Luke Cage (S01E07) "Manifest"

Well, that escalated quickly.
As Manifest opened, I was a little worried that Luke Cage might fall into the same trap that Jessica Jones fell into.  They had a charismatic villain in The Purple Man and they kept finding ways to keep him just out of Jessica’s reach.  By releasing Cottonmouth at the beginning of the episode, I thought that we were going down that path.
I’m very happy that I was wrong.
While I loved Cottonmouth and Mahershala Ali, it felt like the character had run its course.  I loved how Shades basically shot him down when Cottonmouth wanted to go back to hunting Luke.  He couldn’t continue the way he was going.
We got some intriguing backstory, learning that Cottonmouth was a shy kid who simply wanted to pursue music.  But then he was forced into a life of violence.  If anything, this flashback shows just how insecure Cottonmouth was behind that cool exterior.
Killing him was the right choice.  And man, what a death.  The show has done a great job of hinting at Mariah’s temper and her fragile hold on it.  Seeing her finally lose it when Cottonmouth pushes the wrong buttons is truly shocking, but it’s earned.  Alfre Woodard was already great in the role, so it will be awesome to see where she goes from here.  Will she step into the primary antagonist role like Shades suggests?
Trust was a big theme in Manifest, especially between Misty and Luke.  Before I was a bit frustrated with Misty constant skepticism regarding Luke, but in this episode it made sense.  Pop was killed, Scarfe was crooked and the system she trusted just let a murderer go.  Luke was asking her to trust him on faith alone, but he never gave her a reason to.  On the other hand, Luke doesn’t trust her because she lied about who she was.  I loved the dynamic between the two and it will be cool to see where it goes.
I was also a bit annoyed that Luke continued to not embrace being a hero.  Cottonmouth’s blackmail attempt was weak and I hated that he fell for it.  He had said he was fighting Cottonmouth for the people of Harlem, so seeing give in to his selfish desire to run was annoying.
Thankfully, Claire was there to snap him out of it.  Rosario Dawson has been a welcome addition to Luke Cage as a rock for Luke.  She said that she was looking for a purpose and this may be it.  She wanted to help powered people and she’s doing so by kicking the doubting Luke in the ass when it’s necessary.
The episode ended with the appearance of a mysterious sniper finally using that Judas bullet.  The sniper was someone from Luke’s past, declaring he had a “Judas for a Judas.”  A wounded Luke and a sniper who knows what can kill him?  This should be good.
Who will fill the shoes of Cottonmouth as the chief antagonist?  Will the mysterious Diamondback reveal himself?  Will it be Mariah?  Well, most likely since you don’t bring in Alfre Woodard to play second banana for very long.
SCORE: 9 out of 10