The Buzz: ‘Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger’ Shows Potential

Marvel’s latest foray into television Cloak & Dagger is a drama filled superhero show that follows the lives of two teens connected by a childhood trauma. Like many Marvel shows on Netflix, Freeform’s Cloak & Dagger is slow, brooding and full of grit. While there is plenty to enjoy from the pilot episode “First Light,” there are several large flaws that hold the premiere back from being perfect.

The acting is solid for the most part in the first episode. Both leads do a good job, despite both being quite young and less experienced than your average lead of a Marvel show. Olivia Holt plays Tandy Bowen, a teen who after losing her father and childhood home at a young age has turned to a life of crime, seducing and drugging rich young men so that she can rob their homes. Aubrey Joseph plays Tyrone Johnson who lost his brother to corrupt police and now struggles to keep his anger in check. He also has to deal with the immense pressure of being his parents only child left. Even though both Olivia and Aubrey give good performances, Aubrey manages to outshine his co-star in one scene in particular where his character Tyrone has a heart to heart with his mother. This is one of several powerful scenes that help give the pilot its emotional resonance.

Airing on cable instead of Netflix, made me worry that Cloak & Dagger might hold back in terms of the grit, but the show fully commits to its squalid world. This helps add an extra punch to the more brutal and heart-wrenching moments of the episode, like the several deaths that take place. The grittiness also gives the audience more to sympathy for the lead characters, as it emphasizes how both their lives are far from ideal. The show is set in the heart of New Orleans and takes full advantage of this location. While many series fake locations, Cloak & Dagger is actually shot in New Orleans, Louisiana. This location wasn’t just a random choice though, as the Port of New Orleans plays an important role in how both heroes get their powers.

Despite not getting the full extent of both heroes powers, we get enough to know the basics. As the title suggests, the characters powers relate to cloaks and daggers, with one character being able to generate energy daggers, and the other able to teleport through “cloaks.” The main characters have yet to fully figure out how to use these powers work, but they seem to have been completely dormant until the two interacted with each other. These abilities also seem highly connected to the characters emotional states as well. The pilot hints that these aren’t the only powers our two heroes have at their disposal and that more will be revealed as the series goes on. Both of their base powers translated well on the silver screen, and neither of them came off as too cartoony or silly. The only cheesy part of either’s powers was that whenever Cloak teleported there would be shadowy wisps trailing off Cloak’s body that looked pretty fake. Besides that though, both fit well with the more grounded urban setting.     

What holds Cloak & Dagger back the most is the pacing. Despite getting almost the entirety of the two main lead’s backstory in the pilot, it doesn’t feel like all that much happens in “First Light.” Without seeing the rest of the season, it’s hard to say whether it would have been more beneficial to spread out the backstory throughout the whole season or not, but it definitely makes the first episode a bit of a slog to get through. When things did get interesting I found myself invested, but there were far too many times where I felt compelled to pause the episode and finish it later. 

Despite its general competency, Cloak & Dagger hasn’t done enough to distinguish it from other Marvel superhero shows either. The gritty low-level superhero deal has been done to death by Netflix’s Marvel shows already, and just about all of them minus Iron Fist did it better. The only thing Cloak & Dagger really has to separate itself from other the Marvel shows right now is the fact it follows two teen superheroes instead of one adult hero. That might be enough of a difference to get people to check out the show, but I’m not convinced it’s enough to make people stay. Regardless of all these shows taking place in the same universe, it’d be nice to get a show that could still fit into the world, but feel more unique. Marvel films like The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy feel like day and night, and yet still manage to stay canon to one another, so why can’t Marvel’s TV shows. Not everything needs to dour and depressing, and while maybe Cloak & Dagger isn’t the right show to change up the formula, it would be nice to see Marvel experiment a bit more with its TV shows.

Regardless, Cloak & Dagger’s pilot is worth the watch for anyone interested in a new teen led superhero show. It’s hard to say whether the show will be able to move past it’s pacing issues or if it will get too bogged down in trying to tell its story, but only time will tell. As is, the show has a lot going for it with good acting, an interesting setting, strong emotional hooks and some more unorthodox superpowers. The first season of Cloak & Dagger will consist of ten episodes and will continue to air new episodes until August 2nd.