In Harlem, Henry “Pop” Fisher is holding forth at his barber shop. They’re discussing the newest game, and Luke Cage is cleaning up the place. Luke finally speaks up to state his view, and the others agree. They wonder what Luke does there since he doesn’t cut hair, and Luke says that he cleans up. When Luke insists that he does real work, one of the customers, Shameek Smith, says that he does styling and profiling. Shameek is tired of Luke riling him, but thinks better of threatening him.
A woman, Patty, comes to collect her son Lonnie who is getting a haircut. She greets Luke and asks what time he gets off, and Luke says that he has another job to go to. Patty admires the fact that he works, and suggests that they get some coffee sometime. She gives Luke her number and leaves. Once Patty and Lonnie go, Shameek wonders how Patty could be interested in Luke.
Luke goes downstairs and contemplates Patty’s phone number, and then tosses it on the phone. Pop sees him and points out that Luke is still pacing even though he got out of prison. He asks if it’s Reva, and Luke says that it’s always Reva. The older man tells Luke that it’s been long enough and he should give Patty a call, and doesn’t buy Luke’s excuses. Pop jokes about Luke’s powers, and repeats what Luke said about how Jessica had to shoot him in the head. Luke picks up a washer with one hand and Pop says that Luke should be helping people just like the superheroes. He tells Luke that he should be more ambitious, and Luke reminds him that he’s been framed and experimented on. He came out with abilities but figures that they ruined his life. Now Reva is dead and he’s a fugitive. Pop tells him to give up the past and move forward, but Luke insists that he’s just living his life.
That night, Luke is taking garbage out and bumps into one of the customers, Wilfredo "Chico" Diaz. Chico drops a gun and Luke asks what he’s doing. The teenager says that he doesn’t need a daddy and gets into a waiting car. Luke goes back inside and tells Pop that he has to go to his other job. As Luke walks down the street, a street hustler alls him over to buy some DVDs with raw footage of the Incident. Luke ignores him and keeps going, and gets to his apartment above a restaurant. A blind vendor, Ollie, is outside and recognizes Luke by the smell of bleach on him. He warns Luke that his landlord Connie Lin is on the warpath. Connie is waiting for Luke and reminds him that his rent is ten days overdue. Luke gives her what he has and says that he’ll get her the rest after he goes to work.
Luke goes to the Harlem’s Paradise Club where he works as a dishwasher. On the balcony overhead, Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes watches the crowd in satisfaction as they listen to the singer. Meanwhile, the manager Nate approaches Luke and says that they’re short a bartender because Dante Chapman called in sick. Luke asks for his money and Nate says that he’ll have it at the end of the week but Luke can keep any ticks he makes. Shrugging, Luke figures that he has no choice.
Cornell sits down next to his cousin Mariah Dillard and says that he’s turned the place around since Mama Mabel ran the place. He then tells Mariah that “Colon’s Gym” is ready to offer some money to the councilwoman, and they had to meet face-to-face. Mariah wonders why Cornell wastes time on drugs when the power is in politics. Her cousin points out that his money is keeping her flush and lets her hold on to what she’s got. Cornell figures that it’s easily for them to underestimate him... and they’ll never see him coming.
At the bar, Luke gets a Cosmopolitan for a woman, Misty Knight.
A man, Domingo, comes up and Cornell tells Mariah that they’re celebrating their new alliance.
Luke asks if Misty is looking for something, as she watches Cornell and the others up on the balcony. However, she tells Luke that she isn’t looking for anything. She and Luke discuss music as she keeps watching Cornell. Meanwhile, Domingo confirms that if he makes a contribution then Mariah will get her out of trouble if he gets in over his head. Mariah warns that she doesn’t do that kind of thing, and Domingo says that he only celebrates when the deal is done. She warns that after what happened to Fisk, they should be keeping a low profile. She’s only there because Cornell is turning the legitimate money illegal again. Cornell insists that their product is legal and Domingo came to him because he trusts him. He insists that what he sells is pure, and his guns are top of the line.
At a junkyard, several men make a deal: money for Hammer-manufactured guns with no serial numbers.
Cornell assures Domingo that it’s an easy deal, but Mariah isn’t convinced.
Three masked men hit the dealers and take the money and guns.
Cornell and Domingo shake on their deal.
When one of the dealers goes for his gun, the robbers open fire and kill him. A gunfight breaks out and one robber kills a dealer as he threatens the other robber: Dante.
The musician, Saddiq, finishes his set and Cornell stands up to applause with the other club goers.
Dante complains that nobody was supposed to die. His accomplice, Shameek, says that he had to make a move. Chico vomits at the sight while Shameek admires the money. Dante figures that they’ll finger him as the inside man and Shameek shoots him dead. He tells Chico that Dante would have snitched and he had to make a decision, and tells Chico that they’re going. After a minute, Chico grabs the money and gets in the car.
Luke notices who Misty is looking at, and figures that she’s one of Cornell’s girls. He says that she’s older than Cornell usually likes them, but says that he prefers women himself. Amused and impressed, Misty tells him to get her another Cosmo and chuckles. One of the singers, Candace, comes over and is surprised to see Luke there instead of Dante. Candace says that Cornell wants some drinks and needs Luke to help her take them up, and Luke agrees. He gets Misty her drink and then delivers the drinks. As he turns to go, Cornell grabs his arm and says that he’s a big one. He asks where Dante is, and Luke says that Dante called in sick. Cornell then offers Luke a job more suitable to his size and paying better, and asks if Luke has ever carried a gun. Luke says that he’s good and leaves with Candace.
Dying, Dante manages to make a call. At the club, Cornell’s bodyguard Tone takes the call and Dante tells him what happened. Tone then tells Cornell.
A short time later, Luke goes outside and finds Misty standing outside. He says that Cornell left, and he just got off. As he starts to walk, Misty suggests that they get a coffee. When they both admit that they don’t like coffee, they go back to Luke’s place and have sex. Afterward, Luke dozes off.
Luke dreams of two fellow inmates beating him in prison.
Misty’s phone rings and Luke wakes up. She says that she’s on her way in, and tells Luke that he talks in her sleep. She says that he mentioned the names Shade and Comanche, and tells him that the job is calling her in. Luke asks if he can call her later, and Misty says that she’ll find him. Luke asks what she does, and Misty claims that she’s a financial auditor. He assures her that she stands out in any room that she’s in, and they kiss a last time before she goes. Misty gently shoves him away and goes. Once he’s alone, Luke looks out the window and sees a man in a car waiting. Misty gets in and they drive off
The next day, Misty is checking out where the deal went down with her partner, Police Detective Rafael Scarfe. She recognizes Dante and tells Scarfe that she knows Dante’s mother.
In his office, Cornell is on the phone assuring his supplier that it wasn’t an inside job and he lost people too. He insists that he doesn’t have the guns and they need to meet in person, and the supplier hangs up on him. A man, Shades, comes in and says that the expensive money that Diamondback gave them is now in a police lockup. The money Domingo was supposed to give Cornell is gone. Shades says that he isn’t there to spank Cornell, but he came to ask face-to-face if it was an inside job. Cornell says that it wasn’t and he needed the money as well, and Shades says that they’ll give Cornell whatever he needs to get back on his feet... just like back in the day. When Cornell wonders if it’s a takeover, Shades says that if it was then Cornell would never see Diamondback coming. He then asks how he can help.
Luke is sweeping up in front of the barber shop when he sees a newspaper about Dante’s death. When he tells Pop, Pop says that Dante and Chico were his kids. He gave them a job and let them hang out, rather than end up in a gang. Pop is sure that Chico and Dante did it, following Shameek. He doesn’t believe that Shameek or Chico would have killed Dante, and Luke says that he didn’t see anything going on with any of them.
Mariah is at the New Harlem Renaissance celebration in the park that she’s sponsoring with the locals while the news gets footage. Two of Cornell’s men show up and Mariah see them. As she gives an interview promoting Harlem as a symbol of hope and prosperity, Cornell and Shades arrive. She says that her Crispus Attucks Complex will bring hope to a new generation. Afterward, she tells Cornell that she doesn’t appreciate his thugs following her. She warns that they shouldn’t be meeting in public, and Cornell figures that she’s ashamed of him.
Mariah says that she needs the money Cornell promised her immediately, to replace the government funds she used to finance Cornell’s club and his deal. Cornell assures her that it’ll be there. Once she leaves, Tone says that they know Shameek and Chico were the robbers, but they’ve gone to ground. Cornell tells him to offer $20,000 to find them and walks off.
Shameek is celebrating with a stripper at a club. Candace gets word of Cornell’s reward and makes a call to Tone, and says that Shameek isn’t going anywhere. However, she demands money to make sure Shameek stays there.
As Luke arrives at the restaurant, Connie sees him and makes it clear she wants the rest of his rent. Some men are outside and give Luke a Harlem Renaissance flyer. Their leader advises Luke to stay home and stay black.
At his club, Cornell splaying the keyboard as two of his girls look on.
In the kitchen, Luke asks Nate for his pay. Nate says that he’s paying him under the table and will pay him whenever he feels like it. Tone brings Shameek in and tells him to never call Cornell “Cottonmouth” because he hates the name. Luke overhears Tone telling Shameek that Cornell wanted him to check on the teenager personally. Shameek sees Luke staring at him, but Luke doesn’t say anything. Once they go upstairs, Luke starts to go and see Shades come in. he recognizes him from prison, and Shades doesn’t notice him.
In Cornell’s office, Cornell tells Shameek about his photo of Biggie. He then slaps the teenager and demands his money. When Shameek denies taking the money, Cornell tells him to stop and beats him some more. He explains that Dante gave up Shameek and Chico with his dying words, and they’ve got Shameek’s money. Now they want to know where Chico is so that they can get the rest. Shameek spits on Cornell, who laughs and then says that he can hit him like a man. He tosses him to the floor and viciously beats him to death while Shades and Tone watch. Once he’s done, Cornell stands up and tells Tone to dump the body and then get his money.
At his apartment, Luke paces back and forth, trying to work out what to do. He sees his copy of Ellison’s Invisible Man on his bed, and remembers Reva counseling him about how he should make friends at Seagate Prison. Luke looks at a photo of Reva and says that he’s focused, and promises that he’s ready.
The police find Shameek’s body outside of a church. Misty and Rafael arrive and figure that someone beat Shameek to death. She doesn’t buy that Chico could beat anyone to death, and Scarfe asks if she talked to the man that replaced Dante the night of Dante’s death. Scarfe figures that they should talk to Luke, and Misty reluctantly agrees.
Chico sits in the darkness.
Mariah looks at the new flyers for the Renaissance.
Cornell stands in his office, still covered in blood, and looks at himself in the mirror.
Four thugs--Koko, Amos, Sugar, and Zip--are tearing up Connie and her husband Jin’s restaurant and demand protection money for Mariah’s complex. Jin refuses, and Luke comes in and says that they’re being disrespectful. The thugs laugh, and Zip calls over Amos. Amos punches Luke in the face... and breaks his hand. Luke tosses him out the window and the others come at him. Zip hits him with a baseball bat but Luke shrugs it out and knocks him out. When Koko goes for his gun, Luke grabs it and catches the bullet, then takes him down. He drops the bullet and asks if Sugar wants some, and Sugar quickly runs out.
Luke apologizes to Connie for her window, and she gives him their money. He reminds her that he owes her money, and Elmer says that Luke just made things worse because they’ll come back. Despite that, Connie tells Luke that they want to hire him. He says that he’s not for hire but they have his word that he’s got them. With that, Luke pulls up his hood and walks out.
Written by Gadfly on Oct 1, 2016