The Battle for Harlem’s Soul rages in the streets, who thought a black man in a hoodie could be a hero, and sometimes backwards to move forwards.
Thanks to a Hammer Tech super-suit., Diamondback manages to go toe to toe with Luke inside of Pop’s Barbershop. The commotion, and a few calls from Mariah Dillard, bring the people of Harlem, the police, and several news crews to the scene to cover, what Mariah calls, The Battle for Harlem’s Soul. With everyone around him, those he’s helped, those who doubted him, Luke manages to take down Diamondback and his playground insults.
With Diamondback now in police custody, Misty and the Harlem PD begin to clean up the scene and gather statements from everyone back at the station. But, while Luke proves his innocence, much was lost in the commotion of the battle; Shades’ file exonerating Carl Lucas, and Misty’s phone. While Misty and Inspector RIdley try to charge Mariah with the murder of Cottonmouth, Shades uses Misty’s phone to lure Candace, Misty’s only witness to Mariah’s crimes, out of hiding and murders her, allowing Mariah to walk free. While Mariah walks, marshals arrive to take Carl Lucas back to Seagate to serve the remainder of his time, or until he can prove his innocence. But, Claire knows a good attorney.
Diamondback is only one of the villains showcased in “You Know My Steez.” Besides Mariah and Shades schemes, the system is the ultimate foe that Luke can’t seem to defeat, nor is he entirely convinced that he should. Going forward, Luke seeks to prove his innocence within the system, as does Misty to bring down Harlem’s new queen and king, Mariah and Shades. Working within the system was even a benefit to Luke and the rest of Harlem during their brotherly feud. While Luke fought Diamondback, Misty and the police were able to keep citizens out of danger. It’s a small detail, but this type of cooperation could be evidence of the good that acts such as the Sokovia Accords could accomplish when law enforcement and superheroes work together
But, let’s talk about Diamondback for a moment. One of the MCU’s weak points from the beginning has been its villains. A majority of the bad guys these heroes face are simply the evil version of the hero. Only a few stand out as a better class of criminal for a number of reasons, such as the particular actor, or the time spent fleshing out the character. Then, there’s Diamondback, the villain of Luke Cage’s second act, the bastard half brother of Luke with daddy issues. We’re given plenty of time to flesh out this character and get to know him, and what we get to know is… annoying. Nevermind the unending scripture lessons that if used effectively could give a villain a scary self righteousness. But, when he’s not quoting scripture, he’s telling everyone and everyone who he is, his past, names, dates; he might as well give the police his personal journal.
Seriously. Take the episode “Now Your Mine,” for example. He was furious when Shades addressed him by his first name in front of people. Yet, when retelling his life story to Damon Boone before killing him, he tells most of it on the intercom for Luke Cage, and EVERYONE else, to hear, giving his name, his mother’s name, his father’s, where they grew up, his e-mail password, bank account number, social security (maybe not all that, but he gives away a lot of information). And we’re to believe this character is a mastermind arms dealer?
In his defense, his motivations for being a criminal, his daddy issues, aren’t exclusive. Wilson Fisk, Kilgrave, even Loki, base much of their motivations on stepping out of the shadows of their parents, or proving something to them in their own twisted way. Even Cottonmouth and Mariah had the ghost of Mama Mabel lingering over their shoulder. But, at least with those two we had excellent performances and other qualities to see and relate with, rather than with Diamondback’s broken record. This first season can be split between Luke’s fight with Cottonmouth and his battle with Diamondback, and unfortunately, Diamondback drags the second half down.
How does Luke Cage affect the rest of this cinematic universe? While he doesn’t fight Asgardian Gods or men with mind control abilities, Luke is the most public of these street level defenders. The news and police are rarely far from an event involving New York’s latest vigilante, and not only do the people of Harlem see his deeds, the rest of the world does too, possibly changing the narrative of these “super freaks” destroying the world with their battles.
Just like Daredevil and Jessica Jones, Luke Cage brings an excellent support cast, which without their help, these heroes wouldn’t get very far. With the end of this season, the defenders of New York have a strong group of local practical support: at least two lawyers, Foggy Nelson and Jerri Hogarth, a counselor, Malcolm, police officers, Misty Knight and Brett Mahoney, and the nurse and glue that seems to keep it all together, Claire Temple.