave her house to experience it, being Afrolatina. Their argument escalates getting louder and louder until Luke turns and slams his fist into the wall several times. They both fall silent. Claire tells him that she will need time and space and that she needs to go see her family. Luke asks to talk with her tomorrow at the barbershop, tells her that he loves her and that he’s sorry. He leaves, but as he is walking down the street with his headphones on, out of nowhere someone hits him hard enough to knock him down and leave his ears ringing. Bushmaster comes in to view.