**Warning: Possible Luke Cage Season 2 Spoilers Below**
Alfre Woodard has been considered an immortal of black Hollywood acting elite for at least 20 years now. However, with her role as Mariah Dillard in Netflix’s Luke Cage we see her as we’ve never witnessed her before–as a truly frightening individual.
Once upon a time, Mariah Dillard cringed at the very idea of being compared to the Stokes Family name, a black organized crime family with roots stretching back deep into the last century with the actions of her grandfather Buggy Stokes.
Whereas in season 1 we witnessed a somewhat reluctant Black Mariah tentatively step into the role of a true gangster godmother of Harlem, season 2 sees her explode into her newfound role as crime lord with great glee.
Also … Black Mariah just eclipsed both Kingpin and Killgrave as the most evil villain in the Netflix MCU series. I rooted for her to die 90% of the show. And I don’t feel guilty about it one bit. #LukeCage
Whereas the character arc Woodard displayed in season 1 role rose steadily but consistently throughout the series, season 2 sees Alfre Woodard portray all the emotions one thought possible for a human being to muster, then adds more for good measure.
While there are some who still don’t like the idea of her character becoming intimately involved with Shades, played by actor Theo Rossi, I feel the critics simply aren’t familiar with how the dynamics of power and greed can create strange bedfellows, both literally and figuratively. As the season moves from its tenuous steps forward, we see Mariah Dillard begin to embrace the Stokes name she struggled to reconcile earlier with brutal displays of power.
Alfre Woodard just taught a masterclass on acting in Season 2 of Luke Cage. “Black Mariah” this season, has to be in the top 3 Alfre Woodard performances ever and I’m glad they gave her the time and space to pull that off. She did Luke Cage S2 like she was doing Shakespeare.
The villains of Netflix Marvel adaptations have motivations that are as diverse as their hairstyles. The Defenders villain Alexandria Hill, played by Sigourney Weaver, was motivated by immortality. Jessica Jones season 2 villain Alisa Jones, played by Janet McTeer, was somewhat sympathetic in her quest to return to normality despite her altered physical and mental state that turned her psychotic.
Woodard’s Black Mariah is volatile, manipulative and emotionally abusive to the point of being truly being repulsive.
She plays the role of antagonist to Luke Cage with a commanding fire that sears the screen with every scene. In contemporary dramatic storytelling, the antagonist is the catalyst for change or reaction within the protagonist that plays out within the story arc. To that end, Black Mariah aka Mariah Dillard aka Mariah Stokes is deliciously despicable.