×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: Marvel’s ‘Cloak & Dagger’ on Freeform

At first glance, a TV show about teen superheroes airing on Freeform (the network formerly known as ABC Family) seems like it might be in line with “The Runaways” on Hulu: a glossy take on a beloved comic with some bonus salacious parent drama, as per teen soap standards. “Cloak & Dagger,” however, feels more akin to the Netflix genre of Marvel shows in all its grittiness — but it has an immediate leg up thanks to judicious editing, careful characterization, and downright surreal storytelling.

Pairing writer Joe Pokaski (“Heroes,” “Underground”) with director Gina Prince-Bythewood (“Love & Basketball”), “Cloak & Dagger” plunges into its own darkness immediately. The origin story of “Cloak,” aka Tyrone (Aubrey Joseph) and “Dagger,” aka Tandy (Olivia Holt) begins when they’re both just kids, and suffer huge tragedies almost simultaneously.

Tyrone sees his older brother — who was trying to get him away from police when caught in a petty crime misunderstanding — shot to death by a twitchy cop and fall into a lake, which Tyrone quickly dives into, still hoping to save him. Tandy sees her father — an executive arguing with his nefarious oil company — die when an unexpected rig explosion causes him to lose control of his car and plunge straight off a bridge into the lake below. Both feel an overwhelming shock as something emanates from the rig through the lake and their tiny bodies. Both wash up on the same beach, startled by each other before running their separate ways. Both won’t understand what it all means until much later.

When the series picks up, Tandy and Tyrone are teenagers living polar opposite lives. Tyrone is a promising student and basketball player at a prestigious private Catholic school. Tandy is a con artist hustling rich kids for money, since she and her mother lost everything when her father’s company pinned the rig explosion on him and stripped them of all they had. Both are haunted by what they lost, and even though they hate to admit it, terrified of a future they can’t control. When they randomly meet at a high school party — one Tyrone is invited to and Tandy crashes in hopes of pickpocketing drunk kids — they trigger a dormant power in each other that leaves them both freaked out and reeling.

“Cloak & Dagger” can be as blunt as a punch to the face when it hammers home the differences between Tandy and Tyrone’s lives. A few scenes — especially in the pilot — are so paint-by-numbers that you can see where they’re going the second they start. Still, “blunt” is exactly in line with what superhero origin stories tend to be, and “Cloak & Dagger” nonetheless does a few things to set itself apart from the dozens we’ve seen before.

The Prince-Bythewood directed pilot sets a visibly sinister tone, following Tyrone and Tandy in their respective corners of New Orleans underneath the same overcast sky. Tandy’s world is a whiplash-inducing combination of poverty (as seen at her mother’s house and the church she secretly sleeps in at night) and the white yuppie class she routinely preys on as a means to both survival and revenge. Tyrone’s is narrow, suffocating him and his righteous anger at a world that sees him as a threat no matter what he does, until he finds a way to acknowledge his hurt and open up.

Holt’s Tandy is bitter and defiant, raging like a teen Jessica Jones. Joseph’s Tyrone is tender, earnest even when he finally lets himself be truly angry. Both settle into their roles after a couple of episodes, especially as Tyrone and Tandy inch closer to the truths of who they really are.

Some of the best material comes in the third episode as Tyrone explores parts of New Orleans he never took seriously before, like the tourist-swamped voodoo shops whose message takes on a whole new meaning as he tries to figure out what’s happening inside his own body. That episode also submerges both Tyrone and Tandy in a surreal dreamscape that never feels like a gimmick because the fears and hopes it reveals are so deeply rooted in their characters.

And in a gutsy move for weekly teen television — which lives and dies by an audience’s rapidly narrowing attention span — “Cloak & Dagger” doesn’t rush itself. This isn’t to say that the show takes the Netflix route of dragging out a pilot’s worth of material across an entire season; the pilot itself is plenty eventful on its own. It’s more that the show is careful to flesh Tyrone and Tandy out individually, to make sure neither’s storyline depends on the other — unlike, as it turns out, the confusing new powers they only discover once they meet again.

The moments when Tandy and Tyrone do share the screen in the first episodes are relatively few and far between, but “Cloak & Dagger” makes them count. By the time they come back together, years after that fateful night in the lake, the show has given us a deeper window into the people they both became so that their meeting and the truth of their powers have even more impact. “Cloak & Dagger” takes its stories and itself seriously, and is hoping you do the same.

TV Review: “Cloak & Dagger”

Drama series (10 episodes, four watched for review): Freeform, Thurs. June 7, 8 p.m.

TV Review: Marvel's 'Cloak & Dagger' on Freeform

More TV

  • MAKING IT -- Season: 1 --

    TV News Roundup: NBC Announces 'Making It' Season 2 Premiere Date

    In today’s TV news roundup, NBC announced the “Making It” Season 2 premiere date and HBO Max greenlit a new docuseries from Brad Goreski and Gary Janetti. DATES Hosts Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman will return with the second season of “Making It” on NBC Dec. 2. After the show’s holiday season premiere, the show [...]

  • Luis Fonsi Erika Ender Latin Grammys

    The Second Latin Explosion: How 'Despacito' Ushered in a New Generation of Stars

    Music is an ever-evolving art, and for the Latin Recording Academy, that’s meant riding multiple waves of attention. The most recent arrived with the stratospheric success of “Despacito,” which kicked off a second Latin Explosion with full force in 2017. The Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee hit, later featuring verses by Justin Bieber, made Latin [...]

  • TV Review: 'Catherine the Great' Starring

    TV Review: 'Catherine the Great' Starring Helen Mirren

    For some, “Dame Helen Mirren playing the Catherine the Great” is all the convincing they’ll need to watch this new biographical limited series, which is perfectly understandable. The casting of Mirren in the role, which follows the Russian empress in the embattled latter years of her life, is a smart choice that proves its worth [...]

  • Ricky Martin Celia Cruz Gloria Estefan

    From Idea to Legacy: Latin Grammy Awards Mark 20 Years of Global Recognition

    The idea of creating a separate organization to honor the diversity of Latin music was a discussion that took place for years before it actually happened, but an event driven by one of pop music’s most important crossover artists solidified it. During the 41st Grammy Awards ceremony, a young Ricky Martin was scheduled to perform [...]

  • Science Fair

    Disney Plus Fleshes Out Nonfiction Slate, Including 'Howard,' 'Science Fair,' Mickey Mouse Docu

    Disney Plus further fleshed out its nonfiction content slate at an International Documentary Association showcase event Friday, as the streamer, preparing for its Nov. 12 launch, continues to flesh out its programming strategy. Among the announcements: The streamer has acquired the global distribution rights to “Howard,” the Don Hahn-directed documentary about “Aladdin” and “Beauty and [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content