This Cloak and Dagger review contains spoilers.
Cloak and Dagger Season 2, Episode 9
Pain can turn us into people we never thought we’d become, choking out our ability to empathize with others and turning us numb to others’ pain. For Andre, this transformation through pain means becoming a villain who preys on girls and young women in order to keep himself sane. For Tandy, this means potentially becoming the kind of person who would kill for revenge, calling it justice. It appears to be already too late for Andre, who has completely committed to his path of stealing the hope from every person in New Orleans. But, for Tandy, empathy is still a choice she can and does make in the penultimate episode of Cloak and Dagger Season 2.
In last week’s review, I lamented the lack of context for Andre’s villainous actions. This week, Cloak and Dagger gives us the backstory of Andre Duchamp. Similar to the Mayhem-centric flashback episode we got earlier in the season, it flashes back to eighty years ago, when Andre was a New Orleans musician who had everything he needed in his music. We see him fearlessly go for the “blue note” in a performance, collapsing on stage in pain. This is the beginning of Andre’s path to villainy.
“When you lose what you love, the whole world seems empty,” Andre tells nurse Lia when he meets her in the hospital following his attempt to end his life—his description of his own emptiness echoing the experience of hopelessness Andre causes in others. Because of his migraines, Andre has lost his ability to play music. He feels he has nothing to live for. That might have been the end of his story, if not for the fact that the night he jumped off of a bridge was the night of the rig explosion. When Lia reaches to check his vitals, Andre goes into his Darkforce dimension record shop for the first time, finding Lia’s record. She becomes his first victim.
There is a lot of discussion between Mayhem and Tandy in this episode about who deserves the most absolute form of justice, i.e. death, and who does not. Personally, I don’t believe that anyone has the right to take someone else’s life or that death is ever a manifestation of justice, but I do understand that justice can have different contexts.
For Andre, his superpower is a path forward that allows him to find his music again—the fact that it means causing others pain is an easy price for him to pay, which is one of the many differences between him and Lia, the latter of whom doesn’t have a superpower to wield. She is not only a victim of Andre’s powers, but also appears guilty as she watches Andre lure vulnerable young women into their support group. In other words: she still has a conscience, even if she has chosen and/or been forced to go against it.
“I’m just willing to do whatever it takes to live without pain. If that means becoming a god, so be it.” Andre’s reasoning is very human, but it is also a classic example of someone accumulating power and using it in the most destructive, irresponsible ways. Because Andre may have pain, but he also has power—never forget that. He has immense power with his ability and, rather than try to come up with other possible solutions for his pain and other possible uses for his power, he takes the most abusive path. This isn’t completely about curing pain; it’s also about reveling in power.
“I don’t deserve this pain more than anyone else,” Andre tells Tandy, as an excuse. This may be true, but it also doesn’t give Andre the right to cause others pain—no one ever has that right, and the fact that he feels entitled to it is one of the many things that separates him from someone like Lia.
This isn’t enough for Mayhem—she lives in a black-and-white world where those who cause pain deserve pain; Tandy has the courage and will to live in the grey, to consider the context of the pain people have endured and caused, and to see the possibility for other kinds of justice, ones that look more like opportunities for rehabilitation and redemption. “She deserves justice,” Tandy tells Mayhem. “Not whatever this is.”
A clarification of Tandy’s values is important heading into the big fight with Andre, but it doesn’t magically help Tandy and Tyrone find and stop Andre. The two try several methods of finding Andre throughout the course of the episode. The first? Diving into Lia’s mind via in order to find out if there are any clues as to where she might be.
It’s interesting how this show chooses to relay backstory. It rarely chooses exposition, which is refreshing and ambitious. But, unlike many TV shows, it also rarely chooses flashbacks. While we see them in this episode in the form of Andre’s path to villainy and we saw it earlier in the season with Mayhem’s path to anti-heroism, this show usually chooses a trip inside of someone’s unconscious.
Pay attention to when characters get to have POV control of the narrative through flashback and when characters have their backstories experienced through the POVs of Tandy and/or Tyrone—because they are different narrative experiences. Because the latter is not a traditional scene, but something else, there is always a distance from those core moments. We are always observing them, rather than “living” them in the world of the TV show.
That distance creates a kind of sadness, but it also creates room to react fully to what we are seeing. Because it is never happening here and now, there is no action in the immediate moment to be taken by our protagonists. We can only bear witness, and there is something extremely difficult and also fascinating, especially in the content of a superhero show, about prioritizing that kind of viewing experience.
In “Blue Note,” while Andre gets flashbacks, Lia gets a trip down memory lane. We see that she, too, loves music and that there was a time when it gave her hope. We also get further insight into how Andre manipulated her out of the hospital he first met her in and into his life as a pawn to be used to foster further pain to be used as his medicine. Bearing witness to this context is what allows Tandy to find empathy for Lia, someone who actively contributed to Tandy’s own pain and trauma.
Tandy’s power is more of a naturally offensive one, while Tyrone’s is more of a naturally defensive one. That doesn’t mean both can’t be used in either ways, but, when it comes down to actively hurting someone, Tandy has the edge. This is why, when the two go to confront Andre, and know there is a good chance they may have to kill him to stop him, Tyrone forces a discussion. “If it comes to it, we have to do it together. Just like everything else—good, bad, in-between.”
Tyrone is not going to let Tandy do this on her own. Too often, stories depict violence acted upon you as the on the only hardship to bear; as if enacting violence on others doesn’t come at a price. We see it in Adina’s face as she burns newspapers soaked in Connors’ blood, telling her son that everything is fine. Even Mayhem, who is a straight-up serial killer at this point, recognizes the weight of murder. “I could have told you,” she tells Tandy. “It’s harder than it looks.”
When the moment comes, Tandy and Tyrone attempt to stop—read: kill— Andre together. Tandy throws a dagger through Tyrone and into Andre as he plays the music that, with the help of a veve, would render all of New Orleans hopeless. Cloak and Dagger’s plan doesn’t appear to fully work. Andre’s army of hopeless people, including Tandy’s mom, disappear, along with Andre. The episode ends with Andre walking through a new door from his record shop and onto a stage. He plays his music over the city of New Orleans as Tandy and Tyrone listen, seeming helpless to stop it.
Were Tandy and Tyrone transported to the Darkforce dimension once again? Or did Andre’s own connection to the Darkforce finally give him the power he needs to take all of the hope from the people of the city of New Orleans once and for all? As is often the case with superhero season finale’s, this is probably going to get worse before it gets better.
“I don’t want to go either, Ty. But what if this is the best way to find him?” Tandy might not want to go inside of Lia’s mind, but looking for those missing girls isn’t the only reason Tandy has for venturing into Lia’s mind. Lia betrayed her and, when someone betrays you, it’s natural to want to know why. That search for an answer can turn desperate and, while Tandy is fueled by a search for the remaining missing girls, it is likely also fueled by a search for the answer to the question: why did this happen to me?
“A blue note: It’s what separates a man from a god.” Is it just me or are TV characters more obsessed with becoming gods lately?
One of the best scenes in the entire episode is a bit of an aside. Looking to set up a meeting with the Uptown Block Kings, Tyrone tracks down Solomon, the young kid who saved Adina from his gang, in an earlier episode. The two bond over a newspaper article about Luke Cage, who Solomon notes looks like him. Tyrone encourages Solomon’s belief in a different, better future for himself than he has been allowing himself to imagine: ”You know what I like to think? I think, even if he wasn’t in bulletproof, he’d still be in the mix, trying to make things right.”
Solomon is reading about Luke Cage in the newspaper, which seemingly sets the current season of Cloak and Dagger sometime during the first season of Luke Cage. Does this mean Cloak and Dagger will forever stay prior to The Snap? Or is this an event that will eventually affect the world of the show?
“Sometimes, you can’t fix things. Some things just broke. Just because it broke, doesn’t mean it needs to be fixed.”
“I don’t care about your business. I don’t care about how much money you used to make. I don’t care how much it’s going to cost you.” In this episode, Tyrone uses his power to strike fear in the hearts of the city’s gang leaders. It’s a cool moment, but a reminder of how this season has prioritized Tandy’s storyline over Tyrone’s—perhaps, partially, because Tandy’s personal storyline is more tied in with the larger fight against human trafficking in the city. Either way, it’s been a disappointment to see Ty’s stuff put on the backburner. As we race towards the end of this season and Tandy’s character development moments hit a bit harder than Tyrone’s, this becomes more and more obvious.
“I’m done expecting anyone—you, me, this city—to be perfect. I’m still gonna fight for it.” I love Tyrone so much.
Could Lia end up being the key to stopping Andre once and for all? Just like Tandy has had the chance to fight back against her victimizers, it would be nice (and thematically-resonant) to see Lia have the opportunity to do the same, not to mention a reinforcement of the empathetic decision Tandy made in tonight’s episode, choosing not to kill Lia or let Mayhem kill her. Also, on a logistic level, Lia probably has a better idea of how to stop Andre than anyone.
“You’ve only been dealing with [your powers] for eight months. Let’s see what you’re both like in eight years.”
Lia’s hopeful record is so pretty!
According to Wikipedia, “In jazz and blues, a blue note is a note that—for expressive purposes—is sung or played at a slightly different pitch than standard. Typically the alteration is between a quartertone and a semitone, but this varies depending on the musical context.”