We start the second episode with a flash-forward and find Luke Cage standing ominously across the street from the Crispus Attucks Center. A youngster pulls a gun on him, calls him the “N” word, and demands to know what he’s doing there. Luke, who has no patience for that word, responds “Young man, I’ve had a long day. I’m tired, but I’m not too tired to ever let nobody call me that word.” The youngster cocks his gun and boom! The opening credits roll.
We flash back a few days before and see Misty Knight in the precinct reimagining what went wrong at Cottonmouth’s weapons deal. First, she correctly deduces Chico couldn’t have beaten Shameek to death in the first episode because he doesn’t have the stomach for that type of violence. Second, she realizes that Cottonmouth will be going after Chico next as he is the last one standing and therefore must have the rest of his money.
Speaking of Cottonmouth, he decides to pay Pop’s Barber Shop a visit for a quick shave. Accompanied by his associates Shades and Tone, he is actually looking for clues on Chico’s whereabouts. Pop notices the bruises Cottonmouth has on his hands and senses he was the one to kill Shameek. He realizes that he’ll brutally beat Chico too if he finds him so he asks Luke to find Chico first. Pop wants to set up a meeting with Cottonmouth so they can resolve the situation peacefully with Pop mediating. Although Luke is initially hesitant, Pop reminds Luke that he has always kept his secrets for him and that Luke owes it to him. Luke finds a paranoid Chico just a few hours later but Chico refuses to go back to Pop’s Barber Shop with Luke.
Meanwhile, Misty is out looking for Chico as well and stops by a basketball court to ask questions. She is met with silence so she offers a friendly game of Horse to entice the guys on the court. If she loses, the winner gets a free get out of jail card for a non-violent felony. But if she wins, she gets to know everything she wants to know about Chico. After a dominating display of skill, Misty points out her initials on the court and reveals that she was quite the player herself back in the day. At the same time, Cottonmouth stops by Councilwoman Mariah’s office to drop off the money Shameek stole. However, it’s not enough to pay back the money she forwarded him to refurbish his club so she reprimands him and tells him she’s going to be on him until the situation is resolved.
Back at the Barbershop, Pop is eating lunch with Luke and reveals to him why Chico is so important to him. Turns out, Pop was quite the punk back in his day and used to roll with Cottonmouth and Chico’s fathers. He understands the struggle youngsters have in their neighborhood which is why he opened up the Barbershop as a safe place for kids to hang out and to keep them off the streets. When they go to the back of the Barbershop, they find Chico has returned with the money he stole. Pop lovingly embraces him but scolds him at the same time. Unfortunately, Turk (who you may remember from Daredevil) spots him and leaves.
In the meantime, Misty decides to pay a visit to Pop’s Barbershop to track down Chico. Although Chico is hiding out in the back, Luke and Pop cover for him and tell her they haven’t seen him. Luke also realizes that Misty isn’t an auditor like she said she was in their first meeting and gets a little testy about it. After Misty leaves, Pop asks Luke to go to Cottonmouth directly to tell him Chico is at the Shop. Pop explains they can’t use the phone for this kind of matter and Pop can’t go because the police will be watching his shop. However, Luke works as a dishwasher at Cottonmouth’s club so it won’t raise any suspicions if Luke goes.
Luke makes his way to Cottonmouth’s club and tells Cottonmouth about Pop’s plan to mediate a peaceful meeting with Chico. Cottonmouth tells him he’ll be back at Pop’s Shop the next day for a shave, implying that he’s agreed to Pop’s plan. Unfortunately, Tone receives a message from Turk who tells him the whereabouts of Chico. Cottonmouth tells Tone to not do anything and that Cottonmouth himself will deal with it the next day. However, Tone has other plans and departs the club with Shades.
Here is where the episode gets crazy! Luke is back at the barbershop with Pop who is giving a young boy a haircut. Chico wanders in from the back carrying his bag of money because he was bored without a TV in the back. Luke tries to stop him and tells him to go to the back when Tone shows up with two machine guns and lights up the Barbershop like the Fourth of July. Luke rushes to shield the young boy with his body and tells him to play dead. Sadly, Chico and Pop are not as fortunate and get shot up very badly. Tone and Shades grab the bag of money Chico brought out and leave. Luke stays with Pop in his final moments as Pop tells him, “Forward always. Always forward.” Misty shows up at the scene with the police but is puzzled to see Luke completely uninjured despite the bullet holes in his shirt.
Back on the roof of Cottonmouth’s club, Tone and Shades report back to their boss who is angry that Tone went ahead and acted against his orders to stay put. Cottonmouth tries to figure out a way to salvage the situation but blows up after learning Pop is dead. Turk then shows up asking about his reward for giving them Chico’s location. Cottonmouth confirms that Tone promised Turk money and then throws Tone off the top of the roof who comes crashing into a car below. He tells Turk to collect his money from Tone to which Turk is like “you guys are crazy and I’m going back to Hell’s Kitchen where it’s safe.” Cottonmouth gives Councilwoman Mariah Chico’s bag of money and she leaves.
Now we’re back to the beginning of the episode where we first found Luke standing across the street from theCrispus Attucks Center. This time, the scene plays out and Luke puts his hand on the youngster’s gun when he cocks it and dares him to shoot him in the face. When the youngster hesitates, Luke grabs the gun and shoots himself in the side where the bullet ricochets off harmlessly. The youngster runs away and Luke turns to find Councilwoman Mariah arrive at the Center with Chico’s bag. The second episode ends with Luke talking to Pop in spirit. “Always forward, Pop. Forward… always.”
R.I.P. Pop: Episode 1 – Episode 2