Cloak & Dagger: Alignment Chart

"The next time you get mad at me for going out and doing something on my own? Remember this moment."

Cloak and Dagger's second season really starts to gel, in an episode that subverts our expectations in the best possible ways.

Pity about the framing device, though.

It's a difficult trick for a show to pull off, to have a character that the viewers are absolutely convinced is evil suddenly turn on a dime and be revealed to be good. It's an equally difficult task to do the reverse and have a character that the viewers trust completely suddenly be revealed as evil. Because in both cases you have to find ways to convince the audience enough of one thing, but not so much that it feels forced or unbelievable once you reveal that the opposite is true. And you can't hedge your initial impressions of the character too much or everyone is going to see the reveal coming.

The good people at Cloak and Dagger managed both this week, and I never saw either of them coming for even a moment.

Well played, Cloak and Dagger writers' room. Extraordinarily well played.

At the end of the previous episode we saw Connors, the unambiguously bad, comprehensibly evil foe from season one released from the dark dimension inside of Ty Johnson. When last seen, our unrepentant villain was scrambling out of the window of the abandoned church, and enough time had been spent during that episode examining Ty's fears as to whether he'd be able to stop Connors from hurting his family again if he ever got out that we never for a moment questioned that that's what Connors would want to do. The focus was entirely on the question 'can we stop him,' nicely misdirecting us from the question 'Is that what Connors is likely to do?'

Because, if you think about it for a moment, Connors has spent eight months trapped alone inside a dimension who's entire raison d'etre is to scare the holy crap out of people with their own sins. Scared straight is what Cloak's cloak does, and while I admit it hasn't been overtly presented that way to a great extent yet in the show, they certainly hinted at it enough in last week's episode for us to put the pieces together when Connors reveals his abrupt about face toward penitence here.

It was a good structural decision as well to only show him collecting all of his things without dialogue for the first half of the episode. It very much read as sinister while being totally explicable once we're told that he was collecting the evidence against himself to give to Ty. Gold stars to J.D. Evermore tonight. His ability to simultaneously express that degree of fear and self loathing really sold the reveal.

My only minor quibbles with this side of the story are that Ty and his father were awfully slow to start believing that Connors' repentance might be genuine. Which is totally fair and believable, given what he did to their family, but felt a little repetitive as a televised drama. Also, I understand that they're plotting an adventure story, and so the heist to get the magic file of concrete proof to get Ty's name cleared was as good a plot device as any, but even in New Orleans, Connors confession with the items of evidence that he produced to verify his story would have been sufficient.

Besides, I suspect at least part of the point to that plot thread was building up to us meeting Connors' Senator Uncle later on. I can't imagine that he'll be a good guy.

And let's be absolutely clear on one point, because the show went out of its way to be clear. Connors' remorse is absolutely genuine. When Ty shows him his greatest fear, it's him putting handcuffs on himself over and over again only to have them fall off over and over again. He's afraid of not being allowed to be punished.

On the other side of the coin, Tandy gets in deep with Lea, the leader of her abuse survivors support group in what can only be charitably described as a hail Mary attempt to get more information about who's abducting the girls by going after Lea's ex-boyfriend who apparently is untouchable because he grows an extraordinary amount of pot.

And yes, when you lay it out like that, that plot line doesn't really make a fig of sense. But the good news is that it doesn't really have to, since it only exists to set up the reveal that Lea is coordinating the abductions. Well staged, on that particular moment; the ambulance appeared in shot just long enough for the penny to begin to drop before Lea unleashed her taser. Really well structured, and the earlier reveal about Connors secretly having turned good was both a nice mirror for Lea being evil, but also had us wrong footed enough that we didn't see this reveal coming any more than we had the Connors' one. As a group counselor for abused women, Lea had been implicitly 'vouched for' as being a decent person, but of course it makes perfect sense that she would use the group to identify women that no one will miss in order to abduct them.

Which brings me to the framing device of Tandy telling an unseen group of revelers a tedious story about a farmer and a viper. It's a thinly veiled spin on the 'frog gives a scorpion a ride' anecdote, and I can't imagine that anyone was surprised with where the story went or what the moral was. That said, the subtle red/blue lighting notes were a nicely understated clue as to where she really was while she was dreaming this, and in hindsight the message 'people who you are trying to help might turn around and hurt you' was a warning about where Tandy's storyline was going, not Ty's, so that's a nice rug pull. At the end of the day, one thing that this show has difficulty with is its tendency to experiment with theatrical framing devices that come off as a little heavy handed and forced. Still, 'try's too hard' is hardly the worst sin a show can commit.


Bits and Pieces:

-- Apparently Mayhem is still in the dark dimension, and her absence seems to be making Brigid fall apart. That tracks, if they're sharing a soul.

-- I wonder if Brigid ever wondered why her refrigerator was beaten up and laying in the stairwell when she got out of the hospital. Like, I absolutely would have asked some followup questions about that.

-- The ongoing theme of the last couple of episodes seems to be that Ty and Tandy need to stop trying to work alone and need to start teaming up.

-- Otis is making a new cloak! I love Otis.

-- Tandy is understandably worried about her mother having a couple of drinks, which is fair. But she overreacts to her mother meeting a doctor and tries to turn it into some sort of class issue as an excuse to project some more or her own survivor-anger.

-- Tandy's mom likes Ty. Ty's mom does not like Tandy.

-- Leaving someone who hurts you is not easy.

-- Very nice call back to Maman Brigitte's symbol and the way they use it to bring Ty face to face with Connors.

-- It's totally not safe to do that with bullets though. Under no circumstances try that at home.

-- Connors kept instinctively putting Billy's death in the passive voice and getting corrected on it. To his credit, he seemed to accept the correction and eventually stopped trying phrasing it that way.

-- Otis says he's making the new cloak for himself. That does not bode well for him surviving the season, does it.

-- Lea doesn't know about Tandy's powers. What on earth was she expecting to happen at the big pot warehouse?

-- Fuchs' first name was apparently 'Kenneth.' I confess myself disappointed.


Quotes:

Tandy: "Apparently there's no cell reception in your hoodie."

Tandy: "Can I talk to them?"
Andre: "The angel and the shadow?"
Tandy: "No, the rescued girls."

Lea: "Seems like your ex brought out the worst in you, not the best."
Tandy: "Is it possible someone can do both?"

Ty: "Your mom done freaking out?"
Tandy: "She was. But then I freaked her out all over again."

Tandy: "In order for her to tell me more, I need to find some common ground."
Ty: "So... so, who am I? Your abusive boyfriend or your pimp?"
Tandy: "I mean, either one will do."
Ty: "So you called your black friend."
Tandy: "No, I called my best friend."
Ty's right to be angry on this one, but I can't help but wonder if she'd said 'only' friend that his response might have been a little different. Because it's true.



A solid episode with just a few minor quibbles. I'm loving how this season is shaping up.

Three out of four missing refrigerators.

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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