Cloak and Dagger Season 1, Episodes 1-2: “First Light” and “Suicide Sprints” Review

Well, it was definitely better than The Inhumans.

In its two-hour premiere, Cloak and Dagger clearly establishes itself as a series slanted much more towards teenage drama than action packed superheroics. That’s not really surprising, given its home on the FreeForm (formerly ABC Family) Network. It’s a channel that’s occasionally scoffed at because of its target demographic, but they make plenty of solid shows- and Cloak and Dagger looks like another quality addition to their lineup.

The show opens strong in its depiction of the characters’ origins, with some emotionally effective traumatic moments and lots of beautiful imagery. In general, this show looks great. It gets good mileage out of its characters’ unique power sets, especially in its use of the strange visions they experience. 

What I’ll say for the show’s leads (Aubrey Joseph and Olivia Holt as Tyrone/Cloak and Tandy/Dagger respectively) is  that they both deliver strong and believable performances. But neither one as really grabs you. You probably gravitate towards Tyrone more because his desire to gets justice for his brother is much more identifiable than Tandy- who’s listlessly doing street crime and running into trouble therein. But whether it’s the performers/writing/direction… I don’t leave this episode convinced either lead has the charisma to carry a full series.

In general, I found a lot of the performances in this show just… oddly muted. Meaning- there just isn’t anyone who feels colorful and or memorable. Tyrone’s parents, especially his mom, pull some heartstrings- but they’re ultimately just the concerned parents of the show. Likewise, everyone our leads interact with throughout the whole episode just seems one-dimensional. Tandy has a partner in crime / boyfriend (I guess???) who as a character just has the personality of a cardboard- to the extent that I kept being surprised by him continuing to stick around. He seemed so uninteresting I just assumed the show was to going to do away with him in some way, but instead he kept being a part of things and increasingly important by the end of the two-parter? (I guess they might actually have done away with him by the end, but it seemed more like he’s going to continue to be important as a plot point.)

As sort of alluded to earlier, this is also a show that looks like it intends to take on “serious” issues. Within Tyrone’s storyline- I think it handles that pretty well. I never got after school special vibes from it, and it was neither in your face nor insensitive about anything. It just shot straight- this is how the world is, and we’re going to deal with where that takes us in the story. Within Tandy’s storyline- the stuff with her mom and drugs was fine albeit sliding into melodrama more. But her street crime stuff tended to border on cartoonish. Which- we know this can be a cartoonish universe, but this is a show that intends to be taken pretty seriously. 

I’m curious to what extent the show will stay on this teen drama course as it develops- meaning, is it just going to be a slow burn to start and eventually these characters will develop into more full on vigilantes? There’s no supervillain in obvious sight- though I’m assuming the corporation Tandy’s dad worked for (the comics derived Roxxon corporation) will rear its head around. I don’t think this show needs to become a bigger scale, proper superhero show- if this is just a teen drama  where the characters happen to have superpowers and handle some small time stuff- that’s fine. It’s decent at being that kind of show. Though I think it could do to let itself be a little more light. Not Marvel Movie light, but just, you know- let these characters smile and being charming a little more?

Stray Observations

  • I’m not the only one who heard guy at the cleaners ask for them to fix his Cumberbatch, am I? 
  • I thought the marketing campaign for this show was pretty snazzy- on my Reddit frontpage there was this nice banner with the characters and striking light-against-black colors.
  • I’m very confused by the “One will live. One will die” line the ads have been using though. I doubt it’s an MCU tie-in, as it seems like another show that’s very MCU integration light. (But maybe a crossover with the Runaways is conceivable?)
  • Two of the guys on Tyrone’s team had never texted him prior to asking him why he wasn’t at practice- which tracks in terms of his relationship with them, I guess. Tyrone’s text with the girl at his school were cute though, even if I had to pause to read them.
  • The characters of Cloak and Dagger were co-created by comic book writer Bill Mantlo- and they were apparently the creations he was proudest of. Mantlo was the victim of a hit-and-run in 1992 and has lived institutional care ever since. Mantlo also co-created Guardians of the Galaxy member Rocket Racoon. As detailed by his brother in a Hollywood Reporter piece, Mantlo has apparently benefited greatly from the character’s inclusion in MCU films with solid compensation from Marvel. If this series proves successful, I hope it will pay similar dividends for Mantlo. I’ve not greatly familiar with their comic adventures- I do know that changes include swapping the New York setting for New Orleans- but it doesn’t seem like the heart of the characters have been altered too much.