From the onset, the odds of Pops surviving through the season seemed slim. Whether its Obi-Wan Kenobi, Uncle Ben or Vito Corleone, mentor figures don’t tend to last too long. Their death is the last step in forcing the hero to face their destiny.
It was much more shocking that Pops didn’t make it to the midway point of the season. I’m curious if that will be to the show’s detriment going forward. Frankie Faison quickly established a nice rapport with Mike Colter that will be missed.
Yet considering the pacing of the series so far, Pops’ death was necessary. Even with only two episodes under his belt, the loss of Pops was more heartfelt than any Netflix supporting character, including Ben Urich. That’s a testament to the writing in making Pops a character with ties beyond just the hero.
Pops had been in Cage’s ear about doing more to help people. He didn’t go as far as do the whole with great powers comes great responsibility spiel, but the point was the same. Cage admitted that helping his landlord out felt good, but he wasn’t ready to start getting into the drama with Cottonmouth.
Not that Cage was going to have a choice much longer as Cottonmouth arrived at the shop for a shave. Cool little Easter Egg here was Cage wore a black shirt with a red T-shirt underneath similar to his 90s appearance. They were looking for Chico, who still has half of Cottonmouth’s money.
The shop was considered Switzerland and Pops shared it was because of his childhood when he headed up the crew with Cottonmouth and Chico’s father. Their long history explained why Cottonmouth didn’t feel obligated to pay for his shave. And why Pops wanted Cage to find Chico first.
While he was successful on that front, Cage couldn’t prevent Turk from seeing Chico at the shop. Turk came down from Hell’s Kitchen to play chess. I love how Turk is the Agent Coulson equivalent in all of the Netflix series.
Everyone was searching for Chico, including Misty and her partner, Det. Scarfe (Frank Whaley). There was a fun scene where Misty got some information on Chico’s potential whereabouts from some of his basketball pals. Simone Missick is really capturing Misty’s bravado from the comics well. Cage wasn’t happy to learn his hookup is a detective. No more coffee?
Naturally, Turk snitched and tipped off Cottonmouth’s main goon, Tone. Seeking to make an example, Tone shot up the shop killing Pops. With his dying breath, Pops makes Cage swear that he’ll look forward, always and always, forward. Pretty solid last words.
I liked there was an actual code of the streets. It was so understood that even Shades, who appears to not hold much sacred, considered the shootout at Pops a bad move. Cottonmouth didn’t appreciate Tone’s actions and tossed him off the rooftop. That was a spectacularly executed shot.
There was a welcome vulnerability in this final sequence. So often the villains are painted in this one dimensional corner and Cottonmouth’s actual remorse over his friend’s death was meaningful. Cage is angry, but is focused. He understands Cottonmouth is one part of this equation, but the money in the bag Mariah is carrying is what led to Pops’ death.
It’s here we get that powerful final sequence with Cage being threatened at gunpoint. He’s got no time for any would-be-robbers, much less one who so willfully uses the N-word.
Luke Cage is hitting on a lot of topical subjects right now and the dramatic raising of hands and removing the hood was powerful. Two episodes in and Luke Cage has already found its lane to tell engaging, compelling stories from a section of the Marvel Universe that’s largely been ignored.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
Photo Credit: Netflix