Luke begins his plan to hit Cornell where it hurts, but he may have triggered an even bigger war that will come down on all of the residence of Harlem.
Beware the Spoilers
After a slow build in the first two episodes, it seems as if the third entry moved in to personal territory at a lightning pace. When Luke Cage talked about taking down Cornell’s Queen, Knights, Rooks, and Pawns to get to the King, I didn’t realize that would all happen long before the run time was at an end. Hitting Cornell’s gun rackets and safe house led to one hell of a climax that saw the gangster firing a rocket launcher into the restaurant below Luke’s apartment with Connie and lord knows who else inside.
Building up to that, the titular hero has taken upon himself to hit Cornell in his pocket. As long as the King has the funds to keep the empire going, he will remain untouchable. Luke turns to the hospitalized Chico for information about the various stash houses Cornell keeps.
There are rising tensions between Cornell and Domingo (Jacob Vargas) whom we met in “Moment of Truth.” Since the gun deal between Cornell and Domingo fell thru thanks to the stick up, Domingo sent his former business partner a message holding up Cornell’s thugs and taking the guns being transported for his own crew. Luke takes advantage of the conflict by hitting all of Cornell’s safe houses and destroying all the guns, but leaving the cash.
Cornell assumes the raids on his stash houses were done by Domingo’s men. When the rival pays a visit at Harlem’s Paradise, Cornell accuses him as much. Domingo doesn’t care so about the accusations as much as he is angry the accuser refuses to deliver on the weapons promised to him. After Domingo drops the name Diamondback, he declares war on Cornell. Luke’s crusade on the King has brought so many more people into the line of fire.
Worried about his money, Cornell moves all his eggs into “Fort Knocks.” The Crispus Attucks Center has only one entrance and it is out in the open. Several rooms have been fortified with steel doors and several thugs with weapons. No one would be crazy enough to try and hit the place. Mariah Dillard is genuinely worried there is a large amount of dirty money in her New Harlem Renaissance headquarters, but Cornell assures her he is just taking persuasions.
What strikes me as worthy of note is Mariah sincerely believes taking dirty shortcuts will allow for her vision of an all-black and peaceful Harlem to come into existence. As if making deals with gangsters (blood or no) will mean the streets will become clean. She believes this because her and Cornell’s grandmother blackmailed a group of politicians to build a playground in the middle of the ghetto. For someone who is so smart, it seems like such a dumb idealistic thing to think a gangster will give up his power. Mariah could have used the money to fund affordable housing to be built in Harlem, but Cornell will make sure he owns whomever lives there.
I guess we will never know if it could have worked. Luke raids the Crispus in one of the best action sequences in the series so far and takes one bag of money to keep the barbershop open and pay his own rent. The rest of the money, and there is a lot of it, is left for the cops to find effectively connecting Councilwoman Dillard to some seriously shady dealings. With the money and her reputation gone, who knows what Mariah will do.
I like this new path the show is building for Mariah. Her street name gets dropped during her argument with her cousin, “Black Mariah.” In the comics, she is a gang leader who goes up against both Luke Cage and Iron Fist. I wonder if the show is setting her up for the next entry in the Netflix/Marvel series.
After all is said and done, Chico holds up his end of the bargain he made with Luke and is coming forward and testify as a witness to the shootout at the junkyard and barbershop. He calls Misty’s partner, Detective Scarfe, to confess what he saw at the gun deal. To no one’s surprise the cop is on Cornell’s payroll. Scarfe kills Chico, but not before he gets the name of the man causing all of the trouble. Luke Cage.
“Who’s Gonna Take the Weight?” does a really great job ramping up the tension between Luke and Cornell, but it also serves to set up a desperate and angry Mariah and an even bigger war coming with Domingo. Where does the illusive Diamondback fall in this coming conflict? The episode also sets up Misty as the person who could figure out the past Luke is running from. Her gut is telling her he is the one behind the chaos. What will she do when she knows all his secrets?
Charles Bradley is the resident performer at Harlem’s Paradise singing two songs that really captured the mood of those scenes. A more soulful melody with “Changes” as Cornell ponders his next move. Then a much more upbeat jazzy song in “Ain’t It a Sin” as Luke raids his stash houses.
The first, of what I’m sure will be many, appearances of a Wu Tang Clan song “Bring da Ruckus” really set the perfect tone for Luke’s raid on Crispus. As the intensity builds so does the music.
What did you think of “Who’s Gonna Take the Weight?” Were you excited when Wu Tang started up? Do you think Connie survived Cornell’s attack on Luke? Click here for all of the Luke Cage episode breakdowns. Come back tomorrow for “Step in the Arena”. Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.