ok so i’m about halfway through luke cage and basically the show finally did something unexpected and interesting, except that unexpectedly interesting thing is also pretty horrible. i am kind of curious to keep watching just to see if they are able to recover from shooting themselves in the foot this badly. spoiler text even though i’m the only person who cares:
[spoiler]So Mahershala Ali plays Cornell/Cottonmouth, he is hands down the most interesting actor on the show and is arguably so good that conflicts with how stupidly the character is written, e.g. he really sells every line and wants you to believe he’s a pretty clever dude with serious pathos. Not coincidentally Ali is also in Moonlight and is probably going to blow up after that. The problem is he’s so charismatic and likable, combined with the fact that his character never really does anything all that sinister beyond killing his own dudes for fucking up, that I never really bought him as a villain. But, when it comes to interacting with Cage, they treat him like some totally idiotic random supervillain, who does absurd shit like firing RPGs at him while cackling like a maniac. It’s a totally uneven character.
At the beginning of this episode, it seems like all that is going to come to a head through flashbacks (that are way too similar to the Fisk flashbacks from DD season 1) explaining how he was fucked up as a kid, misdirecting you to think that this is all supposed to make him a more sympathetic character. Except it actually ends up setting the stage for an almost totally-left field reveal that Alfre Woodard’s character Mariah, his cousin, was molested by her step father (? I think? Not exactly sure on the relationship, nevertheless he’s a surrogate father figure), this comes to a head in an argument they have where Cornell accuses Mariah of basically ‘asking for it’ and flirting with the dude, which sends her into a blind rage in which she murders Cornell (in spite of just seconds before insisting on the mantra “family first”) and then basically immediately after that inherits the mantle of True Crime Lord of Harlem or whatever.
I don’t have a problem with Mariah being the true evil all along, this is basically insinuated at several points throughout the show, but the way they did it is just horrible. The ambiguity about her history as a child abuse victim is just abysmal–I really don’t want to believe they want the audience to accept that she truly was ‘asking for it,’ but that possibility is certainly left out there in the open. Again, I think part of this is because we are supposed to hate Cornell at this point, but I really just couldn’t. He goes back and forth between absurd cartoon supervillainy and genuinely sympathetic but flawed character, there’s nothing in the character up to this point to make us believe he’d make such a vile insinuation, so the inclination is to assume there is some merit to his claim… which is just gross? Plus, I mean, childhood sexual abuse as a catalyst for super villainy is really just an atrocious plot line and can be horribly offensive even when it is handled carefully. In this case it’s just exploitative. At any rate, I have absolutely no faith that they are able to bring this character back around to something that is genuinely interesting, because the writing on this show is so clunky, and the female characters especially are horribly written.
Showrunners deserve some credit for having so many prominent female characters (rare for the Marvel film/tv world outside of Agents of Shield, which I still think is their best non-theatrical thing), but Luke Cage is written like he’s some kind of irresistible sex god and it is just ugh.
Honestly, I didn’t really read many Luke Cage hot takes so I might have missed it, but I am very surprised this moment didn’t inspire more anger from fandom. It is really just appalling. I mean, they go from 0 to 60 on making Cornell a reprehensible creep, which would have made sense if he was actually, you know, allowed to be the villain, but then kill him off immediately, taking out the show’s best actor and transforming a victim of child abuse into a nefarious criminal mastermind in the span of about 30 seconds. It’s got to be one of the worst plot twists I’ve ever witnessed.[/spoiler]