Everyone loves to hate a good bad guy, but in the case of Marvel's Luke Cage, the most delicious villain is actually a bad woman. Mariah Dillard (Alfre Woodard) emerged as one of Luke's (Mike Colter) top adversaries in Season 1 and will return to make him rue the day he ever returned to Harlem in Season 2.
"[Mariah] in some ways this season will prove to be the biggest bad," showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker told a group of reporters including TV Guide at a recent Netflix junket. "Alfre's portrayal of Mariah Dillard is of a woman who is conflicted on a moral level, but not paralyzed. She evolves. She reacts to things. There are very good reasons why she feels the way she feels, but when she makes a decision, when she turns a corner, that corner is turned. She turns corners in this season that will be very hard for her to turn back from."
While Luke contends with the Bushmaster (Mustafa Shakir) and his reluctant fame, Mariah will continue to struggle to reconcile her past as a member of the the Stokes crime family with her new identity as a Dillard. That inner turmoil will cause her a lot of grief in the sophomore season but inevitably lead her to become the villain she was meant to become, and that self-awareness won't be good news for Luke.
"The thing is in terms of Mariah is that she can be strong for Harlem and still be at war with herself. Is she a Dillard or is she a Stokes? It's that split and her trying to figure that out is what becomes the crux of the season," Coker explained. "When you see her finally make a decision of whether she's a Stokes or a Dillard, it sticks. It's a culminating moment and honestly one of my favorites in all 26 episodes that we've filmed so far."
That choice will cause even more strife in Mariah's relationship with Shades (Theo Rossi), which takes on an intense romantic element in Season 2.
"The problem is that as she gets deeper, [Shades] gets more conflicted. In a weird way, they kind of switch sides," Coker teases. "The metaphor that we used ultimately was Lady MacBeth. [In Season 1] she encouraged Shades to do things that [were] more and more nefarious, but ultimately she gets to the point where she can't handle it. We did a reverse thing with Shades [this season] because he's the one always encouraging her. After encouraging her to get to this point, he can't live with some of the decisions that she makes."
The big question is, will Mariah be able to live with those decisions?
Marvel's Luke Cage Season 2 hits Netflix on June 22.