Writer and showrunner Joe Pokaski, no doubt drawing on what he learned as a writer on “Daredevil,” has crafted another winner for the Marvel Cinematic Universe with “Cloak & Dagger” (8 p.m. Eastern Thursdays on Freeform), which had a two-episode premiere this week. Based on a comic that debuted in 1983, it’s not as good as “Daredevil” – that’s a high bar – but it does borrow that show’s slow-burn mentality to immerse a viewer in these teens’ lives and particularly crummy parts of New Orleans.
The “soul mates” angle is the crux of the series, and it’s catnip to me as a fan of Buffy-Angel, Dawson-Joey, Liz-Max and so forth. Tyrone/Cloak (Aubrey Joseph) and Tandy/Dagger (Olivia Holt) have been spiritually connected ever since Tyrone saved Tandy’s life when they were little kids. He had dived into the water to try to save his brother at the same time she had been trapped in a car on the lakebed with her father. The kids wash up on a beach with only vague memories of how they survived – but they grab one of the others’ possessions before running home.
In a brave choice that’s also the right one, the modern-day Tandy and Tyrone only meet once in the first two hours. Tandy steals Tyrone’s wallet; he tracks her down. When they touch, they get blasted apart – white light coming from her hand, black smoke from his. There seems to be good chemistry between the actors, and Pokaski effectively shows their unspoken, subconscious bond. Tandy dons Tyrone’s hoodie for comfort. Tyrone still has her ballet slipper.
The title characters are not just contrasts, but opposites. Tandy has a home, but we can understand why she chooses to squat in a church attic rather than be around her drug-addled mother, who was an addict even before her husband’s death. Tyrone lives in a stable two-parent home, his folks’ having kept it together after their eldest son’s murder at the hands of a police officer.
The most fascinating difference is that Tyrone is a good person and Tandy is not. She’s a thief, and in the end she abandons the most loyal person in her life – her boyfriend Liam (Carl Lundstedt), who puts up all his money to help her get a fake ID and flee the Big Easy. He gets arrested, and Tandy hangs up the phone on his plea for help.
While I suspect Tyrone will eventually bring out the good in Tandy, the show doesn’t tip its hand. She could still have Tyrone’s hoodie simply because she likes the hoodie, after all. Nonetheless, “Cloak & Dagger” suggests that we shouldn’t give up on her. After all, she starts off as a cute little ballerina girl who tragically loses her dad.
The first two episodes include a light dusting of #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter issues, helping “Cloak & Dagger” dodge any notion that it’s just an MCU cash-in. Tandy’s power to create a dagger out of thin air manifests when she is about to get raped in an alley, and Tyrone’s brother was unnecessarily gunned down by a cop. While Tandy flees town to escape her assailant, who could identify her if he pulls through at the hospital, Tyrone can’t help but pursue the rogue cop, Connors (J.D. Evermore). Every time he goes under a “cloak” (a blanket, a tarp, etc.), he emerges on the tail of Connors, a crooked drug dealer in present day.
“Cloak & Dagger” has some familiar threads. Brigid O’Reilly (Emma Lahana), the detective who arrests Liam, will likely make it her mission to figure out the mystery behind these kids and their powers. That smacks of the sheriff in “Roswell,” to cite one example.
Still, I’m intrigued by the unusual link between the title characters’ superpowers — using their powers in tandem seems to be the key to having control over them. The universe is telling Tyrone and Tandy they belong together, and it should be fun to watch them try to resist.