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Major spoilers ahead for Season 2 of Luke Cage. If you haven't finished it, check out another story.
While last summer brought Netflix's highly anticipated Defenders miniseries, the time has come for all four respective heroes to get new solo adventures. Jessica Jones Season 2 started this with its almost crossover-less sophomore outing, and now Luke Cage has arrived for another season as well. Luke Cage made a ton of big changes to its format and narrative in Season 2, and one thing it definitely got right was the handling of its villains, specifically Black Mariah and Shades. Because while the overall MCU has a villain problem, Harlem's new Queen and King gave Luke Cage some of its best moments in Season 2.
While Mariah and Shades were interesting and shady characters in Luke Cage's first season, they're truly fleshed out during its sophomore run. Alfre Woodard's Mariah is back, and far more unstable and vengeful than we saw the villain during her premiere season in the MCU. She's a bonafide crime boss now, and god help anyone who might get in her way.
The one thing that keeps Mariah together throughout Season 2 is Shades, who grows more frustrated with her stubbornness with every episode. Meanwhile, her beau and partner in crime begins to peel back his own layers to the audience, specifically about his time in prison. Early in the season we see Shades get his prison buddy Comanche a job on the outside working for Mariah. Throughout the first half of the season, we learn that their relationship is more than just friends, as Shade attempts to put their romantic connection behind them.
But when Comanche is revealed to be a snitch, Shades has to put him down. This decision haunts him for the rest of the series, showing a new vulnerability and heart that Shades didn't have in the show's first season.
Mariah also reveals her life of trauma in Season 2, allowing Alfre Woodard to shine as usual. Ultimately, Mariah and Shades' shared pain and respective secrets make their relationship unsustainable. There is too much pain and pride between the two villains, and they very nearly come to blows a few times throughout Season 2.
Aside from Mariah and Shades, the other villain of Luke Cage Season 2 is Bushmaster. That's the superpowered character that Luke gets to come to blows with various times throughout the season. Bushmaster's motivation is that of vengeance and pain, allowing the audience to connect to the newcomer. Furthermore, his abilities only come to him through great physical torture, allowing for the character to have more vulnerability than the likes of Cottonmouth or Diamondback ever did.
One thing that Marvel's TV shows have over the movies is the luxury of time. 13 hours gives much more time to flesh out the characters, especially its various villains. While Josh Brolin was absolutely mystifying as Thanos in Infinity War, we'll just have to see if Ant-Man and The Wasp and Captain Marvel's villains far as well.
You can catch the first two season of Luke Cage on Netflix now. In the meantime, check out our summer premiere list to plan your next binge watch. Plus our Amazon premiere list and superheoro premiere list to ensure you don't miss a single episode of your favorite show.