'Cloak And Dagger' Season 1 Was The Best, Richest Marvel TV Show Yet – And Here's What We Hope To See In Season 2

Marvel's Cloak & Dagger surprised me in the best way possible. It's a show that tackles heavy themes and strives for a place within New Orleans' rich and varied history, all while providing those comic book story thrills. Aside from Agent Carter and Luke Cage, I haven't been the biggest fan of Marvel's TV offerings, but Cloak & Dagger offers something new and mature.

One of my personal gripes with the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole is that it doesn't often speak with its chest when it comes to honestly tackling hot-button issues. But Cloak & Dagger absolutely does. It's a series that's not afraid to talk openly about racial discrimination, sexism, the effects of police brutality and harsh family dynamics. This isn't a show for fanboys; it's a show for people who are angry with society and want to change it for the better. This is Marvel at its most activist-driven, and it's a side of Marvel we should see more often within the MCU.

There's so much to say about Cloak & Dagger's spectacular first season, so let's break it down into some component parts. And, of course, talk about what we'd like to see in season 2.

Marvel’s First Duo

There are so many great parts to Cloak & Dagger, but let's start with the obvious; Aubrey Joseph and Olivia Holt are fantastic as Tyrone and Tandy.

Cloak & Dagger is not your typical YA sci-fi/drama show. It's atmospheric, sophisticated, and wise beyond its years. It's also a show that's a love letter to New Orleans in the disguise of a Marvel superhero series. It's this element that gives Cloak and Dagger its uniqueness. But in order to successfully tell a story about New Orleans, the show needed to find two leads who could somehow embody the city's mysterious, history-steeped aura. Joseph and Holt, two old souls reincarnated as young, spiffy teens, carry that spirit of New Orleans to perfection.

Somehow, these two know how to tap into tough, traumatic emotions and deliver moments that feel believable. That's the real superpower at work with Cloak & Dagger; the show is less like a standard superhero show and more like a slice-of-life drama featuring two kids who are genuinely struggling with who they are at this point in their lives. And yet, somehow, Joseph and Holt make doing this feat look easy.

"They're such great partners, in the sense that you can write something that even sounds natural, and they'll make sure they add their angle to it," showrunner Joe Pokaski told Collider. "...They commit to the point that I wanna call them psychological help when I'm in the middle of every scene. And then we yell, 'Cut!,' and they're back on their phones, acting like normal human beings. They're not damaged. They're just geniuses."

It also helps that when Joseph and Holt were called to do an ad-libbed final audition, they had, as Joseph described it to Rotten Tomatoes, "undeniable chemistry." Holt also added that the audition scene "felt like we were the only two people in the room. It didn't feel like there were 12 people sitting there watching us." That'll be particularly necessary later on, since Tyrone and Tandy are eventually supposed to be in a romantic relationship. But that kind of chemistry goes far in allowing Joseph and Holt to feel safe enough with each other to bounce raw emotions off of each other in the series. It is a joy to watch.

Diversity of thought

The other star player of the show is New Orleans itself. A lot has been said about the interweaving of additions like voudon, Mardi Gras Indians, and other key elements of New Orleans within the Cloak and Dagger mythos. To me, it only makes the show and characters richer, setting them apart from their New York and west coast counterparts.

Thankfully, a lot of the voice of New Orleans comes from the show's diverse writers' room, which is, according to Pokaski, half female and half African-American. Not only could New Orleans culture get represented in a much more authentic way – such as staff writer Marcus Guillory suggesting the inclusion of the Mardi Gras Indians – but broader issues facing African-Americans and women at large could be addressed in a meaningful, purposeful way.

"It allowed us to speak truths and not guess," he said to Vulture. "The important thing we had all talked about from the beginning was, we didn't want to tell white male stories that were being acted out by women and acted by black men. We took it very seriously that this was the first young black lead in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, that this was the first young female lead in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And I think there's a really good group of people who can talk freely and start to translate certain problems in ways that other people can understand."

This ability to translate problems can be seen throughout the season, such as when Tyrone calls Tandy out on using white privilege to be able to steal from the affluent, when Billy's friend Duane talks to Tyrone about how the black citizens of New Orleans have always endured discrimination, or when Tyrone makes an appeal to a police officer to actually do his job and protect him. Cloak & Dagger wants its audience to come away having learned something, and I think the audience the show caters to not only appreciates that, but will apply the lessons learned in their own lives.

Subverting Tropes

The diverse writers room probably also lead to one of the ingenious elements about Cloak & Dagger – its ability to switch tropes around and show how much "traditional" storytelling is based around outdated stereotypes. In any other show about a black superhero, Tyrone might have been from the school of hard knocks, living on the rougher side of town in a broken home, and Tandy might have been from the upper side of town, living a posh life. Indeed, the actual Cloak & Dagger comics are similar to this very description. Instead, we have Tyrone living on the posh side of town, going to prep school, and striving hard at perfectionism in order to please his two parents. Meanwhile, Tandy's the one with the alcoholic, neglectful mother, a life of crime, and an abandoned church she calls home.

Another moment of switcheroo comes when Fuchs is literally stuffed in a refrigerator, a blatant calling out of the cliche "women in refrigerators" trope.

"Our intention was...to really throw [the trope] on its head," said Pokaski to the Los Angeles Times during San Diego Comic-Con. "There are so many women characters who traditionally, through less-than-inspired writing, are used to forward a male's story. So we thought we'd turn it on its head so we can at least start a conversation about how we can all be slightly less lazy writers."

Throughout this season, Cloak & Dagger has made it clear that it doesn't plan on telling the same old superhero story we've heard and seen before. It wants to say something different and much more relevant to its audience. On the whole, it has succeeded.

Tyrone’s parents

When I watched the first season of Underground, a series Pokaski co-ran with Misha Green, I was amazed at how tightly written each episode was. In fact, I don't remember an episode I hated or thought was filler. Every episode told you something necessary, and the information given would eventually be built upon, telling a multilayered story of the tragedy of slavery. It was a series who already knew who it was and where it was going, something that's hard to pull off in a first season. Similarly, Cloak & Dagger rarely gives audiences a chance to find an episode to hate. Each episode better explains the challenges facing Tyrone and Tandy, and how their lives coincide with the history of New Orleans. Like Underground, it's a show that knows who it is and where it's going.

I only have one gripe with Cloak & Dagger, however, and that's how Tyrone's parents, Adina and Otis, were handled.

I understand that the Johnson family unit is comprised of a group of people who don't know how to handle emotions well. In many personal ways, the Johnsons are very familiar to me. Maybe that's also why I'm a little annoyed with them. Every member of the family is mired in grief over the death of Billy and the lack of effort by the police to find the killer. However, despite the fact that everyone is drowning in their own sorrow, no one knows how to help each other. To be more specific, the parents somehow don't know how to help Tyrone successfully cope with his grief. Instead, they push perfectionism on him, hoping that will keep him safe.

The point Tyrone makes to his mother, that perfectionism won't keep him safe as a young black man in America, is correct. But what's also true is that perfectionism is a maladaptive tendency to try to control life, and that maladaptive practice could push Tyrone even further into grief and depression. Yet his parents don't understand that. Even worse, they don't ever talk to Tyrone about his feelings surrounding his brother. I mean, it's as if they forget that it was Tyrone who saw his brother get murdered before his eyes! At least they were spared that horror. Even worse, Adina and Otis don't even talk about Billy in normal conversation. They act as if he never existed. They didn't even commemorate his memory on the anniversary of his death. I think that's something that's just a real shame, because most families talk kindly about the memory of their loved ones.

Perhaps Tyrone's parents are designed to be this way to show that parents don't always know the right things to do. Parents aren't perfect, and this is true. Tyrone's parents are perfect examples of how dysfunctional families don't always come in the stereotypical form, like Tandy's family, which includes alcoholism, drug use, and physical abuse. But regardless, Tyrone's parents need to get out of their feelings at some point. If they thought stuffing down their feelings and ignoring Tyrone's heart would save them from further heartbreak, Tyrone's fate should prove to them how wrong they were.

Hopes for Season 2

With all of this said, here's what I want to see come Season 2.

Tyrone's parents emoting: We need to see some depth of emotion from Tyrone's parents. Yeah, there have been a couple of times when Otis and Adina have opened up, but it seems to take so much effort for them to do that. It's as if they think Tyrone doesn't have any of his own emotions because he's a kid. What I want is for Tyrone's parents to wake up from their grief enough to realize they need to be more proactive in their remaining son's life. Sure, it's going to be a challenge since Tyrone is now on the run and, at Otis' behest, is under instruction not to contact them. But they've got to stop being scared of everything and fight back against the system. The first way they can do that is be there for Tyrone in his time of need.

More about Tandy's dad, Nathan: We've left Tandy in a vulnerable position when it comes to her father. For the better part of the season, she had believed Nathan was the best dad ever. Turns out he's one of the worst. I'm hoping that next season, we'll see Tandy talk with her mother Melissa about Nathan and reach some type of closure. At the very least, here's hoping she becomes closer with Melissa. Seeing how she's moved in with her at the end of the season, it looks like they're headed towards the road of reconciliation.

How will Team C&D shape up: Currently, the only people on Team Cloak and Dagger are Tyrone and Tandy, but the Season 1 stinger has shown us O'Reilly has transformed into her superheroic alter-ego Mayhem. I'm sure we can expect Mayhem to eventually be on the side of Cloak and Dagger, since one of her superpowers is emitting a gas that can compel people to tell the truth. But could she be the only addition to Team C&D? If you recall, we still have Mina and Ivan to think of. If Mina has recovered from her Terror transformation, how will she continue to help Tandy? Will Ivan get looped in on everything happening with Tandy and Tyrone and help them figure out how the Roxxon chemical is causing all this supernatural stuff to happen?

More of what's right: Overall, I just hope Season 2 continues the strong storytelling and worldbuilding established in Season 1. As I've written elsewhere in this article, there's so much to like about Cloak and Dagger. There's so much the show is doing right. It could definitely teach other shows a thing or two about subverting expectations, challenging tropes and stereotypes, and being courageous enough to weave some harsh truths in between the daring-do. Of course, I hope to see Tandy and Tyrone do more battle under their Dagger and Cloak personas, but I'm just as happy to see them battle what life throws at them in their personal lives. The two are just as engaging as normal teens as they are superpowered misfits.

Cloak & Dagger is a new step for Marvel, and I'd say it's the right step. It's edgy, mature, and moody, but above all, it might be the most realistic show Marvel has produced. The show's superpower doesn't lie in the Cloak and Dagger's abilities; it's superpower is how it successfully speaks on the complex emotions behind real world issues. If it stays on target, Cloak & Dagger could become one of Marvel's most important contributions to television.