Sometimes I believe viewers forget we’re currently living through the golden age of television. With hundreds of channels at our disposal producing thousands of hours of programming each week, there’s a bit of something for everyone in 2018, compared to the medium’s depressingly limited, pedestrian options not even a decade ago. Though it isn’t the sole catalyst in our rampant consumption of shows, one of the junctions that energized a long suffering, relatively untapped fanbase was the inception of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
In ten years, the MCU has significantly altered the superhero genre by establishing popular (though not exactly name brand) characters for the long term, for film and television. Undoubtedly, Marvel is doing something right after 19 movies and 10 series across network and cable television as well as streaming services. This week marked the premiere of Marvel Television’s eleventh production – Cloak & Dagger – a longstanding duo that’s maintained a small yet dedicated fan base since their first appearance in The Spectacular Spider-Man #64 36 years ago.
Although focusing on the young adult demo isn’t new for Marvel after their success with Hulu’s Runaways, Cloak & Dagger has taken upon itself to be more grounded, somber and relevant to our current issues within society. As stated by leads Aubrey Joseph and Olivia Holt in our interview, it’s the intent of the show to educate its viewers by staying topic on important issues while Ty and Tandy develop their unique powers. If there’s one word to describe how the teens gain their abilities and shapes their futures, “tragic” would be an understatement.
Off the bat “First Light” provided viewers a nuanced take on the lives of Tandy Bowen and Tyrone Johnson. Both families were affected by crippling hardship one fateful night; Tandy (Holt) the surviving victim of a car accident which she lost her father, and Tyrone (Joseph) the witness to his brother’s execution by a crooked cop (J.D. Evermore). At their most vulnerable, the two absorbed an energy/entity that bonded them together, an event that was altogether forgotten as the two aged and attempted to not think back on the worst time of their lives.
In the eight years since, Tandy partnered up with Liam (Carl Lundstedt), pulling off the occasional con on well-to-do’s that won’t necessarily miss a few grand in cash and jewels. Unfortunately for Tandy, she picked the wrong mark and was nearly raped if not for her powers activating during a traumatic near-assault. Concurrently, Tyrone has let his anger get the better of him, much to the concern of his overbearing parents (Miles Mussenden and Gloria Reuben). After years of being told the cop he saw didn’t exist, Ty saw “Connors” once more, only to be pursued by him and shot at for exposing his elicit activities. Still and all, Tyrone managed to escape unscathed thanks to his odd teleportation through some shadow realm.
“Look, I know you got your demons. Everybody’s got demons.”
In the second episode, Tandy and Tyrone both experienced a new facet of their powers, a kind of tactile telepathy that allowed them to observe a person’s innermost dreams and fears. For both, this sudden insight into the psyche of their closest friend and parent revealed how much they cherish Tandy and Tyrone, though their motivations sharply differ.
It’s been painfully apparent that Liam cared for Tandy more than either one admitted, his dream of one day marrying Bowen likely would have been the tipping point in their partnership if she wasn’t already desperate to leave New Orleans before the cops ID’d her. Obviously Tandy’s volatile childhood and factious relationship with her mother laid the blueprint for all of her interactions: people are a means to an end, nothing more. They can’t be trusted, especially in regards to her emotions. Sadly, this means in spite of knowing Liam and Tyrone are inherently good men – with the former genuinely caring for Tandy – they’ll be pushed even further away because the last good man Bowen had in her life was her late father. And she can’t afford to lose anyone else.
As for Tyrone, while embracing his mother, he witnessed her greatest fear in losing both her sons to gun violence. Losing Billy in a needless act of violence was a pain no parent should experience, yet there’s no denying many people of color have endured a disproportionate share of “justified shootings” in our modern history. While this gross maltreatment was heavily touched upon in the first two episodes, “Suicide Sprints” put the struggles of the Johnson Family more into focus, and how Adina specifically turned her loss into a ceaseless mission to simultaneously place her family in a financially and emotionally advantageous situation, and most especially, protect Tyrone. Clearly the horror of Billy’s death lingers every waking moment for Adina which compelled Tyrone to finally kill Detective Connors for all the pain he caused his family.
Johnson’s hasty planned reprisal was interrupted by the spurring of his abilities, transporting him within Tandy’s proximity as she was abandoning her old life – and Liam to the authorities. Once more their foolhardy efforts only managed to hurt each other as the bullet meant for Connors struck Tandy, who crashed into a ditch. From the look of the first two episodes, Tyrone and Tandy will go through significant growing pains as they hone their powers and learn to convert their inner strife and mistrust in others into an acceptance of their own failings. It’s apparent no one is perfect in Cloak and Dagger yet there’s room for everyone (save the villains) to grow beyond their fear, their anger, their grief.
There is great deal of potential in Cloak & Dagger, as evidenced by the earliest performances by Joseph and Holt. Given all that unfurled in the first block of episodes, few punches will be pulled, which runs parallel with Freeform’s evolution into mature, diversified programming.