Luke Cage is just getting started, Cottonmouth puts all of his eggs in one basket, and Chico does his part.
Harlem is shaken by the attack on the barber shop and the death of Pop. What was once a safe haven for everyone in the neighborhood, is now a crime scene. But Luke and Bobby Fish, the local chess master plan to build it back up. But first, they’re going to need money. While Luke would love to take on Cottonmouth directly, he makes a plan to hit him where it’ll hurt most; his wallet. With information on Cottonmouth’s safe houses from Chico, Luke hits them one by one until all of his money is moved to the fortress that is Mariah Dillard’s Crispus Attucks Community Center, Luke Cage’s main target.
With Crispus Attucks and the rest of Cottonmouth’s stash houses wiped clean by Luke, and the money in police custody, Det. Knight and her partner Det. Scarfe begin to put the pieces together of the recent events. Who is the man in a hoody, hitting Cottonmouth’s safe houses but leaving the money? The spent bullet casing but no blood lead Knight to Luke Cage, convinced it’s his doing. Scarfe is relieved that someone else is cleaning up the streets for him, saving him paperwork and a bullet in the ass. Knight, on the other hand, feels these vigilantes should be held accountable, have proper training. She believes in the laws that are behind their badge, but Scarfe seems to understand that, after the Incident, not much else except a magic hammer will be able to really take out the bad guys.
While Knight does the paperwork, Scarfe gets a call from Chico. Meeting him nearby, he begins to confess to his involvement in the theft of Cottonmouth’s money from the arms deal a few nights before. He’s ready to testify, name names, dates, locations, everything he and his crew knew about Cottonmouth’s operation. When Scarfe asks why the sudden desire to confess, Chico names Luke, who spoke with him earlier about standing up and being a man, making sure others aren’t hurt. He saw that Luke did his part, taking care of Cottonmouth’s money. Now it’s time for Chico to do his. But before he has that chance, Scarfe wraps a tie around Chico’s neck and strangles the life from him. Scarfe is on Cottonmouth’s payroll.
Luke hits the streets hard in “Who’s Gonna Take the Weight,” no longer standing on the sidelines, but taking the fight to Cottonmouth, both to avenge Pop and to help those in need in Harlem. With a little help from that money, Luke is able to begin to rebuild Pop’s Barbershop, to continue to be a safe haven in Harlem, as well as make things right with his landlord. These simple acts cause ripple effects throughout the community as people see that there is someone who can and is willing to stand up to the corruption in Harlem.
But what is Harlem? The two antagonists, cousins in crime Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes and Councilwoman Mariah Dillard, Harlem is the legacy passed to them by their Mama Mabel, the woman who raised them and set them on their life of crime. Mariah and Cottonmouth show to sides of Harlem that Luke is going up against. Cottonmouth is the gangs, the drugs, the violence that Luke faces and easily overcomes. While Mariah is the institutionalized corruption that, to her, the system that is making Harlem a thriving community, but she seems to be willfully naive to the criminal endeavors she has her hands in with her cousin.