Marvel’s Luke Cage
NetFlix Original Series
Season 1, Episode 7: Manifest
Air Date: 30 September 2016
Starring: Mike Colter, Frankie Faison, Simone Missick, Theo Rossi, Frank Whaley, and Alfre Woodard
WARNING: SPOILERS – review written for those following the show who have watched episode six through its completion!
We dive deep into the combined background of Cottonmouth and Councilwoman Dillard. I had a feeling that some of the events in this episode were coming. Others caught me entirely off-guard. This episode is a shocker. Maybe this is more the mid-season finale than Episode 6. Cottonmouth is released from jail and as he contemplates his next moves, there are several flashback scenes detailing how he became the gangster that he is. But we also see that Mariah has really always been the strong one, long before Cornell became a gangbanger.
This episode represents the continuing evolution of Alfre Woodard becoming more and more settled into her role. It is possible, if she understood the entire arc that her character was going to traverse in this first season, that she has been so awkward deliberately, so that as she entered her transition phase, it would be more shocking.
Theo Rossi’s Shades is alluring as always. His scenes with Mariah, showing himself as the master orchestrator, is soooo insightful. The reality may very well show that Shades knows exactly the right words to say, the right strings to pull, to get everyone moving in the direction that he, or maybe Diamondback, want everyone to move.
The flashback scenes in this episode, much like the Seagate scenes from episode four, are the best part of the show. They are shocking, brutal, revealing, and poignant. The effort is surely to showcase Cottonmouth as a victim, maybe to engender some sympathy for him. But I categorically do not believe in the anti-hero concept. Dude’s a murderer, and, while taken off-guard by his brutal demise, I feel no compassion for his passing. Although I feel some degree of remorse for the barbaric conditions under which he and Mariah were raised in Ma Mabel’s house. I also really liked seeing more of Ma Mabel. Understanding her character gives particular insight into the legacy behind the origins and motivations of Cottonmouth and Councilwoman Dillard.
This show is woke, in the truest sense. But that begins to wear on a brother after a while. It is sometimes an uplifting show, and that’s when I like it most. But I get that the darker content is necessary from a thematic perspective. There are some very nuanced dynamics at play now. I love Shades being like the evil Sifu of the Luke Cage series. I have high hopes for Mariah becoming the true villain of the show. Now with a power vacuum opened by the departure, or at least what is sure to be a segment of inactivity by Cottonmouth, the forward path is wide-open for the showrunners to take the series in a different direction. It’s an interesting drumbeat in the show. Do we get a completely different cross-beat that establishes an entirely new, asymphonic rhythm? in comics, we call this resetting the status quo. A major plot shift in an ongoing that informs the primary plot framework of the next following arcs. I’m breathless with anticipation at this point, which is probably entirely what this episode’s drama was supposed to do to viewers. One final note. The fight choreography in the boxing gym scene…a huge improvement over the assault on the Crispus Attucks facility. Punctuated by Colter’s “You’ll ask yourself: why didn’t I just give Luke Cage what he wants?” Bad ass. Totally.