‘Cloak & Dagger’ 1×01/1×02 Review: This Is What Great Television Looks Like

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Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger is the kind of show that makes you want to shout. Not in a “this is so bad I need to scream” kind of way. But in a “this is so good I need to tell anyone and everyone I know to watch this” kind of way. I knew that from the first 10 minutes.

Yep. It’s that good.

If I have to be honest, I wasn’t expecting for Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger to be good yet alone great, as it has proven itself to be in its two-hour premiere. Call it the Freeform effect or the Marvel’s Inhumans effect, but I was cautious when it came to seeing how this series would pan out.

But one look at the premiere — and quite early on, as I mentioned — and I knew that this show wasn’t just good. It was great. And that’s rare to come by on television yet alone on a network like Freeform that’s looking to redefine itself as a network with fresh, smart television like The Bold Type and now Cloak & Dagger.

What ingredients make for great television?

Solid writing, first off, which just so happens to be one of the most under looke aspects of television. If you don’t have good material, your actors aren’t going to have anything good to work with. And it’s going to show. But one of the first things I noticed from the premiere was just how good the writing is. It manages to be smart yet relevant and hit on the emotional aspects of life, as well as stay true to the comic book origin.

But the thing that is always telling for me as a television viewer, movie viewer, book reader, or just someone that’s watching a story unfold are the characters. Are they characters that I can relate to? Are they characters that have flaws with room for growth? And most importantly, are they characters that I care about? That’s usually where a show loses or gets me.

Cloak & Dagger is a show that relies on its characters to carry it, which is important. Some shows, especially comic book shows, rely too heavily on the story and find themselves tied down by it. Shows should let the characters guide the story, not the plot. The plot should be a result of the characters’ reactions, not force the characters to react to match a plot the writers want. And Cloak & Dagger does a good job of allowing these characters to thrive in this world and build the plot around them.

Another really important thing that Cloak & Dagger has managed to do is build a complete and realistic world. It acts like an extension of our own world in that it addresses the issues that we face as a society today. The premiere alone addressed the issues of police brutality, sexual assault, and substance abuse. And not in a way that was for shock value. In a real, respectful nature.

The fact of the matter is that Cloak & Dagger has already become my summer obsession in such a short amount of time. It’s smart, it’s fresh, it’s impactful, and it’s makes for a hell of a good time like any comic book story should. It weaves together a beautiful story with these complex characters that manage to teach us lessons along the way. They’re flawed, but they’re trying, which is what any of us should expect from human beings. There’s a relatability there that makes these characters easy to love and easy to root for. There’s a magic there that makes this story easy to get invested in.

What is there to say about Cloak & Dagger? It’s simply magic.

Let’s break down this stellar two-part premiere:

Tragic Past Creates Present Trauma

Cloak & Dagger are two individuals that are defined by their bond with each other. But this show has done a good job of establishing Tyrone and Tandy as individuals that just so happen to be linked by that one tragic night where their entire world shifted. So instead of our story starting with the both of them, we start with the two as individuals and bring them together in such a tragic yet poignant way.

The first 10 minutes of this show lays out the origin stories of Ty and Tandy and how they came to be magically linked. Throughout the first hour we get the whole story that led to their fated bonding, which weaves together a beautifully compelling magical mystery that this show is going to have great fun telling.

Tyrone and Tandy both dealt with the brutal loss of a loved one that fateful night. Tandy lost her father in a car crash, which was caused by his lack of focus on the road in a pouring rainstorm. But it wasn’t just any lack of focus. He was dealing with his employer, Roxxon, who are at the center of Cloak & Dagger’s survival and subsequent bonding. Tyrone, on the other hand, lost his brother in a much too familiar way at the hand of police brutality, as his brother was shot for no reason other than the sound of an explosion in the background and the fact that he was a black man.

Some “years later,” we find both Tandy and Ty still directly dealing with repercussions from that fateful night. Both continue to be defined by their childhood traumas — with Tandy running away from her pain and fighting to survive in a world without her father and Ty fighting for justice for his brother and containing his pain within.

Both Tandy and Tyrone aren’t handling their pain in a very healthy way. Tandy has resulted to a life of theft in order to survive and leans on pills when the pain becomes too much. Tyrone has suppressed this anger towards his brother’s killer for so long that it rears its ugly head at inopportune moments of conflict.

Maybe their reunion in the present, some many years later, is the very thing they both need in their lives. They need someone that understands. They need someone they can talk to openly in a way that’s judgement free. They need closure with their past.

And that remains key. These are two people that are joined by their pasts — pasts that happen to be tragic and painful but also pasts that need to be dealt with. They need to work through the array of emotions that came with their losses and learn how to move forward.

And again, that’s why their pairing works in a grounded way. Sometimes people are placed in your life at the right time for the right reason. This reunion in the present happened at the best possible time because now Tandy and Tyrone are going to have to deal with their grief before it pushed them over the proverbial edge. This gives the mystical bond some realism when it comes to turning to someone during a time of need.

As far as I’m concerned, this story had to pick up somewhere in the present, and it’s no coincidence when it did. This is a moment when Tandy and Tyrone really need each other.

The Bond

This is a comic book story that fatefully unites these two strangers by a magical means that is powerful beyond all belief. It would’ve been easy for this show to delve directly into the pairing and the connection in the present. But instead, Cloak & Dagger chose to approach Ty and Tandy’s bond through exploration of their individual characters in the present, as well as blending their backstory from the past.

That fateful night changed everything. When Roxxon ignited something that forever changed the lives of these two children. Tandy, whose father was an employee of the company, and Ty, whose brother was the victim of another merciless and inexcusable murder at the hands of law enforcement.

Tandy’s father was distracted on the phone with these Roxxon people, in the pouring rain no less, and swerved to avoid a semi truck and flew off a bridge and into the water below. Tandy’s father was killed instantly while she survived and tried to escape a sinking death trap to no avail.

Tyrone’s brother was being pressured to steal back a radio, but bowed out, only for Ty to do it for him. It was clear that his brother wanted what was best for him, so they were on their way to return it until the cops caught them in their headlights. They took off running to the docks, and as Ty’s brother negotiated taking the fall for both of the, an explosion sounded behind him — from Roxxon — and the officer fired a couple of times killing him. He fell back into the water, and Ty jumped in after him.

As Tandy struggled to escape the sinking car and Ty struggled to reach his brother, a wave of something mystical shot through the water seemingly uniting them as they both, somehow, helped each other to safety. It would go unnoticed for several years after. But once Ty and Tandy were reunited, their powers were jump-started and saw a glimpse of Cloak (Ty) and Dagger (Tandy) and how they’re, literally, stronger together than apart.

This show doesn’t appear to be in too much of a hurry when it comes to pairing Tyrone and Tandy together as it’s taking good care to establish them both as individual characters before making them “the pair.”

The World

One of the things that initially struck me in my first viewing of this two-part premiere was how very grounded this world was for a superhero show. While shows have gotten better with it, it’d be easy to get overly excited about implementing comic book aspects of the source material that you lose any grounded nature you might have had from the beginning. But Cloak & Dagger immediately established this as a world as an extension of our own that just so happens to focus on a boy and a girl and this magical and miraculous thing that happened.

We get three specific areas of focus in this premiere alone: Police brutality, sexual assault, and substance abuse. All three are handled in an appropriate way where it’s not over saturated for dramatic effect. It’s not in-your-face in an obnoxious, let’s get people talking kind of way. All three issues are respected in how they’re approached and how they continue to be dealt with.

The issue of police brutality could not be more relevant today — even as it’s been going on for years. But with the attention that the NFL has brought the issue — with the kneeling at the National Anthem to show protest against this horrific brutality — this is something that feels like it needs a public voice more than ever as the NFL is trying to force silence upon its players. The way a light gets shone on an issue is by continued exposure, especially in a medium like television.

This is an issue that has affected Ty exponentially throughout his life from his time as a young boy. Watching his brother, hands up, get shot in the chest because an explosion sounded and the officer’s first instinct was to fire. Now, had the roles been reversed and that had been a white man standing in his place, can you honestly say you’d expect a similar result? And that’s also something that Cloak & Dagger really manages to do well which is be aware. Simple, but important. It’s aware of the stereotypes that come with being a black man and being a woman. And it handles it respectfully.

There was also the issue of sexual assault, which is something that is far too common than should be. It shouldn’t be common at all. And yet women in the United States have a 1 in 5 chance of being sexually assaulted in their lifetime. There were two instances in the premiere where Tandy was nearly sexually assaulted by the same rich boy that felt entitled. The first time, he felt entitled because she seemed into him. The second time, he felt entitled because she stole from him. His first reaction when Tandy stole from him was to rape her. It sounds ridiculous, but it’s true. It’s also scary, because it’s true. There are plenty of men out there that believe they can take what they want without permission.

We also saw the issue of substance abuse when it comes to Tandy’s mom and subsequently herself. Her mother hurt her back when she was a child — before her father was killed — and once he died dove into pills and alcohol as an escape. It drove Tandy away. It drove a wedge in the family. And it’s something that has affected Tandy along the way. We saw how she was abusing pills as a means to escape, not unlike her mother. This premiere didn’t dive too deep into both of their issues with substance abuse, but I expect moving forward to see more.

Reasons I’m Already Obsessed

It’s Grounded in Reality | It’s sometimes difficult to craft a superhero show in a world that feels attainable to the audience. Cloak & Dagger manages to do this with ease in creating characters we root for, addressing social issues we face today, and blending reality with fiction.

The Characters are Complex and Flawed | No one likes perfect. If your characters aren’t complex and flawed then there’s no room for growth and, frankly, no reason to care. Cloak & Dagger presents us with two central characters that have their flaws but also have room for redemption. Tyrone and Tandy are the kind of characters we can fall in love with.

The Magical Mystery | There’s nothing like a good ol’ magical mystery to pique your interest, and that’s exactly what Cloak & Dagger has created with Tyrone and Tandy’s mystical bond. If they possess that kind of individual power, how strong are they together? Not to mention, there’s gotta be some kind of “but” when it comes to these powers, right?

The Ship | Tyrone and Tandy might’ve shared only a couple of scenes together in the present so far, but I’m all in. The connection that was established when they were children did everything to set the table for a slow burn romance that’s going to steal our hearts. I’m ready.

Tackles Real-Life Social Injustices | When it comes to social injustices, you can either shy away from them or tackle them head on. If you choose the latter, you either succeed or fail miserably. Cloak & Dagger managed to address the issues of police brutality, sexual assault, and substance abuse with the kind of care it needs.

Olivia Holt & Aubrey Joseph SLAY | Your show is nothing without your leads. And luckily for Cloak & Dagger, Olivia Holt and Aubrey Joseph are already putting together impressive performances that highlight the complexity of their characters and the issues they face. These first two episodes allowed each actor to really hone in on their individual character while also teasing what’s to come between both of them as a pair.

Cloak & Dagger airs Thursdays at on Freeform.

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