Manifest kicked off the second half of the season in explosive and series altering fashion.
The writing was on the wall as far as Cottonmouth was concerned. While he might have started off as Fredo, as evidenced by the flashbacks, he’d matured into Sonny. As for Mariah? She was always destined to be the Michael Corleone of the Stokes family right down to killing one of her closest relatives.
There was a certain Godfather vibe throughout this episode, right down to the flashbacks. We learned Momma Mabel Strokes, Cottonmouth and Mariah’s aunt was a hard-nosed, cruel woman who valued family first. Never side against the family isn’t just a Corleone creed.
Uncle Pete learned that lesson the hard way as Mabel made Cottonmouth kill him for working a side deal over drugs (just like Calo Rizzi). This was the same proposed alliance Cottonmouth and Domingo mentioned back in the first episode.
Maybe it was just a result of Mahershala Ali’s tremendous performance, but I’m not sure if the show did completely right by Cottonmouth. He was an ineffective villain constantly chasing his tail from the moment Cage arrived on the scene.
Things were starting to turn around for Cornell Stokes though. His lawyer worked his magic and along with the police unwillingness to air their laundry about corrupt cops, Cottonmouth was released. Emboldened by his untouchable status, Cottonmouth threatens to send Cage back to Seagate and expose him as Carl Lucas if he doesn’t fall in line. And stop trying to be Harlem’s Captain America.
This kicked off an interest look at two very different influential figures on the show. Annoyed that Cottonmouth again bucked Diamondback’s orders, Shades tried to rally Mariah to restore the fear and power to the Stokes name. He was the devil on her shoulder pushing her to stop being so proactive. That was timely advice since her political allies were calling for her resignation in the wake of the ongoing scandals.
That slight push was enough to send Mariah to confront Cottonmouth. Still on a high from sending Cage scurrying, Cottonmouth taunted Mariah saying Mabel always protected her and led him to this criminal lifestyle. The breaking point was when he suggested Mariah flirted with Uncle Pete, which prompted him molesting her.
That set Mariah off and she pushed Cottonmouth through his office window before beating him to death with a mic stand. It was an inglorious end for Cottonmouth. While it was becoming clear he wasn’t the main threat, I was bummed that the series lost such a big time player.
Cage had the angel on his shoulder as Claire convinced him to stop running. While Cage can rattle off the people’s lives ruined every time he acts, Claire reminds him of the greater good he’s already done. That was enough to make Cage stay and fight, more specifically recover the guns from Domingo. At this point anywhere is safer than police custody as they’ve been in a revolving door at the police station.
Misty is starting to investigate Cage and his connections to the greater picture. This seems like a wasted subplot for Misty as she knows Cage isn’t a criminal and honestly just wants to help Harlem.
Cage opened up to Claire, revealing his origins and further developing their bond. I got the sense this would have happened with Misty had she not constantly blown him off. Cage has walls up and trust issues, but opens up to someone interested in getting to know him.
While Claire convinces him to reach out to his still alive father, a mysterious figure armed with a Judas bullet does the unthinkable — makes Luke Cage bleed. It’s a testament to the series that the sight of Cage getting shot is alarming and an ideal cliffhanger. He’ll survive no doubt, having Claire there guarantees it, but this was the most effective episode in terms of creating that let’s get to the next episode moment.
Manifest changes the game in Luke Cage. Mariah is ready to embrace her destiny just as Cage realizes he’s not untouchable.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
Photo Credit: My