WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Season 2 of Luke Cage, streaming now on Netflix.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a place where superpowers have become more and more commonplace, being bestowed upon people from a variety of vastly different sources. There are gods from outer space, gamma-irradiated green monsters, super-soldiers, Inhumans and wizards.
The second season of Netflix's Luke Cage adds an entire new power source to the MCU's already rich landscape. The series' new villain, Bushmaster, can stand toe-to-toe with Luke Cage in a fist fight, and even put Harlem's hero down. But where Cage's powers were given to him by a scientific experiment, Bushmaster's come from a very different source -- in Luke Cage, we witness the introduction of Earth-based magics to the MCU.
When Bushmaster is first introduced, no time is wasted in showing us that he has special abilities. This power, we eventually learn, comes as a result of mixing several dried herbs and other natural ingredients together. When the villain consumes the mixture, he is granted enhanced strength, speed and durability. In the sixth episode of the season, "The Basement," when Bushmaster and Luke Cage are fighting atop a bridge, the enhanced villain blows a special powder in Luke's face, something that instantly paralyzes the hero. That is when Bushmaster reveals that Luke has no idea of his power, or where it comes from. His abilities are born from the Earth mother, a magic unlocked by nature itself.
While we've seen the MCU's magic in action before, Bushmaster's variety brings with it a new twist. In Doctor Strange, the Sorcerer Supreme's powers were derived from harnessing the energy of the Multiverse. Similarly, we saw in Black Panther the power that was contained inside Wakanda's heart-shaped herb, but this too was a power that had come from the stars.
On ABC's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. television series, we's also seen instances of magic, but they were always based in science, and a result of derivative energy. The supernatural abilities of the Ghost Rider were a bit harder to explain, but even his abilities followed the lines walked by Doctor Strange.
Daredevil was blinded by chemicals; Spider-Man was bitten by a radioactive spider; Daisy Johnson has alien DNA; the Scarlet Witch was powered by the Mind Stone; and Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Captain America were all given abilities after scientific experiments.
Bushmaster's abilities are different from all of these. They come from ingredients that the Earth gives freely, however rare they might actually be. The recipe behind the Nightshade he uses is most definitely rooted in ancient history, which means there may be even more power where it originated.
Streaming now on Netflix, Marvel’s Luke Cage Season 2 stars Mike Colter, Simone Missick, Alfre Woodard, Theo Rossi, Mustafa Shakir, Gabrielle Dennis, Rosario Dawson and Reg E. Cathey.