Marvel’s Cloak and Dagger
Now that we’re only a few episodes out from the season finale, it’s safe to say that Cloak & Dagger has quietly flipped the hero network television genre entirely on its head – but with an overt emphasis on its lack of extravaganza.
We open this episode with another flashback sans Cloak or Dagger: a young Mina Hess is baking cookies for her father, Ivan (Tim Kang). It’s a hobby she’s had for decades, apparently, but Ivan isn’t entirely receptive to it – and after playing along for his kid, he helicopters to work on the Roxxon rig. When Ivan gets there, he’s pissed, and he’s anxious to talk to Nathan Bowen (Tandy’s father), but he doesn’t even eat the cookies (after a sniff, he tosses them on the table). By the time Ivan realizes he isn’t going to reach to reach Bowen, the lights on the rig go out, and the accident that brought Tandy and Tyrone together plays out as the ship collapses into the water.
It isn’t long before we’re back in the present. Tyrone’s still reeling from his encounter with Connors. As Tandy tries to calm him down, she (not so subtly) attempts to redirect the conversation to her thing: she’s found Ivan, the one man with information to clear her father’s name. But he’s catatonic. And she just might Tyrone’s help to reach him. Tandy tells Tyrone about the locked door in Ivan’s subconsciousness, and, together, she’s banking that they can reach the other side.
Which is a stretch, as plans go – but Tyrone plays along. The pair visit Ivan
(“You owe me,” says Tyrone), and on the count of three, Cloak and Dagger grasp Ivan’s hands. Which works! And all of sudden, they’re simultaneously in Ivan’s headspace. They come across Ivan’s locked door, debating its logistics for a moment – and just as suddenly they’re teleported onto the rig. That’s when they’re immediately attacked by what look like zombie-fied employees, in a setting more akin to The House of the Dead than anything else – and Tandy takes one guy out with her dagger, while Tyrone manages something on his end, too. When he asks Tandy how she’s able to work her powers so quickly, Tyrone catches on pretty quickly, noting, “The rules here must be different.”
But Tyrone doesn’t know just how right he is – and that’s when the pair run into Ivan Hess. His persona, or the shell of it, is stuck inside of the rig – but he isn’t entirely aware of his circumstances. His memory is faltering. Ivan tells Cloak and Dagger that they’re half-way through the end, adding that they have “one minute and forty three seconds”. When Tyrone realizes that the rig’s going to explode, he asks Ivan how they can stop it, and Ivan says that, basically, they can’t. Or they can, but it would involve reaching a room halfway across the ship. Ivan says that it’s quantitatively impossible to reach there – but Tandy and Tyrone try, regardless. And after their first fight-scene alongside each other, the pair collapse along with Roxxon’s rig.
So what happens next? They die. But then Cloak and Dagger return. And they find ourselves, once again, in an another time loop episode. When the pair run into Ivan again (and again, and again, and again), he tells them that the cycle just repeats itself. It seems that, for the moment, they’re locked in something like a Tennessee Williams play: three characters in a room, bouncing off of one another ad infinitum.
Once Tandy and Tyrone tell Ivan that his simulation isn’t the “real world” it becomes clear, very quickly, that even he isn’t aware of his “captivity.” Ivan doesn’t remember his daughter. He doesn’t remember his career. But he does remember Nathan Bowen – “the guy on the phone.” So Tandy realizes that he was talking to Ivan when he died. And Tandy makes the time traveler’s cardinal mistake – reaching for the phone when her father call, only to hear his voice, and succumb to the temptation of staying the loop.
Tyrone doesn’t fall for it though. He doesn’t have a reason to stay in the loop. He tells Tandy that they need to find a way to leave Ivan’s subconscious, but Tandy’s caught in her father’s sudden reappearance, regardless of its inauthenticity. Tyrone decides that he’ll save them himself, and it becomes apparently – very quickly – that this won’t be possible for him to do on his own. Even after he makes it to the valve room (where, Ivan insists, the rig’s fate can be reversed), they’re all still stuck in the loop.
Later, Ivan tells Tyrone it’s impressive that he reached the room at all. But when Tyrone updates Tandy about their being stuck, she doesn’t much care.
“We came here together, says Tyrone, “I might you need you to get me out.”
“You might not,” says Tandy.
And after the pair make a pact to leave, Tyrone finds that Tandy doesn’t keep her end of the deal. He’s back in the present-tense, but Tandy and Ivan are still subdued.
“Why are you such a good liar,” says Tyrone, and he heads back into Ivan’s subconscious.
There isn’t a moment where he seriously considers leaving Tandy in Ivan’s head. Tyrone goes back, because that’s who he is (cc: Liam Walsh). But even though he’s only been gone for a moment, time seems to operate much quicker in Ivan’s head-space; and Tandy doesn’t remember much of Tyrone at all. Or she does, but just barely. The facts only come back gradually. Tandy still isn’t much interested in leaving, and when Tyrone tells her that she’s stuck, Tandy tells him that there isn’t much bad about that. She does remember bits and pieces of her life.
“And from what I remember,” says Tandy, “It was horrible.”
Tandy remembers that she was homeless. She remembers being aimless and friendless. And when Tyrone tells Tandy that he’s her friend, she does her best to push him away. That’s when Tyrone tries a different tact: instead of allowing Tandy to answer her father, time after time, he interferes with their connection. But Tandy pulls her knife on him, and Cloak and Dagger chase each other around the room, and it is once again apparent that this tact won’t be working either.
They reach an ultimatum. Tyrone tells Tandy that he’ll leave her, but only if she does one thing for him: ask her father something that only he would know. If the man on the other end of the line can answer Tandy correctly, then maybe her time really is better spent in limbo. But, if not, then she should probably leave. And because Tandy may have suspected this all along, she’s tentative to take Tyrone up on his request – the next time her father calls, she asks him who’s in the back of his car. The answer should be Tandy herself.
“Nobody,” says her father. “There’s nobody in the backseat.”
That’s all it takes: Tandy realizes that she’s been playing herself. The next time their loop resets, she tells Ivan that Mina baked him the cookies he’s tossing aside. And the man is skeptical, at first, but eventually he comes around.
“I vaguely understand what you’re trying to do,” says Ivan, “and I feel like I should appreciate it.”
He takes a bite of the cookie, and slowly, but surely, the situation is illuminated. Ivan realizes that he’s trapped. He wants to see his daughter. Tyrone says that Ivan has to be the one to turn bring them home through the valve room (we love a genius). They make their way through the labyrinth. Tandy and Tyrone tag-team the rig’s zombies. And Ivan manages to shepherd the trio in to the present, where they all wake up simultaneously. Ivan doesn’t remember Cloak and Dagger, but he immediately asks for Mina – who arrives with a bag of cookies.
We end the episode with a tender moment (!) between Tyrone and Tandy on the phone. Tyrone calls her after finding a recording of Billy, and when Tandy asks once, and then once again, why he’s calling (!!), Tyrone says, “I just needed someone to talk to… someone who would understand.” (Someone who is, apparently, not Evita.) They both listen as Tyrone and Billy boombox with one another. When the recording ends, Tandy asks Tyrone to play it again (!!!).
Leaving episode seven, we still haven’t seen any major battles. The show’s effects are minimalist, to say the least. Seemingly major characters disappear for whole arcs at a time. There’s no (blatant) love interest to be saved, or reputations to be earned or re-gained, and neither Tandy nor Tyrone is interested in saving New Orleans – nor is New Orleans, as it’s depicted, interested in being saved. But what we’ve seen time and time again, over the past few months, is a show about some messy teens who’ve acquired even messier powers. And the thing is, it fucking works. Week after week. At least so far.