This Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger review contains spoilers.
Marvel’s Cloak and Dagger Season 2, Episode 3
The best superhero antagonists tend to be morally complex. They are “Shadow Selves” of our heroes’ own journeys. A different path in the Choose Your Own Adventure that is every person’s life. Maybe, on a bad day, you can even imagine yourself having taken that path, having made some of those same choices, too?
Of course Mayhem is more than a Choose Your Own Adventure path. She isn’t just a shadow; she is her own valid, corporeal person. She casts her own shadow. It’s refreshing to see Cloak and Dagger avoid the Jekyll and Hyde path in favor of something different. Mayhem is more interesting as a character because she isn’t the “fake” Brigid. She is Brigid, too. They share all of the same memories, up to the point when they split into two.
The big difference between Mayhem and Brigid is how they feel about and react to those memories. Mayhem is the angriest parts of Brigid; as showrunner Joe Pokaski suggests, “she is the angriest part of [all of] us.” And damn if her motivations, if not her actions, are relatable.
It’s why Tandy has such a hard time stopping Mayhem. Tandy knows what it’s like to be a woman who is failed by this world. When Tandy was sexually assaulted in Season 1, she went to Brigid for help—an act that took so much courage—only for Brigid to have to tell her that she couldn’t help her. That the police don’t care. At least not more than they care about protecting the power of rich white men.
If Tandy had gone to Mayhem in Season 1, Mayhem would have hunted down and probably killed Rick. But would that have been helping Tandy? Maybe. But it wouldn’t have meant that any of our society’s priorities had been changed, and that distinction—the distinction between killing specific bad guys and working to kill systemic inequalities and injustices—is where Cloak and Dagger‘s immense value as a (superhero) story lies.
Of course, combatting systemic inequalities takes a lot longer and is a lot more difficult than stopping one bad guy, and it’s the kind of long, lifetime mission that doesn’t help the vulnerable people who are being hurt and killed now. Tandy spent much of the Season 2 premiere feeling helpless to help the girls and women who have been kidnapped by human traffickers. So, when she sees Mayhem getting immediate results, she is understandably drawn to those results.
While Tandy wonders whether she should be more like Mayhem, Tyrone worries that he is too much like her. Tandy quickly dispels the notion. Tyrone openly flinches at the ugliest parts of NOLA in a way that Tandy at least pretends to be unsurprised by. It’s not like Tyrone hasn’t experienced pain or seen the ugliest parts of life and society before, but his decision to stay hopeful and compassionate inspite of it is pretty damn inspiring. It shows that empathy isn’t a privilege; it’s a choice anyone can make. It’s a reminder that having endured pain does not give you the right to recklessly be the cause of it for others.
Tyrone’s immense capacity for empathy is what keeps him from being like Mayhem and, in turn, it’s the thing that keeps Tandy from being seduced by Mayhem’s violent methods because Tyrone reminds Tandy of her own capacity to empathize. Mayhem violence may have different motivations and targets than Connors did in Season 1, but it’s the same kind of devil-may-care violence that got Billy killed, Ty tells Tandy. Tandy may only have eyes for those girls and women, but Tyrone can see the probably-not-evil kid who got pulled into this operation. He can imagine that this kid has a younger brother who thinks the world of him.
Of course, not all of this episode follows Tandy, Tyrone, and Brigid’s tracking of Mayhem; we also get some much-needed context for how Mayhem came to be tracking missing girls and women across NOLA. The episode picks up a great deal of narrative momentum the more it dives into flashbacks to Mayhem’s journey after the split from Brigid. Through Mayhem’s journey, we learn not only about her character, but also what other, minor characters have been doing since Season 1.
We check in with Father Delgado, who has quit his job at Tyrone’s school, had an alcohol relapse, and now preaches on the streets of New Orleans. Fascinatingly, Mayhem often seeks Delgado out. He is a safe place for her to vent her frustrations, debate the morality of her actions, and perhaps make herself feel superior to someone. (Mayhem doesn’t seem to have Brigid or Delgado’s substance abuse disorder.)
“Sins have weight, guilt attached to them,” Mayhem tells Delgado. “I didn’t feel any of that. If I have a soul, it’s not in this body.” Interestingly, this exchange shows that Mayhem has an awareness that she is missing a perhaps essential part of herself: the ability to feel guilt over having caused pain in others. The performance and scenario reminds me a bit of Shade-less Julia in Season 2 of The Magicians: In both cases, the characters have the memory of empathy, but are no longer able to feel it anymore. Still, the memory of that empathy seems to hold some value.
Via the Mayhem-centric flashbacks, we also check in with Tyrone’s mom, Adina, when we watch Mayhem attend a parish meeting concerning the police’s excessive use of force against a young woman. In order for an investigation to happen, the council must vote unanimously for it. Adina is the only member who votes against it (and, obviously, against her own conscious). Before casting her vote, she hesitates, looking at a suit in the back, before voting “nay” to the distress and anger of the room filled with community members.
There have been clues that Adina, who works for Roxxon, has been morally compromised, but this may be the most blatant yet—and could be related to Tyrone’s current wanted status. The fact that Cloak and Dagger seamlessly sneaks it into a sequence that is primarily about Mayhem tracking Connors’ former police partner is good storytelling.
And what of Mayhem’s search for Connors? While the antagonist may temporarily put the quest for vengeance for Fuchs’ murder on the backburner, per Delgado’s suggestion, by working to save the missing girls and women, Mayhem may unintentionally get what she wants. Tyrone sends her to the Darkforce dimension, something we’ve previously seen him do with Connors. This is probably a situation of: be careful what you wish for, however, as Mayhem is almost immediately confronted by the talking corpse of Fuchs.
Up until this point, Cloak and Dagger has been a show that has three protagonists: Tandy, Tyrone, and Brigid. With Mayhem on the scene, the series now has four? I’m not sure how consistently we’ll see Mayhem moving forward, but, so far, she acts as a fascinating counterargument to Tandy, Tyrone, and Brigid’s brands of justice-seeking.
This episode wasn’t without its weak points. Cloak and Dagger is always at its weakest for me when it tries to delve too deeply into its supernatural elements, as it did in this episode’s first act. But the flashbacks to how Mayhem has been living and fighting on the streets of New Orleans, as well as the way Mayhem’s moves in the present-day made Tyrone and Tandy define their own moral lines made the slow start more than worth it.
Now that Cloak and Dagger Season 2 is truly started, it’s clear this show has not run out of things to say. Not by a long shot.
“So what? So your personal vendetta goes on unresolved? Who cares? The whole world is in pain. You wanna use your freedom? Look beyond your own bullshit.” This feels like a direct call out of so many of our other mainstream stories, superhero and otherwise, and I am here for it.
Mayhem’s choice to throw the fridge down the stairs, tells us so much about Mayhem’s character. First, she is Brigid. She chooses the refrigerator because it is where she found Fuchs. She remembers what it was like to find the body of her lover in her own fridge, a message from Connors, and she has the anger, grief, and intense motivation to seek vengeance.
Interestingly, it was kind of difficult to me to call Mayhem Mayhem in this review; I wanted to call her Brigid because she is, too. But, for logisitcally purposes, I am calling her Mayhem. Otherwise, it would get too confusing. I just want to say that I think Mayhem as equal rights on the Brigid identity/personhood.
Throughout Tyrone, Tandy, and Brigid’s quest to find Mayhem, we are reminded of the forms of intersectional privilege each character does and does not have. As a boy/young man, Tyrone hasn’t had to deal with the institutional sexism and misogyny that, as girls and women, Tandy and Brigid have had to. On the other hand, as a black boy in America, Tyrone has faced realities that Brigid and Tandy will never have to—he knows what it is like to be de-prioritized and de-humanized by society in the way that so many of the girls and women Mayhem is fighting to save have been in part because they come from communities of color. Tyrone, on the other hand has, up until recently, enjoyed a level of economic privilege that has kept him from feeling a level of comfort in places like the strip club that Tandy as a former homeless kid and Brigid as a police officer (both with histories of substance use disorders) have a familiarity with.
The decision to not Jekyll & Hyde Brigid, but rather create two, equally-valid versions of the same character reminds me a bit of what Farscape did with Crichton in Season 3. Farscape was so damn far ahead of its TV time and doesn’t get nearly enough credit for the kinds of radical, morally-complex storytelling decisions it was making at a time when TV was still looked down upon as a medium.
I didn’t love the directorial choices in the scene that sees both Tandy and Tyrone using their abilities of one of the women who has been rescued. They only kind of ask for the consent to touch her, and then discuss what they’ve seen with one another and with Brigid as if the woman isn’t even there. It’s an odd choice for a characters who seem so worried about the mental state of these young women, and for a show that usually avoids these kinds of missteps.
Mayhem’s nail color is perfect.
We get mention of Brigid/Mayhem’s dad in this episode. I’d like to learn more about Brigid’s family and background.
“We all know you have that dark streak inside of you, O’Reilly.” Brigid’s co-workers are the worst.
Mayhem hasn’t killed Brigid yet, even though she has expressed interest in doing so and has had multiple opportunities to since their split. Why do you think she’s changed her mind? And, on a logistical level, what would happen if Mayhem killed Brigid? Would it affect Mayhem’s physical wellbeing?
Cloak and Dagger Season 2 airs Thursday nights at 8pm ET on Freeform. Read more about Season 2 here.