WARNING – SPOILERS FOR ALL OF LUKE CAGE SEASON 2 FOLLOW.
Well. We can’t imagine many people saw that coming. His disagreements with Claire at the start of Season 2 should have tipped us off – it turns out Luke Cage DOES want to be king after all, and he ends the season in charge of Harlem’s Paradise, convinced that he can control Harlem’s gangs without becoming a crimelord himself. Because that’s going to go well.
“The great thing about the ending is that it’s going to make some fans go back and watch all 26 episodes all over again because they’re going to question ‘did I even know this guy?’ because of just how easily he shifts into something else,” says showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker when we chatted to him before the season landed.
The ending was given extra weight with a poignant voiceover from the late Reg E. Cathey as Luke’s father. But if you assumed that was put there as a tribute to the actor, you’d be wrong. “The thing that’s interesting about that is I had done that before he passed,” Coker reveals.
“So it wasn’t like ‘oh, he passed, let’s pay tribute’, it was more like, when you see Luke sitting down with the weight of the world on his shoulders, what’s he thinking about? And so it became a natural path to put that conversation there. It’s one of those things, when we did it, it brings the entire season together because Reg E’s voice is the first thing you hear at the beginning of the season, ‘people talk about Luke Cage like he’s Jesus’, and then at the end when he talks about the definition of a hero, was just really one of those things that make you think ‘oh man, this show’s the shit’,” he laughs.
Luke wasn’t the only character to undergo some big changes in Season 2. Coker is gleeful as he refers to Shades as “the first pansexual supervillain”, but it’s Mariah who undergoes the biggest shift, embracing her Stokes heritage and getting extremely murderous. Coker raves about Alfre Woodard’s work in the part, but her big Mariah Stokes moment – killing Bushmaster’s friends and family – is the key turning point, and one he had to witness in person.
“When you get the moment in episode 10 when she’s fully realised, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Alfre at her scariest. I remember I flew from the west coast to the set in New York just to be there for that scene, because our entire season hinged on that one scene in episode 10 when she embraces herself as Mariah Stokes. And the one note that both Akela Cooper [the episode writer] and I told Alfre was just play it calm. Play it like this is how things should be.” Coker starts laughing at the memory. “And her face! I’ve never been so afraid of somebody! But she was just cool. I can’t wait to see people’s reactions to both episodes nine and ten.”
Luke Cage Season 2 is available to stream on Netflix. You can read our full interview with Cheo Hodari Coker in the current issue of SciFiNow.