Something new is cooking in Harlem, and it is about to be a huge problem for Luke in Season 2 of Luke Cage. The new season features a mysterious new substance known as Nightshade. So, what is Nightshade on Luke Cage exactly, and how much of a threat will the mysterious substance actually pose for the hero of Harlem? Let's break it down.
Spoiler alert: This post will discuss some plot points only from the first four episodes of Luke Cage Season 2. The Marvel Universe is no stranger to introducing strange and powerful new substances — Vibranium was once just an unbreakable metal in Captain America's shield but Black Panther showed that it has mystical properties as well, and of course, Adamantium has a storied past in the X-Men franchise — and now Luke Cage is adding another name to the list: Nightshade. The mysterious herbal concoction is used in rituals by Luke Cage's newly arrived villain Bushmaster, and when he inhales the Nightshade, he gains the bulletproof skin and superhuman strength of Luke Cage.
The term Nightshade is first used pretty early in the new season, and shortly after Bushmaster shows off the herb's power at the end of the premiere episode. In order to get closer to his nemesis Mariah Dillard, Bushmaster shoots and kills the leader of the Yardies gang, a man named Nigel. Of course, the rest of the gang immediately starts shooting at the dude who just killed their leader, but surprisingly, none of their bullets seem to affect Bushmaster. And then Bushmaster opens his shirt to reveal that the bullets did not pierce his skin. A little later, Bushmaster talks about the moment with one of his allies, who tells him that he needs to be careful how much Nightshade he uses, comparing the powerful herb to steroids.
We get a few more details about Nightshade after Mariah Dillard's daughter Tilda Johnson enters into the picture. Tilda owns a holistic medicine shop in Harlem, which is where Bushmaster buys the ingredients to make Nightshade. It also appears that he needs to complete a ritual with a chalked circle and a ton of candles in order for the Nightshade to take effect. After Bushmaster buys all of his materials, Tilda eyes a mystical old book and seems to put together that he is making Nightshade.
For comic book readers, Tilda Johnson's involvement with Nightshade should be very telling, since a character named Tilda Johnson becomes the supervillain Nightshade (or Dr. Nightshade) in the Marvel comics. The comic-book villain Nightshade is a scientific genius and she has the power to turn people into werewolves that obey her every word. The fact that Tilda owns a herbal remedy shop that carries the ingredients for a substance called Nightshade in Luke Cage seems to be a big hint that we could see her origin story as a supervillain this season.
Nightshade also seems to be Season 2's replacement for what Judas bullets were in Season 1 of Luke Cage. In the first season, Diamondback developed a type of bullet that was the only known thing that could pierce Luke Cage's bulletproof skin. These Judas bullets caused Luke a ton of trouble in the first season, but they are totally obsolete in Season 2. At the start of the new season, Luke is shot with a Judas bullet, but much to everyone's surprise (including his own), the bullet does nothing to him. Claire Temple deduces that Luke's powers must be growing, but whatever the case is, it's clear that the bad guys are going to need another angle... and Nightshade might be just the thing.