Review: 'Cloak & Dagger' Defies Expectations, Raises the Bar for Grounded Marvel Television

Raw, emotional, and completely unique, Marvel's Cloak & Dagger might just be the most surprising new series of the summer.

Many people, myself included, had plenty of concerns when Marvel announced that the television adaptation of Cloak & Dagger, two criminally underused comic characters, would be airing on Freeform, the rebranded version of ABC Family. The general consensus seemed to be that, while the idea had potential, the network best known for Pretty Little Liars could in no way deliver a captivating entry into the world of superhero stories.

It's laughable how wrong we all were. Just as it did with college dramedy grown-ish, Freeform delivered on Cloak & Dagger, proving the young adult network can hold its own in this age of Peak TV.

Cloak & Dagger stars Olivia Holt as Tandy Bowen and Aubrey Joseph as Tyrone Johnson, two New Orleans teens whose paths have mysteriously crossed over the years. Now in high school, both Tandy and Tyrone are on the outside looking in when it comes to normal social circles, and they have each had traumatic pasts that continue to haunt them as they get older. The secret powers that these two possess somehow lead them back to one another, and it seems as though they are destined for much more than they've been handed thus far.

This is, by all accounts, a superhero origin story, as neither Tandy nor Tyrone has any information about their powers when the show begins. Unlike many common origin stories in the genre however, Cloak & Dagger doesn't focus on one unlikely hero's struggle with gaining power. Instead, this series slowly unravels a mystery involving these two teenagers, and takes a much needed dive into the difficulties facing youth in America.

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(Photo: Freeform/Marvel Television)

Where Cloak & Dagger really excels is in its ability to pay equal attention to the fantastical elements behind these powers, and the real situations facing our country. Issues like racial tension, social anxiety, bullying, police brutality, loss, homelessness -- all of these are tackled head first, putting Cloak & Dagger right alongside Black Lightning in terms of taking an exciting premise and inserting it flawlessly into the terrifying reality that so many of our young people face today. It's a remarkable blend of two very different worlds.

There may be some complaints early on about the acting ability of some of the supporting characters, but that's sometimes par for the course with a new cable series. What no one can gripe about however, are the performances by the show's leads, who are absolutely electrifying. Both of these young actors bring a level of emotion that no one else in the cast can match, and use their talents to connect to the audience on a much deeper level than anyone expects.

Make no mistake, Holt and Joseph are a force to be reckoned with. Their chemistry is outstanding, and they steal every single scene they're in. Theirs are the new faces of superhero television.

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(Photo: Freeform/Marvel Television)

One thing about Cloak & Dagger that can't be praised enough, other than the leading performances, is the decision to set the show in New Orleans. These characters are traditionally based in New York, just like so many other Marvel heroes on film and television. Sadly, because of the over-saturation, NYC has become a stale backdrop to a ton of Marvel properties. New Orleans however, is uncharted territory, and the character of the city really plays a part in the series, adding to the intrigue of the story as a whole. New Orleans is a city with soul and personality, and it brings out the best of what Cloak & Dagger has to offer.

If you're on the fence about Cloak & Dagger, it's time to hop on over to the other side. It's a surprisingly dark turn for a Marvel TV series on a teenage-driven network, but it makes for a wonderful departure from what the studio has delivered so far.

5comments

Intelligent and utterly fearless, Cloak & Dagger is a hit in the making. You don't want to miss out.

Marvel's Cloak & Dagger premieres on Thursday, June 7th, on Freeform.