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Cloak & Dagger: Back Breaker

"You had a white cop on tape confessing to killing a black kid. Have you been paying attention, Tyrone? Because in the world that we live in that means absolutely nothing."

Cloak & Dagger walks us through Joseph Campbell 101, while Ty and Tandy spiral to their lowest points due to the events of last episode.

Plus a helpful commentary track explaining the thematic significance of events as they happen is thoughtfully provided as part of the events shown.

You know, it is possible to take metatextuality too far...

It's kind of difficult to know what to say about this episode, since most of my gig is to break down the structure and talk about what happened and why, and whether it works. But the episode itself already does two out of those three, so there's not much I can bring to the table on that front beyond what we're clearly told by Father Delgado in lecture format.

That makes it sound like I thought this was a bad episode, and I want to stress that it isn't. It's a solid penultimate episode for season one that breaks Ty and Tandy down as much as it possibly can before they step up and become the heroes the city will need next week in the finale. There are a lot of good visuals, and the character development is well handled for the most part. If you're interested in a detailed breakout of why Ty and Tandy need to be broken down at this part of the story, or more generally how hero-arc storytelling works, then this episode does a comprehensive job of both showing and telling you all about it.

But as long as were talking about structure and what we're told versus what we see Ty and Tandy going through, I do have one complaint. Namely, the episode goes out of its way to indicate that Ty and Tandy are both going through the same journey; i.e. attempting to regress to the person that they were before they began their hero journey. But while that's certainly the case with Tandy – she even goes so far as to finally get Liam out of jail just to re-establish their old dynamic – it's absolutely not the case with Ty. Ty at the start of the season was bottled up, keeping his emotions in check, and attempting to do everything perfectly. Now, post Connors-confession, he's angry – justifiably. This isn't a regression of his character, because we've never seen his character in this place before. Really, it's actually forward movement for his character because he's finally openly verbalizing his feelings about justice, and the denial thereof that he's still experiencing.

Also, I've been wanting to see him beat up that kid from the basketball team for at least six episodes, so that was gratifying.

Tandy's storyline here is a little more standard, in its presentation of a child metaphorically becoming an adult by having their illusions ripped away about their parents. What was surprising to me here was just how dark they were willing to go with it. Tandy having the ability to not just visualize people's hopes but actually consume them for her own nihilistic pleasure is dark territory indeed, particularly since that particular usage of her powers doesn't come from the comics as far as I'm aware. Full disclosure, I stopped following Cloak & Dagger in the early 90s, so if this is something that's been explored in them since I apologize for my ignorance. Either way, it's a powerful metaphor for addiction – literally taking the hopes of everyone around you and destroying them in your pursuit of temporary pleasure.

Hey, it's Liam!  Maybe... don't get used to him...
Which leaves us with O'Reilly. Oh Brigid. I had actually forgotten about everything that happened to Brigid in the comics, so I was a little sad at the way that both this episode and the announcement for season two included just a hint of a spoiler. Honestly, I spent most of this episode reflecting that Brigid, Ty, and Fuchs should all have known better than to think that the video-cam confession would be enough to take Connors down. Like Ty's mom heartbreakingly points out a little later on, all they accomplished was to put themselves in his crosshairs. That all makes logical sense as plot development goes, but I was given to wonder what the rest of the police force was thinking as they casually stood there and watched Connors beat the crap out of O'Reilly. It worked, dramatically, but I would have liked to get some sense of where the department stood on the issue, even if it had just been a few telling reaction shots.

Bits and Pieces:

— I don't understand what point the revelation about Father Delgado's apparently having killed a kid while driving drunk was. It felt like a step too far into soap opera for me, mostly because it didn't really have anything to do with anything else.

— Ivan praising Nathan Bowen was what pushed Tandy into destroying Mina's hopes. She just couldn't bear to hear anything positive about him.

— Mina killed Bee Arthur! That was the moment that shocked me most in this episode.

— I can't have been the only one expecting Mina's hope-vision to be interrupted by three nerds chanting 'We are as Gods!,' can I?

— I wish I was familiar at all with New Orleans geography, because it felt like Auntie Chantelle's wanderings in the open were to significant places. If they weren't, then good job, show, for making it feel like they were.

— This episode's least subtle visual metaphors – a tie between Mina's teapot boiling while Tandy's emotions finally boiled over, and the contrast shot of Auntie C.'s graffiti next to Roxxon paint tags on their pipes.

— Mina is also Roxxon's head field engineer, apparently. I realize that it was just to get her into the proximity of danger, but I really hope Roxxon is paying her enough for all the hats she's wearing.

— Evita can fight back against Tandy inside her hope-visions! That was both unexpected and exciting. I have a million follow-up questions now about Evita. I hope she's got an increased presence in Season 2.

— You shouldn't play speed rapping as background music over a montage of different people arguing – I spent the whole time trying to match the lyrics with how people's lips were moving.

— After eight years, Ivan's legs should be much more atrophied. Still, I'm glad they even addressed the detail at all. Usually shows forget about that kind of thing.

— 'Back Breaker' was the name of the bat on the wall of the bar.

— You can't really blame Liam for stealing Tandy's money, but I am curious to know how long it took him to find it.

— Evita carved the companion sculpture of Tandy out of white wax to go next to Ty's 3-D printed black one. Nice visual, but I've never once had a violent confrontation with someone and then immediately felt the run home and sculpt them.


Father Delgado: "The war is over, but the battle still rages. Who's gonna die in that one?"

Liam: "Since when is that you? It's so... uh.. hopeful."

Evita: "Hey, strangely aggressive, tiny girl."

Ty: "Excuse me if I don't take wellness advice from the Bowen family."

Ty: "Why not stand up for the world the way it should be?"

A good installment whose only real sin was being a little too heavy handed in its delivery of some good and interesting information.

Three out of four unlikely wax dolls.

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.

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