Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Voodoo Dreams Move Cloak and Dagger Along

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One of the cooler decisions made for Cloak and Dagger was to place it in New Orleans. Besides getting us away from overused New York-ish settings everyone has done a thousand times now, Louisiana and New Orleans allow for some cool cultural twists. Louisiana Voodoo is one of these interesting cultural flavors for the setting, and Cloak and Dagger made good use of it as its third episode focused on helping Tandy and Tyrone break the bad habits leading them down paths of self-destruction.

The Kids Aren’t Alright

Last week’s two-episode premiere focused primarily on the childhood traumas both Tandy and Tyrone suffered and how they still struggle with those traumas. “Stained Glass” focused on the first steps of moving them past these traumas, mainly by focusing on the harmful actions they continuously take.

The majority of these steps took place in the aftermath of the car crash that ended the second episode, which took place because of both characters making the mistakes addressed during this hour. Tandy ran away from her family and life after stabbing an attempted rapist. Tyrone tried to take justice into his own hands, unable to escape his need to take personal vengeance on Detective Connors for killing Tyrone’s brother. Parallel dream sequences show how these decisions define the people they have become, even as they keep moving their lives towards disaster.

These dream sequences had quite a bit of symbolism to digest and made for one of the cooler sequences throughout Cloak and Dagger’s three episodes to date. Between Tyrone’s duel attire, the obvious racial aspect of Tyrone always dying at the hands of police, the Roxxon execs drowning Tandy’s father, having both start as kids and age to the present day, there was a great deal to make out of this. I especially like how the overall point was made clear while there remained plenty of subtle clues and metaphorical imagery to dig in to.

The main point was clearly further establishing the bond between Tyrone and Tandy, how they keep making mistakes, and having one help the other understand those mistakes.

We saw most of these mistakes last week. Tandy always runs away from her problems rather than face them. Tyrone wants to take justice into his own hands due to an understandable lack of faith in the justice system. Their inability to act outside these instincts put them in the position where they began this episode, with Tyrone nearly shooting Tandy in her stolen car and causing her to crash. Neither could break from these habits alone. With the help of each other, and the bond they’ve created, they may now be in position to do so. I don’t expect it to happen right away, but Tyrone sought Tandy out in the expectation that she can help him.

And it’s help they need, because it’s obvious these kids have spent their entire lives sinking deeper into harmful habits born of their traumas. Both have families barely clinging on in their own lives. They sure as hell weren’t (and still aren’t) in position to help their kids. Tyrone at least has his priest, but we see how little that has helped.

I’m also very glad that Tyrone and Tandy deepened their bond by the end of this episode. When Tandy took off in her car and Tyrone ended up spending the episode with Evita, I worried it would be the start of a multi-episode stalling pattern keeping him and Tandy apart. Instead they resolved it by the end of the episode. I don’t expect everything to resolve quickly from here (though I’d be happy if it did). They’ll probably continue resisting the bond created by their powers, purely because it’s freaking scary.

Still, we’re on a good pace here, and a better one than I feared after the beginning of the episode. Cloak and Dagger continues to revolve around its two main characters and is doing a fine job of it. I am wondering if this first season will remain this character-heavy or ever delve into deeper plot movement. So long as the characters develop at this pace and the plot keeps pace in the background, I’m happy as is.

Dig That Voodoo

The dream sequences dominating the episode this week began in part due to a new character, Auntie Clarisse, a local voodoo practitioner running a family tour business in the city. I can’t speak to the complete accuracy of the tour information given out, but a lot of it was based in truth. Marie Laveau’s tombstone is a popular tourist attraction where tourists hope perform a ritual similar to what Tyrone does here in hopes of having wishes granted. She is a renowned figure within Louisiana history and culture.

Combined with Clarisse, Evita’s tour of voodoo history in the city, and the bath that triggers Tyrone’s dream sequence, there’s a very distinct feel to this episode. It’s also a very natural one. Voodoo practitioners were hugely important to New Orleans throughout history and remain a cultural draw for the city.

This focus is part of showrunner Joe Pokaski’s desire to really define New Orleans as a setting for Cloak and Dagger, and it’s one I’m highly interested to watch moving forward. It gives the show a unique feel among the increasingly stuffed hallway of superhero shows, where Netflix has four heroes all defending the same city. I also love when any show really makes an effort to establish its city as its own character. “Stained Glass” was an appreciated step towards exactly that for Cloak and Dagger. It also helps that it feels like they did their homework.

Think about how beloved the first season of True Detective was, and how much the Louisiana swamps and supernatural legends played a role in the unique setting of said season. Now, I’m not asking Cloak and Dagger to be that good, but I hope it does something similar. Really commit to this setting and it will make Cloak and Dagger memorable. Especially so if it hits back at the more racist, inaccurate depictions of voodoo seen in other stories.

Thankfully, there’s no reason to expect this distinctly Louisiana feel to go anywhere. Evita certainly isn’t going anywhere. Clarisse’s 3D-printed figure of Tyrone suggests she’ll be back, as well. They should be. They look like they’re part of a greater cultural feel Cloak and Dagger wants to establish. Maybe it made for a strange third episode, especially since so much of it was steeped in interpretation rather than direct plot movement, but I think it made for a good one.

Even if Evita kind of creeps me out. Hopefully they fix that moving forward. This girl’s stalking Tyrone around the city and listening in on his conversations. It’s weird.

Other Thoughts:

  • Speaking of another show that made the setting its own character, check out Tyrone’s brother Billy dropping one of the most famous lines from The Wire. Doesn’t get more “city as a character” than David Simon’s show did. David Simon also took on New Orleans with the underappreciated Treme.
  • I know I haven’t spoken a ton about plot in these reviews so far, but this episode continued raising intriguing questions to answer. This time around we have Detective Connors closing Detective O’Reilly’s case involving the rapist Tandy stabbed. Why did he do this? Why does whoever told him to do this care?
  • Speaking of O’Reilly, I hope she becomes more of a character soon. She’s basically just a blank slate wandering at the edges of the story.
  • Why would Tandy’s attempted rapist not identify her? I hope we get an explanation there, though I admit I’m starting to mentally check out when he’s on screen. So yeah, maybe just dump his story.
  • Also, while it’s not a huge issue, I was kind of annoyed that Tandy just ran from Tyrone at the start. It’s why  I feared the story was beginning a stalling pattern between them. You’d think you’d have questions for the kid who popped up in the middle of the road with the gun and nearly shot you, especially when it’s a kid connected directly to the most traumatic moment of your life and new powers awakening within you.

Images Courtesy of Freeform

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