Marvel’s Cloak and Dagger is the latest addition in their ever-growing catalog of television and movies. Marvel, again, goes deep into its roster for these characters. Cloak and Dagger are two of the lesser known superheroes but that allows show runner, Joe Pokaski, room to develop something unique and different, and that is exactly what he has done. Cloak and Dagger feels different from the other Marvel properties in an interesting and fresh way, especially in regards to television. It is focused on two teenagers, Tandy Bowen (Olivia Holt) and Tyrone Johnson (Aubrey Joseph), and the discovery of their superpowers. These superpowers continually bring the two together as they discover a connection between the two that stretches beyond their new powers. The two are tied together by one tragic night and as their powers develop, they grow closer in an attempt to understand what actually took place that night. The premise itself isn’t all that original, it appears to follow the beats of a typical superhero origin story but it’s not. Pokaski takes the show in a different direction and that’s what makes the show feel fresh.
Superhero stories are usually about superpowers. A lot of what is done is centered on what the characters can do with their powers, how they got them and the responsibility they now have because of those powers. There is also usually some sort of redemption or revenge tied to the powers that drive the story. This is where Cloak and Dagger differs. While there is a bit of a revenge (or seeking justice) plot, the story isn’t about their powers. Each of these characters went through a tragic event as kids. Tyrone watched his brother get killed by the Police and Tandy’s father died in a car accident that she was also in. This show is more about how those events affected and change them. Even though it is years later, each of these characters is shaped by what happened that night. The weight of their survival constantly weighs on them and the guilt is slowing destroying both of them.
Tandy, whose mother hasn’t recovered from that night either, is living in an abandoned church and “jacking rich kids of their rich kid stuff” (as she puts it in the pilot). Tyrone on the other hand, seems to have it all together. He is one of the rich kids Tandy tries to jack and he is the star of his high school basketball team. Tandy is self-destructive in a more noticeable way but Tyrone’s self-destruction seems to be more internal. Each dealing with their own survivor’s guilt in different but interesting ways. This also leads to an incredible confrontation in Episode 4 between the two characters, where they call out each other’s self-destruction. With the show’s focus being more on their internal struggles, its pace is pretty slow. There are a lot of quiet and reflective moments for each character, which is a risk but pays off big for this show.
A big part of why this works so well is because the lead performances are so good. Aubrey Joseph and Olivia Holt give really compelling performances. Each captures the essence of their character’s struggle and brings it to life in a very real way. Holt is especially compelling. Her charisma jumps off the screen and she shines as bright as the dagger she summons. She moves effortlessly from confident con artist/thief, to scared and self-destructive, with each being incredibly believable. Throughout the six episodes that I’ve seen so far, her character arc has been a steep one. Each time we see her there is another element added to her character and that depth is compelling. It speaks to how great of a performer she is because that depth is ever present in her face all throughout the season. She is impossible to take your eyes off of, in part because there is so much beneath what we see. As great and dynamic as Olivia Holt is, Aubrey Joseph meets her pace. He gives a more restrained performance that doesn’t have nearly as many big moments as Holt, however he still brings a charismatic and strong performance. A lot of the slower more introspective moments are with Joseph. He is able to bring across his character’s inner struggle through his eyes. The weight of everything that is going on, especially his brother’s death can be seen in Joseph’s eyes. Both actors give great performances and their performances alone make Cloak and Dagger worth the watch.
Cloak and Dagger is the first of Marvel’s shows to be on Freeform. It’s a good marriage for the two because the show is clearly directed for younger audiences. Don’t let that relationship be a deterrent because this show has much more depth than it would appear. The Freeform shows that I have seen don’t touch the genuine story telling that this show puts forth. It may be directed for young adults but anybody can find a connection point. Pokaski dives into gender and racial stereotypes and how that effects these characters. The conversations that these characters have about gender and race are real, and while they reflect the young people at the forefront of the conversation, it’s tense and effecting. You are never beaten over the head with those themes but they are a through line in the show. That works great because it is a reality for both characters and that is how it is depicted. While there are heavy subplots, Cloak and Dagger is really about grief and how it effects you. We get to see how these characters deal with that grief and how they maneuver around it. It is sometimes uncomfortably real but those are the best moments of the show.
Cloak and Dagger is worth checking out because of its performances and its take on the superhero genre. You won’t get great action set pieces or very much action at all but you will get a real good character driven story to invest in. It is a well-written story that uses their powers as a way to further builds intrigue, instead of being the main focus of the show. It effectively builds that intrigue and tension through its slower pace and is more about people than superpowers. That’s an interesting perspective in the superhero world and makes for a very interesting watch.
Cloak and Dagger airs Thursday nights on Freeform