Cloak & Dagger
Reviewed by Galen Strickland
As has been the case with other recent comic book adaptations, I was unaware of these characters until this show was announced. I have no idea if it adhered to canon or not, nor do I care. I was impressed with both the acting and writing, and while a few things were clichéd and predictable, the basic story was compelling enough to overlook them. It aired on FreeForm (formerly ABC Family), a channel I didn't have on my SlingTV subscription, but luckily Hulu offered it a day after each broadcast. I'm writing this on September 10, a little more than three months after the premiere. Last week Hulu had an 'expiring' notice for this, so I re-watched the first episode before it disappeared. A few days later I noticed it was still available, so I continued with the short (10 episode) season while I had the chance. I don't know how long it will be available there, but I'm assuming even if Season 1 is dropped soon, they will still offer Season 2 when that comes around. If you don't have Hulu, you can watch online at FreeForm. I checked and it didn't require signing in to a cable or satellite account, although the first episode might be the only one where that's the case. Another option at this time is to buy the episodes, or a season pass, on AmazonVideo. I'll update this page when a disc release is announced, or if it becomes available on Prime or Netflix, although it's likely it will be held for the new Disney streaming service.
The cast list in the Overview column is mostly in the order of appearance. Rachel Ryals plays the young Tandy Bowen, first seen at her ballet class. On that same day, Tyrone Johnson (Maceo Smedley) wants to hang with his older brother Billy (Marqus Clae) and his friends, who are upset that a man has stiffed them on the installation fee for a car stereo. Tyrone takes it upon himself to repossess the stereo, resulting in him and Billy being chased by the police. Tandy's mother obviously forgets to pick her up after class, so she calls her father. Nathan Bowen (Andy Dylan) works for Roxxon, an oil and gas producer prominent in many Marvel properties, first appearing in a Captain America comic in 1974. Driving home during a severe storm, Nathan takes a call from someone concerning an oil rig they've designed, which Nathan has warned should be shut down. They are crossing the bay bridge in sight of the rig when it explodes and collapses. Nathan swerves out of his lane, causing an oncoming truck to jack-knife, and their car plunges into the water. At the same time, Billy is shot by a pursuing cop (J. D. Evermore) and he falls in the water, Tyrone jumping in after him. A few minutes later comes the first encounter between Tandy and Tyrone, as they are both affected by a mysterious...something...that moves past them in the water. In later flashbacks we learn they washed up on shore together. Flash forward eight years. Seventeen-year-old Tandy (Olivia Holt) cruises dance clubs for rich marks, gets invited back to their place, where she drugs their drink and heists their valuables, aided by her friend Liam (Carl Lundstedt). Seventeen-year-old Tyrone attends a private Catholic prep school, where he is a star athlete on the basketball team, poised to go to the state championships. Their second encounter comes after Tandy swipes his wallet at an outdoor party.
Both of their lives have flipped from previous situations. While not rich, the Bowens had been well off due to his engineering job at Roxxon, but the company placed the blame for the incident on Nathan. Tandy's mother Melissa (Andrea Roth) has blown through their savings trying to get a court ruling against Roxxon to clear her husband's name. She is down to waitressing jobs and living in a seedy trailer park. Tyrone's parents (Gloria Reuben, Miles Mussenden) have moved in the opposite direction. I don't recall seeing or hearing what he does, but she is an activist and lawyer working within city politics. They now live in a more affluent neighborhood, hoping for better things for Tyrone. Over and above the science fictional, fantasy trappings, the story is about much more than that. Societal pressures against people of color, as well as the corruption within the corporate, political, and law enforcement worlds. One of the more emotional scenes is when Tyrone's mother confronts him about missing a day of school, and he strikes back at how she has been smothering him. He says he understands that she thinks if he doesn't do everything perfectly that she will lose him, as she lost her oldest son. Her reply is that she is afraid that even if he does everything perfectly she will still lose him. Tyrone is convinced that his parents did not believe his account of Billy's death, whereas they knew the reality of the situation. An unarmed black boy shot by police was never going to get justice. Best to just keep your head down and do whatever it takes to survive. Even when a helpful detective (Emma Lahana) gets a confession from the cop who pulled the trigger, they still know that makes it even more dangerous for Tyrone.
I won't describe the powers that manifest within these two characters, at least not the ones that give them their nicknames, which have not been spoken on the show yet. Besides, the powers those names represent aren't the only ones they possess. Tandy has the ability to touch someone and see their hopes, although the other person is not aware of what is happening. Tyrone's touch reveals fears, which the other person senses at the same time. Later, Tandy discovers she not only can see someone's hopes, she can also take them away. Another intriguing aspect is how the city of New Orleans, and its history, is presented like another character. Tyrone's friend Evita (Noëlle Renée Bercy) gives tourists a voodoo tour of the city and also works in the family curio shop. Her aunt (Angela M. Davis) recounts previous incidents in city history where a 'divine pairing' saves others, even though one of the pair has to die. Google searches indicate the four accounts are fictional, but the way they are presented is realistic, easy to believe. Are Tyrone and Tandy the latest divine pairing? Will one of them have to die? One of the clues that point to the doomed one is first seen on Tyrone, but later it appears on Tandy too. Will they both die, or can they figure out a way to thwart the curse? Spoiler alert! As previously mentioned, it has been renewed for another season. I haven't seen Marvel or FreeForm use a tag line for the show, but I was thinking a good one would be, "Fate's a bitch, but she can be tricked."
Aside from some stereotypical portrayals, particularly the big bad cop and the control he seems to exert on the others in the precinct, most of the acting is subtle but emotionally charged. Highlights are the two leads, along with Reuben and Bercy. I liked Lahana too, whom I remembered from Haven, although I'm not sure I'll care for her character's arc next season. No spoilers on that. Secrets from the past surface, leading Tandy to learn her family's pre-explosion life was not as positive as she had believed. She becomes more cynical, distrustful of others, but through her powers she realizes she may be able to right the wrongs done to her family. Tyrone is closed-off for a while, but later events help him to channel his hate and fear towards justice. They clash on multiple occasions, but eventually realize their fates are entwined. If they can bury their pasts and work together, perhaps there's hope for everyone. I recommend this, no matter which venue you have to use to watch it. It's much better than other recent Marvel series, including Hulu's Runaways and Fox's The Gifted. Maybe not up to the level of Netflix's Jessica Jones or Luke Cage (although I haven't watched the second seasons of either), but still well worth your time.
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