Cloak & Dagger: Suicide Sprints

“Just control what we can control, OK?”

Cloak & Dagger continues it's slow burn toward revealing the exact nature of both our heroes' powers and how all of this ties together.

It's fascinating to watch how they're pacing this show, actually, since it seems to be deliberately paced like a Netflix show, despite the fact that the episodes are being released weekly. It's a brave decision, but it runs the risk of alienating viewers by keeping things too opaque for too long.

Good thing the episode is fascinating and gorgeously shot, then.

It's not just the show's insistence on being coy about what exactly Cloak and Dagger's powers are and how they work that makes it feel like this was designed to be a bingeable show, released all at one time. It's not just that we're two episodes in and there's still no hint of their iconic costumes, unless you count Ty's habit of encountering heavy duty plastic sheeting. It's not even just that by the end of the third episode our titular heroes have only met each other a total of three times, two of which had no dialogue at all. It's that the show seems so completely comfortable with slow reveal storytelling. It's incredibly brave, from a production standpoint, since as I said before it runs a serious risk of alienating viewers who are waiting for answers – just ask the good people at Lost Season Four.

And yet it's clearly deliberate, because of the way that choice is mirrored in every single significant reveal the show gives us. Take, for example, Detective Bridget O'Reilly. You might be forgiven for not knowing her name, since every single scene featuring her in this episode is completely silent up until her final one, in which she arrests poor Liam. And yet, despite not having a single syllable uttered, we see her begin the investigation into the guy Tandy stabbed in the alley, interview his douchebag friends, come up with an artists sketch of Tandy, and track them down in enough time to arrest Liam. Without a single word. Oh, and we see the beginnings of an interesting and sweet beat cop who brings her a cup of coffee with his phone number on it after they share a Meg Ryan movie's worth of 'will they/won't they.' Which they accomplish in two scenes. Without any dialogue.

Your mileage may vary, of course, depending on how comfortable you are with a show only telling you things obliquely through visuals and not explaining them properly through dialogue. I personally found this week's montage in which we cut between Ty's choir singing, Ty's mom pulling a gun on some trash cans, and Detective Delgado's investigation really difficult to follow without watching it three times, and even then I'm not sure I got what exactly was happening in all three storylines. But I really respect a show that's brave enough to put that much trust in its audience, and I definitely think that kind of thing should be encouraged.

Which brings me to the first of this show's two major strengths, the visuals.

This week's episode opened with the image of the wrecked car bearing it's 'Just Married' sign, intermingled with fireflies dancing around the wreckage. The cinematography here was beautiful, and this shot alone justified moving the show from NYC to New Orleans, even if we hadn't already had that justified a hundred times over. And going with my above comments about slow reveals, the show took the entire episode to get back around to what exactly caused that crash. I can't have been the only one seriously worried about Maid of Honor Delia, based on the information the episode was giving us. I was absolutely convinced she was going to drive off in that car after discovering the robbery and that would be the end of poor resting-basic-face Delia, whose only real crime was being high maintenance with the wedding planner and trying to be nice to a stranger who was crying in the bathroom.

Which makes me think that I've been remiss in not calling out the lighting designer specifically for their work on this show, because it's been amazing. A show specifically about the interplay between absolute light and absolute darkness is a huge challenge for a production job who's most often described as only being successful if you don't notice their work. Specifically, the shot of Tandy's light underneath the tablecloth at the wedding was beautifully achieved, and was really an ingenious low cost way to demonstrate her burgeoning power.

The second of the show's main strengths, and this genuinely surprised me, is the strength of its secondary characters. I mentioned Delia a moment ago, and she's a great example of how strong the secondary characters are. We first hear about her as being the thorn in the wedding planner's side, and the woman who's carrying all the cash that Tandy needs to get away and start a new life. She's painted as an unpleasant person, and it would have been very easy to excuse Tandy's theft by having her prove to be as much of a bitch as the wedding planner describes her to be. But then we meet her in the Ladies room – and we did all know that was Delia instantly, didn't we – and she's nice. She's kind to a crying stranger and actually gives her some really solid support and advice. And then Tandy steals the money anyway, which we can only assume screws Delia over completely, and the show just leaves it there. We're not told how to feel about it at all. We understand why Tandy did it. We understand how much it's going to hurt Delia. We can assume that the wedding planner is going to experience some degree of Schadenfreude about it. But it isn't wrapped up neatly for us to feel one way or another. It's messy and human, and it feels real.



Similarly, we have Liam. Now, I said last episode that I wasn't sure if I should feel as fond of Liam as I do given his role in the story, but this week I withdraw the question. I am unrepentantly pro-Liam. Liam rocks. He's unconditionally supportive. He sacrifices himself at every turn for what's best for Tandy, and he has the freaking sense to call the emergency room to find out if Tandy's victim is still alive or not – something that never even occurred to her. Shame on you, Tandy, for turning up the radio so that you could ignore him taking the fall for you.

I could go on about the secondary characters, but suffice it to say that they're all fascinating, and I want to know more about all of them. Father Delgado, Elmer the dry-cleaner, Greg the coked-up and yet oddly-endearing drug buddy of Tandy's mom, all of them are deeper and richer than they need to be. To say nothing of the real hero of this weeks episode – adorable beat cop who brings you coffee with his phone number written on the cup.

That said, there is one thing that needs to be addressed. I'll tackle it in a brief section we'll call:

So what the Hell are their powers, anyway?

As I mentioned last week, Cloak and Dagger's powers in the comic book are all deeply intertwined with recovery from drug addiction. That's not a part of their story anymore, and so we're left with something a little vaguer in this version of the characters. Ty's primary recognizable power, obviously, is that he can teleport when he wraps himself up in black fabric. So far the show has shown him doing this reflexively to take himself wherever he wants to go on a subconscious level, but I'm sure he'll learn to control it over the course of the series. Nice fakeout when we thought he'd teleported away from getting beaten up only to have the fabric pulled back to show him still there and still getting beaten, by the way. Dagger, as her date-rapey friend now knows, can produce daggers of light from her hands.

Those are their primary powers. Tied to that are the ways that they can each induce others to have visions. At the risk of over-simplifying it, Dagger shows others visions of their hopes which give them energy, while Cloak shows others visions of their fears which drains energy from them. We saw that most clearly with Ty's poor mom, completely wiped out after the vision of losing both her sons to gun violence.

And the final piece – something about the nature of their powers draws them to one another at moments of stress, as we witnessed in the final car-crashy moments of this episode.

That feels like a good starting point for understanding how their powers work in this show. I probably won't include this section every week, but if we get any solid new info on their powers I'll probably bring this back to mention it.


Bits and Pieces:

— I hate it when people talk on their phones in checkout lines.

— The episode started with both Ty and Tandy having physical proof of both the recent manifestation of their powers and the explosion event that connected them years ago. Tandy has the cut on her hand where the light dagger came out and Ty's hoodie. Ty has the bullet Conners fired at him and Tandy's ballet shoe. I really want to make something out of the bullet/ballet parallel, but I suspect it's just a coincidence.

— Interesting that Ty's dad chose Larry Bird as the basketball player Ty should model himself after. I'm not sure how much we should like Ty's dad, to be honest.

— Ty's instinct is to run toward things and Tandy's is to run away from them. That was handled really elegantly in both the script and the direction.

— Did the Dry Cleaner make anyone else think of John Wick?

— I was just criticizing the script for the way Ty used the verb 'begat' over and over again when Father Delgado called him on it.

— There are little whiffs of shadow around Ty's hands whenever he moves cloth. That's a really nice little touch.

— Why was the show so coy about whether Tandy's victim was alive or not? Apparently he's alive but in the ICU, so why not just tell us that?

— Ty's coach is an asshole. Not just for setting Ty up to be hated by his teammates, but mostly because he insisted on calling the players 'ladies' to attack their masculinity.

Quotes:

Elmer: "Anyone comes looking for you, you're not you."

Greg: "In all fairness to your mom, she's really been on top of it, you know. And I've been doing some digging..."
Tandy: "Yeah. No. It seems like you've really been working your pants off, Greg."

Another fascinating installment, although it might be at risk for burning just a little too slow for its own good. Highly recommended.

Three out of Four adorable patrol officers who bring you coffee. Seriously Bridget, hit that.

Mikey Heinrich is, among other things, a freelance writer, volunteer firefighter, and roughly 78% water. You can find more of his work at the 42nd Vizsla.

1 comment:

Joseph said...

I’m loving every minute of this review and this show!