Red Stewart reviews the seventh episode of Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger…
There’s something about psychoanalytical episodes in superhero television shows that fascinate me.
From Smallville’s “Labyrinth,” to Arrow’s “Kapiushon,” to The Flash’s “Into the Speed Force,” I have frequently found myself engaged in each respective plot. Perhaps it is because I grew up enjoying Freudian theories, or maybe it’s because I love the inherent darkness that comes from those kinds of stories.
Whatever the case, I can safely say that the seventh entry in Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger, titled “Lotus Eaters,” succeeded in keeping up the reputation of introspective episodes. Continuing from last week’s “Funhouse Mirrors,” Tandy convinces Tyrone to help her get Mina’s father, Dr. Ivan Hess, out of his catatonic state after she discovers a shadowy presence inside his mind. Hess, for those who haven’t been keeping up, is the sole survivor of the Roxxon oil rig explosion, and was a close friend of Tandy’s father.
While this does lead to the writers admittedly skimming over the aftermath of Duane’s death, this proves to be a better decision as it allows the characters to primarily focus on resolving this one problem. Part of the issue with past Cloak & Dagger episodes is that the writers have tried to incorporate so many different relationship plots to varying degrees of good and bad. By having both Tyrone and Tandy’s attention directed at helping fix Dr. Hess here, we can better appreciate their character development as they learn something about themselves during and after the events in question. Plus, I am very confident that the final three episodes will more than follow through on those lingering plot threads.
Anyway, because of this, the vast majority of “Lotus Eaters” is set inside Dr. Hess’s mind, which is visualized as him reliving the events of the oil rig disaster on a constant loop, with the addition of some fantasy elements like his fellow coworkers turning into crazed killers (or is it fantasy?). This has been going on for so long that Hess has gone insane, forgetting his friends, his family, and even his own name. While it does take some time for him to get into the groove of things, Tim Kang ultimately does a great job at conveying the inherent sadness present in Hess’s current state of mind.
It’s hard to talk about the rest of the episode because it is, more or less, the characters reliving the exact same events over and over again, and as such the plot mainly boils down to them figuring out a way to get Hess out safe and sound. But like with past psychoanalytical episodes from other shows, the main point of interest here is not the end goal, but the conflicts the protagonists face. In “Labyrinth,” Clark was coming to terms with accepting his alien identity; in “Kapiushon,” Oliver was confronting his past as a killer, and in “Into the Speed Force,” Barry was dealing with the emotional aftermath of his constant meddling with the timeline.
In “Lotus Eaters,” we see Tandy wrangling with her survivor’s guilt over her father’s death. It is not just that Dr. Hess knew him, but that he was on the phone with him prior to the explosion. Unfortunately for Tyrone, this is physically represented in the nightmare, and Tandy’s decision to answer the phone each time the loop runs through results in her falling deeper into the same remorseful state as Hess. The title lotus eaters is appropriate, as it is a reference to the eponymous people of the same name from Homer’s Odyssey who became apathetic and forgetful of their past after eating fruit from the titular plant. Tandy’s internal battle is something we can all relate to, as I’m sure we have all been in a position in our lives where we have thought about living in a dreamworld or time traveling to a past memory that was far more pleasant than our current situation. Working up the strength to move forward in life and all its hardships is difficult, but it can be much easier to bear if we have a good friend to help us through.
Tyrone serves that purpose, and the continued growth of his and Tandy’s bond as they are trapped in this frightening hellscape makes for some genuinely affecting moments. If “Funhouse Mirrors” was filled with cloying sentimentality, “Lotus Eaters” was a dose of reality.
In a way it is funny because, after the disappointing finale of Doctor Strange, I was convinced that the Groundhog Day concept of having a scene repeat ad nauseam could only be used in a comedic way. Cloak & Dagger proved me wrong, as themes of camaraderie, nostalgia, and family, particularly fatherhood, are weaved into the story naturally. The ending is a bit forced, so I can’t quite award it full points, but this was without a doubt a good step in the right direction for the series.
–Speaking of Doctor Strange, a conversation between Ivan and a young Mina reveals that the latter doesn’t believe in magic. I know the MCU has a strange version of magic where it’s just extradimensional energy, but I still found her mindset amusing in a fourth wall sense.