Welcome to Harlem, where everybody wants to be the king, and heroes are not for hire.
Harlem, New York City. A shining jewel of African America. Home to Langston Hughes, Malcolm X, and Luke Cage. After an explosive confrontation with Jessica Jones in her fight against the mind controlling Kilgrave, the former bar owner and man with unbreakable skin, has moved to the borough of Harlem to keep his head down and, live his life day by day. But while he sweeps hair at the local hangout of Pop’s Barbershop for the friendly Henry “Pop” Hunter, talking basketball and history, living as a fugitive running from his past has put Luke in a difficult situation just trying to pay his rent on time. To compensate his low wages, he takes a second job as a dishwasher at Harlem’s Paradise, the hottest club in the borough. It doesn’t pay well but it’s something, and it allows him to keep his head down.
Until the night that a bartender calls in sick and Luke takes his place. It doesn’t take long for him to get back into the swing of running a bar, making drinks, and flirting with beautiful women, even if they’re more focused on the happenings of Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes, the Kingpin of Harlem, owner of Harlem’s Paradise, and a dealer of top of the line Hammer Industries weapons. As Luke takes an interested woman home from the bar, Cottonmouth, as he hates to be called, puts the finishing touches on a weapons deal that will cement a long building alliance between himself and Domingo Colon’s drug cartel, with Cottonmouth’s favorite cousin, Councilwoman Mariah Dillard, as witness. But after Dante, the club’s missing bartender, robs the deal with his crew Shameek and Chico, killing Cottonmouth and Domingo’s men, Cottonmouth’s business isn’t so solid. Unhappy with the broken deal, Cottonmouth’s weapons supplier, Diamondback, sends his right hand man, Shades, to assist with the clean-up.
At the crime scene, Cottonmouth and Domingo’s men lay dead, along with Dante, betrayed by Shameek for his share of the cut. Det. Misty Knight, Luke’s interested bar patron from the night before, investigates with her partner Det. Rafael Scarfe. Knowing Dante’s family, she is quick to connect his association with Chico and Shameek, as is Cottonmouth, who waste no time in picking him up and retrieving the stolen money, adding another body to an already increasing body count.
With Harlem as close a knit community as it is, it doesn’t take long for word to spread that Cottonmouth is searching for Chico to get the rest of his money, and Pop, making a point to take care of the local youth, worries for Chico. Luke at the moment is too worried about his own well being, having a close run in with Shades, who is someone from Luke’s past. He’s ready to run, ready to pick up and leave, until he remembers his late wife Reva, urging him to use his abilities to help people. Repeating Pop’s own mantra, “always forwards, never backwards,” Luke decides to finally do something to help those around him.
As we’re already acquainted with Luke Cage from his involvement in the first season of Jessica Jones, instead of focusing on who Luke is, “Moment of Truth” takes time to introduce the rest of the elements of Luke Cage, that will take center stage in this chapter of Luke’s life. For an advertised action show, that action takes a backseat as interesting characters are fleshed out through their interactions that, for the most part, Luke is only a witness to. But along with the characters, this season premier also introduces the strong African American culture atmosphere that will surround the events that will unfold around Luke Cage and Harlem.