Cloak and Dagger Season 1 Review

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.

Cloak and Dagger Call Response review

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.

Cloak and Dagger - Aubrey Joseph

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.

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