Marvel’s Cloak and Dagger
Cloak and Dagger continues to hone in on its strengths: lilting conversations, stretched relationships, and sexual tension. There’s no heavily anticipated battle (so far), although we do get a little bit of action. There’s no world-beating villain (yet), although we’ve seen plenty of characters toe the line. But it’s refreshing to catch a superhero series that isn’t terribly invested in the “super” or “hero” parts of its equation; in many ways, Tandy and Tyrone’s respective navigations of New Orleans is remarkable enough. Because watching Cloak and Dagger scale the city, and learn the contours of themselves, is as large of a feat as leaping over buildings or foiling citywide gangs or redirecting cars with webs from their wrists.
Mirroring the last few episodes, the narrative is split into thirds, only this time, we open with a shot of Evita and her aunt. Evita’s aunt is still concerned with Tyrone’s reading in her cards (because, as she notes, “Shit goes down from time to time”). She and her niece spend the episode trying to divine them more fully. We catch them, in snippets, for the hour’s entirety – but after a little back and forth, the conclusion they come to isn’t great for Tyrone: “one will live, and one will die.” And it’s safe to guess that “one” is Cloak. But there’s no telling if the other “one” is Tandy. And a more pressing question is what Evita will do with this newfound information.
Meanwhile, Tyrone and Tandy are still working through their own respective “investigations.” Cloak’s staking out Duane, trying to get more information on what his brother’s friend knows about his death. Dagger’s pretending to be an intern for Mina Hess, in an effort to learn more about Roxxon and swing an audience with Mina’s father. When the pair tell each other about their plans (and it’s a new thing for them to talk so openly – at one point Tandy says, “So now we’re visiting each other?”), Tyrone laments how hard is to get close to a mark. There aren’t enough opportunities for him to buddy up to Duane. That’s when Tandy tells him that, sometimes, you have to make your own opportunities. Plus, can’t Tyrone read people’s nightmares? Tandy deems their respective endeavors the adventures of “the scientist and the criminal.”
But Tyrone isn’t joking. It’s hard to make a veteran dealer your play! First, he shows up to Duane’s warehouse under the guise of needing a job. When his brother’s old friend brushes him away (“You’re smart,” says Duane. “You’ll find you the right path for you, I know it.”), Tyrone tries following one of Duane’s runners instead – and it nearly gets him killed. When the kid pulls a gun on him, Tyrone’s told that the next time he won’t be so lucky. But it’s hardly a day before Tyrone runs into the kid again – after Detective O’Reilly and Connors attempt a staged drug bust, and Tyrone has the presence of mind to swipe a stuffed backpack thrown in a trash can. (New Orleans is small, so it makes sense that they’d run into each other; it was a great look by the episode’s writers.) And that’s when Cloak takes Dagger’s words to heart. After a short scuffle, he uses his powers on the drug runner. When it works, and the kid runs away, it looks a lot like Tyrone’s finally getting a hold of his abilities.
The drug bust that set things off was the result Detective O’Reilly getting closer to Connors. She is, unbeknownst to everyone else in the department, catching on to his role as one of the city’s major dealers. It doesn’t look like he sees her suspicion (or at least O’Reilly doesn’t think so), so Connors takes her on a ride-along, attempting to win her over. “You know the key to this stuff,” he asks her. “Getting inside someone’s mind. Thinking like them.” But other officers around the department are taking notice of O’Reilly. Officer Fuchs (the guy O’Reilly had sex with in the last episode) puts her on notice: If O’Reilly keeps stirring the pot, she’ll eventually find trouble.
But O’Reilly continues egging on Connors. Tyrone brings the backpack of drugs back to Duane, finally getting the time of day and a conversation. And Tandy, in the meantime, is warming up to Mina Hess. As her “intern,” she moves from bringing Mina coffee to tagging along with her as she maps points in the bayous across the city for Roxxon. Mina’s entirely unaware of Tandy’s true motives. She bakes cookies, enticing Tandy to try one. She talks about her ambitions, and the demise of the bees (Mina calls them “the New Orleans of insects”), and her love for New Orleans, and how the city always survives. And Tandy, inexpertly, asks once, and four more times, about Mina’s father, to no avail. But the pair have a nice rapport, and their spending the day together is one of the season’s highlights: When Tandy brings up magic, Mina tells her there’s no such thing, “just science we don’t understand.”
In many ways, Mina and Duane are who Tandy and Tyrone could’ve been. Duane keeps a gig in the city, in Tyrone’s old neighborhood. Mina works in her father’s field, expanding the limits for Roxxon energy. Duane holds an admiration for Tyrone’s deceased brother. Mina holds Tandy’s father in esteem. Both Mina and Duane have an affection for New Orleans, and in separate conversations, they share its pull with Tyrone and Tandy. Duane calls Nola “a city of survivors.” Mina says, “New Orleans always comes back.” And while the methods Tandy and Tyrone used to meet them were less than pure, both of them warm up to their marks more than they anticipated. And neither use their respective powers against the folks they’re shadowing.
So, of course, it’s too good to last: After a last-ditch effort from Tandy to ask about Mina’s father (again!), she is finally caught. Tandy asked too many questions! She knows too much! Mina sends her away. And later, after Tandy follows her to visit her father – who’s been hospitalized – Mina tells her that she really would’ve helped her if she’d come to her honestly, so why didn’t Tandy just ask? Tandy replies, “The truth never occurred to me.” But Mina allows Tandy to speak to her father nonetheless. He’s conscious, but unresponsive. And even after Tandy touches him, she can’t see his hopes: Her vision is blocked by a door and dark matter. For now, the stakeout was a bust.
On Tyrone’s end, he finally gets Duane to admit that he saw his brother’s murder and can’t keep up the facade any longer. He asks Duane why he didn’t come forward and what he had to lose. Duane tells Tyrone that he’s bugging if the kid is “playing me just to bust some cop,” arguing that, even if he did come forward, Billy would still be dead – and Tyrone might be, too.
But Tyrone persists. He tells Duane that he can do better than this. And, honestly, it looks like Tyrone might have a shot at changing his mind – but that’s when Connors schedules a meeting with Duane. Duane sends Tyrone away, promising him that they’ll chat more about Billy later. And, just that quickly, after Duane makes an absurd miscalculation (Connors asks him to shoot O’Reilly, who’s waiting outside), he is shot dead by Connors as O’Reilly and Tyrone (who never left the building) look on. Tyrone cries out when Duane is shot. Connors sees him, and gives a good chase. But as the gunshots ring out, Cloak’s powers finally kick in, and Tyrone teleports out of an alley and into Tandy’s makeshift home.
In this way, it looks like the series has caught it’s rhythm – between interconnected story lines, shifting relationships, and a boiler-pot city, Cloak and Dagger has carved out its own niche. It’s a superhero drama that doesn’t rely on the trappings of either trope. And if the show can maintain its momentum, it’ll be well worth seeing where it takes us.