- "Politics is where the power is, Cornell. Forget about all this other noise."
- ―Mariah Dillard to Cornell Stokes
Mariah Dillard is a powerful woman in Harlem politics looking to bring a new era of change to the streets she grew up on. Her own personal life and professional career are thrown into turmoil by both Luke Cage as well as her cousin Cottonmouth's nefarious acts. As her political career falls apart, Dillard reached her breaking point and murdered her cousin, forcing her to work with Shades to protect herself as she slowly became indoctrinated into the crime world, working with Diamondback while Misty Knight attempted to bring her to justice. Dillard was spared jail by ordering the murder of Knight's only witness Candace Miller and accepted her new role of crime lord of Harlem, taking over Cottonmouth's empire.
Life with Mama Mabel
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Executing Pistol Pete
Mama Mabel forced Cottonmouth to shoot Pistol Stokes, which Cottonmouth refused at first. Mama Mabel kept forcing and encouraging him to shoot, while Pistol Pete was encouraging him not to shoot. Discreetly, Mariah Dillard watched from the window. When Cottonmouth did not shoot him, she ran outside and told Cottonmouth that Pistol Pete deserved to die. Cottonmouth then shot Pistol Pete twice while she watched in shock.
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Dillard eventually became involved in politics and nominated herself to represent Harlem in the city council. She would occasionally visit Harlem's Paradise, to see her cousin Cornell Stokes and make a few deals. One evening, she visited Stokes at his nightclub. He asked what she thought of his new facility, to which she said that she was always proud of him, but they cannot be seen together. He reminded her of Domingo Colon's donation for him and her real-estate project, which disgusted her that he would make a deal with a drug lord and urged Cornell that that politics was the true form of power. However, Stokes reminded her that whenever it is not politics, it is his method of crime that keeps her stable.
Colon, later, showed up in the balcony and joined the two, along with Tone. Wanting to know what he was doing here, Cornell answered that they were merely celebrating over a deal that should have been done years ago. Colon asked if he made this deal, then Dillard would get him out of jail, much to her disagreement. She tells Stokes that the two of them shouldn't even be seen together, reminding them of the arrest of Wilson Fisk, wanting to not end up like him. Stokes reminded her that if she disagreed with his methods, she wouldn't front him for money. He then described to Dillard and Colon about the illegal merchandise he sells, Hammer Industries weapons, not giving the name of his donor. Dillard, however, disagreed that this deal could not be as easy as it sounds.
Later, Luke Cage, their temporary bartender, came in with bottles of Ace of Spades. After Cage brought the bottles, Stokes stopped him and took notice of his size, with Dillard taking notice of his suit size. Stokes, then, offered him a job as a bodyguard, but he declines the offer. Later, Stokes would get the news of an inside job interrupting the deal, involving Dante Chapman, Shameek Smith and Chico Diaz, keeping that information secret from Dillard.
New Harlem Renaissance
Later, Dillard held a benifit lunch for the "New Harlem Renaissance" campaign, where she greeted all the children attending. She spotted Zip and Sugar, much to her reluctance. During an interview with Megan McLaren, she explained her purpose for the Crispus Attucks Complex and her vision for a better Harlem. During the interview, Cornell Stokes arrived and waited for her with Shades and Tone.
After the interview, she tells Stokes that she wants his thugs away from her and that they will scare people. Stokes claim that they are for security and to pass out pamphlets. Telling her assistant, Tony, to leave, she demands the money from Stokes, stating that federal grants were used to build Harlem's Paradise and the deal with Domingo Colon that went south. Stokes promised the money and Dillard warned him that if she does not get the money, she will face an audit and they will both go to jail. After Stokes reassured her again, she asked what happened in the junkyard, where the deal was made, and who his new accomplice was; Stokes didn't answer and Dillard walked away. Later that night, she began making pamphlets for the New Harlem Renaissance campaign.
Recieving Half of the Money
Later, while Dillard was working at the Crispus Attucks Complex, Cornell Stokes entered with Shades and Tone, delivering half of the money that Shameek Smith stole. She states that it was not nearly enough, reminding him that the donation money helped to make his club and now that he made a gun deal with Domingo Colon, that could expose the both of them and wind up in jail. When Stokes stated that she was not his boss, Dillard told him to fix the problem or risk losing the club and going to jail.
After mocking Shades, Stokes told her to focus on the political side of things and to let him focus on his job, to which she responds is to uncomplicate her life. Stokes then said her job was to turn his water into wine. He reminded her of Mama Mabel's quote "Family First," to which she agreed. Then, she said she would return to Harlem's Paradise; stokes claimed she did not like being seen around him, but she claimed that it was simply because of the music and that she will be on him until she receives the other half of the money. Stokes gave her his word that the situation will be resolved.
The next day, Dillard joined Cornell Stokes at his nightclub, listening to the music, until Luke Cage showed up to set a parler between him and Chico, assuring that they will get the other half of the money and Chico will leave New York. After Stokes refused, Cage gave him a picture of him, Pop and Wilfredo when they were young, urging him to remember his past. Stokes agreed to the Parker and fired Cage, to which he claimed he couldn't be fired as he quit before he got here, and left.
After Stokes and Tone had a conversation concerning the whereabouts of Chico, Dillard told him that he is waisting his talents on the gangster life. However, Stokes was quick to justify his actions, stating that the good life was worth it, saying that "black money" is remembered just as much as a "black martyr." Dillard asked Stokes if he was sick of being called a criminal, stating that respect is more wealthy than money. However, Stokes retorted by saying money earns the respect. When she asked at what cost, he responded that she will see soon enough.
Recieving the Other Half
Eventually, Tone came back with the other half of the cash that Chico stole. This prompted Cornell Stokes to have him meet him upstairs. Dillard decided to come, as well, to make sure the plan falls through. They met on the rooftop where they found out through Tone and Shades that they received the money by having a shootout at Pop's Barber Shop; However, that also meant that they murdered Pop. This angered Stokes and was further annoyed when Turk Barrett, the one who gave away Chico's whereabouts, came up asking for money.
Much to Dillard's disapproval, Stokes grabbed Tone and threw him over the building, killing him instantly. Stokes grabbed the bag of money and gave it to Dillard. She made it known that she disapproves of the murder of Tone, however, Stokes reminded her that the money is still green. She took the money and left, leaving Stokes and Shades to clean up the mess. Later, she took the money to the Crispus Attucks Complex, unaware that Luke Cage was watching.
Dillard was given the news that four of Cornell Stokes' stash houses were robbed by an unknown assailant, but he reassured her that everything was taken care of. Dillard, however, was not entirely reassured, as the Crispus Attucks Complex was getting welded and reinforced. Stokes tried to persuade her that it was all just a plan, however, she stated this was all fear. She stated the money is to help rebuild Harlem, however, Stokes mocked her ambitions, stating that she was only the accomplice. Dillard retorted that she is more powerful but reassured that Stokes was still a key player, refusing to associate herself with criminal activities.
She states that she truly cares about Harlem, but she must take actions legally. She compared herself to the political ties of Mama Mabel, however, Stokes mocked that comparison as blackmail. She told him that it was still her thrifty endeavors that made good for Harlem. She, then, made sure that the Crispus Attucks Complex will only be a temporary bank for Stokes, but it will still help keep Harlem black. Stokes responded that she should keep focusing on the black and he will focus on the green.
Robbery at Crispus Attucks
Later that evening, Dillard was given the news that her office was broken into and the money was exposed to the police. Dillard gave the news to Cornell Stokes and was met with rage. Dillard tried to calm him down, reassuring him that he could make more money, but she will be the one who has to answer all the questions. Stokes scolded her, calling her Black Mariah, which was met with her throwing a glass right at him and threatened him if he ever called her that, again. Zip interrupted the argument, to let Stokes know that a detective was here, much to Dillard's displeasure.
However, they were met up by Rafael Scarfe, who turned out to be on Stokes' payroll. Stokes confirmed that Chico Diaz has been killed, on his hands, and he knows the identity of the assailant infiltrating Stokes' stash houses: Luke Cage. Being given the address, Stokes decided to take care of Cage, himself. Dillard responded that she wants to be spared the details, as long as the job is done.
Threatened by Cage
Dillard was giving a news interview for her campaign, talking about her Harlem, when she was interrupted by Luke Cage. Cage mocked her news segment once she was done. Cage informed her that once he shuts down Stokes, she will be next. She asked if it was a threat, but Cage said that it was not and left. The news crew went inside her house, afterwards, to get more footage for her.
Dillard met up with Stokes, furious that he shot Rafael Scarfe. Dillard demanded that Stokes sold the place and to forget his criminal activities. However, Stokes refused, stating that he would find a way. Dillard, then, asked about Cage, Stokes said nothing. Dillard, then, suggested to find out who he cares about and put them in harms way as a bribe.
An Interview Gone Wrong
Later, Dillard started drinking tea in front of a mirror, preparing for her big interview, until she accidentally knocked over a picture of Mama Mabel. She shouted at the picture, telling it to shut up. Bringing back her composure, she continued to look in the mirror and apply makeup.
The crew finally landed inside Dillard's house, as her assistant, Alex, was instructed to keep her house proper from everyone else. Then, her interviewer, Thembi Wallace, cage down to ask about the topics she will be discussing. When Dillard suggested about Harlem, Wallace stated that it was boring and she should do something fun. Dillard felt insulted and mocked Wallace's suggestions, as she left to set up the interview.
Wallace started by letting the viewers know that the interview was live and that they can submit calls for Dillard. Dillard was complimented on her home, to which she stated is a part of Harlem's legacy where the campaign money will go towards to keep preserved. Wallace then shifted the focus on Damon Boone, but Dillard insulted him and stated that his comments were simply not true.
As the interview continued, Dillard was shown footage of her previous interview, which pleased her. However, Wallace began questioning Mariah about her connection with her criminal family, after the footage was done, and showed footage of pictures of Mama Mabel and the crime scene at Crispus Attucks which held vast sums of cash and had criminals suspected of working for her. Mariah, enraged, blamed Wallace for tarnishing her image. She halted the interview and demanded Wallace and her tv crew leave.
As the crew began to clean more of the equipment, Wallace got information on Cottonmouth's recent arrest. Dillard was approached by Wallace, again, who tried questioning Mariah about it. In a panic attack from all the questions, Dillard called out for her assistant. Alex ran out to her aide and forced the whole crew out of her house, leaving Dillard to vent and curse out her frustration. 
The Final Straw
- "I think that when you get the nerve, you're gonna be surprised at what you're capable of."
- ―Shades talking to Mariah
Not long after Boone was gone, Shades made his presence known in her house. He reminded Dillard of the influence Mama Mabel carried. He insulted her and when she threatened him, he told her she had no power. He tried to encourage her, saying she will be surprised at what she's capable of. After getting a call asking for her resignation, she said she'd fight it before hanging up and throwing a drinking glass across the room before heading to Harlem's Paradise.
She warned Cottonmouth to stop obsessing over Luke Cage and fix the business. She reminds them they are family, but he accuses her of being favored by Mama Mabel because she provided for Dillard's education while Stokes was taught to be a criminal, instead of improving his music. Dillard said she was only sent to a fancy bordering school to keep her away from Uncle Pistol Pete, who was sexually abusing her. She accused him of being ungrateful for taking care of him as a child and Stokes accused her of flirting with Pete and encouraging his advances.
In a rage, she hit him over the head with a bottle and pushed the crime boss out the window of his club where he landed near the stage. She shouted in anger as she made her way to him and beat him to death with a microphone stand. Shades found her, impressed by her actions and began to plan how frame Cage for Cottonmouth's death.
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Mariah Dillard was a woman who believed that power came through politics rather than criminality like her cousin and grandmother behaved. She wanted a better life than Mama Mabel or Cottonmouth, becoming a councilwoman instead, her hatred for her grandmother also encouraged her to not be a criminal as she believed that her family were wasting their lives. Dillard also respected the long-suffering art and history that African Americans went through to achieve equality with the whites, despising the word nigga and Cottonmouth's indifference to what her ancestors had fought and died to achieve.
Although caring about black rights, history, politics and genuinely wanting Harlem to have a bright future, Dillard was secretly mentally unstable and willingly enforced Stokes criminal empire to further her own goals. Even though she found Stokes' criminal activity to be a waste of time and was willfully ignorant of her cousins actions, she would also enforce him to take action when necessary, fearing that if his criminality caught up with him, they would both go down.
Dillard chose to serve all connections towards Mabel when she grew older, fearing it might impeach her political image but also kept several pictures of Mabel throughout her house, presumably as a reminder to herself. When angered she would lash out violently and destroy something in her environment close to her. Dillard's unstable temper is presumably due to her history of witnessing her grandmothers violent actions and the sexual abuse she suffered from her uncle growing up. This pent up trauma went as far that when teased by her cousin that she welcomed her own abuse from Pete, goes into an angry, almost-psychotic fit and violently kills Cottonmouth over this tease. Even though she is horrified over this action, the influence of Shades encourages her to embrace her criminal roots, developing a more colder and calculated nature by doing business with Harlem's crime lords like Domingo Colon, Diamondback and threatening to kill Candace Miller if she went to the police about framing Luke Cage.
Having killed Cottonmouth, her political campaign and reputation destroyed and the influence of Shades, Dillard has made full circle from politician to a complete criminal. Accepting her criminal roots, Dillard takes over Harlem's Paradise and Cottonmouth's personal gun, signifying that she embraces Mama Mabel and Cottonmouth as her blood and is on her way to becoming an equal crime boss as her cousin and grandmother before her. Realizing she's more like her grandmother than she thought. She also seems to have abandoned her distaste for the n-word, while in police custody she uses "niggas" during her interrogation held by Misty Knight and the inspector, also signifying her development from when she was introduced by scolding Cottonmouth for using that word, which she "despised'.
- Master Politician: Mariah is a councilwoman so she must be able do political things. She also has political campaign and it's reputation. She believed that power came through politics rather than criminality.
- Master Manipulator: When Mariah killed Cottonmouth, she was able to cover what she did even with the help of Shades. She was able to accuse Luke Cage until everybody believed her and hunted down Luke Cage. And she was also able to pay Candace Miller for covering the truth about Cottonmouth's murder. She was also able to be free from the accuse of Cottonmouth's murder so that she wasn't imprisoned. Then, after accusing Luke Cage, she pinned it on Diamondback.
To be added
- Buggy Stokes † - Grandfather
- "Mama" Mabel Stokes † - Grandmother
- Peter 'Pistol Pete' Stokes † - Uncle and Sexual Abuser
- Jazmine Stokes - Aunt
- Cornell Stokes † - Cousin and Victim
- Luke Cage
- Damon Boone † - Former Political Rival
- Thembi Wallace - Interviewer
- New York City Police Department
- Willis Stryker/Diamondback
- Candace Miller
|Appearances for Mariah Dillard|
In chronological order:
- In the comics, Black Mariah is the leader of the Rat Pack, a New York street gang. Her name is a reference to the classic nicknamed used for the police van in Harlem. There is a reference in the MCU when Cottonmouth accidentally call her Black Mariah.
Behind the Scenes
- Cheo Hodari Coker has named Maxine Waters as an inspiration for Mariah Dillard, stating that he envisioned her and Cottonmouth as "if Maxine Waters and Suge Knight were cousins".
- ↑ Luke Cage: 1.07: Manifest
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 Luke Cage: 1.01: Moment of Truth
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 Luke Cage: 1.02: Code of the Streets
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 Luke Cage: 1.03: Who's Gonna Take the Weight?
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 Luke Cage: 1.06: Suckas Need Bodyguards
- ↑ ‘LUKE CAGE’ SHOWRUNNER CHEO HODARI COKER BREAKS DOWN THE SHOW’S EASTER EGGS & INSPIRATIONS