The second entry in the series starts to ramp up and gives Luke a final, heart-breaking shove into becoming a hero.
Beware the Spoilers
The search for Chico (Brian “Sene” Marc) intensifies as Cornell Stokes, the NYPD, and eventually Luke Cage are all looking to find him before someone else does. He is the only piece of the puzzle left for gun sale that was jacked a few days before. Cornell (and by extension Mariah Dillard) wants the rest of the money that was stolen from him, the NYPD wants answers, and Luke is doing a favor for Pops.
As a younger man, Pops was a thug and eventually was sent to prison for ten years. When he got out, he made a choice not to be that dumb kid anymore. Lucky for him, someone was willing to give Pops a chance. Now as an upstanding member of the community, Pops does what he can to give the other young men in the neighborhood a chance.
That includes Chico, whose father used to run with Pops along with Cornell. Pops knows his employee might have tried to get rich quick by holding up a few thugs, but he wouldn’t have the heart to kill anyone. Since the barbershop is “Switzerland” Pops hopes to find Chico so he can give the money back to Cornell and bargain for Chico to get out of New York safely.
Thru investigation as to what happened during the gun sale gone bad, we get a chance to know Misty Knight the detective better. She is highly intuitive almost to the point of it being a superpower. Growing up in Harlem allows her to be comfortable in the neighborhood. She knows the lingo and is not afraid to engage with anyone she thinks she can get answers from. Misty understands it is all in how you ask. Because of this, her partner Rafael Scarfe (Frank Whaley) stays in the background knowing he will not generate the response she can. The investigation also allows for her to be properly introduced to Luke.
All of this leads to the tipping point for Luke, Pops’ inevitable death at the hands of Cornell’s thug. While Cornell was fine with doing things Pops’ way to get the money back quickly and quietly, his right hand man, Tone (Warner Miller), has other ideas. The thug makes an executive decision thinking his boss is being played by Chico. He and Shades go to grab the thief after learning he is hiding out at the barbershop. Much to Shades’ shock, Tone shoots up the place killing Pops and injuring Chico. Luke, who was shielding a child when the bullets started flying, watches Pops bleed out in his arms. The final message, “always forward, forward always.”
The reverberations of Pops death will be felt all through the neighborhood with Luke, Misty, and Cornell dealing with the aftereffects. For Misty, it will put her on the path to bring Cornell down. She knows he had something to do with the shooting. For Cornell, it is the death of a mentor and big brother. Upon learning of Pops’ death, he showed Tone the definition of gravity. For Luke, it is the end of his external moral compass. Now the voice of his conscience is gone, he has to find a way within himself to be the hero both Pops and Reva wanted him to be.
Curiously the episode bookends with the same scene. Luke in a confrontation with a thug outside of the Crispus Attucks Center which also serves as the home of the New Harlem Renaissance, Mariah’s project to make Harlem a better place. At the beginning we are lead to think he is just there because a stroll thru the neighborhood leads him to the building. In the end we find he is there because of the connection between Cornell and Mariah. Seeing her walk into the Center with Chico’s backpack only confirms what he assumed.
With the thug threatening to kill him outside of a building named for a famous black man in history, Luke decides he is not going to hide his nature anymore. He takes the kid’s gun from him and fires a bullet into his own abdomen as a warning. Someone who can withstand bullets is coming for them.
Still quite a bit of mellow R&B going with Miles Davis “Doxy” and Donald Byrd “Cristo Redentor” opening and closing out the episode. But towards the beginning of the third act, Faith Evans performs “Mesmerized” at Harlem’s Paradise and livens things up a bit.
What did you think of “Code of the Streets”? Were you saddened by Pops death? What do you think Luke is going to do now that he knows a well-known politician has a hand in his friend’s death? Click here for all of the Luke Cage episode breakdowns. Come back tomorrow for the breakdown of “Who’s Gonna Take the Weight?”. Talk to me in the comments below and please do not post spoilers in future episodes. Not everyone gets to binge on the series.