The Cloak and Dagger comic series certainly has its fans, but perhaps in the wider community it’s not as well-known as some of Marvel’s iconic heroes. That shouldn’t stop anyone from watching it.
Whether you’re new to Tandy and Tyrone’s tale or you’re well-versed in their comic book origins, Freeform’s Cloak and Dagger is going to win you over. Like we did for Marvel’s Runaways, we’ve reviewed this excellent new series from both the newbie and expert perspectives. Either way, you’re going to freakin’ love it.
Lelanie — A ‘Cloak and Dagger’ newbie review
Despite never having read a single Cloak and Dagger comic book and not knowing anything past the basic Wikipedia descriptions of their characters, I was basically sure that I would love the Cloak and Dagger TV show with my whole heart.
After all, this was a show that seemed tailor made for all my interests. It’s a superhero cape show with YA-esque storylines and a Black lead character. It honestly feels likes Cloak and Dagger took all the things that I already love individually and combined them into an hour-long show on my new favorite up-and-coming network.
I definitely sat down to watch the first episode with the full intention and expectation that I’d at least like it; in fact, I was ready and willing to continue watching it even if I was less than impressed by the screeners.
Cut to me nearly four hours later, literally yelling “NO” out to an empty room while I clutched my chest in agony because I’d have to wait another four weeks to see what happens next.
Because this show is not just good for what it is — a teen show, a superhero show, a Freeform show. It’s not even just good, period.
It’s completely fucking amazing.
The four Cloak and Dagger episodes that have been released to the press are the strongest four episode run of a new superhero series I’ve ever seen, and some of the strongest debut episodes I’ve ever seen from any show.
The pilot episode — directed by the fantastic Gina Prince-Bythewood — is, on its own, an impressive mix of beautiful cinematography, emotional storytelling, talented acting and complex character work — heads and tails above most pilot episodes and honestly better than about 80% of all MCU films.
It deftly introduces us Tyrone Johnson and Tandy Bowen, who will go on to become Cloak and Dagger respectively but have yet to do so in the four episodes I watched. Instead, these four episodes focus on telling us to who Tandy and Tyrone are as individuals, giving the series time to breathe and allowing the story to unfold carefully and organically.
We begin with Ty and Tandy at 8 years old, living through the traumatic events that give them their superhero powers — Ty can disappear and reappear when he’s wrapped up in something, Tandy can create daggers of light — but, more importantly, these events significantly alter the course of their lives and shape who they become when we catch up with them again 8 years later.
The once wealthy Tandy now steals from wealthy kids, able to seamlessly pass into a lifestyle she herself once had, and then spends most of her nights in an abandoned church, away from her alcoholic mother and nursing a pill addiction of her own. Both women are both continuing victims to the tragedy of 8 years ago, one that saw Tandy’s father killed in an accident and become the posthumous scapegoat by mega corporation Roxxon for offshore oil rig explosion he spent his last moments trying to prevent.
Ty is a middle class, suburban student going to a wealthy, most white, prep school. He works hard and is quiet, partially by personality but also partially silenced by the weight of all that he’s seen — the murder of his brother at the hands of a police officer, the pressure he feels from his parents at being their surviving child, and the oppressive nature of being a young Black man in mostly white spaces.
Cloak and Dagger isn’t in a rush to get into fights with supervillians and have a bunch of high powered battles, which speaks to well-placed confidence the show has in its actors, its characters and its narrative. Instead, it sets itself apart and above many other superhero stories by developing Ty and Tandy fully and setting them in our world, and allowing our world to actually have an impact on them in these very realistic and emotional ways.
Ty’s story, especially, is heartbreaking — all the more so for how timely and recognizable it is. We see the direct impact of police violence — not only on Ty, who suffers from depression and carries a lot of self loathing from the memory — but on his entire family. One of the most evocative moments of the pilot is when Ty, frustrated, tells his mother, played to perfection by Gloria Reuben, that he feels like if he doesn’t do everything just right, they feel like they’ll lose him.
And his mother, with tears in her eyes and fear in her voice, replies that what she’s truly afraid of is that even if he does everything perfectly, she’ll still end up losing him.
Cloak and Dagger doesn’t shy away from the reality that we’re living in. It doesn’t attempt to sugarcoat the demon of addiction or the injustice and frustration of being Black in an oppressive white world. It understands the necessary nature of positioning these two characters in a real world context and letting us see how that would play out. It understands the importance calling out privilege and exploring oppression, of unpacking assumptions around race, gender and class.
Above all, Cloak and Dagger understands the essential components of what makes a superhero and what makes superhero stories compelling. Because it isn’t enough to simply show us what a superhero can do — the part that makes them super — we also have to understand and empathize with why they do it. That second part is what makes them the hero and it’s that vitally important trait and motivation that the show does so well.
Cloak and Dagger is a stunningly evocative and mature superhero tale, one that effectively raises the bar of what superhero stories can be and how they’re told. I’m absolutely floored by how much I loved this and I can’t wait to see where the story goes from here.
Donya — A ‘Cloak and Dagger’ superfan review
Much like Hulu’s Runaways, Cloak and Dagger is similarly taking its cues from the comic books, without feeling entirely beholden to them. That’s not to say, should you be a die-hard, purist fan of the Tandy and Tyrone from the comics, that the show is ‘in name only,’ but rather is taking the premise and making it work for a more modern audience.
The essence of the through-threads of the Cloak and Dagger we all know and love is still there, primarily in the focus on drug dependancy. But that is enhanced further with how it is expertly woven into the fabric of Tandy and her mother’s relationship, never quite recovered from its fragile state in the wake of her father’s tragic death.
The war on drugs was a driving force for both Tandy and Tyrone in their original run in the comics, with an equal focus on the issues of vigilantism. Though the series through its first four episodes has yet to dive deep into that second issue, it has come out swinging on the former.
But Cloak and Dagger isn’t interested in sticking solely to that one hot-button issue. Instead of feeling like something of a PSA that drugs are bad, it instead shows the realities of how it can unravel the lives of everyone it touches, without glamorizing it.
Equally, it is just one part of a much more rich, and very real world. Racism and police brutality and corruption shape the world of Tyrone and his family, in a way that feels very much as though it is an extension of our world, even with the powers exhibited by the two central characters.
Really, what Cloak and Dagger excels at is that it is entirely about Tyrone and Tandy. Sure, there are characters that interact with them — family, friends, and the people they love — but it is pared back. There are no costumed villains to be found here, and that is its strength. It is quieter, and more raw, perhaps, than any Marvel show that has hit network television before it.
There are villains, of course, but they’re more in line with a very human, very real kind of evil. Detective Connors, a corrupt cop who killed Tyrone’s brother, is a focus for him. But he is ordinary, no powers to be found. Which, perhaps, is the most terrifying thing about him. Likewise, the corrupt corporation Roxxon Energy is also fairly ordinary, and responsible for granting Tyrone and Tandy their respective powers.
A lot of Cloak and Dagger will feel familiar to fans stepping into the series, already familiar with the source material. But at every turn it will surprise, delight, and challenge you.
Runaways was perhaps my most anticipated of the high-school based “superhero” shows hitting screens. And, as is little secret, I adored it — but for entirely different reasons than Cloak and Dagger. Runaways unapologetically leaned into the over-the-top and often ridiculous aspect of its comic book origins. Cloak and Dagger is the opposite, and is a more intimate and introspective watch.
Fans of Tandy and Tyrone will ultimately be very, very pleased with what they find here. And should the remainder of the series continue as strongly as its first four episodes, it would not be a stretch to say that this may just be the best Marvel-based superhero show we’ve had the pleasure to see yet.
Cloak and Dagger airs Thursday nights at 8 PM ET on Freeform.
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