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After almost two years, Luke Cage will finally return to Netflix for its second standalone season, and fans are as pumped as ever, since Season 2 could potentially unlock a Heroes for Hire spinoff with Iron Fist. Those same fans wonder if Season 2 will address the biggest criticisms from Season 1, which largely revolved around killing off Mahershala Ali's Cottonmouth Stokes and granting Erik LaRay Harvey's arguably lackluster Diamondback half of the big bad mantle with Alfre Woodard's Mariah. Turns out showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker is quite familiar with those criticisms, and here's what he thinks.
The standard conventional wisdom is that the show was great up until Episode 7, and then went downhill because Diamondback wasn't as good a villain as Cottonmouth. But as Jeph Loeb, the President of Marvel Television, jokes, Mahershala couldn't have followed Mahershala!
Cheo Hodari Coker makes a lot of sense with his answer there, which was given during an interview with Empire's PilotTV magazine (via ComicBookMovie). As Cottonmouth, Mahershala Ali carried with him an immeasurable gravitas shared by Alfre Woodard's Black Mariah, and every move he made carried the weight of the character's ego combined with the weight of what Cottonmouth stood for within Harlem. Killing him off in the middle of Season 1 wouldn't have felt nearly as meaningful or shocking if the villain was immediately replaced with a character that shared all the same championable qualities as Ali and/or Cottonmouth. Not that we're saying anyone else could have done it with quite the same excellence, but it's smart that the producers didn't even try for anything comparable.
Fans who knocked Luke Cage for Willis "Diamondback" Stryker's introduction likely won't be completely won over by Cheo Hodari Coker's words, possibly arguing that keeping Cottonmouth alive would have been the easiest way to not have to worry about who to replace him with. But as Coker put it, killing off a major character in the middle of Season 1 was a way to show fans no one is guaranteed safety in this universe. In his words:
Drama matches life. Anyone can die at any time. Doing that in Season 1 says, 'People aren't safe in Season 2. At any time, for any reason, people could go.'
Cottonmouth's death had the biggest impact on fans during Season 1, though Pop's death early on was the catalyst for Luke Cage's actual superhero journey. And that kind of ominous line only makes us wonder what will happen to all the Season 2 characters new and old. New stars include Mustafa Shakir as John McIver, Gabrielle Dennis as Tilda Johnson, and Annabella Sciorra as the Season 2 villain Rosalie Carbone. (These names may admittedly be temporary pseudonyms for the actual character names.) So anyone there is a potential victim. We're pretty sure Rosario Dawson's Claire and Simone Missick's Misty are going to survive, but everyone else is ripe for the offing.
Luke Cage himself, Mike Colter, also addressed the fan response to how the first year played out. His tone was just as understanding, and came with the advice that Season 2 might very well be the cure for Season 1 woes.
It was a great try. Some people enjoy the full season. Some really felt the second part was not as strong as the first. And I get both...but you've got to take a chance to make your series different, and I thought it was commendable. If people thought it was a miss, that's fine. We have a different approach for the next season.
Though the release date was kept hidden for quite a while, Luke Cage Season 2 is set to make its big premiere on Netflix on Friday, June 22, at 12:01 a.m. PT. To see what else is on the way soon, head to our Netflix premiere schedule, our midseason premiere schedule and our summer premiere schedule.