The seventh episode of Luke Cage delves into Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes’ past and his relationships with his cousin, Mariah Dillard, and their caretaker, Mama Mabel. Heads up, things get really heavy in this episode so hold onto your pants!
We open with Luke Cage breaking up another one of Zip’s attempts to sell weaponry to the locals. Luke Cage asks him why he doesn’t get another profession now that Cottonmouth is done but Zip answers that Cottonmouth is getting out as he scampers away. At the police station, Cottonmouth is cool as ever as he sits patiently next to his lawyer. With a lack of hard evidence to convict him, the police are forced to let him go but not before Misty and Cottonmouth share a few heated words. Luke Cage is outside when Cottonmouth is released and is none too happy that the system didn’t work. Misty also learns that her captain is being replaced by a woman named Ridley, her old lieutenant from the 31st precinct. Her former captain advises Misty to let go of Scarfe, Cottonmouth, and Luke Cage or otherwise risk ruining her career to obsession in the process. Her new captain shows up and suggests the same thing.
Meanwhile, Cottonmouth is having a grand old time after shooting a cop and walking away free. His goons were also able to secure the guns that Scarfe was supposed to give him and gave them to Domingo. Despite all his good fortunes, he is unable to get the Judas bullet (the one weapon that could potentially harm Luke Cage) because he’s too hot after his arrest. In addition, his inability to deal with Luke Cage is preventing him from continuing conducting his business. He tells Shades to contact Diamondback and Shades reluctantly obliges. The scene ends with Cottonmouth retrieving an old pistol and aiming it towards a mirror. Flashback to a younger Cottonmouth holding the same gun. Who his younger self is pointing to gun at is left unrevealed.
Longer flashback! We see Cottonmouth playing his keyboard as he recalls the days of his youth. A young Cottonmouth is practicing keyboard as a young Mariah is working on her schoolwork. Sounds of music and whoring can be heard from the next room over. Apparently, Cottonmouth was quite gifted at the keyboard and was supported by his uncle Pete. However, Mama Mabel had no interest in nurturing Cottonmouth’s musical talent and was focused solely on making Mariah succeed as a lawyer. A young Pop enters with another young rascal to give Mama Mabel some presumably stolen watches. The young rascal brings up selling drugs which Mama Mabel strong opposes. Then we see the ruthless Mama Mabel we’ve been hearing about when she clips off one of the young rascal’s fingers. She orders Cottonmouth to take out the “trash” but uncle Pete defends him saying he’s too young. Mama Mabel orders him again and he obeys. A distraught young Cottonmouth returns to his keyboard with blood on his hands too shocked to play.
Back in the present, Luke Cage shows up to Harlem’s Paradise because Cottonmouth had called him to offer a parley. Cottonmouth reveals that he knows all about Luke Cage’s criminal past and calls him by his real name, Carl Lucas. He blackmails Luke Cage by telling him he’ll keep his secret on the condition that he follows his orders. Luke Cage heads back to Pop’s barbershop where he plans to run away from Harlem. Claire sees this and convinces him to stay. Luke Cage heads to Domingo’s boxing gym and gets the guns Scarfe died over. He gives Misty an “anonymous” tip and she arrives to pick up the stolen guns.
In other news, Mariah Dillard is asked to resign from the counsel because of all the negative attention they’re getting from her association with Cottonmouth. Flashback again to young Cottonmouth who is reprimanded by Mama Mabel for being gone too long with uncle Pete. However, young Cottonmouth reveals to Mama Mabel that uncle Pete has been talking to Salvador and the Puerto Ricans. Mama Mabel awaits for uncle Pete to return home and confronts him about his talks.
Here is when things get heavy. Uncle Pete turns around to find a young Cottonmouth pointing a gun at him (the same gun adult Cottonmouth retrieved at the beginning of the episode). Mama Mabel orders young Cottonmouth to take uncle Pete out back and shoot him. Young Mariah Dillard comes out to watch him die as well and it is implied that uncle Pete sexually molested or assaulted her. After uncle Pete begs for his life, young Cottonmouth shoots him.
Back to the present, adult Mariah Dillard arrives at Harlem’s Paradise to chastise Cottonmouth on his actions. They have an intense argument as Cottonmouth reveals his resentment towards Mariah and the nurturing treatment she received from Mama Mabel. He also tells Mariah of how he thinks she liked what uncle Pete did to her and wanted it because he often saw her flirting with him.
Mariah freaks out and starts attacking Cottonmouth. He falls through the window on the second floor and hits the ground on the first floor. Mariah pursues and proceeds to smash his skull in with a mic stand while shouting “I did not want it!” Shades arrives to see this and helps her cover things up.
Just before the episode ends, Luke Cage is shot in the park by a mysterious man who knows Carl’s real name. The episode concludes with Luke Cage gravely wounded on the ground as Claire attempts to help him.
R.I.P. Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes: Episode 1 – Episode 7