The long-awaited series premiere of Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger lands on the Freeform cable channel this Thursday, June 7. The opening night starts with the first two episodes of the series, “First Light” and “Suicide Sprints.”
This review will focus primarily on the first hour, which had a huge screening for fans at the WonderCon convention in Anaheim, California earlier this year.
Adapted from the original comic book characters created by Bill Mantlo and Ed Hannigan for the Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man series in 1982, Cloak & Dagger tells the story of two young people who share a mysterious connection. Tandy (Dagger, played by Olivia Holt) can emit light daggers, while Tyrone (Aubrey Joseph) can teleport and engulf others in darkness. The original New York-based comic has been relocated to New Orleans, a city that itself, like Ty and Tandy, has to fight to rebuild, but like those two whenever they get kicked down, the city endures.
Joe Pokaski (Heroes, Underground, Marvel’s Daredevil) developed the series for television, and the look of the series is set by award-winning director Gina Prince-Blythewood of Love and Basketball fame. From the onset, the show has a cinematic feel and does not pull punches when it comes to uncomfortable subjects. Both Tandy and Ty have faced very traumatic things in their lives that haunt and color them to this day.
When I first saw the WonderCon screening, I do admit that I had the same issue with Cloak & Dagger that I have had with a lot of other Marvel TV like Runaways and some of the Netflix shows: It does take a while to “get to the point.” Upon my second viewing, I realized that was surely intentional, because when you – spoiler warning! – finally do see Tandy and Ty on screen together, their chemistry and that moment feels like a “win,” and when you see some of the connections they’ve had that they didn’t even realize they had, it’s even better. The notion that the pilot is followed by the second episode is a good one, because it will allow audiences more of a chance to know that world.
I admit that sometimes I prefer for things to start up a bit faster — The Flash being a prime example of a comic book pilot that hit the ground running, pun intended — but again, I see the importance in getting to know Tandy and Ty as people and as individuals before we see the two united. If anything it’s a very Marvel route to take, in that the early Marvel Age of Comics as created by Stan Lee and artists including Jack “King” Kirby and Steve Ditko made sure that it was the characters that mattered first, more than their powers. Thinking about it, that’s also something I appreciated with Marvel’s Daredevil which Joe Pokaski had also worked on; I admit the show was almost better before he wore his familiar costume, and that a big part of the “fun” was getting to know Matt, Foggy, Karen, Ben Urich, Wilson Fisk, etc.. Back to Cloak & Dagger, I will give the show credit for not making their interactions cheesy or gimmicky; I’ll also give the casting directors credit for getting things so right with the casting of Aubrey Joseph and Olivia Holt. The two of them are really good together.
I’m decades away from still being a teenager, but I would say that Cloak & Dagger “speaks” to a young audience in a way that requires very careful preparation, and the series excels at it. They’re real characters with real problems, and a superhero “Marvel” twist. Will we ever see them wearing costumes? Maybe. Am I in a hurry to see it happen? Not yet. First, I, like the rest of the audience, am curious to learn more about their powers and how they work, as well as the “why” of it all.
Ultimately, I’m very glad Cloak & Dagger is a thing that is happening to watch this summer, and while I have screened the first four episodes, I can’t wait to see more and I hope Freeform keeps making more. It’s a great addition to the Freeform lineup, and I hope it paves the way for more Marvel TV on Freeform. (Note to Freeform: New Warriors done seriously, Champions, Moon Knight, or Miles Morales, please!) It’s a shame, though, that Shadowhunters is ending next year as I think it and Cloak & Dagger would have paired so well. Hashtag #SaveShadowhunters.
With its New Orleans settings and the look and tone set by director Gina Prince-Blythewood, Cloak & Dagger looks like nothing else on television, and Freeform has gotten themselves a winner. It’s the right show at the right time, and hopefully audiences (and ratings) will agree.
And by the way, that screening? The fans went nuts over it. Always an encouraging sign.
Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger premieres Thursday night on Freeform.