With Season 2 out now, we take a spoiler-filled look back at Cloak and Dagger’s first season.
While Marvel fans have been mourning the cancellation of The Punisher, Luke Cage, Daredevil and Jessica Jones, Cloak and Dagger has slipped in under the radar to keep the flag flying for the televisual output of the towering comic book universe. The first few episodes of the first season eschewed much of the usual superhero theatrics for a more measured and surreal take on the genre, as it focused on the burgeoning powers of young Tandy Bowen and Tyrone Johnson. While the comic book conventions bubbled under the surface, the show began by offering a large dose of teen drama, as the complicated lives of its protagonists are explored: Tandy deals with the death of her father in a mysterious explosion while Tyrone carries the memories of the gunning down of his elder brother by a corrupt policeman. Eight years later and Tandy is a hustler, estranged from her alcoholic mother while Tyrone is a school basketball star with the spectre of loss haunting his family. These two seemingly disparate characters find that they are connected not only by loss but by strange powers that are starting to develop within them.
This slow-burn worked well for these first few episodes with the careful reveals of Tyrone and Tandy’s abilities and the small revelations about the ties that bind them. But the laws of narrative convenience mean that later episodes have to step things up a gear and it all starts to become a lot more complicated. Alongside the teen drama and comic book tropes the show begins to draw in elements of police procedural (with Tyrone enlisting the help of a Dectective O’Reiley to bring down the cop who shot his brother), horror (the machinations of the evil Roxxon corporation threatening to unleash terror upon the world) and mysticism (with the true nature of our heroes explored amongst the myths and legends of New Orleans, where the show takes place). Indeed, those who are chiefly here for comic book thrills may be disappointed as the show takes a long time to really provide them – although there is plenty of action in the final two episodes.
It sometimes feels that the show struggles to maintain all these different elements, which want to pull the tone and style in a myriad of directions. As the show heads towards its season finale, it sometimes feels slightly underwhelming as it doesn’t have the time to develop things beyond surface level (such as the murder of one major character’s partner that feels almost like a plot contrivance or the revelations concerning Roxxon’s true activities). When the show slows back down – such as the clever episode Lotus Eaters, in which Tandy and Tyrone must enter the mind of a comatose man – it feels much more satisfying.
But, while it does sometimes threaten to become a little disjointed in the later episodes, the show is often saved by its two leads. Olivia Holt and Aubrey Joseph are well cast in the roles and they bring a wonderful chemistry that eschews the romantic for a fraternal feeling. Much is made in the show of both the similarities and differences of the two – Tyrone is a person of colour from a well-to-do family, Tandy is from a white, working class background – and moments when these are explored are often fascinating. Crucially, it doesn’t pair the two all the time – we’re often thrust into different storylines as they follow their own agendas. It does make those moments when they are together seem much more important and satisfying. And the all-encompassing explorations of why the two find themselves with powers and are so inexorably linked (explored in the penultimate episode, Back Breakers, which includes a cheeky, self-referential plot point about the narrative arc of a hero) does allow one to forgive a few of the more contrived narrative moments.
As the show rushes towards its conclusion – which unsurprisingly involves a potential end of the world alongside our heroes fighting their personal demons – things are wrapped up with aplomb and there are enough threads and character development left open to keep things intriguing for a second season. Certainly, the final few moments of Season 1 promise a lot more overt comic book action.
On the strength of the first season, Cloak and Dagger has much more to offer and – as one of the few survivors left in Marvel’s TV output – looks set to satisfy comic book fans. There’s lots more to discover about Tyrone and Tandy and their mysterious powers of light and dark.
Cloak & Dagger is available to watch online in the UK exclusively on Amazon Prime Video, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription. New episodes arrive weekly on Fridays, shortly following their US broadcast.