So when I set out to watch Cloak and Dagger I thought I was going to watch something similar to Runaways, which I loved. And yes, it has its similarities but it is completely different (and also much better). They are both excellent examples of how different the teen drama genre can actually be, and even further than that how different the sci-fi/superhero drama can be. If Runaways is superhero The O.C then Cloak and Dagger is My So-Called Life.
Basically Cloak and Dagger tells the story of two teenagers – Tandy and Tyrone, who are linked after a tragic incident that causes them to have superpowers which are only awakened once they meet again as teens.
The concept seems simple enough, so what makes it special? Because just like the Runaways the characters, the relationships, and the people come first, and the superpowers come second. However, Cloak and Dagger has the added benefit of only having two lead characters so there is more time to spend on the growth of the characters.
Most of the TV series in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) are set in New York, which is the focus of many of the films too. New York City houses the Stark Tower, Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum, Hell’s Kitchen of Daredevil and Jessica Jones, and the Harlem of Luke Cage. Cloak and Dagger is set in New Orleans, and not the picturesque Mardi Gras/French Quarter but the post-Hurricane Katrina city, deep in the suburbs where the real locals live.
Separating them from New York City (where they comic counterparts live) was a brave and important move. It allows Tandy and Tyrone to tell a story that is intimate, apart from the world that we know. The story of Cloak and Dagger, while it has intercepted with other comic book characters and events from time to time, has largely been a story about the two of them and we can feel in the space that the Freeform show has created.
The tragedy that gave our two heroes their powers, came at a loss for both of them as Tandy loses her father, and Tyrone loses his brother. However, when they meet in the future that one night changes everything for them. Tandy came from a successful family with a father being a scientist at Roxxon (that famous Marvel company) and Tyrone’s family was poor and lived in the hood. When we meet them as teenagers, Tandy is living on the streets, taking drugs and robbing rich men after her mother’s life has fallen into disarray of drugs, men and obsessing over her father’s death. The tragedy in Tyrone’s family however caused them to make a big move out of the neighborhood and Tyrone now attends a private school trying to be the perfect son. They talk of survivor’s guilt, but it is very evident how tragedy and grief affect different people and the lives they live.
In the official synopsis, a lot of stress is put on the fact that Tandy and Tyrone get to grips of their superpowers while falling in love. I’m always sceptical of any show that tells to try me who should be falling in love and I was fully prepared to have them making eyes at each other in the first episode already. However, that is not the case, their powers work in tandem to each other and that is the main point of call between them. They barely share scenes together in the first two episodes and a lot of emphasis is put on their individual journeys before they start to work together in episode four. But Olivia Holt and Aubrey Joseph who play the leads have such great chemistry and are both strong actors in their own right, that by the time it gets to episode four you long to see them spending more time together. It’s almost like you are falling in love with them, it has the makings of a great ship, and I can’t wait to see more.
This is not cut-and-dry exactly like the comic books, like most of the MCU adaptations. Cloak and Dagger takes the essentials out of the comics – the powers (which is that Cloak can teleport, move through to the dark dimension, and Dagger can wield light daggers and learn others hopes), and their relationship and puts it in a modern setting. Even though it can be a bit on the nose, the juxtaposition between light and dark – the lighting in the scenes, the editing, the costume choices, and that Tandy is white and Tyrone is black. And even though Tandy calls him out for being rich, he can adequately remind her of her own privilege, she can go into expensive places and steal from rich people because no one questions why she is there, he can’t go into a grocery store without being suspected even though he has the money.
In episode four he gives the epic line, “Let me check your privilege! This whole country’s trying to kill me every day. Excuse me if I can’t sit around and contemplate suicide!””when the two of them are talking about suicide. And just like Jessica Jones before it, it talks about real social issues – addiction, police brutality, sexual assault, race – it’s so much more than a superhero troop versus a bad guy, even though it has hints of that.
Cloak and Dagger has the potential to be great if it keeps on the path that it’s going. With great chemistry between the leads, a lot of mystery to unfold, and excellent social commentary, I cannot wait until the next episode.
Marvel’s Cloak and Dagger will stream weekly straight from U.S. on Showmax from Friday, 8 June 2018