Thursday, June 28, 2018

REVIEW: 'Cloak & Dagger' - Tandy Exerts Her Powers While Tyrone Strives for Normalcy in 'Princeton Offense'

Freeform's Cloak & Dagger - Episode 1.05 "Princeton Offense"

Tandy is consumed with getting answers about the Roxxon cover up. To get the answers she is looking for, Tandy tests out her power to gain new insights. Tyrone, on the other hand, is focusing on being a normal kid as the basketball state finals approach. With so much weighing on him lately, can he truly push everything to the side and win the big game for Billy? Detective O'Reilly looks into the city's drug problems to get some answers of her own.

Is it problematic and offensive that Cloak & Dagger seems to be suggesting that Tandy and Tyrone can only gain control over their powers after they are about to kill themselves? Yes, it's clear that the show wants to be exploring some dark themes this season. It introduced the idea that both of them were actually suicidal because they were spending so much of their lives in turmoil about the past instead of moving forward and finding something to be excited about. Tandy was the one actually close to doing it because she only sees her life as depressive with people around her just always getting hurt. And then, she did do it and her powers gave her the tools to save herself. And now, she's pushing for Tyrone to put himself into danger so that he unlocks the secrets of his powers as well. That's such a horrifying mindset though because it could be sending the message that miraculous things can only happen when one is on the brink of death. It makes it appear as if Tandy only tied herself down and jumped into the ocean just to see if her powers would activate and give her complete control over them. And now, that appears to be exactly what happened. She is proclaiming the glory of this discovery. She can now make the dagger of light appear whenever she wants it. It no longer comes and goes depending on how she is feeling in any given situation. Now, she can use it to better maneuver throughout this world and her investigation. But the same is not also true for Tyrone. Yes, he has expressed the same suicidal feelings as Tandy. And yet, he would never go through with such an action. As such, Tandy thinks a gentle push over a balcony is exactly what he needs. Sure, it sends him back where he is suppose to be at the moment. But he doesn't suddenly have control over his powers then and can use them to lead his team to the state championship. That should make the audience worried because it could be sending the message that Tyrone has to be the one to make that personal choice to put himself in danger in order to unlock the mysteries of his powers. Him going over the balcony wasn't his decision. Tandy just pushed him. But that would be absolutely horrifying and offensive if the show is actually going to be exploring that moving forward.

The show can still talk about dark subject matter like suicide and depression. Both of the characters feel like they don't exactly belong in their own lives. Over the course of the series so far, they have seen each other in their normal living environments. Tyrone has seen Tandy out on jobs as well as the sanctuary of her home at the church. Meanwhile, Tandy just shows up at Tyrone's school early on in "Princeton Offense" because she needs to use the computer lab. She's on a mission to learn as much about the Roxxon corporation as possible. She needs to find even more details to better understand all of the files that her father and Greg left behind for her to work with. That gives her urgency and passion this week. She is on a mission. She is focused and empowered because she knows exactly how to utilize her powers when the situation requires it. But she's still destructive as well. She doesn't want to listen to any of the moral objections that Tyrone has about using their abilities in order to steal the hopes and fears from whomever they touch. Tyrone sees it as an invasion of privacy. These strangers aren't willing to share this information with them. As such, it's a violation just to steal it from them. As such, it makes Tyrone fear being touched by anyone because he doesn't want to witness whatever they are most afraid of in this world. Meanwhile, Tandy sees it as a blessing. She figures she can use these powers in order to gain insight into her targets that they wouldn't normally share. She's still functioning as a criminal who has some very selfish interests in this world. She has no problem just using this information to piece together the conspiracy at work within Roxxon. In fact, she flaunts it quite a bit here without being terrified at all.

Tandy manages to work her way into this party. It's also clear that this is a party that Adina helped organize. As such, she is bound to get caught up in this whole Roxxon conspiracy at some point this season. But right now, she's still mostly being framed as Tyrone's mother who is proud of all that he has accomplished while still being so absolutely terrified that one mistake could take him away from her too. That's a detail to be aware of moving forward. In the moment, Tandy is just determined to touch as many of the mid-level executives in the hopes that their dreams will give her some clues as to where to look to find answers about what's actually going on with this company. In that regard, it's pretty easy for her to figure out who is really in control of this corporation. Everyone see touches has the same hope of degrading their boss in some miserable way. Sure, that's incredibly problematic when it comes to one depiction of him getting on all fours to sexually pleasure a man under his desk. There is nothing demeaning or wrong about that kind of sexual situation. And yet, that sequence presents it as something incredibly humiliating. That just feels so icky. It makes me really worried about a handful of the messages that the show is now sending out to the world. It could explain that this mid-level executive simply isn't enlightened on gay views and rights. But it's still him choosing to connect all of this as a power move to show his superiority. He can do this at work and no one would care. That's awful as well. Sure, it's a complete fantasy. But the audience sees the images and is suppose to have a reaction to them. Plus, it's presented as nothing more than information for Tandy to collect. She is pointed to the head executive, Peter Scarborough, as the man responsible for the cover-up. And then, she suddenly remembers he's the guy who took everything her father had from their house. As such, it doesn't even feel like a big discovery for her.

Tandy's story is mostly about her flexing her powers to prove that she isn't a normal teenager. She wasn't following the traditional path before these powers manifested themselves either. She was living on the streets and conning people just in order to get money. Tyrone is the one living a normal life as a teenager. And yet, he too is burdened by so much drama that he doesn't care as much about things as his peers clearly do. His basketball teammates locked him in the equipment closet to get him focused about the championship. Afterwards, they want to go back to being friends because he has starting to focus more on the court. That's not something Tyrone should accept or forgive. He doesn't really. But he still clearly conforms to the traditions of this high school because he wants to give Evita his jacket. It's a way to symbolize that she is his girl. Again, it sends a horrible message about men owning women and needing to be very boastful of that fact to the world around them. It's the norms of high school despite how distressing some of these visuals actually are. These young athletes are told that they are so special and that this massive event is going to change their lives. And yes, it could have the potential of doing so if they are going to pursue a professional career in the sport. But right now, Tyrone isn't really thinking about his future at all. He's too caught up in the past. He wants Detective O'Reilly to help him arrest Connors for killing his brother. He basically has to be content with the fact that she could arrest him for some other charge as a corrupt cop selling drugs on the streets. That's the only amount of peace he is going to find in this story. And yet, Billy consumes his whole world. He is only interested in basketball in the first place because he is still chasing that feeling that he had when he was playing with his brother and his friends when he was younger.

And so, Tyrone really has no stake in whether or not his team wins this championship. As such, it's difficult for the audience to feel invested in the outcome of the game as well. Tyrone feels the urgency to get back to the locker room during halftime. And yet, it's hard for the audience to feel the same way. He seems to be brought to Tandy at that moment only because she happens to be using her powers so much during this event. They may still be linked in that they can only use their powers the same number of times. Tyrone believes Tandy is responsible for his mind being elsewhere during this game. But he has to take some personal responsibility as well. Contact sports are going to lead to him experiencing a lot of the fears of the people he runs into. As such, he sees that the referee is afraid of being tortured for not playing back his debts. Plus, he also sees that the other team is afraid that a father will beat them, they will get killed for snitching or they will be forced to fight in a war zone. Those are some real and genuine fears that are absolutely terrifying. That makes it easy to see why Tyrone isn't in the right headspace to make that final shot at the buzzer. But the tricks the show uses in order to get the audience invested in the outcome of this game really aren't that great. The announcers in particular are very annoying and pointed with their commentary. Tyrone doesn't see himself as that important to this team despite the evidence to the contrary. And now, he feels defeated because he lost the championship for them. And yet, he is still happily rewarded with Evita still wanting to be his girlfriend and spending the night. But then, his world is turned upside down once again after learning that one of Billy's friends is now actually partners with Connors in their drug business in the city. That's horrifying and it really should have been the chief focus here.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Princeton Offense" was Niceole R. Levy & Joe Pokasi and directed by Ry Russo-Young.
  • Detective O'Reilly is really starting to seem like a stereotypical reckless female character. Sex and drug use is depicted to show that she is dangerous and not the innocent and just hero that everyone expects her to be. But it's all so completely one-note here as well. There just isn't any nuance to the situation. Nor is it made clear if she actually did snort that cocaine. She wants to trap Connors by getting him to trust her. But her mind would be warped because of the drugs as well.
  • Of course, the show is still asking Tandy, Tyrone and the audience to see Detective O'Reilly as the good and noble cop who will actually do the right thing. She was very protective of Tandy despite the awful news that her would-be rapist would be going free. That built enough of a connection for Tyrone to approach her with his evidence and accusations against Connors. She at least has the sensible response of wanting Tyrone to just act like a teenager and let her do the police work.
  • Is the show suggesting that Evita is aware of Tyrone's powers and he is just too dim and naive to realize that she's trying to tell him as such? If so, that could be a huge condemnation against one of the lead characters. He's really foolish about the ways of the world which hasn't always been an aspect that has worked with him. But it could also explain why when they kiss he doesn't see her fears like he does with everyone else.
  • Tandy chooses not to kill Peter when given the opportunity to do so. It shows that she still has a moral compass. She knows that what she is thinking about doing is wrong. But she may also keep from doing it in order to figure out if he's the man truly responsible for destroying her family. Seeing his hopes only further highlights his one-note villainy of collecting the money off of dead bodies.
  • Tandy gets another lead from this event as well. The hour starts with her watching a video where someone is telling an inspirational story about how Roxxon gave him new purpose in his life. It ends with her witnessing the filming of anything profile like that. First off, it's ridiculous that she would be allowed on that set to begin with. And second, it seems to be suggesting that Roxxon is aware of some kind of unique substance under the water that may also explain Tandy and Tyrone's powers.