Marvel’s latest foray into television, Cloak and Dagger, premiering tonight on Freeform, is an interesting juxtaposition. The first two episodes lean heavy into the teen melodrama, balanced out with a dash of super heroics.
The story (so far, at least) centers mostly around Tandy Bowen (Olivia Holt), the once-affluent daughter of a Roxxon executive who, after the death of her father, turns to pickpocketing and general thievery to afford her drug habit. Tyrone Johnson (Aubrey Joseph), comes from the other side of the proverbial tracks but tries his best to be a standup student and son. Though he ends up preoccupied with the cop who’d shot his brother years earlier.
We see how Tandy and Tyrone’s lives are connected, as the first episode’s cold open chronicles the death of Tandy’s father and Tyrone’s brother, which leads to them being endowed with superpowers, thanks to a nearby Roxxon rig blowing up. Tyrone saves Tandy’s life. We get a glimpse of their respective superpowers. Roll opening credits. Typical origin story 101.
What’s frustrating is how Cloak and Dagger seems fixated on rehashing their origin story. So much so that it tells repeated variations of it throughout those first two episodes. The meet. Their powers react to one another. Tandy runs away. Rinse. Repeat. Obviously, we need to know who these characters are before they suit up and become the superpowered duo we know from the Marvel Comics, but man does Cloak and Dagger like to drag its feet getting there.
The emphasis on the teen drama seems to crib a bit from Riverdale, a teen drama based on the Archie comics series. But where Riverdale is moody and atmospheric, Cloak and Dagger doesn’t capture that same sensibility. Which is unusual, considering the show takes place in New Orleans, but never seems to embellish the antiquated beauty of the city. Even as the character’s second big meeting takes place in the infamous St. Louis Cemetary, you don’t really get a sense of the natural ambiance that this setting already has in spades.
There’s also a few leaps in logic — not unusual for the superhero genre — but there’s a subplot involving Tyrone tracking down the cop that shot his brother. On a fundamental level, the story is necessary to both the plot and to Tyrone’s character, but structurally how the story starts to unfold is a little head-scratching. And not in the “this will make sense later” way, but more the “wait, how the hell would he know to go there” kinda way.
Like Hulu’s Runaways, another TV show that’s simultaneously set in and ignored by the larger MCU, Cloak and Dagger is clearly reaching for a younger audience. One that might not be necessarily lining up for Avengers 4 next summer. Fundamentally, the MCU has proven big enough to house multiple genres under its larger umbrella. Unfortunately, Cloak and Dagger spends a bit too much time spinning its wheels to pull you in.
Cloak and Dagger premieres tonight on Freeform