Note: This review is for the first two episodes of Marvel’s Cloak and Dagger, “First Light” and “Suicide Sprints.”
Marvel’s Cloak and Dagger instantly stands out (though not necessarily in a good way) because it’s one of the rare shows where the two leads barely interact in the first two episodes. While the lead characters are meant to be connected in a fated way, they have maybe one or two scenes together over the course of the first two episodes. It seems as though creator and executive producer Joe Pokaski wants to build up to it, but it’s certainly an odd choice to have them be separated for the majority of both episodes. Beyond the fact that they barely interact, the story is very slow to unfold, choosing to take its time to get going and ultimately straying a bit on the dull side.
Tandy Bowen (Olivia Holt) and Tyrone Johnson (Aubrey Joseph) are tied together by fate and power. On a night filled with tragedy and loss, the two are forever connected in a way that isn’t easily explained. Their powers originate early on, but it isn’t until years later that they actually develop–when they meet again for the first time since childhood, following Tandy’s attempt at stealing Tyrone’s wallet. Instead of trying to figure out what happened and how they even have powers, Tandy runs away and Tyrone also goes back to his life.
The tragedies from their youth still weigh on them though. Tyrone’s older brother is shot and killed by a cop, while Tandy’s father dies in a car accident on their way home. Years later, Tyrone is still struggling with the death of his brother, full of guilt and believing his parents (Gloria Reuben and Miles Mussenden) blame him for the loss of their eldest son. He’s still full of anguish and wants justice and revenge on the cop who took his brother from him. Meanwhile, Tandy has turned to stealing from the rich kids at parties in order to sustain a living. She and her mother (Andrea Roth) are not close and they are both drug users, though to different extents and Tandy squats in abandoned buildings for shelter. However, despite Tyrone and Tandy’s meeting years later, the story doesn’t quite take off in the way that it should.
Given that this show is also supposed to be part romance, it would have been better if the pair realize they triggered each other’s powers and then found each other again to understand why. Instead, every time they meet, they say a few sentences to each other and then go back to their lives. Without seeing them play off of each other, there can be no eventual investment in them as a couple. It also deflates their individual stories, which don’t crescendo beyond what we come to learn very early on. Interpersonal relationships are important and Cloak and Dagger seems to be staying away from them while it builds on individual arcs without realizing it can develop them together and separately without losing anything. There isn’t any rush, but building a foundation for friendship is important and the show completely glosses over it.
Cloak and Dagger isn’t very into heroics and is intent on remaining as grounded as possible for as long as possible, with only hints about the cloak and dagger powers Tandy and Tyrone have manifested. This is one if its stronger aspects, as it doesn’t rely on their powers to help tell the story just yet. However, the plot is shrouded in a lot of mystery with very little forward movement and it’s expected that the audience will be invested enough to want to sit through the very slow-moving episodes without much else to anchor it. Visually, the show is impressive, and the moments when Tyrone and Tandy use their powers, along with the scenes when they’re in a dream or a memory are beautiful.
It is admirable that the show wants to build on individual arcs, but the character relationships so far ring hollow. Tyrone’s storyline has a bit more to it because his path is more clear and more driven; his actions are more personal. There are layers within his family relationship that have a lot of potential to be explored that range from blame, hurt, and even Tyrone’s own survivor’s guilt that seeps into all of their interactions. We do see Tandy’s struggle and how she relies on robbing to get by, the rough relationship she has with her mother, but it’s hard to get a sense of exactly what she cares about in the first two episodes.
Her relationship with her boyfriend has potential, but it doesn’t take very long to be thwarted. There’s also a scene involving an unsettling attempted rape. It’s not clear if this will be used to explore and further develop Tandy or if it was just used for shock value. So often in storytelling, it’s the latter. If it’s swept under the rug without any development or additional depth, then another event could have been used to trigger her using her light dagger for the first time.
The mystery surrounding her father’s company seems like the trajectory the show is taking, but that aspect of the plot is fairly vague so far. It is clear that Tandy and Tyrone are opposites of each other in a way that will be complementary later on, but there isn’t anything engaging about their relationship or the show as a whole quite yet. Even its tone stands to be too dark without providing any sense of levity and the conflict is underwhelming and unengaging.
Cloak and Dagger suffers from what many of the other Marvel shows do: it’s too sluggish in its story pace and the plot falls by the wayside in an attempt to establish both Tandy and Tyrone individually. Instead of helping the show, it hinders it. If Cloak and Dagger can realize that it can build upon two characters separately and together at once, then it’ll be all the better for it moving forward. As it stands, there isn’t much to cling to in the first two episodes, with lead characters who spend only a couple of minutes with each other at most in each episode and a plot that seems to teeter on the brink of nonexistence. It takes a bit of willpower to get through the first couple of episodes, with only the hope that the show can adjust its pace while allowing its characters to grow and interact amid plot developments. With only ten episodes to tell its story, Cloak and Dagger definitely needs to pick up the pace.