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Tear Jerker / Luke Cage (2016)

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"Always... Forward..."

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Season 1

    Episode 2 - Code of the Streets 
  • Pop's death. Everyone except Tone is saddened by it:
    • Cage is forced to shield a kid in the shop and wait until after Shades and Tone have left. He then desperately tries to keep Pop conscious and calls out for help but it's already too late, and then he breaks down in tears. When the police arrive, he is sitting in silence, clutching Pop's Swear Jar.
    • Chico is left filled with guilt over the fact that inadvertently caused this to happen.
    • Cottonmouth hurls Tone off a roof upon learning what he did. And even Shades seemed upset when he delivered the news.

    Episode 3 - Who's Gonna Take The Weight? 
  • Chico has just about come to terms with his actions and is ready to own up to the consequences. And then Scarfe murders him. Made even more tragic considering everything Pop risked to protect him.

    Episode 6 - Suckas Need Bodyguards 
  • He may have been a Dirty Cop who killed a witness in cold blood, but there's still something tragic about Misty crying over Scarf's body as he succumbs to his gunshot wounds. Not helped by the fact that he just before he dies, he says he will reunite with his son.

    Episode 7 - Manifest 
  • The flashbacks to Cottonmouth's childhood, showing that he Used to Be a Sweet Kid and never wanted to hurt anybody or be a gangster. This, contrasted with the violent, cruel man he becomes later in life, makes for an effective Cry for the Devil moment.
    • On top of that, Mariah's murder of Cornell makes it sadder, as they both experienced different forms of abuse under Mama Mabel's care with Cornell being forced into the life of a gangster and Mariah being raped by their Uncle Pete. When Cornell tells her that she wanted to be raped, she snaps and murders a man that she's raised since he was a baby as well as her only living relative.
    • After "For Pete's Sake", Cornell's remarks and Mariah's reaction have another layer of depth: her daughter Tilda was a product of these rapes.

    Episode 8 - Blowing Up The Spot 
  • Luke learning that Willis, his childhood friend and surrogate brother actually his real brother was responsible for framing him and sending him to Seagate Prison, as well as all the torture he was subjected to.
    • Willis states that while he was not responsible for Reva's death, he likes saying her name to hurt him.

    Episode 9 - DWYCK 
  • Mariah weeping over Cottonmouth's body remembering how he came under her care and helped raise him. Its made poignant by the fact that she used to call him "Mo", not as in Cottonmouth, but as "Moses" in reference to how his parents left him for Mama Mabel to watch over. It’s one of the most genuinely upsetting parts of the show, and it really hammers home that neither Cornell nor Mariah wanted this life, but their family forced them into it. They were trapped right from the beginning.
  • Misty telling the police psychiatrist about the night she and Luke met, without calling him by name. She apparently really liked him beneath all that Snark-to-Snark Combat, but since he got involved in a murder investigation the very next day it could never go anywhere. It's clear that she mourns for what could have been. And then the episode ends with her agreeing to focus her energies on bringing Luke in, meaning they're officially on opposite sides now.
    • Also the story Misty tells the police psychiatrist about her cousin Cassandra which is also why she decided to become a cop.
      ''"Summer of '95, and every other car was playing either "Shook Ones" or "Ice Cream." I was hanging out with my cousin, Cassandra. My mother told us never to walk around the neighborhood by ourselves but it was hot, and I was thirsty. And she was taking way too long talking to some cute boy. So I went to Ruiz Bodega by myself and got a lemonade. When I got back, she was gone. It took the cops two weeks to find her body. Disfigured, beaten. The boy, Mike Jones, ran a train on her with his crew."

    Episode 10 - Take It Personal 
  • Luke Cage learns what Reva really thought about him. He snaps into a rage and ruins the barn room, though he avoids hurting the doctor himself.
  • When Luke and Claire visit the church he went to as a child. It's hard not to shed a tear seeing a church like this fall into such disrepair.
  • The Police Brutality on Lonnie Wilson, just for defending Luke. Then it gets exploited by Mariah as an excuse to crackdown on empowered people.

    Episode 11 - Now You're Mine 
  • Damon Boone's death and Luke's reaction. He was a good man who could see through Mariah's lies and he didn't deserve to die. You know know he is not going to survive the episode when Diamondback starts to monologue, giving him the necessary knowledge to help clear Luke of his charges and hopefully expose Mariah. And then Diamondback caves his chest with just one punch.
    • Speaking of which, Diamondback's monologue to Damon as he fills in the gaps in his and Luke's backstory. He was Reverend James Lucas's bastard son by his secretary Dana Stryker, a hidden secret nobody talked about. Then two years later, along came Luke, the 'miracle baby', and his father's attention was firmly fixed on his legitimate son. Willis was left spending his whole life trying and failing to get his father's love...and when he and Luke got arrested for car theft, their father bailed only Luke out, left Willis to rot in prison and cut off financial support to his mother, who eventually died from cancer that would have been treatable if not for lack of money. He misblames Luke for their father's sins, and while it doesn't excuse any of Diamondback's current actions, it's not hard to find some sympathy for why he turned into the criminal he is today.

    Episode 13 - You Know My Steez 
  • The flashbacks show that young Willis Stryker really was like a brother to Carl Lucas, coaching him in boxing while trying to talk him out of being too headstrong and reckless.
  • Luke Cage allows himself to be taken back to jail, after the police discover he's Carl Lucas.
  • Candace's death. It's even worse when she was just a scared young woman who happened to work for a mob boss, and was pressured into framing Luke Cage by the former's cousin/murderer/successor. The hostage situation finally inspires her to make amends and do right by Luke. This very same attempt is what ultimately got her killed by her collaborator. Even Misty, who's probably seen several cases where the informant is killed, is personally affected.
    • Moreso once The Defenders (2017) reveals that Candace has two brothers, one of whom died prior to the series, and the other working for the Hand. He is killed as well.
  • Misty's reaction to Inspector Ridley's "The Reason You Suck" Speech. Ridley is exactly right, and Misty knows it. She's fully aware how badly she screwed up, and not only did it cost a young woman her life, it let Mariah Dillard walk free. It's made even worse by the fact that at the start of the season, Misty was a By-the-Book Cop who argued for trusting the system in contrast to Luke's vigilantism. Not only did she screw up, she screwed up by losing faith in her own principles and beliefs. If she'd stuck to her guns and Luke had stuck to his, then between the two of them they might have brought about a true happy ending. Season 2 sees Misty act a lot more wisely when it comes to going after Mariah, once she gets her robotic arm and a boost of self-confidence alongside it.

Season 2

    Episode 1 - "Soul Brother #1" 
  • Claire still feels guilty for Misty losing her arm protecting her from Bakuto despite Misty telling her that if the circumstances could be repeated she would do the exact same thing.
  • Misty is shown to have taken up drinking in her apartment. She also is unable to look at a Purple Heart award that the NYPD bestowed upon her for her actions at Midland Circle.

    Episode 2 - "Straighten It Out" 
  • Claire notes that Luke's increasing brutality is making him more and more like Matt Murdock. Remember that Claire was briefly in a relationship with Matt during Matt's initial investigation of Wilson Fisk, and having likely heard secondhand from Foggy and Karen about what happened between them and Matt in Daredevil season 2, she knows first hand the darkness that Luke is opening himself up too, and can’t bear to watch him end up the same way as Matt did, especially since this darkness is also what may have killed Matt.

    Episode 3 - "Wig Out" 
  • Luke's and Claire's bitter argument at the end, where it becomes clear that both of them have personal scars that makes them feel it's impossible to behave otherwise than they do. Luke feels like Claire telling him to be less angry is like society telling him that he can't show any hint of human temper without being treated as a Scary Black Man. Claire, meanwhile, has lived with an angry, violent man before and absolutely refuses to go through that again. It is essentially a big repeat of Matt and Foggy's falling out in Daredevil season 2, where Both Sides Have a Point and neither of them actually wants to argue, but neither one of them feels capable of compromising.

    Episode 4 - "I Get Physical" 
  • Luke goes back to Claire's place to try and make amends, only to find Claire has moved out and he's not welcome in the building anymore.

    Episode 5 - "All Souled Out" 
  • Despite trying his best to maintain his composure, Foggy can't help but sniffle a bit when he suggests that Luke borrow a page from Matt and wear a mask. It's been several months and Foggy misses Matt dearly, and it's suggested that he's been burying himself in work to numb his grief. We know from The Punisher that he isn't on speaking terms with Karen either as a result of what happened with Matt.
  • In a flashback that leads Misty to reconsider planting a Judas bullet in Cockroach's apartment, we see her trying to comfort a grief-stricken Scarfe in the wake of his son's accidental death. Despite her efforts to assure him it was an accident, he doesn't seem to think so. Despite Scarfe having been a piece of shit, it's hard to not feel for him in the moment as he sits there crying over Earl accidentally shooting himself with his gun, which Scarfe left lying around carelessly.

    Episode 6 - "The Basement" 
  • Piranha's backstory. His mother was one of Mama Mabel's prostitutes, and his father was a banker who was a regular customer of hers. But the banker never wanted to be a part of Piranha's life. In fact, when Piranha tried to reach out to him as an adult, his father had him escorted out by security, considering him persona non grata. So when his father was bankrupted in the 2008 recession, Piranha was all too glad to tell him to get lost when he came begging for a handout.

    Episode 7 - "On and On" 
  • When Shades finds Comanche talking to Ridenhour, Comanche shoots and kills Ridenhour and tries to fib that Ridenhour's snitch was Sugar. Except Shades knows Comanche is the snitch, and proceeds to shoot him with Ridenhour's gun. Despite his fury at Comanche's betrayal, he walks over to the car and tries to comfort his dying friend/prison lover. But he can't bear to see Comanche suffer, so he shoots him again to put him out of his misery. He is tearing up as he prepares to put the second bullet in.
    • This scene is made even sadder by Shades' love confession to a dying and bleeding out Che which also implies he didn't really mean what he said in the last episode when they were holed up in the barbershop.
      "Because I love you... I was blinded by that shit. I didn’t see the snitch in you."

    Episode 8 - "If It Ain't Rough, It Ain't Right" 
  • Speaking of that love confession, Shades is so haunted by what he did that he's playing back his conversation with the dying Comanche while burning the clothes he wore to the shooting.
    Episode 9 - "For Pete's Sake" 
  • Mariah tells Tilda the truth about her birth. She was a child born by her rape from Uncle Pete and every time she saw her she was reminded of him. Jackson Dillard, the man that the public has been led to believe was her father, was actually a gay man who married her because otherwise his family would've disowned him. She never actually wanted her, and coldly says to her face that despite them seemingly getting closer in the present, she never has and still doesn't love her in the slightest.note  In the end, Tilda is left crying while calling her mother a monster, but Mariah doesn't care.
    • It still manages to be a Tear Jerker for Mariah. Mariah never asked to be raped as a teenager by her own uncle, and still carries the trauma with her as an adult. So despite being completely cold-blooded, it is understandable that Mariah couldn't love her own daughter, especially one who looked like her rapist. By her own words, she tried.
      • Which goes to show just how much Mama Mabel broke both Mariah and Cottonmouth. These two could have and should have been brilliant people. Mariah was a smart politician who at the start of season 1 genuinely wanted a better Harlem, but Mama Mabel's influence on her caused her to eventually resort to organized crime to achieve it. Cornell could've been a brilliant musician, but Mama Mabel forced him into the life as well.
    • Even with Mama Mabel gone, it's more and more clear that Mariah still feared and hated her from beyond the grave. How could Mama Mabel claim to be "family first", and publicly detest wife-beaters (as Shades mentioned in season 1 episode 7) and then allow what happened to Mariah to continue and do nothing? What Pete did to Mariah was terrible and Mama Mabel didn't care. She didn't let Mariah get an abortion. She forced Mariah to give birth to Tilda, regardless of the pain and psychological destruction it wrought on Mariah. It also becomes obvious that Mama Mabel only used Mariah's rape as an excuse to kill Pete. She was just angry that Pete was betraying the family by doing deals behind their backs. Otherwise, she would've killed him after he first raped Mariah.
      • Mama Mabel didn't care about Mariah, and for that matter, neither did Cottonmouth. Remember his comments right before his death about how Mariah "wanted it"? You get the impression that Cottonmouth resented Mariah for his losing Uncle Pete, and that he tried to love Mariah just as hard as Mariah tried to love Tilda, ultimately failing as well. It's interesting that he had a very good relationship with Tilda (possibly due to their shared love for music). Cottonmouth clearly had his own traumas, but it's sad to realize that neither he nor Mariah could be there for each other, in any way that mattered.

    Episode 10 - "The Main Ingredient" 
  • The shooting at Gwen's. Special mention goes to Anansi sobbing over the carnage before being set on fire.

    Episode 11 - "The Creator" 
  • We are given a flashback to the day Bushmaster's mother was killed. Stokes button men attack their house and set it on fire. Gwen manages to help John out a window before she's knocked down by falling debris and left to burn in the flames. John is left staring in shock as he realizes his mother is gone, and Mama Mabel taunts him over it.

    Episode 12 - "Can't Front On Me" 
  • Tilda lays a flower at Cottonmouth's grave, while recalling how he loved her as a cousin even knowing that she was a product of Pete's rape.

    Episode 13 - "They Reminisce Over You" 
  • Poor Alex. Tilda clearly regrets not trying to help him get police protection before Mariah had him killed as part of her attempt to clean house. It's the reason why Tilda decides to kill Mariah.
  • Tilda's last appearance in season 2 is in Harlem's Paradise, with her comic book counterpart's signature afro-puffs, indicating that she will descend into villainy. A woman simply minding her own business and helping out her community with medicines gets pulled into the criminal underworld by her mother, suffers through traumatic experiences and devastating revelations, and gets pulled into three directions by her mom, Bushmaster, and the heroes. All of this is no fault of her own. Tragic Villain, indeed. The only bright spot is the potential that she can also follow her comic book counterpart in making a Heel–Face Turn into Nighthawk someday.
  • Season 2 of Luke Cage was the last completed work of Reg E. Cathey before his death from lung cancer in February 2018. As a result, before the end credits, we get an In Memoriam to Cathey.
    • We even hear a voiceover of James Lucas speaking to Luke Cage, and it's obvious that this voiceover was put in as a result of Cathey's death.
  • Shades' last conversation with Mariah. You can tell how betrayed he feels about Mariah's descent into savagery. He idolized the Stokes' ever since Mama Mabel took him in as a kid, and Mariah is now a shell of what he thought of them once. Not to mention that he gets arrested in the end and will mostly likely be the fall guy for most of Mariah's crimes along with his own. Ever since the shooting at Gwen's, he's been kicking himself for killing his childhood friend / prison lover Comanche, someone who was actively trying to get the both of them away from the criminal life.
    • Another irony is that Comanche was a snitch for Ridenhour, who was trying to save Mariah from going off the deep end.
  • Luke's decision to become the new crime boss of Harlem. How long before Luke ends up becoming the very thing he fought so hard against? He is so ashamed of himself that he has no intention of seeing Claire as he is now.
  • Despite Mariah's horrible deeds, she still has people who feel sorry for her. Spurlock says "I'm sorry, May-May" when he's looking at her body in the mortuary, while Sugar admits his sympathy for her never ran out even with the Rum Punch Massacre.


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