Was it worth the wait?
Warning: Full spoilers for Marvel’s Cloak and Dagger Season 1 finale below.
All throughout its first season, Cloak & Dagger attempted to do something Marvel hadn’t really tried before. And for the most part, that made Freeform’s first Marvel series a success.
While it is a younger-skewing comic book drama, the superhero/superpowers/vigilante aspects of the series were actually pushed to the background while the story focused instead on mature character stories told through the lens of real-world issues. That’s no small task, especially when the show is set in New Orleans, a city filled with fraught racial politics. But despite its younger audience, Cloak & Dagger never pulled any punches in telling authentic stories of a young, white blonde woman using her appearance to easily con people out of money while escaping any kind of consequences, vs. a young, black man who, despite coming from a very wealthy, high class family and always following the rules, constantly finds himself on the wrong side of law enforcement because of his race.
From the pilot, when viewers watched a young version of Tyrone (Aubrey Joseph) witness his older brother’s murder at the hands of a cop who shot the unarmed black teen in cold blood, it was clear Marvel was committed to shining a light on uncomfortably real issues and themes – because these aren’t just headlines to be glanced at and forgotten; they’re affecting people’s lives. Tyrone’s story may be fictional, but the circumstances are all too real. And by flipping Tandy (Olivia Holt) and Tyrone’s circumstances and upbringing, Marvel and Freeform updated the comic book source material to make it more appropriate and powerful for 2018.
But then the third episode of the season happened, and Cloak & Dagger lost its momentum. By leaning into the metaphysical aspects of Tyrone and Tandy’s powers and connection, the story became insanely hard to follow. Confusion bogged down what could have been a beautiful, ethereal experience that paid homage to the comics. Less would have been more, but Cloak & Dagger went full throttle into such a nebulous idea that it lost clarity. Instead of being wonderfully weird, it was weirdly garbled. And if a viewer didn’t read the comics, unaware of how much the metaphysical plays into the Cloak & Dagger mythology, it’s not hard to imagine someone giving up on a show they didn’t understand only three episodes in.
By the time Cloak & Dagger reached its first season finale, however, the series course corrected. By sprinkling the spiritual arcs into the action and gritty, real-world experiences, Tandy and Tyrone became more empathetic and relatable – and the story became far more focused. Viewers without the powers of light daggers or teleportation could still see themselves in their struggles. And as Tandy and Tyrone got a grip on their powers, the action scenes became thrilling not for their unpredictability, but because of how it increased the stakes and pace. The finale was nonstop action that didn’t forget to pause for emotional beats, making for one hell of an enjoyable hour.
When Tandy and Tyrone finally embraced their destinies as the Divine Pairing in the finale, the show found its footing and set the stage for a compelling second season. With their origin story complete, the duo can now truly become Cloak and Dagger and dive into the dynamic established in the comics. Tyrone pulled his first victim into his cloak, signaling that the series is ready to explore the darkforce dimension in Season 2, while Tandy used her light powers for revenge, a stark contrast to the purity at the root of her abilities and her choice to move home and try to live a normal life with her mother.
And with Brigid O’Reilly (Emma Lahana) getting shot in the finale, her comic book destiny as the vigilante Mayhem has been kickstarted. Cloak and Dagger losing their ally at a time when they need it most – Tyrone is still wanted for a murder he didn’t commit, forcing him to go into hiding in Tandy’s church – means the stakes have never been higher and their struggles are only just beginning.
But the finale did raise one big lingering question: did Tandy and Tyrone really beat the odds and save New Orleans without having to sacrifice one of their lives? The series made it seem like, by embracing their destiny and combining their powers, they were able to escape their predetermined fate. But perhaps they’ve only postponed it – they’re still the Divine Pairing, the city will no doubt face a new danger next season and those scars on their arms aren’t going anywhere. Hopefully they won’t need to journey into the metaphysical too much when the time comes to face their destiny yet again next season.