Cloak and Dagger: Instantly Captivates with Its Character Building

The image of a man and woman's faces over a dark background. The text reads "Marvel, Cloak and Dagger."
Image: Freeform

Genre: Superhero

Synopsis: Tandy is a delinquent fallen from her high-class background, and Tyrone is a sweet but haunted teen whose family is still caught in the grip of a tragedy that happened years ago. They both have a plethora of personal problems and a knack for getting in trouble…just as they each start developing powers. 

Their worlds slowly clash as each pursues their own goal–Tyrone wants closure, while Tandy just wants to escape. Can the two of them help each other get what they want? Or will they only get in each others’ ways?

Series: The first season is airing.

I’ve Watched: The first four episodes.

Verdict: How is this so amazing? Because despite a bit of a slump in the second episode, the characters and their development are blowing me away.

The First Ten Minutes

The beginning of any story is always crucial for getting the audience invested in it, and Cloak and Dagger did an amazing job with theirs. Without slowing down the pace or stopping to explain itself, the show introduces us to the two main characters and invests us in their problems.

Both protagonists are introduced as little kids, and Tyrone’s story especially captured my attention. We first meet him eavesdropping on his older brother and his friends, while they argue over this man that hired them to install a car radio then wouldn’t pay. There was something about Tyrone’s bond with his brother that instantly tugged on heartstrings, helped along by some great acting—that managed to transcend how little time they had to build up that relationship.

How the brothers’ stories would progress was obvious from their first scene, but that’s not the point. Partly, this is because Cloak and Dagger managed to wrap up what happened to them in only six minutes, even while sharing screen time with another character’s journey. (Which is pretty efficient—the show is great in narrowing in on exactly what’ll draw the audience in and leaving out the excess.)

But mostly, watching the incoming tragedy coming for someone who doesn’t deserve it has its own power. I really didn’t want this to happen, especially not to Tyrone’s older brother, whose character I connected to instantly—I watched him step into the big sibling role effortlessly. I’d seen him deciding for himself that stealing back that car radio wasn’t worth it, and refusing to allow his friends to pressure him into doing it. And when Tyrone stole the car radio instead, he was doing a good job of teaching his kid brother how to fix his mistakes, right up until the plot showed up to punch him in the face.

I didn’t want this to happen, but I understood why it did, and it grabbed my sympathy. It also set up an immensely interesting character trait for Tyrone to explore.

After all, Tyrone was just a kid. He was just a kid trying to help his brother against someone who’d basically stolen from them (refusing to pay for a service). He stole that car radio when his brother wouldn’t, but his brother was the one to end up paying for it. And Tyrone’s going to feel responsible for that for the rest of his life.

Tandy’s introduction was more low-key by comparison, but still gripping and informative. The shot of her practicing pirouettes in the rain outside of her ballet studio, because no one had picked her up after her class, sent the audience a strong message without a single word of dialogue. The conversation she had with her father after he finally arrived—about how her mother couldn’t come due to her back pain—hinted that there was something else going on there.

And it also revealed some subtleties of Tandy’s character. She presents a cheerful front, even after waiting for what must have been at least an hour for one of her parents to pick her up. She doesn’t take it out on her father when he arrives, even bantering with him. But the show also lets us know that she feels neglected.

She doesn’t directly complain about the situation with her mother, but she does ask “Is her back ever going to get better? She’s been taking a lot of pills.” In an impressive move for a child actor, Tandy manages to express both concern for her mother and disappointment at how the circumstance is depriving her of her mother’s attention.

She might not show any resentment, coming across as a sweet, even optimistic, kid. But she’s definitely unhappy, and that’s reinforced when her father takes a work call and it instantly breaks up their moment of connection. He turns away and gives his full attention to the phone call, while Tandy completely disconnects from him like she doesn’t expect him to see her anymore, fiddling with the ribbons of her ballet slipper.

All of that was from less than ten minutes into the story. Seriously. I paused at the seven-minute mark and wrote up this 600 word segment without even being 1/5th of the way through the pilot episode. That’s how much character was revealed in these scenes, that’s how well-structured the story was, and that’s how confident I felt right from the beginning that I would absolutely love this show.

Strong Pilot, Second Episode Slump, Third Episode Comeback

While Cloak and Dagger demonstrated the ability to nail pacing and character work in the pilot, the next episode doesn’t quite manage to reach those heights. The story shows us Tyrone and Tandy living their own separate lives and dealing with their individual problems before they ever become a team. We keep waiting for their storylines to intersect, but it takes a while.

In the meantime, they both have supporting casts which aren’t given enough depth or attention to enable too much investment quite yet (with the exception of Tyrone’s mother, who gets a few powerful scenes, and Tandy’s mother, whose unorthodox relationship with her daughter practically begs for attention). Tandy’s boyfriend especially, through no fault of the actor, is just there to be a prop for Tandy’s story.

This means that Tyrone and Tandy, who are themselves interesting and compelling characters, have to hold down most scenes on the force of their characters alone. They don’t exactly fail, and the show is still good, but the episode does feel a little slow as a consequence.

The third episode picks back up again, as Tandy and Tyrone’s personal issues all but explode, and they’re forced back into each other’s lives. In a way I totally wasn’t expecting, but one that gave them an introduction into each other’s lives that packed quite a punch.

Overall

I’m thrilled with the story and the characters here, and I just know I’m going to be talking about this show again. Because Cloak and Dagger is going to be amazing, I can tell.

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