Cloak and Dagger

Source: Alfonso Bresciani / Freeform

The premise is super familiar. Two teens, one Black and one white, coming from different sides of the railroad tracks in New Orleans. But there are complications. Tandy (Olivia Holt), our spunky ballet dancer, inherits a workaholic father and a mother addicted to painkillers. Tyrone (Aubrey Joseph), our hardscrabble kid, lifts a car stereo off a whip in the first ten minutes. The plotlines are decidedly familiar, reminding you of well-worn comic book tropes strewn throughout the zeitgeist. But they are familiar, not campy, granting enough cosmic twists to keep you engaged before you find out Holt and Joseph are magic together. Freeform seems to have done it again.

Tyrone, now grown into an angry, preening teen, and Holt, now herself a thief, switcheroo after tragic events force an evolution. That car stereo he stole ended up getting his brother killed after a run-in with police in the ninth ward. He falls off the dock and into the water, and Tyrone jumps in after him when, suddenly, an explosion knocks him out. He is, of course, extremely raw about his brother’s death, highlighting the reality that Black children don’t get treated well in situations with the cops. His brother’s killer walks free after the accidental killing, too, in a storyline borrowed directly from the real world.

Tandy’s mother doesn’t show to pick her up from ballet practice, so she calls her father. He comes in from work, which we soon find out is at an offshore oil rig in Lake Borgne. A call about the rig distracts him long enough to make him swerve into the wrong lane. He over-corrects, plunking himself and Tandy into the Gulf while the same mysterious explosion eventually knocks her out and, somehow, allows her to survive.

From the outset, then, Tyrone and Tandy become children of this event, forever tied together without knowing it. And with the show’s focus on issues like racism and police brutality, Cloak And Dagger feels like a nice entry alongside Netflix’s Jessica Jones and Luke Cage.

For Tandy, the world is full of easy marks as she plays her attractiveness for the silly-ass fantasies of young men. For Tyrone, the world is a minefield of decisions based on that car stereo that land him in stuck between his parents’ lofty expectations, his own grief and rage, and his budding powers. It’s no surprise that, for the Black teen, he’s given the ability to render himself invisible and to teleport. For the white teen girl, her powers offer protection.

Yet the show doesn’t slip into self-indulgence. There’s a whole MCU out there it could have borrowed from, but it doesn’t, allowing for deep character studies of Tandy and Tyrone. Tandy, her father’s death hanging over her and her mother still addicted, finds herself ripping off rich kids and sleeping in an abandoned church. And Tyrone, a basketball player at an elite prep school and choir boy is in a castle of his parents making. By the end of the first episode, they find each other. But the show takes it slow, not jumping them into a partnership and romance at first blush (they are romantic partners in the comics).

Tandy, her father’s death hanging over her and her mother still addicted, finds herself ripping off rich kids and sleeping in an abandoned church. And Tyrone, a basketball player at an elite prep school and choir boy is in a castle of his parents making.

Instead, they come into their powers. Tandy finds herself in the clutches of the kid she just drugged and robbed and escapes by manufacturing a weapon from out of nowhere. The sequence is beautiful, and she hightails it out of there.

We come to find out that running away is her thing, but there’s also something else. She can feel the hopes of whomever she touches. She can’t control it, but it’s there. Meanwhile, Tyrone touches people and sees their fears.

By episode two, she needs to make a quick exit out of New Orleans. Her partner in crime, Liam, put his money and his love on the line for her, but she leaves him anyway. Tyrone, too, is put in a difficult position after he touches his mother and sees that she also isn’t over his brother’s death. After cloaking away from the same cop who killed his brother at the end of episode one, it becomes clear he wants to bring the guy to justice.

In a gorgeous climax, Tandy is on her way out of town (and betraying Liam) when Tyrone breaks down the cop’s door to shoot him. His powers activate before he can let off a shot, and he teleports in front of Tandy who swerves and crashes. The two heroes find themselves together again, the universe at last pushing them together as a pair.

With Cloak and Dagger’s intense storyline, you might mistake it for just another superhero drama ready to excoriate the characters on our behalf. But the show is more like a play, setting up Tyrone and Tandy to battle their own emotions rather than a central villain. In that way, the show really is like growing up; it’s a coming of age story well worth your precious attention.

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