Harlem's hero may not be a hero any longer, as of the final moments in Season 2 of Luke Cage. The newly released season ended on a dark note, leaving us all wondering the same thing: Is Luke Cage a villain now? Let's talk about that alarming shift in Luke's personality at the very end of the new season.
Spoiler alert: This post will discuss plot points from throughout Season 2 of Luke Cage. Although Luke Cage managed to free Harlem of Mariah Dillard and Bushmaster, he may have lost too much of his idealism in the process. At the end of the newly released Season 2, Luke Cage finds out that Mariah has bequeathed him Harlem's Paradise in her will, which makes him the de facto leader of the community. Mariah explained her decision to her lawyer Ben Donovan as she finalized her will right before her death, saying that she knows having control of the powerful nightclub will change Luke for the worse, as it did her. At first, it sounds like Luke is going to make the right decision and destroy the mobster haven, but in the end, we see that Luke has actually decided to accept Mariah's gift and has taken over her office perched above Harlem's Paradise.
What leads Luke Cage to this decision is the chaos that broke loose in Harlem after Mariah Dillard was sent to prison. When a rival gang led by a woman named Rosalie Carbone makes a push to gain control of Harlem, Luke is forced to reluctantly agree with Mariah's assertion that Harlem needs a gang leader to protect it, and Luke begins to make deals with Carbone. When Carbone and another gang leader arrive at Harlem's Paradise, Luke seats them in the V.I.P. section and makes arrangements to chat with them, much to Misty Knight's dismay.
I mean, that final scene of Luke Cage perched where Cottonmouth and Mariah Dillard once stood in the balcony of Harlem's Paradise seems to very clearly be painting Luke as a corrupted hero. His grey suit even takes on a sinister-looking red hue from the lights as he looks out on his new club, which does not feel like a mistake.
What really drives the upsetting point home most of all is how Luke Cage responds when Sugar (his new right-hand man) informs him that Claire Temple has returned to see him. Earlier in the season, Claire left Luke after telling him that she worries his anger has gotten out of control, and Luke has been dying to reconnect with her ever since. But when Luke finally gets the chance to see Claire again at Harlem's Paradise, he coldly brushes her off. It is a shocking and pivotal moment, indicating that Luke Cage really is detaching himself from humanity and delving deeper into anger, violence, and crime.
Unfortunately, the season ends before we can see Luke Cage actually get involved in any criminal dealings or confronted by his former friends over his new alignment, but it definitely feels like that will be something that a potential third season of Luke Cage will heavily focus on. Or then again, maybe Luke's fellow Defenders will have to step in to try to extricate Luke from his newfound career as Harlem's preeminent crime boss, and he could pop up in a new season of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, or even Punisher or The Defenders... possibly as an antagonist instead of an ally.
We will just have to wait and see where this new, darker version of Luke Cage pops up next in Netflix's Marvel Universe, and how his dark side will change things up.