It’s a trope as old as time. Ever since Ursula Andress played Honey Ryder in 1962’s Dr. No, the James Bond film franchise have been as closely identified with the idea of the “Bond Girl” as they have the titular super spy himself. Whether it’s Pussy Galore (Goldfinger) or Anya Amasova–otherwise known as Agent XXX–in The Spy Who Loved Me, the older 007 has typically had young female love interests that didn’t tend to last much longer than a single film. In fact, it wasn’t until 2015’s Spectre that the Bond Girl (Monica Bellucci) was in her 50s.
Given how far back the cliche goes, though, it may come as a surprise that Marvel’s Luke Cage has found a way to make that trope interesting again in Season 2. No, the titular Luke (Mike Coulter) isn’t romancing a much younger woman. Instead, it’s the villain seducing someone 20 years their junior–and what’s more, the older half of this relationship is a woman. Major spoilers for the second season of Marvel’s Luke Cage on Netflix follow.
In Season 2 of Luke Cage, Mariah Dillard (Alfre Woodard) enters into a romantic relationship with Hernan “Shades” Alvarez in a subplot showrunner Cheo Coker was particularly happy with. “My thing is that nobody ever thinks anything of a male star having a female counterpart that’s 20 years younger,” he says during a group interview. “It happens routinely. Half of James Bond’s Bond Girls are 25 years younger than Bond is at this point. For the reverse, the same thing is that we wanted to, on one hand, to show mature sexuality. Then, at the same time, have it not be this weird thing, or it being this quirk. It being two people who are attracted for these dark reasons.”
The connection shared by Mariah and Shades is truly a dark and violent one. However, it doesn’t necessarily start that way. “Very early on, one of the things that Mariah says is she wants Shades to take off his shades and be her Hernan,” Coker says. “The problem is, as she gets deeper and he gets more conflicted, they, in a weird way, switch sides.”
That relationship–and how it changes both Dillard and Shades–is a key component in both of their Season 2 stories. While Mariah continues further and further down a dark and horrible path, fully embracing her status as a Stokes, Shades begins to question his evil ways–especially after watching Mariah murder countless people in cold blood.
“The metaphor that we used ultimately was Lady Macbeth,” Coker explains. “She encourages Shades to do things that are more and more nefarious, but then ultimately does she get to the point where she can’t handle it? We did a reverse really with Shades because Shades is always encouraging her. Is Shades our Lady Macbeth? Is he the person, after encouraging her to get to this point, he can’t live with some of the decisions that she makes?”
Of course, we see where those decisions leave both Mariah and Shades by season’s end. After leaving her–and turning on her–Shades would up arrested for murder, while Mariah was killed after being poisoned by her own daughter. A fitting end for the thug she became, though it begs the question of how Shades will react to her demise in a potential Season 3. After all, deep down, his feelings were real.
The second season of Marvel’s Luke Cage is currently streaming on Netflix. Don’t forget to check out our Season 1 refresher, deep dive on the history of the villainous Bushmaster, and the new season’s secret weapon.
Note: This story previously noted Monica Bellucci’s character in Spectre as the first time that 007’s love interest was older than the spy, which is incorrect.