Luke Cage is a Netflix exclusive television series set in the Earth-11584 continuity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Released in October of 2014, it is the first such collaboration between Marvel Studios in Netflix. The showrunner for season one was Cheo Hodari Coker. The series follows the titular hero, played by Mike Colter (reprising his role from Thunderbolts), as he attempts to fall back into civilian life in his native Harlem New York.
After being released from prison for a crime he didn't commit, and his exploits with the Thunderbolts made him a celebrity in the neighborhood, Luke Cage is attempting to fall back into a normal routine. However, gang warfare is brewing between the crimelords Silvermane and Cottonmouth over Harlem's Youth, and though Cage tries to stay out of the violence, fate may force the reluctant hero back into action to save the streets of the city he loves.
It should be noted that every episode of the first season is also the title of a Wu Tang Clan song.
Episode 1. Rules
Six Months following the events of Thunderbolts, Luke Cage has returned home to Harlem as something of a local celebrity. He tries his best to live a low key life, working as a sweeper at the barber shop of Henry "Pop" Hunter, barely saying a word to the customer base and denying that he was the so-called "Power Man" they saw on TV. Pop, for his part, tells Luke that he should embrace his heroic nature; that he can be something for these kids to look up to, rather than all the guns and drugs that they have on the streets. Cage simply replies that Pop is the one they should aspire to be like, as a community leader.
One night, as Cage is coming home from work, he stumbles across a woman being mugged in a back alleyway. Unable to stay away, Cage comes in and takes out the three hooligans before they can do anything to the woman. She says her name is Claire Temple, a nurse, and she thanks him for his help by buying him some coffee. The two become friends, and agree to meet for coffee some other time. This despite their argument of Claire saying Cage can do so much more than be a glorified janitor. The next morning, Cage is jumped from behind by two of the three goons from before, along with a cadre of other men in dark suits. They claim to be working for a man named Silvermane, and they don't need some "wanna be Avenger getting in their business." Cage is unfazed by their actions, and he promptly beats them to a pulp and sends them scurrying back to their boss.
A young man named D.W. comes into Pop's that morning, saying that he got a job working at this upscale joint called the Viper's Nest. Pop admonishes him, saying that place is a hive for drug trafficking and the like, but DW says it's nothing of the sort. He sings the praises of the man running the place, Mr. Stokes, and says it's nice to see another black-owned business being rebuilt in Harlem after their downtown was destroyed by a rampaging Hulk several years before. Cage says nothing, but Pop tries to intice him to investigate. Cage, finally fed up with the egging on, tells Pop of the Rules he learned as a kid: Keep Your Head Down, Nose to the Grindstone, and don't ever try to attract trouble. Pop says he has never abided by those Rules, which Cage admits he hasn't either, but there is a fourth unwritten rule to say "Know when it's time to stay out of the way." They are interrupted by a police detective, who is looking for Cage. Luke recognizes her as Misty Knight, one of the officers involved in his initial arrest. Knight says that Cage has been ID'ed in a beatdown earlier this morning, and she wants to take him downtown to interview him. Pop stares at him knowingly, and Cage just shakes his head, muttering about following his own rules.
At the Viper's Nest, we meet Cornell Stokes, also known as Cottonmouth. Stokes is looking over some figures when he gets word of an incident near the old Apollo Theater; turns out Silvermane has come to town after being run out of Hell's Kitchen by some new player in the game. Stokes sends his posse to deal with the situation, and the camera turns to look at the papers he was glancing it, seeing a picture of Luke Cage and some experimental data as we fade to black.
Episode 2. One of These Days
At the local police precinct, Knight interviews Cage concerning the beatdown he gave several hooligans both the night before and that morning, saying that several of them had gone to a local hospital and had named a guy named "Power Man" as their assailant. Cage is at first coy about the interview, but eventually admits to it the beatings, claiming he was trying to save a woman named Claire from getting mugged and acting in self-defense respectively. Knight says she already spoke with a Claire Temple, who had filed a police report on the mugging incident this morning. She says this interview is more of a courtesy to him, given their past and her being wrong about his conviction. She is giving him a warning, she doesn't want vigilantes like they have over up in that eyesore of a tower or over in Hell's Kitchen, and he should keep that in mind. Cage says he has no interest in being a hero.
Out near the old Apollo Theater, which is being rebuilt following its destruction in the Battle of Harlem several years prior, several men in suits are speaking with local contractors and craftsman, speaking about "protection from accidents." They are interrupted by several black men in equally luxurious suits, who come in looking to scare them away from the scene. A fight breaks out and before long, gun shots are fired. Two of the gangsters are gunned down before police arrive and the incident disperses. The scene cuts to a news report about the incident in Cage's apartment. He shakes his head after watching it, having just gotten out of the shower, saying something about there not being gun violence One of These Days. His interest is peaked, however, when he sees an old friend on the channel, a Mariah Dillard, decrying the events as part of her reelection campaign. Cage turns off the TV in disgust.
In an opulent manner outside of Harlem, we meet Silvio Manfredi, also known as the crime boss Silvermane. Several of his associates were involved in the shootout earlier, and are discussing the aftermath of the effect. Manfredi says right now they are just in the "feeling out process" and that soon they will take more concrete moves to be more active. But for now, they are to be more engaging on the protection rackets. They are interrupted, however, by Cornell Stokes and his main enforcer, a man named Diamondback, who say they come in peace. Stokes jibes at Manfredi, explaining that the crime boss has been run out of Hell's Kitchen and other locales in the city, and that now he thinks he can set up ground in Harlem. Manfredi replies that there's no need for their to be war between their two gangs, there's more than enough room for both of them to operate. Stokes is intrigued by the proposal, but then smiles and offers him a 10% share of the business in Harlem. Silvermane balks at this lack of respect, and tells them it'd be a good idea to leave. Diamondback, who's remained silent this whole time, says he should take his own advice.
Back at Pop's shop, Cage is explaining about Dillard's seeming to take advantage of the situation in Harlem, and suggests that maybe Pop should run against her for the city council in the next election. Pop is reluctant to take a stand against her, saying politics has never been his strong suit. Two men suddenly walk into the place, looking for Luke. Cage introduces himself, and they tell him that "Cottonmouth has a proposition for you." They tell him to come down to the Viper's Nest tomorrow night, VIP section. Cage, looking at Pop, says that he'll be there. When the men leave, Pop laughs at Cage, saying something about not getting involved. Cage merely replies that someone has to.
Episode 3. A Better Tomorrow
We open inside the high energy nightclub the Viper's Nest, with a heavy hip-hop club soundtrack beating in the background as people dance and drink the night away. Luke Cage walks up the sidewalk just outside the club, approaching the bouncer and telling him that he's here to see Mr. Stokes. The bouncer nods his head and leads him into the club, ushering him to the VIP section. There, Cage is confronted by Diamondback, who simply stares him down and doesn't utter a word. Stokes enters and introduces himself as the proprietor of this establishment. He says he is pleased to be in the presence of a genuine hero like Cage, which Cage denies being. Stokes retorts that word on the street is that Cage has had a few run ins with the Manfredi family as they've been trying to muscle in on Harlem's crime syndicate, but Cage again denies the allegation. Stokes tells him to drop the reluctant hero act, and simply take credit for the good deeds he's done. Cage cuts to the chase, saying he was Stokes had an offer for him. Stokes offers him a job, working security both at the club and for his more...illicit, activities. In exchange Stokes will offer him a handsome salary and status within the community. Cage turns him down, saying he wants no part in drug running. Stokes smiles and tries to sweeten the pot, saying that there's no drug running involved, just merely looking the other way when he happens upon some of his boys, which Cage also says he can't do. He tells Stokes that Harlem needs to clean up its act, telling him to go legitimate while he still can.
Stokes smiles and replies that he is a legitimate businessman, and that as a legitimate businessman he is offering Cage a lucrative opportunity for himself and the people he cares about. Cage immediately becomes defensive at this point, and Stokes presses his advantage, telling him that he's not threatening them per se, but that if Cage works for him, then the fringe benefits might be protection for them. Cage approaches Stokes, but Diamondback steps between them. Stokes quips that as powerful as "the Power Man" might be, he has no power in this place at this time. He dismisses him and tells him to think about his offer. Cage leaves, but not before spotting D.W. from afar handing people their drinks. He walks over to him, telling him he needs to get out of here while he can, but D.W. replies he needs this job to provide for his mother and younger sister. He doesn't have the luxury of taking a stand on principle, and simply goes back to work. Cage leaves the bar in disgust.
Outside in the rain, Cage finds himself walking past some of the places his frequented as a boy, seeing the rundown nature of the downtown area. He sees the left over damage from the Hulk's fight several years earlier as it is being rebuilt, and also sees young junkies on the corner trying to get a fix from, apparently, Cottonmouth's gang. Cage is approached by a couple of these dealers, and he simply chases them off and tosses their merchandise down the nearby storm drain. By happenstance, he wanders to the apartment of Claire Temple, and the two begin to have a conversation about the old rundown neighborhood. The conversation turns to Mariah Dillard and what she is trying to do to clean things up, but Claire makes it clear that, whatever Mariah is in it for, she is not interested in cleaning up Harlem, she is merely interested in power. Cage and Temple kiss each other good night after Cage says he's got a lot to think about.
The next day at Pop's, Cage is back to his usual job, keeping mum about his experiences the night before. Pop tries to coax the information out of him, but Cage is reluctant to explain himself, before he finally tells Pop to just drop it. They argue a bit, Cage saying that for all of Pop's talk about getting involved, Pop himself hasn't been actively involved all that much lately, which gets the old man's goat. At that point, four men in suits come into Pop's shop, one of them asking for a haircut. Cage doesn't say anything, but recognizes the main man as Diamondback. The enforcer begins talking about things like the "lay of the land changing" and such, and that a man can't be too careful with insurance for his business. Pop refuses to even entertain the idea of what Diamondback is selling, telling him that he's resisted protection rackets for thirty years and he'll keep going for another thirty if he has to. Diamondback says he doesn't have thirty years, and the other men in suits immediately pull out guns. Pop and the other barbers duck for cover, as Cage immediately goes to work subduing the assault rifle toting goons as Diamondback escapes. Cage makes quick work of them, telling them that Pop's shop, and Harlem, are under his protection. That evening, a police report is being filed, with detective Misty Knight investigating the case, although she admits she doubts that anything could be directly linked to Stokes, given his political protection. Pop chimes in, saying that political protection isn't going to be a problem much longer...first thing tomorrow he is going to file to run for city council here in Harlem.
Episode 4. Ruckus in B-Minor
In the following days, Pop's Barber Shop goes from being a simple storefront to the unofficial campaign headquarters for Pops' burgeoning campaign against Councilwoman Mariah Dillard. Cage and Pops walk into the store, which is closed at the moment, both dressed in suits after meeting with people at a community event. Cage says that this is the kind of change that Harlem needs, a person willing to take a stand and run for office to serve the people instead of the special interests. Pops suggests that they get changed and go get something to eat when the door to the shop opens, and Mariah Dillard comes in. She smiles at the "quaintness" of the small shop and congratulates Pop on having the guts to run for office. Not everyone can succeed in a rough and tumble neighborhood like this. She sizes Cage up for good measure, saying that security sure has been beefed up, but Cage politely replies that there won't be any trouble, so long as Dillard doesn't bring trouble. Mariah replies that it's dangerously close to bringing some kind of allegation against her, which Cage denies. She leaves, telling Pop's to keep his head on a swivel, given the suspect company he keeps around.
At the Viper's Nest, Cottonmouth is once again going through figures with Diamondback, lamenting the fact that the Manfredi syndicate is cutting into their profits without their being so much as a real fight breaking out as of yet. Diamondback suggests that they need to act quickly, before Silvermane can establish any more of a foothold in their territory. They are interrupted by Mariah Dillard, who comes barging into the meeting. Diamondback vacates as Stokes calmly asks his "cousin" what she wants. She explains that she's facing a challenger from some guy named Pop's, and that it's a problem that needs to be "taken care of." Stokes calmly explains that their partnership is symbiotic in nature...you can't get something for nothing. Dillard is at first outraged, claiming to have stopped major investigations into his operations as a "legitimate" businessman. Eventually though, she agrees to leverage on the police to take a more active role against the Manfredi family, provided Stokes can convince the old man to leave the race. Stokes replies it shouldn't be a problem, until he is told that Luke Cage is also involved with Pops. He mutters under his breath that complicates things, but even a hero can't be two places at once. He pulls out his cellphone and calls his associate, telling him to find D.W.
Cage and Pops are at a late lunch later that afternoon, having more of a conversation about community leadership and how Cage could still be a force for good. Pops says it's not enough just setting an example by doing the right thing, people still need heroes in this world...more than just guys in fancy armored suits or running across rooftops fighting ninjas. They need real, down to earth people in their lives, but people who are super nonetheless. Cage says he's kind of come around to Pop's way of thinking, but only in the sense that he wants the police to be those people in Harlem. Pops asks how Cage can trust the police, given what has happened to him, and Cage just replies that you have to have faith in institutions, even if you have to sometimes act against them, to do the right thing in the end. He might have gone to jail, but in the end they realized their mistake and he got out. They are interrupted by D.W., who comes rushing in saying that there's some people trapped in a burning building down the street. Pops says he'll pay the bill, while Cage goes to help. He rescues three families from the flames, trying hard to make sure everyone gets out alive. In the end, he succeeds, and starts to head home with Pops. As they approach the shop though, a bomb goes off blowing the plate glass window of the shop to pieces, and setting it ablaze as well.
As Pops and Cage sift through the rubble, Cage is asking a nearby cop about the bomb, which the officer assures him they'll get to the bottom of it. Cage tells him that Mariah Dillard was here earlier today, giving something of a vague threat, and of their run ins with Stokes' gang. Misty Knight saunters over and dismisses the other detective, telling Cage to forget that line of thinking without any hard evidence. Pops chimes in, saying they'll get evidence eventually. This isn't going to stop him from taking a stand. In her car, Dillard is complaining to Stokes over the phone, saying that she didn't have a bomb in mind at all and that her problem has been compounded by their bungling. She hangs up in disgust, when her car suddenly stops. She demands her driver keep going, when the side door opens and Silvio Manfredi lets himself in. He says that he has a proposition for her, given that the town is "under new management" and she agrees to hear him out.
Episode 5. Back in the Game
Back in Mariah Dillard's limo, Silvio Manfredi and she have a lengthy conversation concerning the history of crime in New York, and the waning influence of the Manfredi family against a new Kingpin of sorts. Manfredi makes it clear that he sees expansion into Harlem as the next stage of his family's "business," and that in his line of work it makes sense to make friends with people in high places, saying that Dillard is being touted as a future mayor of the city. Mariah finally gets down to brass tax and asks Silvermane what he wants. Manfredi says he simply wants the police to be "kept busy" over the next few days while he consolidates his position. In exchange, Manfredi promises to make her popular opponent go away, come hell or high water. Mariah orders the car stopped and tells Manfredi that she can't get involved directly, due to family matters, but for Silvermane to "do what you have to do, as a sign of good faith."
The next day a group of local craftsmen and citizens are rebuilding Pop's barber shop, cleaning out the debris and damaged equipment while also starting a rebuild/campaign fund for the community favorite. Luke leads the cheer for Pop to give a speech, and the elder man talks about how Harlem used to be a cultural center for the people. How Harlem used to be a neighborhood you could be proud to call your own. He promises to root out the corruption that is rampant in the upper echelons of government, and taking a stand to the organized crime bosses and drug runners that have taken over the neighborhood. It's easy to destroy, he says, but it takes real effort and courage to rebuild. The rebuild turns into more of a block party, which Misty Knight wanders into when she gets off duty. She approaches Cage and begins thanking him for helping get Pops involved, saying this is the kind of hero Harlem really needs. Cage agrees, repeating that he never thought of himself as a hero, even after all the stuff he did with the Thunderbolts. Knight then apologizes for the wrongful arrest she had a hand in, seeing as how that is the reason he was in the prison to be experimented on in the first place. The conversation then turns to the investigation, which Knight wants Cage to come down to the precinct to talk with a potential witness about.
In an abandoned warehouse, a shipment of drugs is coming in, with Diamondback supervising the unloading and distribution. They are interrupted by Silvio Manfredi, who comes in with armed guards that get the jump on Diamondback and his men. Silvermane offers Diamondback a job, offering him twice as much as Cottonmouth is paying him. Diamondback replies that there's not enough money in the world for Silvermane to break a bond between brothers. Manfredi raises an eyebrow at this, saying he didn't think Stokes had any family, which Diamondback merely replies that family comes in many forms. Manfredi uses his guards to seize the trucks and drive off with Stokes' product. Back at the police station, Cage is brought in and sees D.W. sitting in the witness chair, much to his chagrin. Knight says that D.W. was seen exiting the building that was set on fire, the one which had drawn Cage away from Pop's Barber Shop long enough for a bomb to be planted. Misty knows that if D.W. is involved, he's merely a small fish in a much larger pond, and thus is trying to get him to flip on his boss Stokes. She asks Cage to talk to him.
Cage at first reads D.W. the riot act, saying he knew his parents before he was sent away and that they wouldn't want him to act this way. D.W. responds that he wouldn't know that, considering his father hasn't been seen since he was five years old and his mother is in jail at the moment after some prostitution bust. Cage asks who he's staying with, which D.W. responds his uncle, who lives in Tampa but has an apartment here in Harlem. Cage tells him about a time in his youth when he made a choice, to be better than the people who raised him. He asks D.W. to think about that, before he spends the rest of his life covering for a man who doesn't give two damns about him. D.W. thinks about the conversation, as Cage leaves the room, telling Knight to let him out under his watch. Knight reluctantly agrees.
As Cage and D.W. are heading to a bus stop for Cage's apartment, they hear gunfire in the distance. Cage at first wants to go help out, but D.W. being next to him holds him back. He looks at the kid though, and tells him to stay behind him, as they run to the shootout, taking cover behind a nearby truck. Cage hands D.W. his cellphone and tells him to call 9-1-1, as Luke traverses into the gunfire. He appears in the middle of the shootout between low level thugs of Stokes' Gang and the Manfredi Family, trying to make peace between the two sides. They simply start firing on him, which bounces off his skin harmlessly. He beats up the thugs, pulling a lead pipe bolted against the wall clean off to knock the guns from their hands. A few moments later, the police show up with Misty Knight in toe, only to see Luke finishing tying up the goons he caught with another lead pipe, comically wiping his hands of the affair. Misty smirks at him, telling him not to be a hero, and Cage replies that he had the kid call the authorities.
In the Viper's Nest, Diamondback reports to Stokes about the Manfredi theft, and Cage's continued involvement. He also explains that the police who were supposed to be watching the shipment unloading and keeping Manfredi away were suspiciously absent. Stokes replies that they've been outplayed so far. And maybe it's time to get back in the game...doing what they do best...with or without Mariah's help.
Episode 6. Bells of War
In the aftermath of the latest shootout between Stokes and Manfredi's gangs, Harlem has become something of a gang warzone, with drive by shootings happening with alarming regularity. Luke Cage has taken to patrolling the streets during the day and at night when he can, but he is hesitant to get further involved than he already is. At the home of Claire Temple, where Cage is spending the night, he watches the evening news and sees Mariah Dillard pleading for the violence to stop, and announcing that she will have a new initiative to help control the streets of Harlem and make it safe for everyone. Cage says he believes that as far as Dillard could throw him. Temple suggests that she is just using this gang warfare to spook people into voting for her in the upcoming election, which Cage says is probably true, but can't be proven. That's the thing about politics, he reminds her, People point Guns at you from behind your back instead of right in front of you. Claire says then he has nothing to worry about, seeing as how he's bulletproof.
In the Viper's Nest, Cottonmouth is seen staring at a brand new Colt Revolver with six steel plated bullets. Diamondback walks in, asking Stokes what the weapon is for. Stokes explains it's a special type of ammunition, called a Judas bullet, for a special type of person. Diamondback wonders if that explains the large withdrawal from the coffers last week, to which Stokes simply smiles. He tells Diamondback to carry the revolver on the next shipment, just in case their special friend gets involved again. One of these may put Luke Cage out of commission for good. Diamondback asks about Mariah's request, which turns Stokes' smirk into a frown. He tells his henchman that Mariah has been playing both sides, and while that might work in politics, in war there's another word for that...treason.
At a local community center where Pop is holding a campaign event, Luke Cage is playing bodyguard and helping serve drinks to the gathered masses. Suddenly, Mariah Dillard comes waltzing in with media flanking her on all sides. She walks over to Pop and tells him she looks forward to facing him in the upcoming election, challenging him to a debate where they can more civilly discuss the issues, to which Pop readily agrees. She then casts dispersions on Cage's character, saying it might be a bad sign to have an ex-con serving so high up in a campaign. Cage merely retorts in front of the cameras that the company one keeps shouldn't be an issue in this campaign...unless it extends to all people involved. Dillard gets stone-faced and then walks out, warning Cage to watch what he says on the record. The streets may be his arena, politics is her's. As she walks off, Pop comes over and asks Cage if maybe he shouldn't be the one running for City Council, given his ability to silence her in one fell swoop. Cage smiles and then leaves, going on rounds. Along the way he runs into Misty Knight who, although she still cautions him to call the authorities if he sees anything, isn't nearly as forceful as she had been in the past against vigilante justice, saying that right now they do need to help if nothing else. Cage suggests maybe he should join the force, become an official cop, and Knight suggests otherwise, saying there are too many people frightened by another honest cop.
Cage continues on his way and, in the course of the night, runs into a group of Manfredi's thugs who are harassing a local grocer. Cage intimidates them to move along, but suddenly one of them attacks and launches a grenade at Cage. Luke picks it up in his hands and watches it explode without any damage to him, but in the confusion, some of Stokes' men drive by and fires several bullets at Cage, shooting up the grocery store behind him. Cage tries his best to protect the people inside, but in the end a few people are seriously wounded. Cops show up a few moments later, arresting the unconscious Manfredi goons, as well as Cage himself as an accessory to the shootout. Cage protests his innocence, but agrees to come quietly so as not to cause a further scene. Pop's pulls up just in time to see Cage thrown into handcuffs again, taken in a squad car to the local precinct. Pops looks off in the distance and sees Mariah Dillard smirking at the scene, a black limousine behind her.
Episode 7. Y'all Been Warned
We pick up right where we left off, with Cage being lead away in handcuffs by Harlem police and to the local precinct. There, he sits behind bars when Misty Knight comes up and tries to explain that this is just procedure, and that he isn't going to be staying for very long. Cage says that procedure is starting to get pretty cumbersome, and once again floats the idea of making this official and joining the police force. Knight says that Cage wouldn't work as a cop, that he can't be bound by rules, and Cage says he doesn't want to be a freelance hero. He never wanted that life, nor to set that kind of example. He wants to work within the system, not outside of it. He looks to the side and sees Manfredi's goons being released, having "made bond." Cage then smirks and repeats, "procedure" to Knight, who can't answer him.
In the precinct captain's office, Knight approaches and demands to know why they are still holding Luke Cage. The Captain at first explains that its for the good of the people: as she herself said we don't need vigilantes running around on the streets. However Knight eventually gets to the crux of the matter, that Mariah Dillard wants Cage locked up until after her debate with Pops, for some reason or another. The captain tells her to keep her opinions to herself, lest she find herself relegated to a desk job. Knight simply replies at least with a desk job, she'd be able to keep track of the dirty money running through this place. The captain finally relents and says Cage will be released, on the condition he stops this hero business once and for all. Knight agrees, though says that he still may be hired for "security purposes" at certain events.
With Cage freed, he comes back to Pops and resumes his previous job, though ineffectively at times. Pops doesn't say anything much to him, but the day before his debate with Dillard he comes forward and has a heart to heart with him. He tells him about an old man who came in here one day, name was Gabriel or something, about twenty years earlier. Before that day, Pops was just like Cage, wanting to keep things on the up and up and work within the system, or at least with the system's permission. But he got to talking to that man Gabriel, and found out he was a World War II veteran. Learning all the stories he had, including fighting with a soldier of legend, Pops learned that sometimes fighting outside the system is the only way to save the system from itself. Cage takes the message to heart, but still says he is going to honor his deal with the police force.
That night, Manfredi and his goons are planning another heist when they are ambushed by Stokes' gang. This confrontation, unlike the others, is primarily one sided due to the surprise attack. Manfredi himself gets away with some of his top lieutenants, vowing revenge, but it quickly becomes clear that they are being run out of town. The following afternoon in a public area, Pops and Dillard have their debate, each one explaining their vision for Harlem. It becomes clear from the crowd's response that Pops is the people's choice, causing Dillard to become frustrated. However, that ends when shots are fired from a distance, hitting Pops square in the chest and Dillard in the leg. Luke Cage rushes up to Pops, who dies in his arms. Cage looks up and tries to see who shot him, when he spots Diamondback in the back of the rampaging crowd. Cage starts running after him, Claire Temple spotted in the background following at a distance. Cage chases Diamondback into a back alley and corners him, taking the shots from the 9mm that Diamondback had. in his pocket with no effect. Cage's anger gets the best of him, as he slams Diamondback against a wall several times. Before he can finish him though, he manages to get control of his anger and simply throw him to the side, leaving him for the authorities. However, a gunshot from behind is heard. This bullet manages to pierce Cage's skin, and then explodes, causing Cage to bleed. He falls to his knees and turns around, seeing Cornell Stokes approaching with the gun pointed at him. Stokes says Cage should have taken him up on his offer, and that he warned him, before he fires another round. Cage manages to throw a nearby crowbar at him, causing the shot to miss and knocking the gun from his hand. Stokes runs over to grab the gun, and hears sirens in the distance. He and Diamondback leave, as Cage gets to his feet. He takes a few steps towards the opposite direction before collapsing again, the last thing he sees are the footsteps of Claire Temple approaching.
Episode 8. Keep Watch
We open with a young kid on a playground, mid 90s rap playing in the background. A game of basketball is going on behind him, as the kid just watches as a young girl is bullied by larger kids. The kid just stands there...watching the whole thing go down. Interspersed, we see a few flashback images of a man in shadow standing over a bed, injecting some kind of drug into a prone Luke Cage. We hear a voice in the distance as the rap song gets louder, a voice calling out "Luke...Luke..."
We cut back to the inside of Claire Temple's apartment, where Claire is desperately trying to wake Luke Cage and treat him for his gunshot wounds. She pulls his shirt off, revealing the damage the shrapnel of the Judas Bullet that had actually managed to pierce his skin. She tends to the wounds, taking a small scalpel to try and cut away some skin from one of the pieces of shrapnel, but finding that the blade of the scalpel knife refuses to cut his skin. Frustrated, Claire can only try and quell the bleeding a bit more. She hears a knock at the door, and she quietly reaches for her scalpel, approaching the door with trepidation. The voice on the other side calls out NYPD. She tentatively opens the door, revealing Detective Misty Knight on the other side. Letting her in, Knight explains to Claire that the police currently have an APB out for Diamondback, wanted on suspicion of the murder of Pops. Claire asks if it will make a difference or if Mariah will buy him off, and Knight can't answer. She asks about Luke, and Claire admits she can't seem to help him, but she's afraid to take him to a hospital. Knight says she guessed as much, and hands Claire a folder, explaining it's information on the experiments they did on him that made him the way he is.
Inside Luke's mind again, we see him being led into a blank white room, clad in the orange jumpsuit of Segate prison. He meets a bespectacled man named Mr. Degli, who asks Luke if he understands that the experiments they will be performing are entirely voluntary. Luke says he does, understanding that it could lead to a possible reexamination of his case. Degli chuckles to himself, saying that he doesn't handle that end of the deal, merely the science end. Cage asks what that means when he is caught unawares from behind by a rag with chloroform, falling unconscious as we cut back to the real world. Claire is looking through the folder, seeing some of the chemical compounds used and saying she can't make heads or tails of this. Misty tells her to keep at it when they hear more sirens in the background, causing Knight to be worried. Claire asks her what is wrong, and Misty is hesitant to answer, before admitting there's not just an APB out on Diamondback, there's one out on Cage too.
At the police station, Mariah Dillard is speaking on the phone with someone, trying to understand why the APB on Luke Cage hasn't resulted in his capture yet. She yells that he was shot, there shouldn't be a way he was saved and he should be found soon. She is interrupted by Cornell Stokes, whom she is surprised to see out in the open like this. Stokes says he is merely here as a concerned citizen, nothing else. He is concerned because of a possible miscarriage of justice, his associate Diamondback being wrongly accused of something when he was just defending himself from a known vigilante. Dillard says she understands the concern but that there are appearances to maintain, but Stokes interrupts her and says that she doesn't understand. The only appearance that is left to maintain is her public one, and if she doesn't want some unsavory truths coming to light, she'll take the heat off his brother. Dillard chimes in that maybe she doesn't need Cornell anymore, now that her competition has been so easily taken out. Cornell smiles and says we'll see.
At Claire's apartment, Claire can't believe what she's hearing, but Knight explains that's why she came here, to make sure that the miscarriage of justice on Cage isn't repeated. She explains how she was the arresting officer on his original charge that put him in prison wrongly and started this whole thing off. She won't make the same mistake twice if she can avoid it. Claire understands and goes back to looking at the folder of information, when Cage's breathing becomes a bit more shallow. She says they need to hurry, and she suddenly finds just what she is looking for. She orders Misty to heat a scalpel in the microwave for twenty seconds, praying it doesn't burn the place down.
Back in Luke's mind, he is again in Pop's shop, having the same discussion he had from the day before; discussing the best ways to change the system from within or from the outside. The conversation goes further, with Pops saying that Luke is the only one with the power to do both. He is the only one who can force change from the outside, and inspire change on the inside too. It's a rare gift Luke has, and it's one he should share with the world. We cut back to Claire's apartment, where she is taking the heated scalpel and barely managing to cut Luke's skin to get the few pieces of shrapnel out that she can, injecting antibiotics too. In Luke's mind, we see the image from before of the young Luke staring at the young girl getting bullied. He interjects himself in the fight, causing a ruckus that police are forced to break up, but he also inspires a bunch of other kids to stick up for him as well to the cops, getting him off the hook. The scene cuts back to Claire's apartment two days later, when Luke wakes up in Claire's bed. She is standing over him, telling him welcome back to the land of the living.
Episode 9. Take It Back
We open on Mariah Dillard coming home to her Penthouse apartment, when she is accosted by two goons who work for Cornell Stokes. She is taken in forcefully to find Diamondback sitting there, playing with a knife. Dillard tells him that Stokes won't allow this, that he will be sent up the river if anything happens to her. Diamondback simply responds that what the boss doesn't know won't hurt him. Besides, they're not here to hurt Dillard, merely just to remind her of her place. Diamondback explains about her history before she became the "upstanding" citizen of Harlem that she portrays herself to be. She was nothing more than a common street walker back in the day, and Cornell was just a pimp who saw an opportunity. Dillard says she has no idea what Diamondback is talking about, making the man smile and say that if she doesn't back off him and do exactly what Stokes' says from now on, then he will be making sure the whole world knows about it. He then leaves, causing her to think to herself.
Back in Claire's apartment, where Cage is still laying low, Claire admits that there's a chance that all of the shrapnel that remains in his body will simply stay where it is for the remainder of his life. Cage says that there's not much they can do about it unless they can get some more of those scalpels super heated again. He looks on the television, seeing the funeral for Pops being covered by the news. Claire tells him not to blame himself, but to blame Stokes and his war with Silvermane. To blame Mariah Dillard for somehow being complacent in all of this. Cage says he knew that something was up with Dillard, that he should have done more and not put Pops out on a pedastal like that. She replies that there was no way he could have known entirely what was going to happen, and no matter how good he is, he can't save everybody. The two of them embrace and begin to make love on the bed, but Cage backs away, saying he doesn't need Claire just to provide a distraction. Claire is hurt by this, but doesn't really say much of anything before leaving the room. They are both then disturbed by a knock at the door. Claire tells Cage to hide in her room, as she checks to see if it's Misty Knight. She is surprised to find Mariah Dillard outside her apartment, demanding to be let in. When Claire tries to close the door, Mariah threatens her with a search warrant and enough legal bills to sink her financially. Before Claire can answer, Cage makes an appearance and tells her to come in.
At the kitchen table, Dillard finally comes clean. Stokes is her cousin, and she has used his muscle to silence political opponents in the past. She says though that what has happened with Pops has gone too far, and that Cage has to stop Stokes before he decides to turn against her too. Cage simply says no, he doesn't owe Dillard anything. She stood there and profited off the backs of the underprivledged and the underserved, using the mob to keep herself in power. And when an opportunity arose through the Manfredi family to try and freeze out her one loose end from her family, she tried to play both sides and wound up getting burned. Dillard is a little disturbed by how close Cage has come to the truth, and admits that she knew she was playing with fire when she agreed to help the Manfredi syndicate in Harlem. She even knew that people might lose their life. But she didn't realize that Stokes and Diamondback would be capable of murder as boldly as they are now. Cage and Claire hardly believe Dillard's pleas, but they do admit that if Stokes decided to trade on his reputation as a legit business man and turn his criminal enterprise over to Diamondback, then things would get worse. Dillard says the key is eliminating Stokes. Diamondback is just a henchman, Stokes is the real brains of the operation. And Dillard might be the only one with enough evidence to link Stokes to all the criminal activity.
There is a commotion on the television, revealing that Dillard's apartment building is currently being held hostage by Diamondback and his goons, ostensibly looking for her. While the police have the place on lockdown and are attempting to negotiate for hostages, the outlook appears grim. Steeling himself, Luke promises to return and leaves Claire's apartment. Claire goes running after him, telling him that he must know it's a trap to lure him out as much as it is searching for Dillard and her evidence against Stokes. Luke says he knows, but he also knows that if they don't take back the streets, by force if they have to, no one will do it for them. He's learned that people have to fight for what they believe in, even if they have no way of winning that fight. He walks away, with Claire barely saying above a whisper I love you as the scene ends.
Episode 10. Can It Be All So Simple
Inside the apartment building of Mariah Dillard, in the parking garage underground, several of Diamondback's hoodlums are seen holding guns, guarding against a SWAT team from entering. They are attacked not by a SWAT team, however, but instead by Luke Cage. Cage takes the bullets they fire with no difficulty. Luke tosses the guards into the walls and pillars, looking to make his way to the elevator. He hears a revving engine and sees a car driving right at him at top speed. Luke braces himself and then stops the car cold with his shoulder. He looks at the battered driver and just shakes his head while cracking his neck, before making his way to the elevator and heading for the first floor. Along the way, Luke beats down a few more goons, seemingly on a mission.
On a live video feed elsewhere, Cornell Stokes is watching all of this unfold. He speaks with Diamondback on the phone, telling his "brother" to hold down the fort and find the information that Mariah Dillard has stored away on him. He is interrupted however by police showing up to his establishment. Detective Misty Knight, along with Dillard, have come with a search warrant to search Cornell's establishment for connections to the drug trade in Harlem. Stokes, playing the opportune businessman, welcomes the search and says hello to the councilwoman, calling him his sister. Misty seems a bit taken a back by this, but Dillard explains she isn't Cornell's sister, but rather his cousin. Knight orders the cops to continue the search, as Stokes surreptitiously sends a message to Diamondback to with a change of plans.
Back at the apartment complex though, things aren't exactly going Diamondback's way, as most of his goons have been taken out by the rampaging Cage. Diamondback manages to slip out the back, leaving his revolver with the Judas Bullet's in it in the hands of a trusted lieutenant. However that trusted lieutenant gets scared when Cage appears, silently mowing through all of his henchmen, and causing the nameless thug to fire off the remaining four rounds harmlessly into the floor. Cage takes the revolver and smashes it, demanding to know where Diamondback has gone. All of a sudden though he sees an explosive device near by. Not having enough time to evacuate the hostages in the building, Cage dives on the bomb and absorbs the brunt of the explosion himself, suffering some burns on his chest and collapsing through the floor back down to the basement. Shaken and wounded, Cage travels back to the Viper's Nest to confront Diamondback and Stokes.
At the club, to Misty Knight's amazement, there is no evidence there linking Stokes to the drug trade. Cornell says that this was all just likely a misunderstanding, and Dillard implis that maybe she had "the wrong Stokes all along." It is at this point that Diamondback comes marching in, catching the cops off guard and kidnapping Dillard and Knight. With all the other cops knocked out, Cornell drops the facade and embraces Diamondback, whom he refers to his Phillip. Knight figures out that all the evidence had linked Diamondback to the drug trade, that he would take the fall if it ever came to it. Cornell says it's an interesting theory, but that Phillip is his brother, what he does with his business is exactly that...his business. Dillard joins them, having falsified the evidence she had and staged the assault on her penthouse to destroy the actual condemning evidence. When Knight says that she can go to the DA with all this, Cornell implies that would be a very bad idea.
However before any veiled threats can be carried out, Cage breaks through the wall of the club and confronts the Stokes family. He points to Cornell, saying that he'll deal with him in a moment, but right now he has personal business to settle. Diamondback obliges, removing his suit coat and approaching Cage. To the latter's surprise, Diamondback is able to throw a punch that hurts him, likely due to his weakened state from the excess of heat he absorbed from the explosion. Cage is able to turn the tide quickly, all while Stokes grabs another gun from under his desk. Cage tosses Diamondback hard into the wall, nearly breaking his back. He stops when he hears a gun being cocked. He turns around and sees Stokes holding Misty Knight hostage. Cage tries to talk him down, when Stokes says that the thing about a Cottonmouth is that he only feeds when he backs his prey into a corner. Flipping the gun around while pushing Knight out of the way, Stokes fires the last Judas Bullet out of his own gun at Cage. However, the momentary movement by Stokes allows Cage to grab Diamondback and put him in the path of the bullet. Stokes has to watch as his brother collapses in front of him. Stokes charges at Cage in rage, but Cage puts his lights out with one punch.
Later, more cops arrive at the scene. They see the dead body of Diamondback and the knocked out Stokes, and begin speaking with Cage and Knight. However, several of the cops are told by Mariah Dillard, despite Knight's testimony, to arrest Cage for the murder of Diamondback and assault on Stokes. Knight is incensed at the betrayal, and nearly attacks Dillard over it, with the police captain saying that could cost Knight her badge. Cage tells Misty to relax, and to tell Claire to wait for him while he gets this all cleared up. The last thing we see is Cage being put back into a squad car, a contented look on his face, as he mutters to himself that justice is served again in Harlem.
- Mike Colter as Luke Cage- A former convict (wrongly convicted) turned super hero due to his super strength and unbreakable skin he earned through experimentation in prison. Returning to Harlem after a brief flirtation with being a hero in Thunderbolts.
- Mahershala Ali as Cornell "Cottonmouth" Stokes- A crimelord in Harlem who's territory is being encroached upon by the Italian mob family headed by Silvio Manfredi. Runs an upscale nightclub known as The Viper's Nest.
- Rosario Dawson as Claire Temple- A nurse who Luke befriends one night after saving her life from a mugger.
- Christopher Walken as Silvio Manfredi/Silvermane- An aging crime boss who, due to being muscled out by other crimelords, finds himself encroaching into Harlem drug running and protection rackets, putting him at odds with Cornell Stokes' operations. Walken would reprise the role later in Spectacular Spider-Man.
- Simone Massick as Misty Knight- An NYPD detective in Harlem who initially suspected Cage was guilty of the crime he was wrongly convicted of.
- Tony Todd as Henry "Pop" Hunter- A local barber and community activist who takes a stand against drug running in Harlem, who also hires Cage to help him run the shop when he comes back from prison.
- Alfre Woodard as Mariah Dillard- An opportunistic Harlem councilwoman, who seeks to further her own political career on the backs of Harlem's oppressed.
- Erik LaRay Harvey as Diamondback- Enforcer for Cottonmouth's illegal activities.
- Tyler James Williams as D.W.- A local youngster who gets caught up in the activities of Cottonmouth's enterprise.
- Sam Witwer as Mr. Degli- The scientist in Seagate prison who experiments on Luke Cage, among others.
The first season of Luke Cage drew generally positive reviews from critics and audiences, with most people praising the performances of Tony Todd and Mike Colter while criticizing the lack of action in many episodes. Some people criticized the serialized nature of the show, with one episode leading directly into the next, while others saw it as a tool perfectly adapted to the modern day practice of binge watching.