Marvel’s Cloak and Dagger smashes together the worlds of high school teenage drama and crime fighting superhero. Gaining superpowers and going through the experience of being a teenager has always been a perfect pairing. Cloak and Dagger focuses on the connection between how a superhero and a teen experience self-awakening. Cloak and Dagger leans heavily into the teenage drama while still delivering a great superhero origin story.
The show begins with a young black boy growing up on the streets with nothing but an older brother for a mentor while there’s also a young white girl surrounded by riches and success yet still all alone. The show reverses most of these clichés in a single night. After the first eight minutes two young lives have been turned upside down. Cloak and Dagger gain their powers on a stormy night after an oil rig explodes. While that night granted the young heroes their gifts it also took away from them the most beloved person in their life. It is this night of gain and loss that fuels the young duo’s actions throughout the season.
Tyrone Johnson (Cloak) and Tandy Bowen (Dagger) end up on the opposite ends of life in New Orleans. While the show introduces the audience into the trials and tribulations of these two teenage heroes it also introduces the Marvel world to The Big Easy. Daredevil’s Hell’s Kitchen and Luke Cage’s Harlem are staples in both series and Cloak and Dagger’s New Orleans is no different. Tyrone’s love interest Evita and her aunt both delve into the mystic and divine arts of Voodoo. Instead of just being a trope to prove the show is in New Orleans the history and traditions used are a driving force to move the story forward. Tyrone’s father, Otis Johnson, is a part of a Mardi Gras tribe called the Wild Red Hawks. The history and tradition of these tribes and their colorful marches is woven into the construction of Tyrone’s origin story. Both the history and the present of New Orleans play a part for both characters.
Tandy’s mother and her mother’s boyfriend (a lawyer) are both dealing with drug issues as well as the legal fallout from the original disaster that started everything. Their drug use, lifestyle, and basically all of the awful things in Tandy’s life are still deeply connected to the night she got her powers. The explosion, caused by Roxxon Corp, becomes analogous to the environmental disasters and fallout experienced by New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. All of these varying storylines help to establish a city that becomes a lot more than just beautiful background shots. While the city is given life there is no doubt everything in the show is tightly connected to the two main characters.
Cloak and Dagger has a laser sharp focus on the growth of Tyrone and Tandy. The first four episodes bounce back and forth between their perspectives. Tyrone is rich, Tandy is poor, he has two stable parents, she has one unstable parent, he spends his afternoons in class and his nights playing ball, she spends her days stealing money and her nights getting high, he’s black and she’s white. The shroud of darkness around Tyrone Johnson’s cloak versus the light provided by Tandy Bowen’s daggers. Yin and yang, light and dark, good and evil, all of those concepts play into the relationship between Cloak and Dagger. And the show slowly creeps from having these be in opposition to them being complementary. Not only do they go through the journey of discovering themselves they also go through the journey of discovering how they’re connected. The show intertwines two people from opposite ends of society to come together and get what every superhero needs: sweet, sweet revenge. Despite all their differences Cloak and Dagger come together in this season to first learn about their powers and then get back at those that caused their initial tragedy.
Tyrone’s power is being able to teleport anywhere in the real world whenever he puts on his cloak while Tandy is able to make daggers out of light in her hands. Beyond the power to interact in the physical world, both of them have the ability to tap into other people’s emotions and thoughts. It is in this ethereal plane where many of the show’s most intimate scenes take place. Tandy is able to tap into someone’s wishes while Tyrone delves into their fears. These scenes provide an unfiltered look at people’s emotions and end up delivering really raw and powerful moments.
Tyrone and Tandy first conquer their own personal holdups before they take on their main enemies. The two young heroes are antagonized by not just people but institutions and corporations. For Tyrone, the police force as a whole becomes his enemy while Tandy is going up against Roxxon Corp. Both have to take on two systems that are a lot larger than them and to do so they both get outside help. The relationship between Tandy and her mom’s boyfriend as well as Tyrone and New Orleans’ newest homicide detective (previously from New York) become integral to the growth of both characters. These relationships help Tyrone and Tandy focus their efforts from large institutions to specific characters. More specifically, Tyrone is searching for the cop that killed his brother and Tandy is attempting to clear her father’s name after he was besmirched by his former Roxxon boss. Getting these tasks done in a city filled with Voodoo, killer cops, secret experiments, and everything else ends up molding two young teens into full-fledged Marvel Heroes.
The first season of Cloak and Dagger showcases great storytelling that develops two very in-depth characters while also setting up a city and world that feels important and vibrant. In a time that feels over saturated with superhero stories Cloak and Dagger is a well-executed take on two of televisions most used genres.