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TV Review: Marvel's Luke Cage - Season 1 Episode 7 "Manifest"

10.10.2016

Read Luke Cage Season 1 Reviews HERE!

EPISODE 7: "Manifest"

SYNOPSIS: Mariah’s political career comes under fire, and Cottonmouth picks up information that could put Luke on the run.

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REVIEW: 1When Netflix makes their series available for critics to review, they usually give us a handful of episodes to watch. When it comes to their Marvel series, Netflix is generous enough to supply us with half of the season or more. In the case of Luke Cage, the streaming behemoth knew exactly what they were doing when they gave us access to the first seven hours of this show. That means when I initially watched the series about a month before it debuted, I was left hanging with this episode's doozy of a cliffhanger. Having now binged the remaining six episodes along with the rest of the world, I can say this episode was truly the turning point for the entire season. What the writers did here was more shocking than any decision made in any Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise to date and easily cements Luke Cage as one of the best things to come out of the MCU.

Functioning primarily as the origin story for the Stokes clan, we finally get to meet the esteemed Mama Mable Stokes who ran Harlem well before Cottonmouth came of age. As the episode progresses, we see how Cornell and his cousin Mariah grew up surrounded by crime and death and how one was protected while the other became the man known as Cottonmouth. From what we learn in this hour, as Mariah's political aspirations fall apart due to her scandalous connection with her cousin, a new role arises for her and it was not one that I saw coming. At the same time, my sympathetic leanings towards Cottonmouth are further cemented as we learn about his prodigial skills as a pianist and how they were pushed aside in favor of his indoctrination into his family's empire.

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Going back a bit, Cottonmouth was never going to stay in jail for long. Within the first minutes of the episode, we learn that the NYPD cannot handle a scandal involving their own officers being on the payroll of a known criminal. This pisses Misty Knight off something fierce, but she cannot do anything about it. Cornell Stokes is confident, cocky, and doesn't worry much about anything but getting back to his club and his vendetta against Luke Cage. It is with this cockiness that we are sent into a flashback to meet a young Stokes clan to see how Cornell became Cottonmouth. Most comic book bad guys are either the product of their actions or some evil being done to them. In the case of Cornell, he was an innocent young piano prodigy pulled into crime by Mama Mabel who felt a man needs to do what his family does. This adds to the tragic rise of Stokes who could have been so much more than a criminal. I have said before that Mahershala Ali plays Cottonmouth as a tragic figure, but it truly comes to prominence here.

It is not until Cottonmouth faces off with Luke and reveals that he knows about the superhero's true identity that you can begin to feel this episode bubbling to it's shocking climax. Knowing that Luke is a fugitive gives Cornell some pull over his opponent and sends Luke on the verge of running away from his past. It is only the words of Claire Temple that convinces Luke to stay and stand his ground but it is not without it's price. At the same time, Mariah Dillard is asked to step down from the city council, her career seemingly at an end. In the flashbacks, we see that Mabel protected Mariah by sending her to school to become a lawyer, shielding her from the uglier side of the business. But, as we find out, Mariah was not shielded from her lecherous uncle whom it is indicated has been sexually abusing the girl. When Mabel finds out he has been arranging deals behind her back, she orders Cornell to kill him. In a terse scene, we see that it is actually not Cornell but Mariah who is the killer in the family. And that leads to the unexpected.

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For the whole season, it has seemed that Shades has been waiting in the wings for something big to happen. That ends up being the death of Cottonmouth. I figured someone big would die, but I didn't expect it to be the primary villain of the show. I also didn't expect it to be at the hands of Mariah Dillard who lashes out when Cottonmouth belittles the abuse she suffered as a child. Knocking him from the balcony of his club and then beating him to death, Mariah has become her comic book counterpart and the heir apparent to the Stokes empire. It also appears that Shades couldn't be happier about it as he cradles Mariah like a newborn baby. It is a chilling moment but one that promises Alfre Woodard is going to be more than mere window dressing on this series. Black Mariah is here and she is going to kick all sorts of ass in Harlem. But, about that pesky Hammer weapon Cottonmouth had been after? Well, as Luke and Claire walk down the streets of Harlem casually flirting, a shot rings out and hits Luke right in the guy. As we see a bloody blossom form on his torso, Luke falls to the ground screaming in pain.

This was another stellar episode and one that promised a big future for the Stokes clan, just not in the way you may have expected. Mahershala Ali was one of my favorite parts of this series and it feels too soon to see him go. But, from a narrative standpoint, it seemed like the writers didn't have much more for him to do. Alfre Woodard, on the other hand, was kind of treading water. We saw explosions from Mariah on the show so far which foretold so much more and now we get to see what she is capable of. I am also loving the dynamic between Luke and Claire as they seem to have more chemistry than Luke and Jessica Jones did. I doubt the pair will ge together, but it cements her as a confidant for him. Plus, her medical expertise will come in handy now that something has finally been able to pierce the unbreakable skin of Luke Cage. By far the best cliffhanger ending of the series to date, the remaining six episodes are going to be intense.

MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE REFERENCES: Cottonmouth calls Luke "Harlem's Captain America". Justin Hammer is namechecked again.

Final Verdict:

NEXT ON MARVEL'S LUKE CAGE: Episode 8 "Blowin' Up The Spot" - Mariah campaigns to turn the city and the police against Luke, and not even Misty or Claire may be able to save him.

Source: JoBlo.com

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