Is This TV Show the New “Heroes”?

“Cloak and Dagger’s” debut episodes are a slow boil, but pack tremendous promise.

You know those Instagram videos with the caption “wait for it…” attached to them, that initially seem mundane but, if you show the upfront patience asked of you, almost always deliver with the payoff? Well, we may have the hour long drama version of that in the latest Marvel Comics entry Cloak & Dagger, which debuted its first two episodes Thursday night on FreeForm.

Set in modern-day New Orleans, Cloak & Dagger centers on troubled teens Tandy (Olivia Holt), a pill-addicted high school dropout-turned-grifter, and Tyrone (Aubrey Joseph), a Catholic prep school basketball standout/well-rounded choir boy.

Our two protagonists first encounter each other as young children when an oil rig explosion indirectly causes the tragic deaths of Tandy’s father, by way of car crash in the harbor with Tandy sitting in the backseat, and Tyrone’s older brother Billy, who is shot by a startled cop. Tyrone, having jumped into the harbor in attempt to save his brother, pulls Tandy out of the water to safety, a moment that sends an ultra bright light piercing through each other’s hands, whetting our appetites for what might happen when they meet again.

But showrunner Joe Pokaski (NBC’s Heroes and Netflix’s Daredevil) isn’t interested in rushing this reunion. Instead, he opts for a deliberate, measured journey that’s far more intent on exploring our young heroes as individual characters than it is on explaining their superpowers.

The narrative’s restraint is maddening at first, as you almost begin to wonder if Tandy and Tyrone will ever cross paths. But once they do–about midway through the pilot during a “meet-ugly” in which Tandy tries to rob Tyrone and the glow resulting from their touch leaves both stammering “who are you?”–we are left craving more, and we realize Pokaski knows exactly what he’s doing. And it occurs to us that Pokaski’s creative decision to reveal Tandy and Tyrone’s superpowers at the same gradual rate that they learn for themselves may be a really smart one.

 

If a show about a wildly popular superhero like, say, Spiderman, persisted in withholding details about his superpowers, we’d scream at the TV (or more likely, the laptop) “we know what his superpowers are! Get to it, already!” Since Cloak & Dagger are far lesser known Marvel characters, however, each narrative detail will come as brand new information for just about all audiences. Therefore, like a gripping “whodunit?” that keeps us guessing every step of the way until the truth is slowly but surely unveiled, Cloak & Dagger will command our attention by rewarding us with new information about Tandy and Tyrone’s superpowers only when it has to.

Our patience will be further encouraged by the fact that both Tandy and Tyrone are layered, three-dimensional characters, each heightened by the ample charisma that Holt and Joseph bring to their respective roles. Though the duo’s shared screen time has thus far been rather limited, each character’s considerable individual depth (not to mention a perfectly executed cliffhanger to end the second episode) piques our interest as to what their coming partnership could entail.

Cloak & Dagger is also poised to benefit from its many absorbing supplemental narrative elements. Seeing that Tandy’s late father was a bigwig for the fictional Roxxon oil conglomerate (the very corporation responsible for the oil rig explosion) and that Tyrone’s brother Billy’s unjust shooting was covered up by the New Orleans police chief, the stage is set for Cloak & Dagger to tackle pertinent societal topics such as corporate greed and #BlackLivesMatter.

Mix in the fact that Pakowski has shirked The Big Apple (the setting for the original Cloak & Dagger comics and way too many other superhero series) for The Big Easy, and it seems that Cloak & Dagger, growing pains and all, has all the tools to sizzle in the long run. Wait for it.

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