Cloak and Dagger ghost stories review

The theme of this week’s Cloak & Dagger episode, “Ghost Stories,” seems to be all about revelations. This episode was the anniversary of the deaths of both Tyrone and Tandy’s loved ones, so the overarching spirit of melancholy was even more intense than usual. But the mood was heightened by truths (both subtle and not-so-subtle) that were revealed over the course of the episode. Here’s what we learned this week.

Tandy’s Dad Is A Monster

Up until now, we’ve only seen Tandy’s dad, Nathan, through Tandy’s eyes. From her point of view, her father was the most amazing, smartest, daddy-iest dad ever. In fact, her mission has been to clear her father’s name and in this episode, she actually does – at least as far as the Roxxon stuff goes. However, the man who framed her father, Peter Scarborough (Wayne Pére), knows more about her father than she does, and taunts her a little with that information. She doesn’t believe it, and even goes so far as to refuse the money Scarborough offers her to keep everything under wraps.

But right when Tandy, her mother Melissa, and Tyrone (who was there at Tandy’s behest) begin to honor Nathan at the beach with a lantern, Tandy and Tyrone are both transported into Melissa’s fear. It’s not the fear of being alone or forgetting memories she had with her husband. Instead, her fear includes remembering the memories she has about Nathan and how she’s constantly trying to dress them up for the outside world (and maybe for Tandy so she won’t hate her father).

We see Melissa, alone in the movie theater of her mind, remembering what initially looks like a good, calm memory: she is giving her husband a cup of coffee as he pores over Roxxon materials, and he’s grateful to her, showing her affection. However, the real memory is much darker. Melissa still hands Nathan the cup of coffee to help him concentrate as he focuses on work, but she mistakenly tips the cup over, ruining the documents. Nathan gets mad and she apologizes, but then we see him snap and hit her, sending her towards the nearest wall.

It’s a memory that’s shocking for Tandy, who looked up to her father, but it’s doubly shocking since, until then, she blamed her mother for being a deadbeat, never taking into account the type of emotional trauma she might be holding onto. To be frank, she’s never really tried to understand her mother’s emotional trauma even when she thought it was just about lingering grief. But she definitely knows now that there’s more to her mother’s sadness and bad coping skills. I’m no psychologist, but I believe the memory/fear we saw from Melissa shows she’s still blaming herself for actions Nathan did to her. She’d rather sit in the movie theater of her mind and live in a fantasy than reconcile with the truth: he was a horrible person and she’s not to blame for his actions. However, Tandy recognizes the truth, and decides her father doesn’t deserve to have his name cleared. Instead, she calls Scarborough back the next day, saying she’s decided to take him up on his monetary offer.

What’s amazing is that when you look back on what we do know about Nathan and his interactions with Tandy, we find that he has always been abusive. First of all, he left his daughter out in the rain for hours when it was supposed to be his day to pick her up from dance class. I thought about this when the pilot aired, but since the episode didn’t pick it back up, I let it slide, thinking that maybe, maybe, they were just showing how taxed with work Nathan is – maybe he was stuck in a meeting and couldn’t call to let the dance teacher know he’d be late. But now I’m of the mind that he didn’t have the mental capacity necessary to understand that a responsible parent would call the teacher, call his wife, call somebody so Tandy could have been picked up at a reasonable time. Instead, he let his little “pumpkin” wait in the rain until he decided to come when he was ready. This show is thinking ahead and tying up things we thought were loose ends, and that’s awesome.

The other interaction that shows something’s off is the flashback we got in “Ghost Stories,” which is young Tandy standing en pointe (or as en pointe as a little girl in flats can), arms up in the air, while the TV is showing cartoons. She’s about to give up in frustration and turn the TV off, but her father tells her to keep it on in order to learn how to work and be the best she can be while tuning out distraction. He gives this speech about giving your all to something you desire to be, and it’s a speech that should be uplifting.

If he were delivering it without demanding perfection from his daughter by making her stand on her tiptoes for as long as she can, then it’d actually be an uplifting, encouraging speech. Yet he says this while putting constraints on her instead of letting her be a kid. Yes, at the time, being a dancer might have been her dream, but even folks with dreams take a rest once in a while; it wouldn’t have done any harm to let her go play or do some other kid stuff.

As a side note, Nathan’s speech was weirdly parallel to the “you have to be twice as good as the rest of the class to be considered half as competent” speech that people of color, particularly black people, tell their kids; it’s definitely something I was told growing up. Of course, the reasons for the speech have different connotations – not all black parents telling this message to their kids want to make them perfectionists; they’re just telling the truth about racial status in America, and a coping mechanism for this is to encourage exceptionalism. But I did find it interesting how close the speech was to some of my own experiences growing up.

Connors Actually Feels Guilty (And O’Reilly Knows Misty Knight)

I didn’t think Connors actually felt bad about killing Billy. I didn’t think it haunted him at all. But apparently it does, as Tyrone discovered when he scared Connors into confessing to his crime.

Of course, Tyrone doesn’t just do it willy-nilly – he uses his powers to make Connors believe he’s being haunted by Billy’s ghost. We see he get the idea after remembering something Auntie Chantelle told him many years ago after stumbling onto one of her New Orleans tours: ghosts don’t stay around just to scare people, they only stay if they have some unfinished business and to right wrongs done in their lifetime. For Tyrone, Billy’s soul isn’t at peace since his own isn’t at peace, so he decides to take matters into his own hands.

Tyrone lays this plan on O’Reilly and her boyfriend (of sorts), Officer Fuchs, and at first, O’Reilly is understandably not interested. But then Tyrone shows them both his powers. Apparently, O’Reilly is nonplussed by what should be a startling revelation because she’s seen it all the time in New York.

I’m actually not a fan of keeping up with Marvel continuity all the time. Sometimes, I just like watching a Marvel property TV show or film and not think about the connective threads that other fans will be minutely tracking. So for some, it might not have been a big revelation that O’Reilly would know about superpowers – she did say she’s from New York several episodes ago, after all, and a hardcore fan could have surmised that she knew Misty Knight. But the big reveal that she not only knows Misty but considers her a friend was news to me. I want to know how far back their friendship goes. Maybe we’ll learn that in the future.

Back to Tyrone’s plan to get Connors. This is the first time we’ve seen Tyrone really embrace his powers, including his decision to wear his brother’s cloak. This is the first time we’ve seen Cloak in action, and it gives me so much excitement for how awesome Cloak is going to be in the future when he’s finally the vigilante he’s destined to become.

Fuchs Gets Fridged

Unfortunately for O’Reilly and Fuchs, bringing Connors to justice is only the start of the problems. Somehow over the course of these episodes, Fuchs and O’Reilly have been a weird item, and their relationship is why Fuchs came on board to help O’Reilly put Connors away. But sadly, Fuchs’ tradition of making Girlfriend Pancakes is over. O’Reilly comes over to celebrate their victory, but when she opens the refrigerator, she finds Fuchs dead.

For comic book fans, this moment recalls a pivotal moment in comic book history when Green Lantern finds his girlfriend dead in a fridge in 1994’s Green Lantern #54, leading to the phrase “Women in Refrigerators” being coined by comic book legend Gail Simone, describing female characters who are killed off to serve as an emotional catalyst for the male lead’s story. (The act of killing women to serve the man’s ends is called “fridging”). The only thing different here is that the power has shifted.

Instead of the woman being used as a catalyst, the man is. This inverted power structure has been apparent throughout O’Reilly and Fuchs’ relationship. Instead of Fuchs being the big detective in charge with a lower-ranked female officer girlfriend, it’s O’Reilly who’s the bigshot detective and Fuchs who’s the lower-ranked officer booty-call. Instead of Fuchs telling O’Reilly how to conduct her investigation, it’s O’Reilly telling Fuchs that she’s going to do whatever she needs to do with or without his advice. And now, it’s O’Reilly figuring out who killed her boyfriend instead of Fuchs figuring out who killed his girlfriend.

To be clear, I’m not advocating that any fridged position is better than another. It would have been nice to get some more character development for Fuchs on the whole, and I was bummed to see him literally in a fridge right when we were getting some of that development. But is this not what too many female characters have had to deal with?

What is important about Fuchs’ death is that it gives audience members a look at how the fridging concept robs any character of its just due. For the longest time, it’s been overlooked mostly because women are already at a lower level in society anyway, and a patriarchal society demands its female characters be objects for comfort, lust, or killing, not fully-formed human beings. But when the shoe is on the other foot – when a male character is treated the same way – it should make viewers (particularly male viewers) realize how limiting objectification can be.

Okay, two more episodes left this season! I don’t think we’ve gotten a definitive green light for a second season yet, even though this season has been so mature and sophisticated. To be honest, I’m a little baffled at the lack of enthusiasm there seems to be at either Freeform or Marvel proper, and it’s giving me flashbacks to Agent Carter, a good show that was sidelined (purposefully so?) because it sought to tell its own story beyond the margins of Marvel’s precious continuity. Maybe if this was on Netflix, we’d already know its fate, since Netflix seems to embrace Marvel’s beyond-the-margins shows (indeed, Cloak & Dagger does feel like a Netflix show that somehow made it to network television). In any event, I’m excited to see how this season wraps up, and hopefully before this season is over, we’ll get to see Cloak and Dagger in the classic black and white, fighting crime.

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