(Spoilers for Luke Cage season 1 to follow)
Luke Cage made a huge impact on the entertainment scene last weekend, entering with praise and hype, which means now is the time for backlash, thinkpieces and deep-dives into the first season’s twists and turns. An early one occurs at the end of episode three “Who’s Gonna Take the Weight?,” where Det. Rafael Scarfe (Frank Whaley), trusted partner of our heroine Det. Mercedes “Misty” Knight (Simone Missick), is revealed to be a dirty cop on Cottonmouth’s (Mahershala Ali) payroll in the worst possible way: by murdering a key witness, the young Wilfredo “Chico” Diaz with his tie before casually putting it back on.
The Hollywood Reporter, Hypable and ComicBookResources got the details on the twist from Whaley, with some help from Missick. We’ve compiled some of their notable quotes from the interviews for you here.
Whaley told Hypable that the twist “exciting” if “a bit scary to perform.” According to Whaley, while the Netflix viewing model is binge-watching, the stars, like mere peasants, only got to read a single script at a time.
He said to THR that he didn’t know what was in store for Scarfe when he signed up and told CBR that he was initially “bummed out because I was having so much fun.” He also revealed that there was much discussion about whether to commit to the twist before “the final word came down.”
“As an actor, it’s kind of a real challenge to play one thing and then have it turn into another. Fortunately — or unfortunately! — you never really knew week to week what’s gonna happen in this show . . . We read the scripts when we were about to shoot them. And people would be like, gasping, and like, “Aww, man!” Because they’re so well-written, you don’t see what’s coming… I think the audience will feel the same way when they’re watching it, probably even more so than when we were sitting at the table reads.”
While Scarfe’s deadpan humor is revealed as nothing more than a cover for darkness and despair (a later episode reveals his son accidentally killed himself with Scarfe’s gun, dissolving his marriage and, it seems, his morals), Whaley and Missick both hesitated before calling the murderous character “evil.”
“That’s a good question. I don’t [think he’s evil]. And it’s not really my job to judge him like that. But I would say that he’s a very conflicted guy and probably has a lot of issues coming into the show with some stuff in his past that led him down that road. I know that he’s solid with his partner. I think he has a good heart. But I think there’s a dark side to him.”
He pauses again, and then continues, “Maybe he’s a little bit greedy and bitter about certain things. But I think there’s good and evil in everyone. I don’t like to think of him as purely evil. None of that stuff that he does is justified, but I see his relationship with his partner and I think that, in the end, he feels horrible about betraying her and how the way things turned out.”
Missick concurred with Whaley, while obviously condemning his worse choices. She added it made for good drama that the talented visualist Knight was blinded to Scarfe’s corruption and makes the twist that much more powerful.
“I don’t consider him to be a bad guy. He just made some bad choices. I look at how he is with Misty, and I think that’s genuine. I had no idea this twist was coming, and I still can’t believe it. And the way it’s revealed was just so perfect. It really makes for a jaw-dropping moment. I’ll never forget the way we all reacted to learning about it. I wish I could tell Misty because she has no idea.”
All in all, Whaley is grateful for his time on the show and to get to play such a morally ambiguous character in the comic book TV realm.
“There’s never been a more timely show than Luke Cage.”
All 13 episodes of Luke Cage‘s first season are now streaming on Netflix.