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TV Review: Marvel's Cloak & Dagger

05.25.2018

Marvel, ABC, Freeform, Superhero, Comic Book, Cloak & Dagger, Olivia Holt, Aubrey Joseph

SYNOPSIS: “Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger” is the story of Tandy Bowen (Olivia Holt) and Tyrone Johnson (Aubrey Joseph) – two teenagers from very different backgrounds, who find themselves burdened and awakened to newly acquired superpowers which are mysteriously linked to one another. Tandy can emit light daggers and Tyrone has the ability to engulf others in darkness. They quickly learn they are better together than apart, but their feelings for each other make their already complicated world even more challenging. 

Marvel, ABC, Freeform, Superhero, Comic Book, Cloak & Dagger, Olivia Holt, Aubrey Joseph

REVIEW: A few months back, I was not kind to Hulu's adaptation of the teen-centric Marvel Comics series Runaways. A fan of the Brian K. Vaughn/Joss Whedon comic, I was disappointed with how far the series deviated from the source material. Needless to say, I had my expectations in check for Freeform's foray into the Marvel canon with Cloak & Dagger. Based on the characters of the same name who debuted in the pages of Spider-man back in 1982, Cloak and Dagger are likely unfamiliar to most mainstream audiences. Comic fans will recognize the duo who harness linked powers of light and darkness to fight crime but their exploits are not as embedded in public consciousness like Iron Man or Captain America. That means that virtually everything about their origin is ripe for reinvention without upsetting dedicated fans. Luckily, it works and results in a series that is distinct enough from other Marvel properties to date that it is worth checking out.

Marvel's Cloak & Dagger is set in post-Katrina New Orleans, a setting we have yet to see appear in a comic book adaptation but one that affords a distinct look for the exploits of Tandy and Tyrone. While not explicitly set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Cloak & Dagger utilizes elements from previous series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter in the form of the villainous Roxxon Corporation and the ethereal Darkforce. But, the series shares more of a tone and style with Runaways than any other Marvel property. Everything from the soundtrack to the thematic elements in the lives of Tandy and Tyrone is typical of a younf adult/teen television series, especially the shows airing on Freeform. But, before you toss this one aside as another cliche soapy drama for high schoolers, Cloak & Dagger has a maturity to it that will keep adults just as entertained as teens.

Over the course of the four episodes made available for review, there are no superheroes or supervillains. Yes, we do get to see Tandy and Tyrone get their powers and begin to learn how to harness their abilities, but this show is not about donning a costume and fighting crime. In fact, there really isn't a driving narrative over these episodes like you would expect in a comic book adaptation. Both Tandy and Tyrone have their personal demons to fight: Tandy mourns the loss of her father and deals with her mother's alcoholic stupor. She is also running around stealing with her boyfriend and feeding her own pill-popping addiction. Tyrone lives in the shadow of his brother, who was shot by a crooked cop the night Tyone gained his powers. Both characters feel an intrinsic pull to each other due to their abilities and shared experience the night they got their powers but in the first episodes they share limited screen time. 

What works best about Cloak & Dagger may be what turns off some fans: it doesn't rely on being a Marvel series. Since it doesn't force connections to any other Marvel series, showrunner Joe Pokaski (NBC's Heroes) is able to focus on the humanity of these characters and not rush to fulfill any comic book expectations. There is a ton crammed into each episode of this show that it forces you to unpack a lot of character development. The New Orleans setting and refreshed character origins make this feel like a wholly orignal creation. If you excised the Marvel logo from the opening of the show, you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who would even know this was based on a comic book. That being said, the show could stand to work on the pacing a bit.

Marvel, ABC, Freeform, Superhero, Comic Book, Cloak & Dagger, Olivia Holt, Aubrey Joseph

Because this show tackles subjects that are as relevant as race, gender, sexual violence, addiction, depression, police brutality, and even class, there is a slippery slope between a dramatic series and a melodramatic one. If you have seen any of the shows that usually air on Freeform, some work whereas others are two overacted lines away from being a Lifetime original movie. Cloak & Dagger works because the casting is excellent, led by Olivia Holt and Aubrey Joseph as Tandy/Dagger and Tyrone/Cloak. Both are talented beyond their years and come across both as realistic teenagers but fully fleshed out human characters. They are supported by recognizable faces like Andrea Roth (FX's Rescue Me) and Gloria Reuben (ER, Mr. Robot). The cast is chock full of actors who don't feel like stock or cliche takes on parents, siblings, or friends and help this show work both as genre fare and as straight dramatic entertainment.

Regardless of the kudos I can bestow on the actors playing this series straight, it still is a Marvel Comics adaptation at it's core. From that standpoint, I was disappointed that it didn't connect more with the source material but also very glad to see a Marvel property doing something different than everything else out there. With a short, ten episode run, Cloak & Dagger could easily be a breakout hit for the Summer and help pave the way for Freeform's upcoming Marvel series Secret Warriors. I enjoyed Cloak & Dagger a lot more than I expected. I doubt any of you would be disappointed in a well acted drama with superhero undertones. In an age of Infinity Wars and gritty street level heroes, sometimes it is nice to see something unique.

Marvel's Cloak and Dagger debuts the first of ten episodes on FreeForm beginning June 7th.

Source: JoBlo.com

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