With Cottonmouth and Diamondback out of the way, Season 2 of Luke Cage is shining a spotlight on the complicated and conflicted Mariah Dillard. The first season introduced us to Mariah, an ambitious politician who is tainted by her cousin Cottonmouth's criminal dealings, and she quickly finds herself at odds with Luke Cage. The new season goes much deeper into her character: Mariah Dillard's backstory is revealed in Luke Cage Season 2 and it is probably not what viewers will be expecting.
Mariah Dillard was not really one of the main villains in the first season of Luke Cage, but she takes center stage in the newly released Season 2. In her attempts to finally cut herself free from the Stokes family's criminal gun-selling business, Mariah reunites with her long-lost daughter Tilda Johnson and makes a shady deal with a powerful gangster who wants her dead named Bushmaster. And although she claims to want to be done with her life of crime, Mariah sure seems pretty comfortable coming up with schemes with her new partner Shades.
Spoiler alert: This post will discuss plot details from the Season 2 Episode 9 of Luke Cage. As we learn more about Mariah Dillard's political aspirations and life of crime, we also get a chilling look at her past. After Bushmaster nearly burns her alive and then puts a hit out on her, Mariah hides out with her daughter Tilda, Luke Cage, Luke's father, and Misty Knight in one of Rand Industry's closed-down buildings (Luke pulled some strings with Danny Rand to secure the hideout). While holed up in the building, Tilda finally gets a chance to demand some real answers from her mother, and she finds out some incredibly hard truths.
Mariah Dillard had spoken about the influence her grandma Mama Mabel had on her whole family before, but it turns out, it was her Uncle Pete who had the most prominent impact on her. Mariah shared that Uncle Pete used to molest and rape her when she was younger, and once she got pregnant, Mama Mabel would not allow her to get an abortion. She revealed to her daughter that Tilda is the product of incest and rape, and broke down crying, telling her that she does not love her because of the circumstances of her birth.
This is all news to Tilda, who had always thought and been told that her father was Mariah's first husband, a man named Howard Dillard. Mariah went on to reveal that Howard was actually gay, and she had used to marriage to cover up who Tilda's real father was.
Of course, this causes Tilda to break down, screaming that her mother is a monster and all but shattering the progress that the two women have made in trying to reconnect with one another this season. After Bushmaster finally attacks the building and everyone is free to come out of hiding, Mariah immediately returns to Shades and is now fully embracing her role as a mob boss for the first time, and Tilda returns to her holistic medicine shop where she finds a dying Bushmaster waiting for her, and she agrees to help heal him. Although the mother and daughter appeared to be growing closer, it is clear now that their relationship is more splintered than ever after that shocking and traumatic revelation.
Learning the truth about her birth may also push Tilda into becoming Nightshade, her supervillain alter-ego from the Marvel comics. Luke Cage seems to be hinting at Tilda embracing her dark side, since the power-granting concoction that Tilda makes is literally called Nightshade, just like her supervillain name, so we will have to wait and see if that happens.