The latest episode of Cloak and Dagger, “Lotus Eaters,” takes place inside Ivan Hess’ addled brain. Therefore, it shouldn’t be a surprise that this episode is actually quite an inventive and stylized look at how it feels to endlessly ruminate, despite the answer to your problems literally being right at your fingertips. For Ivan, his answer was his daughter Mina’s cookie. But the cookie represents something much larger; it represents remembering who you really are and what you’re fighting for.

Let’s take a quick, non-ruminating look at this week’s episode.

Tyrone and Tandy visit Ivan Hess’ mind

Tandy enlists Tyrone to help her get into Ivan’s mind in order to know what happened that night. Once they meet Mind Ivan, though, they realize that he’s not the man they expected to meet. This Ivan doesn’t even know who he is, or how long he’s been in a loop, and he doesn’t seem to have any real urge to find a way out of his mind.

Of course, this episode is about a man in a catatonic state, therefore, he’s dealing with a severe mental condition. But I thought this episode was a great way to illustrate what it’s like for non-ruminating people to get a visual representation of what it does feel like to ruminate on things that either don’t have consequence or are in the past, and therefore can’t affect anything in the future.

Rumination is something I’m very well acquainted with. Like Mind Ivan, you look for every way to escape–you try to analyze the situation–and find none. Ironically, over-analyzing doesn’t work, as all it does is create more confusion and more ways to ruminate. And, like Mind Ivan, after you ruminate and can’t find any escape, you just feel like kicking up your feet and doing nothing. I didn’t have closed captioning on when watching, but when Tandy and Tyrone tell Ivan who he is, Ivan replies back that he has no name. He says either “I’m me” or “I’m meek.” I’d like to think he says “I’m meek,” since that’s how cognitive disorders can make you feel. You can feel like you aren’t deserving of finding a way out, because if you did, you could have found your way already. Of course, this thinking is a lie, but like Mind Ivan, you don’t know what’s real and what’s fake. You just learn how to cope, just as Mind Ivan learned how to cope with his situation by hiding from his co-workers-turned-chemical zombies (what’s up with the stuff Roxxon is mining?) and staying in his office, thinking about sports.

Tyrone and Tandy try to find their way out of Ivan’s mind, but they also can’t get to an escape. That’s when things turn for the worse. Not only is Ivan of no help at this point, but now Tandy realizes that the person who keeps calling Ivan on his phone is her father at the moment when her eight-year-old self is in the back seat of her dad’s car all those years ago. Once she picks up the phone and hears her father’s voice, she’s now stuck as well.

Comfort over discomfort

One of the strangest things about rumination, a symptom of several cognitive disorders, is that it’s as much of a comfort blanket as it is a hindrance. It might seem strange to say something that aims to destroy your mind is a comfort, but the rumination can be part of the mind’s overeagerness to protect and provide peace.

Tandy, for example, gets stuck in this loop of disturbance-as-comfort once she hears her father’s voice on the other end of the phone. She becomes hooked on living the moment over and over again. In her own way, she’s ruminating over the memory of her father and how she can relive the short amount of time she was able to spend with her dad in the real world. She’d rather stay locked in Ivan’s mind than face the truth of the matter, which is that everything she’s experiencing is false.

Since I’m discussing rumination in tandem with this episode, I’m not saying that people who are afflicted with this and other symptoms are running away from reality. But, at least in my experience, ruminating can become more comforting than not since it’s hard to shut off the thinking mind, even though ruminating is usually lined with false thinking. Sometimes, it just feels better to feel “safe,” even if that safety is a falsehood of your own making. Ruminating will never keep you safe, and the lies that often come with ruminating only serve as stuffing for a blanket that can’t protect you.

It takes Tandy a while to figure this out–she, like Ivan, becomes comfortable in misery, to the point where she can’t remember facts about herself, Tyrone, or even recognize she’s in danger. When Tyrone tries to save her, she keeps telling him she’s fine, that she’s never felt better now that she can hear her father. However, as Tyrone tells her, her father isn’t really there. It’s all a lie. Her reality is that she’s a girl who is still in mourning, and has turned to drugs and stealing to self-medicate.

The test against rumination

Tyrone gives Tandy one test; if she asks her father one question that only he would know, and if he answers correctly, he’ll leave her in the catatonic state with Ivan for as long as she needs. Tandy takes him up on that challenge and does ask one question–who is in the back seat in his car? His answer is “No one.” Wrong answer.

That kind of test can be applied to real life. What is your mind saying about you and does it line up with what you know to be true about yourself or about life? If the answer is “No,” then you’re already on the road to taking control of your mind and your life.

Indeed, once Tandy comes back around, she helps Ivan regain control by reminding him of the cookie he’s always about to eat. She reminds him that his daughter Mina made them and that the secret ingredient, the answer he never got resolved, is cardamom. Suddenly, Ivan comes back to himself and realizes that everything around him is fake. Once he’s re-established, he has an urge to get back to reality. Finally, with Ivan’s help, they escape, and Ivan is released from his catatonic state.

Rumination stems from a lot of mental illnesses, such as depression, various forms of OCD, anxiety, and more. But rumination and the illnesses it generates from can be conquered. The first step is to re-establish who you are and what is real. This way, you’re better able to suss out what needs to be discarded or, at the very least, ignored.

There are some other things to quickly touch on from this episode, such as Tandy’s sudden inclination to call Tyrone “Ty”. When did this happen? There’s also the caring look Tyrone gives Tandy before leaving the hospital.

Of course, Tandy doesn’t see this, since she’s focused on Mina and Ivan’s reunion, but Tyrone’s care continues as he calls her to play an old tape for her, a tape that features him and his brother. It’s a moment that calls back to an earlier scene, in which Tandy says she has no friends who call on her or seem to care about her wellbeing. Tyrone’s showing he can be that friend for her. But it also shows how the series is putting Tandy and Tyrone’s relationship into the next gear. I wondered which one would begin to show feelings for the other first, and even though Tyrone is still just a friend to Tandy, it seems like he’s the one who will delve into his feelings first. It makes sense; between the two, Tyrone is the one who actually accesses his emotions more, despite Tandy’s constant depression over her father. Unlike Tandy, Tyrone doesn’t numb his pain with drugs or other vices.

But overall, I found this episode to be a true journey of the mind. Regardless if you’re a person who ruminates or not, we all have the capacity to get stuck in an area of our lives because we want to relive the past or we want to figure out where we might have gone wrong. Part of the human condition is trying to figure out how to make sense of or control life, even though life, on a grand scale, is largely out of our control. Yet, we still try, and we end up getting swept by the currents of our mind. But there is always a way out of that state. You just have to remember who you are and what your reality is. As easy as this paragraph makes it sound, it can actually be really hard to get back to who you are. But everything worth having, including your peace of mind, always comes with a fight.

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