At the opening of episode six “The Basement” we do not skip a beat from episode five and jump right back in to the chase, with Luke (Mike Colter) and Piranha (Chaz Lamar Shepherd) ducking around a corner to avoid the Jamaicans who are right behind them. They go running in to a building and make it up to the roof. When they look down, they can see that more reinforcements have shown up. They’re spotted on the roof. Piranha knows he can’t make the jump to the next rooftop’s fire escape. This is fine though, because Luke picks him up and throws him across the gap.
Sheldon (Kevin Mambo), Bushmaster’s right hand man, has directed them to corner Luke on the roof. While Piranha scrambles to safety on the top of the next building, Luke makes quick work of the new arrivals on his side. The last, Sheldon, he holds over the edge of the building and asks why Bushmaster is in Harlem and what he wants with Piranha, but Sheldon just counts down until his backup arrives in the alley below, and makes the singular statement of “Raasclaat”. Luke releases him, then jumps to the rooftop with Piranha, and they get away.
Back at Gracie’s Cafe, Bushmaster (Mustafa Shakir) and his family are watching a soccer match. He and his uncle (Sahr Ngaujah) have a conversation about too much power. While they’re talking they see the reports of four heads being found at the Family First opening ceremony. Looking at Bushmaster directly, his uncle denounces the savagery he sees everywhere. When Bushmaster tries to counter that it has to do with power, his uncle tells him that all he sees is fear. Bushmaster leaves to call Sheldon and tells him to have every cab out looking for Luke, no weakness and no excuses.
Stylers are driving through all of the neighborhoods, shining flashlights in to darkened store windows and looking for Luke and Piranha, who find a way in to an abandoned theater and hide out. Luke refuses to go any further until Piranha tells him why the Stylers are after him, but Piranha doesn’t know who the Stylers are. Luke asks about his connection to Mariah (Alfre Woodard). Piranha says that his connection is all money, insider trading, things like that. Luke asks for the money Piranha promised him, but Piranha says to get him safe first. If he does, he’ll pay Luke enough to set him up for life. Luke decides that Piranha is wasting his time and goes to leave, but stops when he sees the light from the Jamaicans’ flash lights pass over the building. Instead he gets a board, splints Piranha’s leg and tells him that he needs to tell Luke everything.
Shades (Theo Rossi) comes back to Harlem’s Paradise from the debacle at Piranha’s party and immediately tells Sugar to guard the back and that if anybody comes near, to shoot. Comanche (Thomas Q. Jones) asks him where he’s been, and tells him that the Jamaicans cut off Ray Ray and Cockroach’s heads and put it on a stake in front of the complex. He points out that they’re at war, and now Shades wants to spill blood with people who Mariah sold guns to against Shades’ advice. Shades wants to hold off on making any moves and says that they will wait for Mariah to come back before they decide what to do. Comanche tells him that’s not a plan, that Mariah is with the cops and the Jamaicans are cutting off heads – it’s time to cut Mariah loose. Shades refuses, but Comanche insists that Shades is too emotional. After a moment Shades agrees, and leads Comanche out.
Downstairs, Shades opens a hidden cabinet filled with high caliber guns and bullet proof vests. His theory is that the Jamaicans have to be after money, and whoever has Piranha has access to every dime of the money that was given to them in the deal. He tells Comanche it is time to go special forces like old times, just the two of them. Rivals? They ain’t got none.
Meanwhile down at the station, Mariah is in an interrogation room with Captain Ridenhour (Peter Jay Fernandez). Misty (Simone Missick) has a theory that the heads that showed up at Mariah’s opening, the abduction of Piranha from the party, Nigel Garrison, and the death of Arturo Rey are all connected. The Captain says that he talked to the higher ups and they gave him 50 extra units and 48 hours to get it under control before sending in the National Guard and ICE. Misty says that everyone who is Jamaican is going to get arrested that way, regardless of being guilty, and insists again that the events aren’t random. Mariah knows who is doing this and why.
But the Captain wants to talk about Cockroach first. He asks Misty how she knew where to go, and why she went there. She says she wanted to do a welfare check on Drea Powell after having just seen her in the ER. She went in to the apartment, found Cockroach on the couch and called it in. When the captain asks her how she got in to the apartment, she doesn’t have a good answer. After getting a complaint about her from Donovan (Danny Johnson), and her potentially contaminating the case, he tells her to go home until further notice.
Back in the abandoned theatre with Piranha and Luke, we get some deeper insight in to Piranha’s relationship with Mariah. He admits to having given Mariah insider info, but brushes it off, saying that everyone does it. He explains Mariah’s plans to get clean, and Luke realizes that the Stylers want Piranha because he has power of attorney over Mariah’s assets. Luke gets a call from D.W. (Jeremiah Craft) letting him know that there’s two guys coming in the back of the barbershop, and they don’t look like friends. Those two guys are Shades and Comanche, making themselves comfortable and setting up shop. They sit back to back so that they can watch the front and the back doors.
Misty on the other hand, is having an unusually quiet dinner with a man who obviously knows her well, and doesn’t feel like messing around with any type of self pity. He tells her that he’d give his arm for her pension plan, and she admits to having intended to plant evidence in Cockroach’s apartment. She just happened to find his body instead. She asks if it’s ever okay to do the wrong thing for the right reason. He says there is no right answer, but that she needs to fix this, to be honest with herself about who she is, not who everyone thinks or wants her to be. She needs to figure out which parts of her are real, or that question is going to just keep eating away at her.
Back at Gracie’s Bushmaster sits down to talk with his uncle who is far less than happy about the path that Bushmaster is taking. He tells him that he wasn’t raised to do the things that he’s done, and that the terror that he’s causing makes all of them look back. Bushmaster wants Mariah to burn, but his uncle presses him, saying that he doesn’t understand their place in America, that they have worked hard from the ground up for what they have, and that this is how to get people deported. Bushmaster tries to argue for retribution, for full on war, but his uncle tells him that he needs to find peace instead.
In the barbershop Shades and Comanche are still waiting, still back to back. Comanche tells Shades he doesn’t want to have just gotten out of Seagate to die in a fight he has no stake in. Shades explains why he’s still there, still with Mariah. He tells Comanche that Mariah pushed Cottonmouth through the window of her office at Harlem’s Paradise, and finished the job with a mic stand, that she has ice in her veins. Comanche asks if anyone else saw her kill him, but Shades says just him, and that he hasn’t even told anyone else.
Comanche finally breaks the tension and says what’s been on his mind for a while. He doesn’t get Shades. He’s a leader, but he’s playing second pony to someone who doesn’t deserve the glory and that he’s letting his chance to be more get away. Shades doesn’t answer him, but instead asks him what he wants to do, what’s Comanche’s plan. Comanche quips about the American dream. Shades’ tone changes. He tells Comanche that if you have to kill to get something, you’ll get killed keeping it, it’s just karma, that’s life. He thinks that there’s a better way to live a bigger life, one where they aren’t looking over their shoulders, and he learned that from Mariah, and Comanche still has a prison mentality. Comanche needs to let it go, and they can be more than just gangsters.
There’s a pause and Comanche shifts again when he tells Shades that they were once more than that. They still haven’t looked at each other and Shades gets even more interested in the door suddenly. When Shades tries to dismiss him by saying that they did what they had to to stop going crazy, and it was a side effect of lack of human interaction, Comanche doesn’t let him out that easily. They didn’t have to do anything. He wanted it, and he says Shades did, too. Shades doesn’t deny anything, just saying that there’s a different set of rules in prison, and they’re out now, they are different and the rules are different. Comanche takes that in. Then disagrees. He says he is, who he is, and he is saying how he feels, which will never change. Comanche goes out to find Lucas, and leaves Shades alone in the shop.
In the morning the Jamaicans are still making their rounds through the neighborhoods looking for Piranha and Luke. Meanwhile, the subject shifts to Piranha’s mother, one of Mama Mabel’s prostitutes, and the story of how he moved up in the world, without any other family. He tries to switch the conversation, ask about Luke’s dad, but Luke keeps him at bay. Finally, Luke steps in to another room to call Misty. He tells her about the Jamaicans patrolling, gives her ways to identify the cars, and tells her that Piranha is the key to the entire situation. She offers to come find them but Luke is worried about cover. Which is smart, because when he walks back in to the room where Piranha had been laid up, he finds it empty.
Misty, in the meantime, goes to the captain and present him with the shell that she had planned on planting at cockroach’s apartment. She confesses to the entire plan, and waits. But the captain just tells her that he can work with her if she’s looking for justice. This is too much. She knows there’s a war going on, one that they’ve been fighting for years. The police rules can’t do anything, and if she stays her only other option is to become Scarfe, which she refuses to do. Against the captain’s complaints, she turns in her gun, her badge, and leaves.
At Harlem’s Paradise, Mariah is in her office, several drinks in, and angry. She’s angry at everyone, at Tilda, Shades, anyone she can find. When Shades finally returns her facade cracks. She starts talking about how everything is lost, every campaign she ran trying to turn her mother’s work in to something beautiful is gone. She expects Shades to tell her that she was greedy for selling to Bushmaster, that she was short sighted. Instead, he just says that what is done is done, and now it’s time to deal with their enemies. Finally, she agrees, but says to wait until after Piranha has been gotten back safely.
After picking off the six Jamaicans trying to hustle Piranha out of the theatre one by one, Luke promises to take him somewhere safe. That somewhere is his father’s church. He introduces Piranha and explains that he’s in trouble that Luke is trying to get him out of. His father agrees to keep Piranha safe, but asks that Luke makes sure the streets are safe for himself as well.
When Luke leaves, he calls Bushmaster. A challenge, an old school, one on one fight. No weapons, no ambushes. If Bushmaster wins, he gets Piranha. If Luke wins, Bushmaster leaves harlem and Piranha alone. They agree on noon at High Bridge.
There’s no ceremony, no audience, just Luke and Bushmaster. They talk, briefly, assessing each other. Bushmaster tries one last time to convince Luke to join power with him, and to use their strength to take down Mariah. When Luke refuses, the fight begins. At first they both almost seem relieved to have a challenge, but the fight falls in to heavy blows and broken city funded architecture quickly. Just as Bushmaster is losing and Luke asks him to give up, Bushmaster pulls a powder out of his pocket and blows it in to Luke’s eyes. The powder paralyzes Luke. Bushmaster tells him that in other circumstances they could have been brethren, just before kicking Luke off of High Bridge and into the water.