Marvel's Cloak & Dagger, based on the comic of the same name, is the story of Tandy (Olivia Holt), a young woman who has lost everything, and Tyrone (Aubrey Joseph), a young man trying to recover from a tragedy in his past. They discover that they have special abilities, and those abilities are more powerful when they're together.
A show about teenage superheroes isn’t something that I, a woman rather older than a teenager, would be interested in, normally. Creator Joe Pokaski and producer Jeph Loeb spoke at WonderCon about embracing the fact that this was about teens. It was a love story, and they said that they were embracing that, too. Super cool, but not really up my alley. It was on Freeform, which used to be ABC Family, so I didn’t assume it was going to be more than a sweet superhero origin story. These were characters that were on the lesser-known side of Marvel Comics. It just didn’t seem like it would be for me. Then I checked it out. Now I'm completely hooked.
I watched the first episode, "First Light," assuming I'd enjoy it just for the direction of Gina Prince-Bythewood, who wrote and directed Love & Basketball, The Secret Life of Bees, and the upcoming Silver & Black. I was right, but it was more than just her directing style. I fell in love with two kids I had nothing in common with. I was also surprised at how far the show went in terms of edginess.
I’m not going to spoil storylines from episodes that haven’t aired yet, but I was totally wrong about this being a sweet little story. In the pilot, a younger version of Tandy and her father sink in a car that has crashed into the ocean after an explosion. He dies and she gets free. Meanwhile, a young Tyrone is the only witness to his older brother being shot to death by cops for trying to protect him. A later scene doesn't shy away from depicting Tandy doing drugs. Yup. One of the titular heroes of the story is a thief, a grifter, a con artist, and a drug addict. I had not expected this.
As the episodes go on, there is particularly ugly murder, attempted sexual assault, and a very frank discussion of white privilege. The show is set in New Orleans (the producers explained in our SYFY WIRE interviews that there were more than enough superheroes running around Hell’s Kitchen), and it doesn’t pull punches about the devastation that city has felt, or the racial tensions within. It surprised me to see a show aimed at a younger audience deal with issues so frankly. I think that’s what we need right now. Kids talk about these things, and shows aimed at them should be talking about all of it as well.
Olivia Holt and Aubrey Joseph may not be household names yet, but they are absolutely compelling to watch. At WonderCon, Loeb said they were having a really hard time trying to find young actors to play these roles before finally finding Holt and Joseph. They were beginning to have discussions about the fact that they were probably going to have to end up casting older people in younger roles, something we’ve seen again and again on TV. Holt and Joseph give the roles a realness that you don’t often see in actors that young, and the writing doesn’t feel like adults trying to remember what it was like to be a kid.
Sure, it’s not supposed to be for me, but I fell in love with Cloak & Dagger. I’ll probably be the only adult in line to see the panel at San Diego Comic-Con if they have one, and I’m totally okay with that.