Alfre Woodard as Mariah Dillard on Marvel's Luke Cage

Who she is: Mariah Dillard, occasionally known as Black Mariah

Her power: Dillard is a skilled political operator, but possesses no superhuman abilities.

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Her story: Raised in the home of her grandmother, Harlem crime boss Mama Mabel, Mariah Dillard was largely sheltered from the family’s criminal connections. However, Mabel failed to protect Mariah from her brother-in-law, “Pistol Pete,” who repeatedly sexually abused her during her youth; eventually, Dillard would encourage her cousin, Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes, to murder Pete after he betrayed their family.

Growing up, Dillard became the public face of the family, acquiring a spot as a Harlem councilwoman while secretly raising funds with the aid of Stokes’ criminal empire. This connection begins to unravel after Luke Cage starts a campaign to expose Stokes’ criminal activities, culminating in a raid on Dillard’s offices that exposes her potential criminal ties. Soon after, Cottonmouth is arrested, causing the council to demand Dillard’s resignation. After his release, she confronts her cousin in his office; when he accuses Dillard of being sheltered and protected all her life, and suggests she invited Pete’s sexual attentions, Dillard shoves him out of a window and beats him to death.

Framing Luke Cage for the murder, and assisted by Cottonmouth’s associate Shades, Dillard attempts to maintain control of Stokes’ empire, a task that is complicated by the arrival of Shades’ boss, the murderous Diamondback, in Harlem. Diamondback quickly takes control, forcing Dillard to use her political connections to convince the police to arm themselves with his Judas bullets, capable of wounding and killing Cage. When her efforts proceed too slowly, Diamondback stages a hostage crisis at a rally Dillard holds in order to implicate Cage even further. Dillard then teams up with Shades, with the two approaching Cage in the hopes that he can defeat the erratic and dangerous Diamondback. But the crime lord follows them to the meeting, attacking in a Hammer Industries battle suit. In the chaos, Dillard is arrested for Stokes’ murder by NYPD officer Misty Knight, but Shades lures Knight’s key witness via a stolen phone and murders her, destroying the case against her. With Diamondback imprisoned, Dillard and Shades reestablish their control of Harlem’s criminal enterprises, establishing themselves in Stokes’ old club, Harlem’s Paradise.

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Played by: Alfred Woodard (present), Megan Miller (young)

Currently, Mariah Dillard is: Consolidating her power as Harlem’s top crime lord, in the wake of Cottonmouth’s death and Diamondback’s imprisonment.

Where will we see her next? Most likely Luke Cage season two.

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