The eighth episode of LUKE CAGE, “Blowin’ Up the Spot,” introduces a new conflict and deals with the fallout from how the original conflict falls apart. Luke is pursued by two different people for two different reasons and is injured on top of it, adding an extra layer of suspense. This episode cleans up Cottonmouth and all of his business while unveiling the character who was seemingly the Big Bad in the wings all along.
First, the “me, screaming” things. When Claire put Luke’s blood under a microscope to try to figure out how she could help him that hit all of my buttons. Please continue to do get hardcore into the science of how all of this works. Claire more than anyone right now bridges that gap between the MCU science stuff that throws me into fits of joy and the magic stuff that makes me scowl. I loved everything about Luke’s injury, from the fact that he is basically made of stone all the way through, to Claire taking him to a women’s clinic to fix him up, to Luke still trying to defend people even though he’d been shot. It was less like being worried for Luke’s safety and more being utterly thrilled that they took the opportunity to explore how his powers work and to try to figure out how to help him. It’s the kind of problem that would crop up in a universe that has people with arcane abilities and it’s one of those “practical superpower” moments I love so much. It’s just that rather than Luke using his powers in an everyday way, they’re the thing that’s causing his problems.
Luke’s physical issues aside, Mariah and Shades have framed him for Cottonmouth’s murder so Misty is actively pursuing him. I know I have a messed up relationship radar but I am down for whatever weird thing Mariah and Shades have going on. It’s not even that he’s trying to use her to gain power, he just seems to like her being utterly cold-hearted and ruthlessly practical. Their whole plot to frame Luke is well thought out in that nefarious way that puts a grin on my face. It’s the kind of thing that weaves a perfect web for the protagonist to struggle against.
For her part, Misty teeters on the edge of a mental and emotional tipping point for most of this episode. I love her so much. No matter what they throw at her she just keeps trying to power through even while everything spins out of her control. I continue to love the way they show how she “sees” things when she looks at crime scenes and can tell when people’s stories don’t match with her facts. I like her new forensics lackey Bailey. I love how she wants to go after Mariah but her new boss is Mariah’s sorority sister and thus just lets her leave. It’s a perfect little detail steeped in blackness that adds that bit of Luke Cage punch. This show is also very good at eschewing narrative expectation and another one of those moments of upended expectations was when Stryker held Misty at gunpoint but didn’t kill her to get at Luke. Thank you, show. Misty breaking when she’s talking to Claire was great too, just because Claire both takes no crap and also kind of understands what’s up with her so she doesn’t really hold it against her. All of these plots fit together so well even as they happen in completely different places and have different goals. It’s always delightful when so many disparate stories can make such a cohesive whole.
And then there’s Stryker who just chases Luke around with a gun and spits hate at him the whole episode. Again, it’s the sort of thing that wouldn’t fly at all if this were a traditional network show. I’m not going to put up with waiting week to week to week to find out who this dude is. For me, that’s probably the biggest flaw of this episode is just that I kept waiting for them to explain who this guy was and what his beef was with Luke and they never did. They both pontificate at each other, and glower, and destroy things to get to each other, but there’s never that payoff of why. Even the (kind of obvious) reveal that he’s Luke’s brother at the end still doesn’t tell us diddly about who Stryker is. Yeah, he was Luke’s friend, he framed Luke, etc. etc. But that’s all very thin and annoying. This guy just comes out of nowhere and starts shooting him. I can read between the lines and make guesses, and I can just keep watching and see if they tell me. But considering this episode as an individual piece, that was something that bothered me and I wanted more information.
I like everything that’s going on here. The science, the chase, the bad blood, the drama. I like Misty’s emotional fragility, Claire’s research, and Luke’s stalwart dedication to dealing with his own troubles. I love Shades and Mariah’s power grab, probably too much. But most of all it’s a pleasure to watch it all come together so well and promise me answers to all of these mysteries in the near future.
Season 1, Episode 8 (S01E08)
Luke Cage is available to stream on Netflix
Dana is a digitization archivist by day and a masked pop culture avenger by night. She spreads the gospel of science fiction and fantasy wherever she goes.
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Dana Leigh Brand | Contributor