Marvel's CLOAK & DAGGER Season 1 Episode 1 & 2 Review

Going into Marvel's CLOAK & DAGGER, I felt more prepared what what I was about to see as I feel my expectations had been tempered by Marvel's RUNAWAYS, a similar YA oriented show based off a comic (which has featured cameos from Cloak & Dagger more than once). Whilst I went into RUNAWAYS hoping for full-on superhero action, with a bit of teen drama, I went into CLOAK & DAGGER with expectations reversed. Teen drama, with the super-powered aspects acting as symbolism for the wider story being told. And in doing that not only was I not disappointed, I was actually enthralled.

Linking the two characters together through an appropriately sci-fi accident to explain their powers was inevitable, but I think a real strength of CLOAK & DAGGER was in telling and indeed re- telling the back stories of these two tragic heroes. Tandy, played by the sometimes literally luminous Olivia Holt, had a father who seemed more preoccupied with his work than his family. But crucially he seemed to be a decent guy, potentially on the verge of blowing the whistle on his employers, the evil Roxxon corporation for carrying out dangerous projects without taking the proper precautions. Upon his death, the same night the Roxxon platform collapsed of the coast of New Orleans, Roxxon ruined Tandy's family financially and by way of reputation by pinning the accident squarely on the dead father's shoulders. This drove Tandy's mother to a life of drink, drugs and desperately clinging to any man that showed her an ounce of kindness. Something Tandy recognised at all too early an age as being simple “trailer park tours” for these would be suitors. Tandy herself, once coming from a privileged background, now lived alone in an abandoned church and with her boyfriend Liam conned and ripped off spoiled rich kids. People she may have rubbed shoulders with in another life. 

The story of Tyrone, played by the deceptively deep Aubrey Joseph, is a story even more tragic and so brilliantly relevantly to the times, in so much the story of the black man in America is the story of America. On the same night Tandy lost her father, Ty saw his brother shot by a police officer, only for the whole incident to be covered up, the officer in question disappear and his brother be reduced to statistic. Just another black boy. With this, Ty's family turned things around in an attempt to give him the best life possible, keeping him away from the streets and a way of life that would inevitably kill him. This move, personified by Ty's mother played by the wonderfully talented Gloria Reuben is one I'm sure, as sure as any white man from the UK can be, that many a WOC matriarch has made to keep her family safe. We even got to see the Freeform version of “the conversation.” You know, the conversation black parents have to have with their kids about how to act out in the world. When Ty confronted her for being so controlling, acknowledging her fear that if he didn't do everything right she would lose him just as she did his brother, she retorted with the heartbreaking revelation that what she truly feared was that he could do everything right and she'd still lose him. 

As such, Tandy's power seemed to come across as a metaphor for the life within a given person and specifically with her, the light which life had tried to extinguish by crushing her spirit. The fact that she could connect with people and see their positive thoughts gives credence to the idea it's meant to be a positive, life affirming gift. Even if she did conjure a light digger to shiv her would-be rapist when one of the guys she ripped off caught up with her. 

However, Ty's powers — and I'm speaking strictly thematically here — seem to be a manifestation of the righteous anger carried in the heart of so many POC in the United States of America. Too many times was Ty shoved and attacked on the basketball court with no punishment forthcoming for the perpetrator, until he lashed out only to be branding a violent liability. When missing practice, his coach punished the whole team and not Ty, deliberately it seems as he wanted to exact a psychical price on the young lad but knew regulations prevented him from doing so. Instead he used the systems of hazing to do it for him, Ty taking a beating even after he had made himself do the “suicide sprints” himself. The fact that when Ty connects with someone, he perceives their negative thoughts, their fears or regrets seems to back this up. Inside him he has an anger, a darkness that if not controlled, threatens to consume him and others around him. 

The fact that Tandy and Ty only briefly met seemed odd at first, but made sense over the course of this two-double-bill-premiere. We got to know enough about each of them before their joint story could have a chance to overshadow who they were as characters, as people. And besides, their powers, their nature and their very stories are inexorably linked anyway, as we saw at the end of season two when in the midst of life turning choices, they were pulled back together by their gifts. They just need to see it. 

The realisation of Tandy and Ty's powers was brilliantly done, though I did keep making jokes about just how many black materials Ty would find to drape over himself, from hoodies to sheets, to bin liners and tarpaulin. With a soundtrack that had my head bopping every five minutes, something to do with it's playlist oriented core demographic I'm sure, and the city of New Orleans making a fresh change of scenery from New York or L.A., I believe CLOAK & DAGGER hit the ground running and our screens with a purpose.

Written by Nick Whitney, CLOAK & DAGGER Beat Writer

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Here's the Trailer For Marvel's CLOAK AND DAGGER