by Shirley Li | via Entertainment Weekly
Warning: The following contains spoilers for season 2 of Marvel’s Luke Cage. Read at your own risk!
By the end of his standalone series’ second season, Luke Cage (Mike Colter) is no longer just Harlem’s hero, but Harlem’s…crime boss?
In a final, shocking move, Mariah Dillard (Alfre Woodard) left Harlem’s Paradise to Luke in her will. After her death, Luke — in an even more shocking move — decided to take it, thinking he’ll be able to see criminal goings-on much more clearly from the perch above the club. Yet, in his final scene, he acts just like the crime bosses he hated, even donning a new wardrobe to underline his transformation.
To figure out what this means for the bulletproof Defender’s future, EW chatted with Marvel’s Luke Cage showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker, who penned the finale. Below, Coker dives into Luke’s decision, how he chose which villains to feature in season 2, and what he thinks of criticisms over the show being too long.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Is Luke 100 percent comfortable with his choice to take over Harlem’s Paradise, to essentially become just like the people he vowed to remove? He can’t be, can he?
CHEO HODARI COKER: When we filmed the episode, the script called for Luke to be more reluctant, to reluctantly look out at all that he surveyed. Mike didn’t play it like that. To his credit, he refused all notes to play it differently, and he absolutely made the right choice, because it’s chilling. If you immediately go from watching episode 13 of season 2 and go back to episode 1 of season 1, it’s chilling how much Mike in that three-piece suit looks like Cottonmouth [played by Mahershala Ali].
The tonal shift can be shocking, but once given power, people kind of show off who they really are. That was what Mariah was trying to say, that you often go in thinking that things are going to be different when it’s your administration, but [once you’re there] you start making the kinds of decisions that the previous administration made. It’s the same lesson that Michael Corleone got [in The Godfather]… So, is my view for Luke Cage, or Luke Corleone, more pessimistic? I would say no, but it’s interesting to play with.
You call him “Luke Corleone”; D.W. [Jeremiah Craft] calls him “Luke Trump” in an earlier scene. Luke’s getting a lot of nicknames that are nothing like “Harlem’s hero.”
It’s a lesson from [The Wire creator] David Simon. He used season 3 of The Wire to not only talk about a war between two drug organizations in Baltimore but also to describe the then-current Iraq War… So for us, it’s like, are we making an analogy about the Trump administration? Yes, we are, but if you don’t get the references, it’s okay.
Now the only fear I have is that someone would make the mistake of having the notion that Luke is conservative. God forbid somebody misinterprets that line as us trying to give Trump a shout-out. That’s not the case at all. What we’re saying is that this place is shaken up by a reformer who has no experience, who thinks that having all power is going to solve things. That’s dangerous. That’s what D.W. is saying. I think, ultimately, [the comparison] elevates the season.
What made you want to end the season on this note? Was there something that compelled you to wrap up the season without the superhero being the moral compass, or even in the right? Why end like this?
Because I want people to clamor for a season 3. [Laughs] If all is well and everything’s great, then, like, I’d rather play Fortnite, you know? [Laughs] I want people to question who Luke Cage is. If season 1 was “Who is Luke Cage?” then season 2 is “This is Luke Cage,” but then season 3 is “Who is Luke Cage, really?”
Let’s talk about Mariah, who’s murdered by her own daughter, Tilda [Gabrielle Dennis], and departs the show. How did Alfre react to being told she’d be leaving the series?
At the very beginning of the season, when I told her the Tilda twist, she screamed at the table, “Oh my God!” As I talked to her about the things she was going to do, she said, “Y’all are going to kill me this season, aren’t you?” [Laughs] I said, “Yeah, we’re killing you,” and she said, “Alright, when you kill me, just make sure I don’t go out like a punk.” Alfre wanted to go out in a blaze of glory, but I said, “No one’s going to shoot you. It’s going to be a lot more emotional than that.” I love writing for Alfre. She’s so playful. She makes for a wonderful villain.
Speaking of villains, I was expecting Diamondback [Erik LaRay Harvey] to show up again after last season’s tease. Why not include him at all this season?
Here’s the thing: I love Diamondback, and I love Erik LaRay Harvey. It was Erik’s audition for Cottonmouth that changed the trajectory of the series. He gave such an incredible Cottonmouth audition that it made us say, “Okay, we gotta reassess the age of Cottonmouth and, knowing that we have such a strong actor for the back half of the season, let’s cast Erik as Diamondback and look for another Cottonmouth.”
Click HERE to read the rest of the recap, “Marvel’s Luke Cage boss breaks down ‘chilling’ season 2 finale, defends 13-episode seasons.”
Marvel’s Luke Cage season 2 is now streaming on Netflix.