We’re at the halfway mark of this inaugural season of Cloak & Dagger, the only show currently airing that’s brave enough to juggle the topical hot potatoes of police corruption, the dark side of Instagram, and what I can only assume is a new designer drug called “chilli spaghetti” because no way is that a real meal. “Princeton Offense” has all of this, plus a surprising amount of b-ball for a comic book drama not called Slam Dunk.
1. “I made it happen!”
Finally! Superpowers in my superhero show! Admittedly, I’m not sure how attempting to drown herself helped Tandy develop the discipline necessary to make her light-knife-things to appear at her call, or how shoving Tyrone off a balcony into a pool results in similar for his teleporting powers (I guess it’s always gotta be water-based, considering how they first met as kids?), but it’s a relief to finally see Cloak and Dagger actually be Cloak and Dagger. Internal logic be damned, there is still a thrill seeing comic book powers rendered on screen, especially since the special effects for both actually look pretty neat!
2. “You wanna help? Stay alive.”
The pacing of this show continues to frustrate, however. Where does the propensity for Marvel shows to move at a Bendis’s pace come from? An underlying embarrassment about taking capes and cowls seriously? An active resistance against the ability of its source material to tell a complete, satisfying story in 22 pages, which leads the writers to barely tell a complete story over an entire season of television? At least Tandy appears to be getting somewhere with the Roxxon investigation. Is Ty really still trying the whole “stolen bike” gambit with the local cops? Really?
3. “That jumpshot of yours is money in the bank!”
Princeton Offense is a basketball term. Ty is a basketball player. There’s a lot of basketball in this episode. Look, I’ve seen Space Jam. I played basketball as a kid (because I was tall and had seen Space Jam). I’m still unconvinced by the amount of basketball in this episode of a show supposedly about two superpowered teenagers seeking justice for historical, conspiratorial murders of loved ones, but it does (sort of) pay off with that cool sequence of Ty taking ricocheting off the opposition team on the way to missing a winning three-pointer, catching glimpses of their deepest fears as he brushes past them.
4. “How many followers?”
Apparently Instagram influencers also work as high-class call-girls in the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe, which is…sure. There’s the usual issue of middle-aged writing staff attempting to grok the particulars of teenage technology use, and then there’s being so far outside the reservation of reality that, in fact, its disconnection from anything sensical means this plot point ends up being the most comic book-y element of Cloak & Dagger so far. Why Tandy needs to go through this incredibly weird conceit to get to some Roxxon sleazes, when she was introduced in the show as someone who regularly seduces rich idiots and robs them, is also not explained.
5. “Leave the police work to the police.”
While Tandy and Ty continue with their respective worm cans, the subplot that wouldn’t die — Detective O’Reilly looking into drugs for reasons that I cannot remember, even though they were presumably established a couple short hours ago — continues apace. She shakes down some hoods, tells a woman she’s failed the Bechdel test by referencing O’Reilly’s corrupt male colleagues (a truly cringe-worth faux-woke namedrop for an otherwise strikingly conservative bit of TV). Presumably the money she’s following will lead either to her colleague in vice who shot Ty’s brother, or some Roxxon heads, or both, but it’s tough to care?
The term “cloak and dagger” implies playing things close to the chest, but is this show holding too much back for its own good? Or am I just a curmudgeon who needs awakening to the horrors of social media? Let me know in the comments.