I’m glad “Cloak & Dagger” Season 2 (8 p.m. Eastern Thursdays on Freeform) started with a “previously on,” because the plot specifics of this show don’t stick in my head – even though I enjoy the experience of watching it. Last season, as I was reminded, found Tyrone/Cloak (Aubrey Joseph) and Tandy/Dagger (Olivia Holt) exposing the evil corporatists at Roxxon. So it’s good that Season 2 has a new plot, and that the duo is comfortable using their primary powers now. (Their secondary powers promise more weirdness, though.)
In its opening two hours, what makes Season 2 less engaging than Season 1 is that it wades into the murkiness of the New Orleans drug war. Tyrone – who has the skill set of Nightcrawler from “X-Men” (although I guess he needs to be wearing a hoodie? Or maybe not anymore) — steals money and drugs from one of the gangs. Police Detective O’Reilly (Emma Lahana) lectures him on how he merely accelerated the war. But then a bunch of members of two major gangs are killed. Not to be crass, but isn’t that what the drug warriors want anyway?
Meanwhile, Tandy is also flexing her newfound superherodom by chastising a fellow counseling group member, Mikayla (Cecelia Leal), about staying with her abusive boyfriend. Then Mikayla ends up being nabbed by bad guys who have their own fleet of ambulances (?!) and perhaps are linked to the drug gangs and perhaps want to get young people hooked on drugs for reasons beyond the obvious. Maybe human trafficking? So Tandy is also meant to feel like her attempts to help have backfired.
This is a convoluted plot, and Tyrone’s and Tandy’s lessons about taking too much into their own hands don’t make sense.
They do need to learn to work together, though. As we pick up the action eight months after the end of Season 1 – in which Tyrone went into hiding in Tandy’s old church pad after being pegged for a crime he didn’t commit – Tandy scolds Tyrone about going off on the vigilante drug bust without her. He points out she is fighting crime without him, too. They keep following each other on their missions and end up working together anyway, and eventually they seem to learn and accept the fact that they are a crimefighting duo.
This is good, because scenes with both Tandy and Tyrone in them make “Cloak & Dagger” seem 10 times better than it is. They have a fascinating chemistry. The stereotypes are all tangled up and interwoven, with Tyrone being black but rich but book smart, and Tandy being white but poor but street smart. Tyrone has stealthy escapist powers, and Tandy – who can make daggers of light on demand – has aggressive and violent powers. Because he’s a suspect in Season 1’s case, Tyrone is hiding from his well-adjusted family, whereas Tandy is back home, trying to make it work with her formerly drug-addicted mom.
There’s a slight “Just kiss already, you two” vibe to their scenes, just because that’s how TV is, and how TV viewers are. Tyrone and Tandy are filled with teen-level mutual psychoanalysis and theories about the world, but somehow they don’t come off as full of crap because of how they play off of each other. They usually disagree about the details, but they clearly respect and care about each other. And, as shown in the conclusion of the first hour, they can throw together a little mission – planting a tape recorder at a meeting of gang leaders.
But Tyrone obviously is all about classmate Evita (Noëlle Renée Bercy) – although leaving her in the dark, fearing the worst about him for eight months, seems rather stupid on Tyrone’s part. Especially since when he chases after her to explain, he does so in broad daylight. (The teleplay at least puts a lampshade on this, as Evita points out his hypocrisy from throughout these two episodes. For someone sought by local police, he’s out in the open a lot.)
Too much of “Cloak & Dagger’s” conflicts come from poor communication. It’s like we need to get through all these miscommunications before the show can be what it should be. Unfortunately, Detective O’Reilly has an evil doppelganger named Mayhem – much hyped in Freeform’s promos, and presumably the Season 2 Big Bad – so that probably means miscommunication will be an ongoing theme.
That’s too bad, because when I don’t think about what “Cloak & Dagger” is trying to say or what’s happening with the plot, I really enjoy it. It uses a heavy layer of pop songs (usually of the downbeat variety) much more effectively than “Black Lightning” and even “Luke Cage.” The show’s New Orleans genuinely looks like a place where you don’t want to wander into dark alleys. The special effects of Cloak teleporting and Dagger forming glowing daggers are genuinely cool. And, driven by scenes of Joseph and Holt together, it feels like there’s more substance to this show than the paint-by-numbers superhero series on my viewing slate like “Black Lightning” and “The Gifted.”
“Cloak & Dagger” still has an air of potential greatness, but thanks to another convoluted plot, so far in Season 2 it’s merely above average.