Cloak & Dagger: Blue Note

"Make them ride the highs and lows with us until we all come out the other side, changed."

Dangit show, please don't make me feel bad for Lia. I refuse to feel bad for Lia.

OK, I feel a little bad for Lia.

This is a story about ascension.

They may have mentioned it a time or two. 'Power up.' 'Get to the next level.' 'Run the scale until you get to the top.' You know, the occasional subtle hint.

In which case, it's probably germane to start the discussion with the title. Forgive me in advance if you're a proper student of Jazz as a form. I'm personally not, as you'll see in just a moment. I apologize for the grotesque oversimplification that follows.

A blue note, in jazz, is 'a minor interval where a major is expected. A note played at a slightly different pitch.' The upshot is that after running a musical scale, instead of playing the expected major finish to the scale you play a different note. A 'blue' note. Typically a variant of the expected major off by somewhere between a semitone and a quartertone.

That feels like an accurate and specific description of Andre's ascension into becoming a Loa, almost certainly intentionally. He's ascending and it's going to end up slightly darker and 'off.'  It helps that Andre himself is specifically underlining the metaphor right from the very first scene of the episode. Ninety-six months before the current events, Andre and his band were about to play a show that was intended to make their name in the music world. Andre specifically refers to the LPs of the jazz greats in the bin at the record studio as 'the gods.'  Further, he clearly states that it's his intention to become one of them through playing his performance. Through running the scale up to the blue note, he intends to become one of the gods. You just cannot state a thematic metaphor more directly than that.

Sadly for Andre, that's the night of his first migraine, which brings the show, and his career, crashing down around him. That's right, a good chunk of this week's episode is devoted to Andre's secret origin.

The timing for this background information isn't terrible, although it does feel a little bit like we're turning our wheels waiting for the big final confrontation. Fortunately they get away with it for a few different reasons. The primary one being the performance of Brooklyn McLinn as Andre. Despite the truly terrible things that we've seen Andre do, and the terrible things he continues to do in this episode, it's impossible not to feel for him during the scenes of his attempted suicide. That's not easy to do, as the scenes are solo and completely without dialogue. The only thing that doesn't really work about the flashback sequences, and it's a minor thing, is the way his migraines are timed to onset with his attempt to hit the blue note. There's an unpleasant aspect of 'you flew too close to the sun' about it that seems to almost be blaming Andre for his own migraines, as if they were caused by his own hubris. That struck an unpleasant note for me, no pun intended.

Another aspect of the structure that made the flashbacks not feel like they were just wasting time is that by devoting a little time to telling Andre's backstory they could simultaneously use that time to clear up a few extraneous plot threads before next week's finale. So Tandy and Mayhem track down Lia's body, while Ty goes to resolve that 'gangs want him dead' issue that's still lingering on the periphery.

I have to say, Ty's 'negotiation' techniques with the gang leaders were just wonderful. I honestly thought he'd let the one die when he threw him off the roof. Good on Ty for knowing how to use his powers to the best effect by this point, and for knowing that he can't really do anything about people buying drugs for themselves. So he focused on what he could, and now the gangs of New Orleans know better than to try to sell drugs which will be used in human trafficking. That was a good resolution to that thread. Obviously in a comic book show you can't have your characters magically 'fix' something as genuinely awful as human trafficking without coming across as crass. This was a good way to show Ty making a difference without crossing a line into something distasteful. Well judged.

Meanwhile, Tandy and Mayhem hash out whether extra-judicial murder is ever justified by the expedience of Tandy believing it is, then looking into the soul of someone who seems truly irredeemable and learning to see their humanity. Mayhem was a good foil for that particular character journey, and neither the character nor the journey outstayed its welcome.

Which brings me neatly back to the last reason that the structure of Andre's flashbacks didn't feel like a waste of time. They used our assumptions about how flashbacks work to pull an impressive rug-pull and have Andre of today's plot suddenly dovetail and interact with the Andre of seven-ish years ago's plot. Apparently, Andre of today sensed Lia being given back her hope and reached out into her despair space of seven years ago and stopped Tandy from giving her hope back to her.

Notice that the above paragraph, when written down starkly like that, sounds absolutely 100% bat-sh*t crazy and does not make a lick of logical sense. But in the episode it makes perfect aesthetic sense, and I've never seen a flashback structure used in that way before, which makes me love it. Who needs logic when you have visual poetry.

So, after giving us some backstory and cleaning up some side plots, the episode arrives at the only tangible thing that you can point to and say really 'happened' this week, if you're just looking at it in terms of pure plot progress. Andre has summoned all the girls he's 'infected' with despair to the sight of that fatal jazz performance and played the blue note, successfully 'leveling up' and getting through the locked door in his despair dimension. Cue next week's climactic battle.

It shouldn't all hang together and feel like one complete piece, but it does without question, and it's all down to the expert application of that ascension theme we started this discussion with. If I was going to compare the plot structure to music, I would call it jazz. Really, good jazz.


Bits and Pieces:

-- Very cool combination trick of Tandy throwing the light knife into Ty who teleported to where it needed to be released. Too bad it was just a little too late.

-- Andre's veve lines lighting up looked a lot like he was finding cell reception.

-- Nice little seed early on of showing Melissa Bowen's records in Andre's record store of despair.

-- I actually believed that Tandy was trying to protect Loa from waking up in an ambulance with strange men after what she'd been through. That was a clever ruse.

-- I feel like we were denied a very interesting conversation of Ty finding out that Evita got god-married.

-- Ty teleporting does not interrupt his cell reception or drop any call he happens to be on at the time. That's suspiciously dependable cell service.

-- I suspect that they showed Adina burning the bloody newspapers both as a way for Ty to understand that she'd murdered Connors and to tell the viewers, 'No, we're not faking you out, she totally killed him for real.'

-- Will Brigid get a turn at being in control of her hybrid body after the crisis is over?

-- It was a little awkward having people suddenly vanishing as a plot point what with the snap still being theoretically a thing. I'm not sure where exactly this season of Cloak & Dagger fits in relation to Infinity War, but it definitely made me second guess if that was related to what happened.

-- Tandy's plan of borrowing younger-Lia's hope in the form of sheet music and giving it to older Lia in order to give her hope back was a really elegant plan. On most shows that would have worked.

-- “Luke Cage in Harlem rumble” by Karen Page. That entire scene with Solomon is why representation is so important. Luke Cage is a hero that looks like him and because of that he inspires him to try to be better. That. That's why representation matters. Every kid deserves to see themselves in their heroes.

-- When Ty or Tandy touch someone they go into that person's 'realm' for lack of a better world. When Andre touches someone he pulls them into his. That feels like an important distinction.


Quotes:

Tandy: "Tyrone, if you ask me about my feelings one more time I’m seriously gonna kill you."

Tandy: "Brigid was a better liar."
Mayhem: "Yeah, well that’s about all she was better at."

Soloman: "Sometimes you can’t fix things. Some things are just broke."

Ty: "Which one is she?"
Tandy: "Both of them."

Tandy: "When all hope is gone, this is what’s left."

Tandy: "You can’t kill her. An hour ago you practically begged me not to hurt her."
Mayhem: "An hour ago she had something I wanted."


A solid penultimate episode that got all of the necessary setup in place for what looks like to be an explosive finale.

Three out of four abandoned trumpets

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:

Mikey Heinrich said...

Quick note of apology for the delay in getting my review of the season finale up. We're currently in pledge drive at PBS.

The review will be up Saturday, and you should call your local PBS station and show them some support if you're in a position to do so.

Much Love :)