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Marvel's Cloak & Dagger Boss Explains How He Tackled the Show's 'Darkest' Storyline Yet

"I wanted to make sure we're being careful to deal with it in an appropriate way"

Keisha Hatchett

Marvel's Cloak and Dagger just reached its darkest point yet.

Thursday's harrowing episode, titled "Vikingtown Sound," saw Tandy (Olivia Holt) trapped in the human trafficking ring she had been investigating with Tyrone (Aubrey Joseph) and Brigid (Emma Lahana) over the course of the season. The unsettling hour pushed Tandy to her limits as she struggled to break free of her captors who had drugged her until she was rendered paralyzed. In the episode's most disturbing scene, a terrified Tandy sits on the bed as a strange man, whose face is never shown, enters the room and leaves several crisp bills on the dresser.

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Andre Deschaine, a.k.a D'Spayre (Brooklyn McLinn), spent the last episode mentally breaking her, prepping her for a moment like this when she'd be too hopeless to stop what was happening. Just went it looked like things would take a turn for the worst, Tandy overheard Dell's defiance against their oppressors just outside of the room and found the spark she needed to regain her powers and fight back.

Meanwhile, Tyrone had been teleporting all over town to find her and arrived at the motel just as Tandy broke free. After separately taking down the bad guys, the pair finally reunited. But their happy reunion was cut short when Tyrone collapsed out of sheer exhaustion, having overexerted himself in order to find his friend. Cloak and Dagger might be back together, but by the looks of things, their troubles are far from over.

Showrunner Joe Pokaski, who directed the episode, spoke with TV Guide about why he chose to step behind the camera to tackle this sensitive story and teased what lies ahead for Ty and Tandy in the remaining episodes of this season.

​Olivia Holt, Marvel's Cloak & Dagger

Olivia Holt, Marvel's Cloak & Dagger

Alfonso Bresciani/Freeform

What made you want to direct this episode in addition to writing it?
Joe Pokaski: We probably hit our deepest, darkest point in this episode. The more we started breaking the nuance of the episode, I started getting concerned about having to communicate that through anyone else and I really wanted to have the conversations with Olivia [Holt]. First and foremost, I really wanted to drive where the camera was, how we told the story, make sure we're being careful to deal with it in an appropriate way and to make sure that she was taken care of in an appropriate way. I asked Marvel if I could direct and they were completely understanding when I explained the reasons why and that's how it happened.

This show handles the human trafficking storyline with great care, especially in this episode with Tandy's scenes in that motel. What do you remember from your conversations with Olivia about how to approach this story?
Pokaski: Nicole Levy, Ami Canaan Mann, Joy Kecken, and Kate Rorick were always our touchstones as to how we were dealing with this. We wanted to make sure the women in the room were driving this story. As a Marvel property, we want to stay close enough to the line where we're not pushing the character to do something that she necessarily won't come out of, but we also wanted to be real with the experience and the danger and fear. We started from educating ourselves as to what the real process was. Tandy starts off victim-blaming and then she becomes a victim herself. What a lot of these traffickers do is they break someone down, so Episode 6 was all about finding a girl's buttons and breaking her down. Episode 7 was the idea of putting her in this hierarchy that exists in these places like this motel and walking right up to the line of what these women have to go through and then having a little bit of hope that she planted earlier coming back and saving her. When that dagger shows up and lights up her face, I think it's one of the cooler superhero moments I've seen.

At the end of this episode, Ty sees Tandy and collapses. Walk me through what happened with him.
Pokaski: The metaphor we were trying to go with is when you stretch yourself too thin. Tyrone has been teleporting people all over the place and we've been laying in here and there that he gets tired when he does it. When Tandy goes missing, he runs on full adrenaline. He goes from a rooftop to an ambulance, all over this motel. He jump-punches a guy. He's teleporting left and right because he will stop nothing to find her. And then, when he finds her, it's kind of... I don't know if you were as bad a student as I was in college but when you kind of do all-nighters and take your test or finish your term paper and then sleep for days. It's kind of the higher stakes superhero version of that, where Tyrone has taken loans out from his body and when he sees that she's OK, the adrenaline goes away and he collapses. That leads into the story we tell next week, which is kind of a big, pivotal arc for him.

Mayhem has been locked away for a while now. Can we expect her to come out anytime soon?
Pokaski: Next week we get to see Bridget and Mayhem in the same scene a little. They are gonna have a come-to-Bridget moment.

In this episode, D'Spayre learns more about his powers and his potential to be a god. So where does that conversation lead him?
Pokaski: He's kind of the potential for the worst in all of us. I think we all are kind of given these small transactions where we could take advantage of someone else and gain a little more power. Over the last four episodes of the season, Tandy, Tyrone, Bridget, Mayhem, and D'Spayre are all deciding who they are and what their commitment is. He's very tempted by becoming a god so he's gonna pursue that and we're gonna tell an interesting origin story for him in Episode 9 that crystallizes what kind of villain he's gonna be.

He's gonna bring, not the mayhem, but something else.
Pokaski: He's gonna bring the pain. It's really fun to have a jazz trumpeter as a bad guy.

Yeah, and he's so suave. There's something about him that is just so smooth and effortless.
Pokaski: When we did auditions for this role, we auditioned probably a hundred people, if not more. And we had two scenes, one was playing the nice guy and one was playing getting upset and being a little less nice. Brooklyn [McLinn] was one of those few actors who really mastered both of those so well. He comes off as nice and he comes off as cool but you'll see him when he gets a little meaner.

Adina goes to a dark place with Connors (J.D. Evermore) to find closure for her son. Now that she knows where his body is, will that help her move on or will she continue to carry that anger and resentment over his death?
Pokaski: It was amazing to give Gloria [Reuben] the kind of real estate that we always wanted to give her in this episode. And she has a big episode next week where her Antigone/Tell-Tale Heart story with Connors is not quite over yet. I don't wanna give away too much but hang on 'til next episode before you really cement any opinions of her.

Connors is pretty sincere about atoning for his actions but will that be enough to make up for his past mistakes?
Pokaski: J.D. [Evermore] does such a good job of playing the realities of white privilege and white apologism. Connors is showing an effort to do it but the question for the audience is, does he deserve forgiveness? Do we all deserve forgiveness? Is there a line we cross where we don't anymore? Part of that discussion we all had was whether or not he's crossed a line. Whether no matter how good his intentions were, does he deserve society's effort anymore?

What do you hope the audience takes away from Connors' plotline? What discussion did you have about how to approach this story?
Pokaski: I remember there were heated discussions. I think all of us have been part of systemic racism that many white people, including myself, have re-enforced either consciously or subconsciously. That's what we wanted to fit in when he said, "I didn't care what it did to your son. It got me ahead." There's a moment that Gloria plays so brilliantly right before Ty's dad knocks on the door where he says, "To be honest, I didn't choose... I was not committed to corruption, but then I kept going down the road." I think all of us who see the advantages of a white male power structure operate that way whether we like it or not. And none of us are perfect. We can all at least understand that we do it and hopefully, start to move the needle towards a more just system.

Do you think having a diverse writers' room and incorporating these different voices helps you address these issues with the nuance that they deserve?
Pokaski: Absolutely. All the talk about putting together a diverse writers' room, this is why you do it. There's no conversation we could have in our writers' room, with the exception of some LGBT issues which we want to correct, where we can't make sure that at least every point of view is represented by one or more people. And we can have real conversations. What it does is it allows us to represent our backgrounds but then also find common ground differentiations that we triangulate in a real, truthful answer. And I think that's why we have the best writers' room in the business. They all bring their own truths to it and we find something that hopefully is greater than the sum of any of our parts.

Marvel's Cloak & Dagger airs Thursdays at 8/7 on Freeform.