This article has spoilers for the Marvel’s Luke Cage season 1, episode 3, ‘Who’s Gonna Take the Weight?’.
We open with a teaser. Thugs running out of the Crispus Attucks building, a couch flying out of the second-story window, gunshots, and then Luke Cage (Mike Colter) walking out with his hood up carrying a big duffel bag. Then we get the opening credits.
We jump to earlier in the day where we see both Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes (Mahershala Ali) and Luke mourning as the news talks of Pop’s death. Luke heads over to the shop, where people have been leaving flowers outside in as a tribute. Then we see a couple of Cottonmouth’s delivery guys get hit by some of Domingo’s men with Misty Knight (Simone Missick) and Rafael Scarfe (Frank Whaley) investigating. Luke is talking to a funeral home about a casket for Pop but can’t afford a nice one. Cottonmouth arrives and says it’s covered. They have words. He tells Luke that his former associate acted out of line but isn’t doing much acting anymore. Luke tells him that it still falls on him. Cottonmouth tells Luke to step off, and Luke says he’s just getting started.
Luke then goes back to the barber shop and meets with Bobby Fish (Ron Cephas Jones). He wants to keep the shop open; Fish used to do Pop’s taxes and says it would take 80K to buy the shop, but if they keep the bills paid no one will even ask. Luke decides to take the money from Cottonmouth, but instead of going after him directly, he plans on taking out his queen, his knights, his rooks… taking all his pieces off the board.
Misty and Scarfe question Chico (Brian Marc), who refuses to say anything against Cottonmouth even though he is upset about Pop being killed. Scarfe tells him that he’s free to go, but he has no clothes, no money, and Cottonmouth is going to be looking for him. We learn that the mortician is also the guy who disposes of Cottonmouth’s bodies.
Luke heads to see Chico. He has a brief encounter with Misty as she wants to know how he’s involved with all of it, but Luke isn’t sharing. He then finds out from Chico how Cottonmouth’s business works; how all the money goes to Crispus Attucks and where the other stash houses are. Luke plans to hit the places, making Cottonmouth think that Domingo is hitting him.
Luke hits four of the stash houses, taking out the guns and thugs and leaving the cash for the cops to find. This forces Cottonmouth to reinforce Crispus Attucks and move everything there against the wishes of his cousin Mariah Dillard (Alfre Woodard). Mariah really wants Crispus Attucks to become a low-cost housing community legally, which puts her at odds with Cottonmouth. While they’re talking, Luke is staking out the place.
At the precinct, Scarfe and Misty talk about Pop; how he was an influence on her and how he was the reason she started playing basketball. She mentions how the barbershop was always safe no matter what, until Luke Cage started working there. Scarfe gives her grief about having slept with Luke so quickly.
Domingo (Jacob Vargas) shows up at the Harlem’s Paradise and confronts Cottonmouth, telling him he knows that Diamondback was behind the gun shipment and he wants his money back. At the same time he disrespects the club by dropping wrappers and half-chewed candy. Cottonmouth tells him there are no refunds and asks if he’s admitting to raiding his stash houses. Domingo basically declares war and leaves.
Next we see all of the money being moved to the Fort Knox room at Crispus Attucks, and Luke is outside watching. He waits for Mariah to leave, then takes the door off of an SUV and uses it to ram his way into the building. He then proceeds to use the door for a while to beat up some of the guards, then wraps it around a guy and throws him down the stairs. He pulls a pipe out of a wall and starts beating more guys and eventually ends up in a room with a good dozen thugs the he beats with a couch before hurling it out the second-story window. He makes his way to the vault room, takes one of the bags of money, then calls the cops.
Misty and Scarfe get the results and have a debate about whether or not the lone guy in the hood did a good thing or not. Scarfe seems to think it’s a win — the money is off the street, no one got killed, and no cops got shot at. Misty doesn’t like vigilantes doing her job. Scarfe was a first-hand witness of the Incident and says that unless his gun becomes a magic hammer, cops are now irrelevant. He’s ready to do the paperwork and call it done, but Misty can’t let it go. She thinks it was Luke.
Meanwhile Chico calls Scarfe to talk. Scarfe drives out, talks with Chico in the middle of nowhere, and he starts to give up Cottonmouth — says he’ll name names. Scarfe chokes him to death with his tie, then puts his tie back on and finishes his fries.
We cut to the club, where Cottonmouth is furious that he’s lost $7 million. Scarfe shows up, gives Cottonmouth Chico’s body, the information that it’s Luke who has been hitting him all day, and Luke’s home address. Seems Scarfe is on Cottonmouth’s payroll.
Luke takes the duffel bag of money and gives it to Bobby Fish to keep the barbershop open. He then goes to get dinner at Genghis Connie’s and gives her some money. And we see Cottonmouth launch a rocket at him from the roof across the street. Luke sees it with just enough time to get up before the whole place blows. Cottonmouth laughs.
This was the “I declare war” episode as everyone started going after one another. Misty shows she’s a good detective because she can’t let things go, and we get to really like Scarfe just before he turns out to be on the take. But hands down, the best thing in the episode is the Crispus Attucks fight scene where we get to see Luke cut loose. There were some good character moments as we see that Mariah, or her comic name Black Mariah, really wants to be legit but is just as crooked as Cottonmouth deep down. We get a major tie-in to the MCU films with Scarfe talking about the Incident, and Luke’s journey to hero continues.