Original Airdate: 9/30/2016
Written by: Cheo Hodari Coker
Directed by: Paul McGuigan
Created by Cheo Hodari Coker
Based on the Marvel comics by Archie Goodwin, George Tuska, Roy Thomas, and John Romita, Sr.
Cast of Characters
Mike Colter as Luke Cage
Mahershala Ali as Cornell Stokes/Cottonmouth
Simone Missick as Misty Knight
Theo Rossi as Hernan “Shades” Alvarez
Alfre Woodard as Mariah Dillard
Frankie Faison as Henry “Pop” Hunter
Frank Whaley as Detective Rafael Scarfe
Ron Cephas Jones as Bobby Fish
Jacob Vargas as Domingo Colon
Cassandra Freeman as Patricia Wilson
Brian “Sene” Marc as Wilfredo “Chico” Diaz
Darius Kaleb as Lonnie Wilson
Jermel Howard as Shameek Smith
Jade Wu as Connie Lin
Clem Cheung as Jin Lin
Warner Miller as Tone
Hughes Faustin as Dante Chapman
Deborah Ayorinde as Candace Miller
Parisa Fitz-Henley as Reva Connors Cage
Steven Ted Beckler as Nate
Arethea Brooks as Sheila
Christopher Chirdon as Officer
Justin Swain as Bailey
S. Robert Morgan as Oliver
Jaiden Kaine as Zip
Kelvin McGrue as Koko
Sean Ringgold as Sugar
R. Marcos Taylor as Amos
Dawn-Lyen Gardner as Megan McClaren
Raphael Saadiq as Himself
D-Nice as Himself
LaShonda Reese as Lip Syncer
Jeremiah Richard Craft as Kid
Ester Jiron as Girl #1
Megan Gabrielle Harris as Girl #2
First Appearance: Luke Cage (first appearance in Luke Cage, previously Jessica Jones), Cornell Stokes, Misty Knight, Shades Alvarez, Mariah Dillard, Pop Hunter, Rafael Scarfe, Bobby Fish, Domingo Colon, Chico Diaz, Connie Lin, Jin Lin, Tone, Reva Connors Cage (first appearance in Luke Cage, previously Jessica Jones), Zip, Sugar, Koko, Amos, Candace Miller, Patricia Wilson, Lonnie Wilson
At Pop’s Barber Shop in Harlem, Pop cuts teen Lonnie’s hair, while another barber, Chico, cuts Shameek’s. Everyone talks about the latest poor season showing by the New York Knicks. When Shameek starts giving grief about star player, coach, and GM Pat Riley, who Pop is fond of, Luke Cage jumps in to explain how Riley was able to accomplish so much with great talent that wasn’t afraid to play physical. Luke works at the shop sweeping and mopping the floors, washing towels, and cleaning up. Eventually, Shameek tries to step to Luke, thinking he’s better than the guy doing janitorial work. Luke shuts it down immediately. Lonnie’s mom, Patty, arrives to take him home. She tries flirting with Luke and offers her number, both for a coffee date and potentially as a lawyer when she passes the bar exam. Luke quietly rebuffs her advance but takes the number.
In a back room, Luke paces, perturbed by the exchange. He tosses the slip of paper with Patty’s number to the ground. Pop comes back and recognizes what Luke’s going through, chalking the pacing up to time in prison. He asks Luke if it’s about Reva, Luke’s deceased wife. Luke says it’s always about Reva. Pop thinks it’s time for Luke to move on and he should give Patty a call, mentioning that it’ll be a good change from the rebound chick who shot him point blank in the head with a shotgun. Luke picks up a washing machine with ease and recovers the paper with Patty’s number on it. Impressed as always, Pop says Luke should be putting his abilities to use to help others. Riva said the same thing, Luke notes. He doesn’t care for his abilities, saying they ruined his life. He lost his wife, and now he’s a fugitive. He just wants to live his life and be left alone.
Outside the shop, Shameek waits in a car. As Luke takes out the trash, Chico runs into him and a gun falls out of his pantwaist. Luke asks what he needs the gun for, but he tells Luke to butt out. Chico gets into Shameek’s car and they talk about going to get some money. Luke realizes he’s late and rushes off to his second job. He stops by a newsstand to pick up a New Yorker magazine and the blind vendor, Ollie, warns him that his landlord, Connie, is looking for him to pay rent. Luke passes by her restaurant, Genghis Connie’s, looking to avoid her but runs into her. He hands over what cash he has on him and says he’s going to work to get the rest. She wants the rent that night.
Luke washes dishes at his second job at Harlem’s Paradise, a club owned by Cornell Stokes. With a bartender short, the manager has Luke fill in. In the private balcony, Stokes meets with Councilwoman Mariah Dillard, his cousin. She’s impressed what he’s done with the place. He tells her that a gym owned by his associate Domingo Colon is going to be paying him some money soon and she will receive a cut for a real estate project she is working on. She calls Colon out for being a drug dealer, and says that politics is where the real power lies. Stokes tells her she needs what he does to keep her politics alive. Colon joins them. Down on the floor, Luke serves a drink to a woman in a tight dress who takes an interest in the meeting up in the balcony. Luke and the woman chat and flirt. Upstairs, Colon asks if his contribution to Dillard gets him a “get out of jail free” pass. She says it doesn’t work that way. Colon wonders why they are celebrating now, that they should wait for their current job to be finished. Dillard agrees. Despite her concerns over Stokes’ actions, Dillard was the one who funded Stokes initially, recognizing their family crime legacy. She is concerned that he’s taking legit money and turning it illegal by selling military-grade weapons. To allay Colon’s own concerns, Stokes tells them the arms are top of the line, no serial numbers, and they come from a good connection.
At the meet to sell weapons to Colon’s men, Stokes’ men are ambushed by Shameek and Chico in masks with a third guy, Dante Chapman. One of Stokes’ men starts to pull a gun and a firefight breaks out. The three take out Stokes’ and Colon’s guys. Dante freaks out; he’s the bartender at Stokes’ club who called in sick. He figures that Stokes is going to guess this was an inside job and easily figure out it was him. Shameek agrees and shoots Dante, as Chico recoils. They grab the money and run.
At the club, Luke notices that the woman keeps staring up at Stokes. He thinks she’s one of Stokes’ model girls but thinks she’s a bit older for Stokes’ taste. The woman isn’t too thrilled with the observation, though Luke tries to save it by saying he likes a woman rather than girls. One of the servers, Candace, asks Luke to help her take some bottles of champagne up to Stokes’ table. He’s reluctant but she admits to not liking going up there alone. He agrees. On the balcony, Luke delivers the champagne as Stokes’ lieutenant, Tone, paws at Candace. Stokes mentions he hasn’t seen Luke behind the bar before and asks where Dante is. Looking at Luke’s size, Stokes says he can offer him a job and asks if he’s ever carried a gun before. Luke tells him he’s not interested, and he and Candace leave.
Still alive, Dante reaches for his phone and calls Tone to tell him about the deal gone bad. Tone relays it to Stokes, who keeps calm but is none too pleased. Outside the club, off shift, Luke runs into the woman he was flirting with earlier. He offers some suggestions on rides and notices she was probably ordering an Uber. He wonders if she was waiting for Stokes, who just left. She asks if he has somewhere he should be, and Luke admits he should be going home. As he goes to leave, she asks if he wants to get some coffee. He doesn’t like coffee; neither does she. They end up back at Luke’s place and sleep together.
In a dream, Luke remembers being jumped by two other inmates in prison. At Luke’s, he’s woken by the woman’s phone ringing and her answering it. She has to go for her job. She tells him she’s a financial auditor. As she dresses, she mentions that he talks in his sleep, saying the words “shades” and “comanche.” He asks if he can call her, but she’s not willing to give him her number. She says she knows where he works and she can find him. She leaves and Luke watches her climb into the back of a black car. Morning breaks at the scene of the gun meet gone bad, cops swarming the place. Det. Rafael Scarfe is being shown through by one of the officers when his partner arrives: Misty Knight, the woman Luke was with, now dressed in a pantsuit. She recognizes Dante’s body, says she knows his mother.
At the club, Stokes talks with Colon over the phone, telling him the hit wasn’t an inside job. He wants to make things right, but Colon hangs up on him. Tone asks what’s going on, but Stokes is tight-lipped. A man named Shades, not too long home from prison strolls in and tells him he should be open with his man. Shades is working for Diamondback, Stokes’ weapons connection. He explains the events that went down the night before and tells them that Diamondback wants to help. First, he needs to know for certain that it wasn’t an inside job, which Stokes assures him. Feeling like this is an attempt to muscle in on his territory and business, Stokes is skeptical, but Shades tells him he wouldn’t see Diamondback coming if that’s the case. Because of their previous work together, Diamondback sent Shades to help Stokes with whatever he needs.
Sweeping up outside Pop’s, Luke sees a cover of the New York Bulletin with a picture of Dante on it. He talks to Pop about Dante, and Pop laments about Shameek and Chico. Pop explains his method of helping wayward youth, giving them a job cleaning up the shop and a place to hang out and watch TV or play video games. A trick of sorts so they don’t feel like they have to ask for help. Luke asks if he’s sure that Shameek and Chico were involved in Dante’s death, and Pop says people were calling almost immediately to ask about it. He has a hard time believing it, even given their personalities, and asks Luke if he saw anything that would make him think it’s true. Luke lies and says no. Elsewhere, Mariah Dillard leads a camera crew through a community event at a park, showing how she’s connected to the people. She mentions her plan for renovating the Crispus Attucks center. Stokes shows up to talk to her. She’s concerned about them being seen together. Stokes assures her it looks like community action. She tells him she needs the money she gave him back quickly. It was from federal funds for the Attucks center and she faces an audit if she can’t demonstrate where the money went. With the weapons deal gone south, she presses him to make it right now. He’s got a plan and when she asks about it, he doublechecks if she really wants to know the details; she doesn’t and leaves. Tone informs Stokes that word on the street confirms what Dante told him about Shameek and Chico. Stokes tells him and Shades to increase the bounty to find them.
Shameek is at a strip club, flashing the cash and getting lap dances. One of the girls at the club keeps tabs on him and tells someone over the phone. On the street, Luke passes by Genghis Connie’s and he sees his landlord inside motioning for her rent money. He gets stopped by Zip, head of Stokes’ enforcers, who hands him a pamphlet about the New Harlem Renaissance, Dillard’s plan for the Attucks center. At the club, Stokes plays synth organ in a back room for some of his girls. In the kitchen, Luke stops the manager and says he needs to get paid. The manager tells him since he’s being paid under the table, he’ll get his money whenever they feel like paying him. Shameek arrives with Tone, obviously nervous. He says he’s never met “Cottonmouth” before, and Tone corrects him, making sure he never calls Stokes by that name. Luke is disappointed to see Shameek there. As they go off, Luke is ready to go after them when he sees Shades walk in. He recognizes him from prison. Luke takes off.
In the office, Stokes slaps Shameek around to find out where Chico is to get the rest of the money. Shameek spits blood at him. Stokes laughs it off, tosses the young man to the ground, and pulverizes him with his fists. Shades admires the work he’s seen before as Tone is uncomfortable with seeing just what his boss is capable of. Over at Luke’s apartment, Luke paces and wonders aloud if Shades recognized him, blowing his cover. He remembers Reva, seemingly back at Seagate prison speaking to a room of inmates, offering him a copy of Ellison’s Invisible Man and advice on needing to connect with someone to fight the loneliness in prison. In the bathroom, he steels himself for a moment, then grabs his picture of Reva from the medicine cabinet and tells her that he’s focused and ready.
Misty and Scarfe are on the scene of a body dumped in front of a church: It’s Shameek. With Shameek and Dante dead, they have to assume Chico is behind things, but she knows Chico and he’s not the kind of guy who could put a beatdown on Shameek like this. Scarfe asks if she spoke with Dante’s replacement at the club that night. Misty says they barely spoke, and Scarfe thinks they should go talk to the guy. Obviously concerned about facing Luke in an official capacity after their hook-up, she tries to convince Scarfe it would be a waste of time. He agrees but presses that the should cover the angle anyway. She relents.
At Genghis Connie’s, Stokes’ enforcers are trying to muscle Connie and her husband Jin into contributing to Mariah Dillard’s cause. They refuse. Luke shows up and says he doesn’t like the tone of their conversation. Zip orders one of his men to give Luke a beating. The man swings on Luke and shatters his fist and wrist against Luke’s cheek. Luke throws him through the front window. Zip attacks with a baseball bat, which splinters like balsa wood against Luke’s arm. Luke tosses him against the wall. Another pulls a gun, which Luke grabs. The man fires the gun but the bullet is stopped in Luke’s palm. He slams the guy through a table. He asks the last remaining guy if he wants some, but the guy runs off. Luke apologizes for breaking the window. Connie opens the register and pulls out a wad of cash to give to Luke as thanks, knowing he needs money. He declines, saying he’s the one who owes her. Jin complains that Luke just made things worse. Connie says she wants to hire Luke, but he tells her he’s not for hire. He gives his word, though, that he will protect them.
- Pop offhandedly calls Luke “Power Man,” his original hero name in the comics.
- Pop refers to Jessica Jones when he talks about Luke’s “rebound chick” taking a shotgun to him. Luke was being controlled by Kilgrave at the time and fighting Jessica to kill her. Shooting him in the head at point blank range was the only means to stop him.
- Pop also refers to the Avengers when he says Luke should be helping people “like them other fellas downtown.”
- A street merchant is trying to sell Blu-rays of “the Incident,” the street-level name given to the Chitauri invasion from the first Avengers film. He mentions Tony Stark by name, and refers to Thor as the “big blonde dude with the hammer,” Captain America as the “old dude with the shield,” and the Hulk as the “green monster, and I don’t mean Fenway.”
- Raphael Saadiq guests as himself playing at Stokes’ club.
- Mariah Dillard mentions Wilson Fisk and his incarceration.
- The weapons Stokes is selling illegally are manufactured by Hammer Advanced Weapons Systems, the company formerly run by Justin Hammer. Hammer was put in jail following the events of Iron Man 2.
- Luke’s landlord, Connie, offers to hire Luke for protection, which he declines. Luke, along with his friend Danny Rand (Iron Fist), was known as a Hero for Hire in the comics.
Luke: “‘Cause the Knicks played like men when Pat Riley was head coach. Oakley and Ewing went hard in the paint. Plus Anthony Mason and John Starks … drive the lane … you might go home in a body bag.”
Pop: “Alright now, I heard that.”
Luke: “Later with all that Instagram and let’s all max contract on the same team together bullcrap passing as competition nowadays.”
Shameek: “Didn’t Pat Riley sign those Instagram dudes down in Miami when he became the GM?”
Luke: “Maybe. But King James is the truth. LeBron can ball.”
Chico: “Now, pay up, Luke. You said ‘bullcrap’.”
Luke: “Bullcrap ain’t a curse, man. I don’t curse.”
Shameek: (mocking) “I don’t curse.”
Pop: “It’s been long enough. Give Patty a call. She’s a good woman.”
Luke: “I don’t drink coffee much. I don’t think she does, either.”
Pop: “Like she said ‘ain’t nuthin’ wrong with that’.”
Luke: “When I’m ready, I’m ready.”
Pop: “You’ll want a cup of something hot and dark sooner or later, Mr. Bulletproof.”
Luke: “You with the nicknames, Pop.”
Pop: “You said your rebound chick took a shotgun at point blank range, pointed it under your chin, and pulled the trigger.”
Luke: “Still get the occasional headache.”
Pop: “Not a problem for you, Power Man.”
Luke: “Always forward.”
Pop: “Forward. Always.”
Mariah: “Politics is where the power is, Cornell. Forget about all this other noise.”
Stokes: “My noise keeps you flush. All that keep Harlem black-racka-booleack might get you re-elected-”
Mariah: “Damn skippy.”
Stokes: “-But when the smoke clears, it’s niggers like me that let you hold on to what you got.”
Mariah: “You know I despise that word.”
Stokes: “I know. It’s easy to underestimate a nigger. They never see you coming.”
Misty: (chuckling) “Your jacket’s a little small.”
Luke: (looking) “So is your dress.”
Misty: “Saadiq’s still got it. Stone Rollin’ was a dope album.”
Luke: (laughing) “Album? Now I know you’re an old hen.”
Misty: “You ain’t no spring chicken neither, sucka.”
Stokes: “UPS ain’t the only brown that delivers.”
Luke: “Dumb men like little girls. Me, I ponder a woman.”
Luke: “Everyone has a gun. No one has a father.”
Mariah: “For black lives to matter, black history and black ownership must also matter.”
Connie: “We want to hire you.”
Luke: (thinks) “I’m not for hire. But you have my word, ma’am. I’ve got you.”