Finally, I manage to actually super enjoy an episode of this show and its a huge game changer in terms of the show moving forward. “Manifest” manages to do one of the best possible things any tv show can do, completely change your perspective on a character and make you somewhat root for them. In this case we are talking about Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes, who I have deemed everyones favorite ne’er–do–well. Stokes up to this point has simply been painted as a man who is aiming to have a semblance of control over his life. In “Manifest” we get to find out exactly what makes him tick and why he is so focused on legacy and why Luke has injured his pride so much. In the meantime we also saw the budding relationship between Claire and Luke, and seeing just how far Luke is willing to go in maintaining his identity.
The big star of this episode is of course Cottonmouth and man, Mahershala Ali and the actor who plays the younger version of the character really manage to display some range. Stokes is a character who has risen up from the bottom to become a man people admire. Watching young Cottonmouth be forced to murder the only man who recognized his talent and turn into a tool for his family’s ambitions. Ali nails that Cottonmouth is simply a man seeking to make his own way in the world, but he is constantly not being allowed to truly be his own man. He was a tool for his uncle, Mama Mabel, Mariah, and now Diamondback. This is what makes his final moments with Mariah so sad. For once in his life it appears Cottonmouth was standing up for himself and he unfortunately pays the ultimate price for these actions. The show moving forward will definitely have to deal with what Cottonmouth and his legacy mean to Harlem, as he has seemingly left more of a mark than Mariah.
What I really loved about these flashbacks in comparison to the flashbacks in Luke’s episode, these ones add just enough to Cottonmouth’s character that we changed our perspective on him. Seeing him come in bloody from his first real intimidation, watching him shoot his uncle while his aunt and Mariah manipulate him into making the shot, and watching just how much control and influence his family has had on him rounds out the character in a nice way. Especially when it is juxtaposed with Cottonmouth doing the one thing that truly brings him happiness, playing music. We have seen just how much Cottonmouth cares about the music and changing the image of Harlem’s Paradise from what his aunt was originally running. Luke’s flashbacks never really added to his character or built him up into a different person, but here we actually get to see our villain evolve. Similarly to how Fisk when from brutal man child to ruthless monster, its all about context.
The capper of course was how the entire affair ended with Mariah asserting control over Cottonmouth one more time, bashing in his skull with a mic stand and playing right into Shade’s hands. First off the staging of Cornell finally speaking his mind and standing up to his cousin to his cousin was brilliant. Up to this point we had constantly seen his underlying resentment for the power Mariah wields and her constant pressure for helping with the community center. Here we finally see him speak his mind, and accept the repercussions of his actions. The best part was seeing Mariah who has been so cool and calculating finally break as she realizes her control is slipping away and the people she though she could trust hate her with every fiber of their being. That is the turning point and what develops the scene into one if not the best moment in the entire season. I mean look how much we are talking about our villains, and we haven’t even talked about the mayhem involving Luke. Seriously, this was a top notch brutal scene up there with Matt challenging Fisk in prison, or Kilgrave giving the order for everyone to hang themselves in the restaurant. Just top notch all around.
Of course the cliffhanger of the episode is simply a great pop to add to the end as we finally get to see Diamondback as he snipes Luke with a Judas bullet. Luke as a character really didn’t have much to do but as we are finally getting to the big bad, it should be fun to see this all play out. It definitely sets a solid impression as Diamondback manages to deal a significant injury to our hero. The question now becomes will anyone actually be able to fill the charismatic shoes of Cornell, and just how much of an effect his death will have on the characters around him. Just some really fun stuff all around.
This was the episode I have been waiting for, the one that Luke Cage worth watching. The question now becomes will the show be able to capitalize on this momentum or simply stall under its own weight. Either way I really want to start episode eight and see just how dangerous Diamondback really is.
Final Grade A
+The Cottonmouth flashbacks
+Fleshing out characters in the right way
+The confrontation between Mariah and Cornell
+Diamondback making his presence known.
-Not a hell of a lot of Luke
-Man is it heartbreaking to hear Cornell talk about how he could have been famous for his music. It puts everything into perspective as to how one chance could have changed his entire world.
-Shades creepily telling Mariah how they are going to frame Luke finally fleshes out the weakest character on the show. Hopefully more of manipulative Shades in the future.
-The shot of Luke’s insides exploding from the Judas was brutal. Definitely a fun new way to hurt Luke Cage.