Luke Cage Recap: S1E7 “Manifest”


Family first in the 7th episode of Luke Cage as tensions between Mariah and Cottonmouth build to a shocking breaking point.

Since Cottonmouth’s arrest and Mariah’s public disgrace on national television in the last episode of Luke Cage, it seems the show has been working on ending one storyline and making way for a bigger plot and villain. Episode seven feels like a turning point. It continues to set up not only Diamondback as the show’s real big bad, but the rise of Mariah and Cottonmouth’s destruction over his own hubris.

Mariah is in a precarious position as the episode begins. She can’t disavow her cousin completely, but also has to keep herself away from the negative press surrounding her campaign. She is trying to make the whole incident seem like it isn’t a big deal, but her connections to her family are just too strong and the party leader asks her to resign. This is a tough moment for Mariah, even though she went about it the wrong way, her intentions for Harlem have been good and now they are all for naught.

Her cousin feels differently. Now that Cottonmouth has been released from police custody due to lack of evidence he feels invincible. “I just shot a cop and walked away free”, he tells Shades with a smile on his face. But he still has one problem: Luke Cage. Cottonmouth wants to take Luke out and is willing to do anything to make that happen, even indebting himself to Diamondback. His desire for revenge has blinded him to what is really important.

Family first, Mariah and Cottonmouth have said to each other throughout the series and in this episode we see where this family connection comes from. They were raised under the iron rule of Mama Mabel (LaTanya Richardson Jackson) and her slightly kinder husband Pete (Curtiss Cook) after Cottonmouth’s mother abandoned him. Mama Mabel ran Harlem, hosting a brothel in the front rooms of her house and holding business deals over guns in the back. She raised both children to become the people we see today by fostering Mariah’s education and teaching Cottonmouth the tough laws of the streets. Both have come away from their upbringing with her ruthlessness and business sense.

There are also scars. Cottonmouth was a talented musician with dreams of Juilliard until Mama Mabel had her way. She wanted him to toughen up, to be a man, and to replace Pete when he outgrew his usefulness. And while Mabel encouraged Mariah’s learning she also didn’t do enough to protect the young girl from the advances of the same uncle, the man Cottonmouth eventually kills at Mabel’s insistence.

Knowing how Cottonmouth and Mariah were raised makes them slightly more sympathetic characters. Since childhood they were taught to do what they had to survive. They faced incredible hardships at a very young age and are connected by this shared trauma and history.

It is what makes Cottonmouth’s death at the hands of Mariah all the more shocking. It is not just her anger over his shady dealings that pushes her over the edge, but the resentment and anger from their past. Mariah did everything to raise and protect Cottonmouth, but she believes he doesn’t respect the things she does for him. Add the fact that he blames her for, “coming on” to their uncle and Mariah snaps.

In the bloodiest scene of the season yet she pushes him until he falls out of the window of his office, the same window where we have so often seen him staring out proudly over his domain. After he falls, Mariah continues to beat him with a microphone stand. It’s a jarring outburst, one we are not used to seeing from one so stoic and controlled as Mariah. She is truly shaken by the incident. Luckily Shades is there to make a plan to blame the whole thing on Luke Cage.

Despite the fact that Misty is piecing the clues together over Luke’s true identity and that he is being framed by Shades and Mariah, Luke seems Luke seems to have been convinced by Claire to stay in Harlem. She wants him to be the hero the city needs, not one wearing a mask, but one who the people know by name.

"“Too much in Harlem happens in the shadows. People fear what they can’t see. That’s what makes you different. They see you. That’s what makes them trust you.”"

The end of the episode brings the first appearance of Diamondback (Erik LaRay Harvey) and his Judas weapon. We’ve seen what it can do and it obviously won’t take out our titular hero, but now that the king is on the board what does it mean for Harlem and Luke’s newfound status as a hero?

Next: Luke Cage Recap: S1E6 “Suckas Need Bodyguards”

Stray Observations & Easter Eggs

  • “Pigs get fat, but hogs get slaughtered.”
  • “Harlem’s Captain America”
  • Claire hints that she has a “lawyer friend” who might be able to help Luke (cue screaming)
  • Zip calls the Domingo’s guns, “that John Blaze s***.” John Blaze is the alias of the rapper Method Man who took the name from the Ghost Rider Johnny Blaze in the comics