Cloak & Dagger Review: Not (Just) Another Teen Superhero Show

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Tyrone & Tandy, Cloak & Dagger

If you are hesitant about Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger because it’s airing on the formerly family friendly and currently teen centric network Freeform, you shouldn’t be. Cloak & Dagger is one of the best new Marvel series to date. It has the grounded reality of the Netflix shows combined with the likable teen protagonists and tricky parental relationships of the Runaways and- thanks to the New Orleans setting-is also something all its own.

Cloak & Dagger tells the story of Tyrone Johnson (Aubrey Joseph) and Tandy Bowen (Olivia Holt) whose lives are changed as children when an accident leaves them with powers. Tyrone grows up into a life of privilege with private schools and overprotective parents. Tandy grows up tough, doing what she can to survive on her own with a mother who cannot take care of her. Despite their different backgrounds, the two teens have powerful connection formed by secrets they cannot share with anyone else.

It is this intense bond between that sets Cloak & Dagger apart. “Tandy and Tyrone for me have one of the most interesting relationships in comics. There’s no hero and there’s no sidekick. They both need each other and they’re both equals…Putting a relationship like that at the center felt like a no brainer,” says executive producer and showrunner Joe Pokaski during roundtable interviews for the series. Even in the first episodes Joseph and Holt have incredible chemistry. Holt is all rage bubbling up to the surface, while Joseph is more of a slow, simmering fire. Put them together and watch the sparks fly. It’s more than romance too, their relationship (at least for now) is more akin to drift compatibility like the pilots in Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim. 

AUBREY JOSEPH, OLIVIA HOLT CLOAK AND DAGGER

The pilot of Cloak & Dagger comes to the screen fully formed. This is no doubt thanks to director and executive producer of the first episode, Gina Prince-Bythewood. The main focus of the show was making sure it felt true to life. “It started with the look of the show and being authentic, but also the casting of two real teenagers…We wanted to make sure given that we were dealing with these real world problems, we did not want to romanticize anything at all but stay true,” she explained.

Authentic is perhaps the best way to describe Cloak & Dagger. In the first two episodes alone the show tackles police violence against black men, racism, sexual assault, drug abuse, and homelessness in a way that feels relatable. “It’s not at all heavy handed like, ‘this show is about issues, pay attention to issues.’ The issues are what’s informing the plot and the plot is what is compelling,” says Carl Lundstedt who plays Liam. Indeed, the story is driven by these very real issues the characters are facing. The cast and producers were quick to point out how excited they were to use the lens of a superhero show to talk about such important issues, bringing them to a wider audience than a typical show might get.

While Cloak & Dagger is grounded and gritty, it is still a show about superheroes. These two young people have incredibly cool abilities (thanks to a little help from VFX). “We’re not going to be badass from the get go. We have to learn and cope with how to deal with all these powers,” says Holt who trained with a magician throwing cards to practice wielding her daggers of light in the show. “That’s one thing I found so fun and and interesting and intriguing about these specific characters,” Holt continues. “They’re not just learning how to cope with real teenage life stuff, they’re also learning how to cope with powers on top of all that. They have a lot on their plate.”

You’re not going to want to miss Cloak & Dagger.

The 2 hour Cloak & Dagger premiere airs on June 7th at 8 PM on Freeform.

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