Thursday, July 5, 2018

REVIEW: 'Cloak & Dagger' - Tandy and Tyrone Explore New Connections to Get Answers in 'Funhouse Mirrors'

Freeform's Cloak & Dagger - Episode 1.06 "Funhouse Mirrors"

Tyrone heads down a dangerous path to get closer to Connors. Tandy pretends to be a Roxxon intern in an attempt to get answers. Her "internship" hits a little too close to home when she gets a glimpse at what her life could have been like. O'Reilly gets closer to Connors. Evita's Aunt Clarisse worries about Tyrone's future.

Survival is such a huge theme for Cloak & Dagger in its first season. So many characters are talking about needing to survive or the city of New Orleans always finding a way to come back after disaster. Tandy and Tyrone are surviving after the loss of their loved ones. But it's also important to note that they aren't really living. They are consumed by their feelings about death and the tragedies that took their family away from them. It wasn't until their powers emerged that they felt the confidence to actually investigate in the hopes of finding the answers that have plagued them for so many years. That has forced many ugly conversations for them about how far they are willing to go to get the truth and justice. Plus, it's made them reckon with whether or not they even have lives after all of this trauma has been healed. Who is Tyrone if he's not mourning Billy's death? Who is Tandy if she is able to take down Roxxon for scapegoating her father? Those aren't easy answers to come by either. In fact, the show is in no rush to provide that kind of emotional clarity to the characters or the audience. They are just delving in further and becoming entangled in more dangerous and complicated situations. It's exciting for those viewers looking for more superhero aspects in this series. But "Funhouse Mirrors" is still a frustrating episode because it feels like a whole lot of buildup and teasing without a whole lot of entertaining storytelling in the moment. Yes, there is a significant death and the tease of what is actually going on underneath the city. But those moments mostly feel like necessary plot developments in order to keep the story spinning for a little while longer. It's much more emotionally grounded when Tyrone is dealing with the aftermath of everything that has happened this week and Tandy wants to comfort him but can't get too close. That's a very devastating and earned moment. But it's basically just a small moment at the very end of the episode that will have to wait another week until it can be explored more fully. Tandy got Tyrone to make a position for himself in Duane's drug operation. And now, he is also feeling responsible for the circumstances that led to Duane's death.

Of course, it's also huge news that Duane was there that night that Billy was killed. The show doesn't really explain that further. It doesn't use flashbacks in order to highlight where Duane was and what kind of vantage point he had to see his best friend get shot and Tyrone jump into the water to try to save him. It's mostly just important that he knows that Connors was responsible for that tragedy and is still choosing to work for him running this criminal operation. That seems like a huge betrayal. Tyrone just wants to prove his worth in order to get closer to exposing Connors for his various crimes in the city. He's not taking O'Reilly's advice of just being a normal teenager and leaving the police work to the detectives. He needs to be active and uncover the truth himself. That's the only way that he will be able to process it completely for what it truly is. Tandy is encouraging this as well. She's the one digging into her father's case. She believes Tyrone should do the same thing. Tyrone is shut down when he approaches Duane for a job after losing the state championship for his basketball team. Tandy suggests simply creating an opportunity for Tyrone to prove his worth and that he belongs in this drug world. It mostly just presents itself through Tyrone being able to pick up the bag of drugs after the police startle the drug rulers. That, in turn, leads to a curious question about Tandy and Tyrone's powers. They are able to see the hopes and fears of whomever they touch. And yet, does the person whose minds they are invading see those images as well? With Tyrone, it seems like he is forcing these people to live out their fears. That's absolutely terrifying and could make it so easy for him to delve into a monstrous and manipulative person. But with Tandy, it doesn't seem like the hopes are shared with those she touches. It feels like just personal information for her to acquire. The show probably needs to better explain this.

But more importantly, Tyrone isn't able to keep his cover with Duane for very long. He is being shown around the business. Of course, his cover wouldn't have lasted the moment that Connors came into the warehouse and recognized him as the guy who previously tried to kill him in his own home before he just disappeared. But instead, that moment comes with the revelation that Duane could have said something to back up Tyrone's claims about Connors killing Billy and did nothing. Instead, his working with Connors feels like even more of a massive betrayal because he knows completely what Connors is guilty of. Tyrone doesn't know how Duane can reckon with that. Duane says that he is just doing his best to survive. He is hustling just like Tyrone did when he was a young kid stealing car radios and jumping into the water to save his brother. But things are so completely different as well. Tyrone has opportunities afforded to him because of his place in the world. He attends private school and had the potential to make something with his basketball career. He doesn't belong in the drug world. Duane sees that as the only world that he has. This opportunity is the only thing that is going to afford him a way to climb the ladder of society to make something good for himself. It's a partnership that has been very beneficial so far. O'Reilly poking her head around the drug game of the city is enough for Connors to know that he has a significant problem. He wants to stage things so that she is killed by Duane. Instead, it goes the other way around. That's so traumatizing for Tyrone. He doesn't want Duane to die even though he's been complicit in all of this. He wants to trust O'Reilly because she is fighting to get justice the right way for Billy. But she's the one who kills Duane. That's heartbreaking for Tyrone and makes it so difficult for him to accept that anything in the world can turn out how he wants it to.

Meanwhile, Tandy is able to con her way into working alongside Roxxon's environment scientist, Mina Hess. It may happen a little too easily for her. And yet, she needs to form that connection in order to get answers. Moreover, Mina is probably the one person who is completely willing to talk about how great Nathan was. She knows that he wasn't responsible for the oil rig explosion. He was just digging for a substance that was much more volatile than oil. It's all being done in secret. The company blamed her for the disaster in order to keep a lid on things. They are working on this secret project that is bound to have major repercussions for the company. That substance is possibly the explanation for why Tandy and Tyrone have their powers as well. It heated up when the rig was trying to mine it which led to the explosion. It leaked into the nearby water and hit Tandy and Tyrone as they tried to save their loved ones. That is easy to understand. But it's also great that the show proves that Tandy is not as great a liar and con woman as she believes she is. She is able to worm her way into working alongside Mina with no problem. And yet, it's her constant questions about the rig destruction and the people who worked on it that alerts Mina that this person has been lying to her about who she really is. Mina is more than forthcoming with information. In fact, this hour proves that they are an effective team. Mina can explain why her drainage system is so important and why the company needs to dig exactly where she tells them to. She is still battling against sexist boardroom executives who don't understand the science of all of this. Tandy can be Mina's champion and ally out in nature. But the lies and deception still shine through. Mina still calls Tandy out for lying about her identity.

Mina also wonders why Tandy went through all of this effort with the lies. Tandy is able to genuinely explain that it's the only way she has known to do things. She never thought she could approach anyone asking for the truth. She didn't know that Mina idolized Nathan as well. She didn't know that Mina saw him as this brilliant man who understood the risks and the dangers involved and the company just didn't listen to his concerns. The disaster occurred and he was an easy target for the blame. Mina is able to share the same feelings and opinions as Tandy. And yet, there's an immediate sense of distrust because of what Tandy was willing to do to deceive her way into this friendship. Of course, Mina also allows Tandy to see her father and try to talk with him. He's unable to speak though because he's currently in an assisted living facility without the ability to really interact with the world around him. But Tandy also has a way of communicating with him in a way that is pure and true. He can't hide his hopes from her. That's what makes it so curious when she is unable to see anything that way. It almost appears as if she has entered the headspace that Tyrone usually sees his visions through. She's in that environment of a person's fears instead of their hopes. That's a significant change of pace. It also presents a barrier to Tandy unlocking the secrets of his mind. She believed she could share a connection with him that even his daughter couldn't have. But in the end, that too is just a dead end. She believes Tyrone may be able to help her. She is pulled out of this vision the same way that she is pulled away from Tyrone if they get too close. That may be a clue that only he can see what this man wants to share. And yet, Tyrone may not be in the proper headspace to help Tandy with her investigation. That's ominous. She understands that he clearly just went through something traumatic. She sympathizes with him. However, their powers make it impossible for her to actually help him through it as a genuine human being. That's tragic.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Funhouse Mirrors" was written by J. Holtham & Jenny Klein and directed by Jennifer Phang.
  • It's odd and almost laughable that throughout this episode Evita and her Aunt Clarisse are just sitting at home doing a voodoo reading about the future of the city. They can sense that there is darkness and power coming from Tyrone. And yet, their scenes here are so completely cryptic and foretelling that past disasters are looming over the future once more. It's mostly to deliver that menacing statement that between Tandy and Tyrone one of them will die and the other will live.
  • As someone who just finished the second season of Luke Cage over the past few days, there is a reference that Detective O'Reilly used to work in Harlem with Misty Knight. It's only just a vague detail said in passing about O'Reilly moving to New Orleans. And yet, it also connects this show with the Netflix-Marvel universe. Yes, all of the Marvel properties are connected. But the shows don't really talk about each other unless they air on the same network. As such, that makes this detail very intriguing and shows that those connections still exist.
  • How is Connors going to explain what just happened to O'Reilly once he returns to the abandoned warehouse after the shooting? She understands that he was going to meet an informant. Then, Duane pulled a gun on her and she shot him. It could serve as evidence that he was trying to kill her to stop her investigation into his illegal activities. But she will also have a hard time proving that as well.
  • O'Reilly's detective sex buddy doesn't really have much importance on the show so far. He mostly pops up to present as a personal connection to O'Reilly. Of course, she approaches how he doesn't ask much of her or want to know more about her. And yet, he is worried about her based on this latest investigation. However, he too speaks in cryptic statements about the system working a certain way that needs to be respected.
  • Tyrone still doesn't have complete control over his powers. He is frustrated about that especially when a gun keeps getting pointed at him and he can't just vanish away. He ultimately is successful in returning to the church while fleeing Connors. But he would have liked to get there sooner. Meanwhile, Tandy does have control over the creation of her light dagger. But is that all she can do with her powers? She was previously able to glow without the energy forming into that weapon too.