No one can say Mariah didn't go down fighting. In Episode 9, as Luke seeks to protect her from Bushmaster's men in an empty building owned by Rand Enterprises, she picks up an automatic weapon and mows down her assailants. Even when behind bars at Rikers Island, Mariah seizes control, turning the tables on the inmates sent to kill her, and then ordering the executions of virtually anyone connected to Harlem's Paradise who might be able to turn against her. Poisoned by a kiss from Tilda, Mariah dies in Luke's arms, but warns, "We ain't done yet." And she's right: She leaves Harlem's Paradise in her will to Luke, certain that the bulletproof man will be corrupted, and perhaps ultimately defeated, by the power that comes with the deed."
"So, [Woodard] knew that from some of the things that were going to happen that, ultimately, she was going to pay the price," Coker said. "But the great twist is how it happens, it doesn’t come the way you think it’s going to come. She definitely deserves it, but it’s just the way that it happens, and ultimately the fact that she still gets to haunt Luke, it’s just really another thing that I’m proud of."
Just as with Mariah, Coker explained that he had always planned to kill off Cottonmouth when he did in Season 1, despite what some viewers may think.
"He was always going to die," he said. "That’s why Mahershala took the role, because Mahershala was about to retire from series television, and really go hard into features; the last thing he wanted to do was get tied to the Marvel Universe for seven seasons. The reason he took the role was that Cottonmouth was going to die. People just don’t understand that. They’re like, ‘Why you kill Cottonmouth? He should be this or that.’"
Ali, who'd previously appeared in 33 episodes of House of Cards, had yet appear in his Academy Award-winning role in Midnight. Or, as Coker said, "When we got Mahershala he wasn’t Mahershala yet in that respect. We knew what he could do, but he hadn’t broken through yet."
"I don’t think what any of us anticipated was that he [Cottonmouth] was going to catch on with so many people, that people are getting so viscerally angry with it," Coker continued. "But then again, that shows you the benefits of getting the villain’s story right. And with Season 2 we really wanted to make sure of that anybody we put up against Luke and Mariah had something to say, had something to do, and Bushmaster, and what Mustafa [Shakir] did with it, was so amazing. It’s really just one of the most gratifying things about the season. What I love about this season is that you really get deep into Bushmaster, you really get deep into Mariah, but at the same time, Luke is never so far in the background that you forget it’s his show, his journey – his overall journey, his overall evolution. So, everybody gets to have their cake and eat it too. It’s one of the rare times in life where that actually happens."
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.