Mariah Dillard is tainted, Misty shifts the focus of her investigation, and Cottonmouth calls for a parlay.
With Det. Scarfe dead and unable to corroborate his evidence, Cottonmouth manages to walk free. Trying to handle the drama that Cottonmouth’s arrest and Scarfe’s corruption brought on the police department, Misty’s Captain, Betty Audrey, is fired and Inspector Priscilla Ridley takes her place, quickly cleaning house and urging Det. Knight to focus her attention on Luke Cage.
Mariah Dillard handles damage control after Cottonmouth’s arrest reminds the media of her ties with his criminal network. But it’s Shades who pushes Mariah to remember her own childhood. Growing up in Harlem, young Mariah and Cornell Stokes lived with their aunt, the infamous Mama Mabel Stokes, who built a thriving crime syndicate in Harlem with the help of her brother in law, Pete. While Mabel encourages Mariah’s studies, she sees little to be gained from Cornell’s own dreams of becoming a pianist as she constantly pushes him to take more responsibility in running the streets. Finally, after Cornell informs her of a deal Pete kept her out of, she has Cornell gun Pete down for betraying her, for abusing Mariah, and for turning his back on his family.
As their memories of Mama Mabel haunt them both, Mariah confronts Cottonmouth in Harlem’s paradise, pushing him to end his fight with Luke Cage and shift his focus back to business. Cottonmouth, drunk, antagonizes her about their childhood, bringing up Pete’s abuse. Losing her composure, Mariah pushes Cottonmouth out of his office window and to the floor of the club, then bashes his skull in with a mic stand. Shades, witnessing the entire event, applauds Mariah, then forms a plan to pin the murder on Luke Cage.
“Manifest” gives us Cottonmouth and Mariah’s backstory just in time to see them at each other’s throats, a confrontation that has been building since the beginning. But to kill Cottonmouth in the middle of the season? Cottonmouth was an excellent villain, with the strategic and brutal mind of Wilson Fisk, and the suave style of Kilgrave. But it seems he is not the main villain that Luke Cage will come up against. Does that leave Mariah to step into Cottonmouth’s shoes? Or is the mysterious Diamondback going to make an appearance? This episode also shows the failure of the system that Misty fights for, and that Luke trusted to take down Cottonmouth’s empire. Being an escaped convict himself, it seems that while a few characters have the potential to push back against Luke Cage, his true enemy might be greater than one person, and more an idea of law and order that is anything but.