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Spoilers below for Luke Cage Season 2, so be sure to finish up all 13 episodes before reading on.
As dangerous a place as Harlem was in Luke Cage Season 1, the arrival of Mustafa Shakir's John "Bushmaster" McIver turned the neighborhood into an ensemble-driven war zone. Bushmaster's ability to take down Luke Cage made him a formidable foe, even though his main target was Mariah Stokes, as opposed to the entirety of Harlem. Season 2 ended fairly ambiguously for the Jamaican baddie, who was back on the island in recovery mode when Mariah met her maker at the hands of her daughter. Shakir has a few thoughts about what he'd like to see from Bushmaster next, assuming he does return for a future season. In his words:
My hope is, seeing that his dependence on Nightshade really muddled his judgment in a lot of ways... I think it was the reason for some of the extreme behavior, to be quite honest. I think he had some 'roid rage.' [Laughs] You know what I'm saying? Just to say the least! So I would like for him to master his powers. Because what gives him his strength is internal. It's not the Nightshade. The Nightshade, as they say, it reveals. It shows what's already there. So he's already got specialness. He survived those inoculations that killed those other kids. He took to the healing when he was shot in the stomach. I want him to be able to step into having a greater capacity to control himself without overdoing it. I think it limits the amount of power that he can actually express. Maybe if he goes back to Nine Mile and takes those diluted concoctions of Nightshade, he'll tune in to the waterfalls and the nature around him, and really become more powerful. Maybe that power can somehow come back to Harlem and do some good.
Speaking to the idea that Bushmaster's place within the MCU isn't wholly entrenched in villainy, Mustafa Shakir apparently hopes for John McIver to reach a point where he's able to control the things going on inside his body, as opposed to his body being in control. As Luke Cage depicted it, the problems with Nightshade dependency were abundant, since the plant itself is anything but abundant. Things never end well for comic book characters who require a certain substance to use their powers and/or stay alive, so Bushmaster's best shot at surviving with his abilities is to figure out how to manifest the Nightshade's influence solely within himself.
Somewhat surprisingly, Mustafa Shakir sees a future for Bushmaster that isn't hellbent on revenge or destruction, but one where he might be beneficial to Harlem. And, perhaps, to Luke Cage himself. Not that the actor sees any kind of instant partnerships forming between McIver and Cage. Here's the pretty brilliant way Shakir laid out his ideas for the characters' futures together, as told to THR.
I think their relationship is antiheroic in and of itself. Because it's definitely in that gray area, and will continue to be, because there's a mutual respect. But our methodology is different, so that makes it difficult for us to work together. Being that Luke is stepping into that Harlem's Paradise spot, and the not-so-subtle hints about mutually getting shit done, being an increased focus. Power corrupts. I think maybe he might go a little bit darker, and when Bushmaster comes back to the city and back on the scene, there might be some ways that they can work together.
I don't know. I think with my imagination sometimes, I feel like Luke is going to go nuts in the street and they're going to be like, 'Luke, what have you become? We need to get somebody who can beat up Luke Cage.' And then they come back and they go to Jamaica and find [Bushmaster]: 'This is the only guy who was able to do it.' I know exactly how that intersection would happen. But I think as a broad point, I think it'll be a lot of gray areas. At least, I hope so, because that's a lot more interesting to me.
It is indeed very easy to foresee that kind of situation playing out in Luke Cage for Season 3 or Season 4. Setting Luke up as the King of Harlem is going to make his head as big as the one in Notorious B.I.G.'s portrait, and no matter how Bushmaster comes back to town, it will complicate things. Even if it starts off amicably enough, their respective personalities are too strong to allow for a clear-cut friendship to develop. Alternately, what better way to twist the Season 2 narrative than by having Bushmaster return to Harlem to "save" it from a power-mad Luke Cage?
For my money, Luke Cage is the best of Marvel's TV shows at blurring heroic and villainous motivations, and bringing Shakir back on a more virtuous path would represent that conceit excellently. But it'll probably be a long time before we find out where Bushmaster is heading, since Netflix hasn't even officially renewed Luke Cage for Season 3 yet. While waiting to hear more, though, head to our summer premiere schedule to see all the new and returning shows popping up soon.