The 11 most important moments in Luke Cage season 2

4 of 12

Marvel’s Luke Cage season 1 image. Photo: Myles Aronowitz/Netflix

The strange love story of Shades and Mariah

It’s an interesting choice, making the only real romantic relationship in Luke Cage’s second season between two of its villains. (Claire and Luke’s relationship doesn’t exactly count, since Claire disappears for most of the season after the two have a fight.) Shades and Mariah’s relationship was hinted at during the season 1 finale. But season 2 takes things between them much further than a kiss.

The two are many things to one another — partners, lovers, maybe even friends — and their relationship is predictably complicated. Luke Cage doesn’t give us a lot of information about what’s going on between them. And it seems to enjoy leaving it up to viewer discretion whether their feelings for one another are genuine, or if one or both of them are using the other. (Personally, I come down on the side of genuine, but I’m a sucker for tropes like this.) But the season’s final betrayals land a lot harder if you believe that these two genuinely cared for one another.

Furthermore, while your mileage may vary on Shades and Mariah as a viable romantic pairing, they’re nevertheless an intriguing couple to watch. Few series bother to attempt romances between older women and younger men, but Luke Cage refuses to gloss over the attraction and sexual tension between Shades and Mariah. Their relationship is presented as overtly sexual, complete with heated looks, grabby hands, and gratuitous finger sucking in public spaces. This skirts the line of uncomfortable in a couple of places, but Shades’ open admiration of Mariah’s physical and mental attributes feels revolutionary in a television landscape that doesn’t want to acknowledge older women as sexual beings.