“Shadow Selves” probes boundaries both literal and moral as the characters have to choose how to define themselves.
This Cloak and Dagger Season 2 Episode 3 recap for the episode titled “Shadow Selves” contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
We all have a version of ourselves that we don’t like. It’s the part of us that comes out when we’re stuck in traffic, or cut off in a queue, or charged a fee to withdraw our own money from an ATM. That angrier, less patient, less reasonable person is still us; our meaner, darker doppelganger. As I intimated last week, what’s refreshing about how Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger is currently treating the character of Brigid (Emma Lahana), aka Mayhem, is that it has given her alternate personality its own physical form. The best villains are, as ever, the heroes of their own stories. But what about when the villain is just another form of the hero, and the story stays the same?
Since its inception, Cloak & Dagger has been about systemic injustice and inequality; about the institutions established to serve and protect a community being perverted into a means by which to control and exploit it. Brigid, and Mayhem specifically, is an antidote to the ineffectiveness of traditional justice that has pushed Tyrone (Aubrey Joseph) and Tandy (Olivia Holt), aka Cloak and Dagger, into the fringes of a society that they scarcely feel like they belong to anymore.
“Shadow Selves” was, in many ways, about establishing Mayhem as her own distinct persona rather than just an outgrowth of Brigid. It made an effort not to characterize her as being outright evil, but as someone with their own way of looking at and doing things. Yes, she slashes throats with her nails. But she also does more to rescue the missing girls who are being trafficked by gangbangers in one episode than the rest of the police has done in the show’s history. Tandy and Tyrone gravitated to a life of superheroic vigilantism because they felt they were being failed by the system, but in seeing Mayhem’s methods and results, they’re forced to ask themselves if they’re doing enough, even now.
The question becomes, then, if the ends justify the means. And while “Shadow Selves” toys with the idea that Tandy, at least, is compelled by what Mayhem is able to accomplish, it’s Tyrone, and Tandy’s feelings towards him, that allows her to realize that straying too far away from what’s right, even for the right reasons, isn’t a solution — not a long-term one, anyway. This is surprisingly complex and ambitious storytelling for a teen-focused Marvel show, and it helps Cloak & Dagger to carve out its own niche in the already wide-ranging MCU. Now that Mayhem has been consumed by Tyrone and deposited in the Darkforce Dimension, what the show chooses to do with her character is anyone’s guess. But the fact I can’t tell is reason enough to keep watching.