When it comes to characters many have hoped to see join the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Cloak & Dagger have always been a rather popular option among fans. And yet, when it was announced that the duo would be given their own series from Freeform (formerly ABC Family), many were quick to damper their excitement. After all, when it comes to networks that produce quality television, Freeform isn’t exactly a network that would come to mind. Add in the fact that a showrunner or a writer hadn’t been announced beforehand, and fans’ fears were understandable. After all, it was hard to know what kind of vision the folks at Freeform had bought into before giving the show a straight to series order. (Heck, we’re now two months out from the series announcement and we still have yet to hear of a showrunner – don’t worry, though, I’ll be making a list of people I’d like to see get the gig!) So why the hell would I suggest that Cloak & Dagger could be a vital part of Marvel Television with the lukewarm reception surrounding the project? Because if this show succeeds, it could lead to Marvel Television taking more chances with other projects outside of Netflix.
When it comes to The Defenders shows – Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist – as well as the upcoming The Punisher series, they have their own feel. They’re well thought out, dark and unique stories that provide an entirely different corner to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They go where the films can’t risk going without losing their PG-13 ratings. They tell stories that are grounded, but are still very much set in this crazy world Marvel has done such a great job at creating. And then there’s ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., a show that gets far too much hate and has definitely come into its own over the past three seasons; a show that is very much a primetime series that struggles with wanting to go bigger but having to stay within the network’s limitations. S.H.I.E.L.D., a series that originally made it a point to stray from featuring folks with powers, has made a major shift over the past two seasons as they not only introduced Inhumans into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but also gave us our first look at the Secret Warriors from the comics. It has taken a few seasons, sure, but the series is beginning to embrace its comic book roots more these days and it’s the better for it.
And then there was, Marvel’s Most Wanted, a series that featured Mockingbird, a fan favorite character from S.H.I.E.L.D. and one that seemed like a sure thing for the network, but ultimately ended up being canned by ABC. Of course, it’s worth noting that while Most Wanted was the only other Marvel TV project to move into the pilot stage, it’s not the only Marvel TV project that was being developed for the network. It was announced last year that Damage Control had been given a put-pilot commitment by the network, meaning they’d have to film a pilot and release it or pay a penalty. However, given that much news hasn’t been released regarding that project since then, as well as the change in the network head, it’s more than likely that project is on hold as well as three other shows that we’ve previously heard about being in varying stages of development. Which brings us back to Cloak & Dagger.
Although Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has done a great job at introducing superheroes within the past season, it’s still very much a spy series, something that Agent Carter also was, and something that Marvel’s Most Wanted definitely would have been. That’s three spy shows for ABC at a time when fans are beginning to ask for more superhero shows from Marvel. (Note: I would fully argue that Agent Carter is a superhero, and I still hold that Daisy is very much the lead character in S.H.I.E.L.D., but that’s just me.) So it’s understandable that Cloak & Dagger would be a series ABC would be interested in developing next. And while I hate to admit it, I get why they chose to put it on the Freeform network instead of ABC.
The thing to remember here is that Freeform is undergoing a bit of a renovation. The network, which was formerly ABC Family, is trying to become a go-to network for twenty-somethings. (I refuse to use the term Freeform has been using to describe this demo, sorry folks.) They’ve not only revamped their line-up, but they’re trying to put out higher quality products. Are these shows that’ll one day be nominated for awards? No. Are they enjoyable/like shows you’d expect to see on a network such as the CW? Yeah, which is why I think Freeform actually is the right home for Cloak & Dagger. Now, I should note, I say this as someone who was very against this network choice originally. However I recently decided to give the network a chance. I took the time to check out some upcoming pilots to get a feel for what they’re trying to do, and to my surprise, I actually kind of liked what I saw. The network has definitely made a huge turnaround as it tries to break free from its limitations as ABC Family. Even better? Unlike ABC, which is quick to cancel shows, Freeform is willing to give a series time to reach an audience. And when it comes to quick Netflix turn-arounds? They’re pretty on the ball, getting seasons up shortly after they air in order to use the streaming service to help build the audience for their shows.
Which is why, even though we have yet to hear of a showrunner, I’m cautiously optimistic about Cloak & Dagger. This is a big test for Marvel TV. This is the first time we’re seeing them go outside of the spy realm for a series that won’t be produced for Netflix. Even better? These heroes will be younger and continue to bring some much needed diversity to the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe. Sure, they’re going to have some obstacles to overcome with the origins of these characters, but having seen how Freeform has handled similar topics in shows such as Guilt and Dead of Summer, I’m a bit more at ease knowing they won’t completely side-step that aspect of their story. This is the chance for Marvel TV to craft something like DC’s The Flash, to take a another risk like what they did when they first crafted Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. It’s something they have to tread carefully with though, and take the time to find the right showrunner much like they have with the Netflix shows. Case in point: Folks were initially discouraged when Rosenberg was brought in for Jessica Jones, but look how freaking great that decision turned out. Jessica Jones is easily one of the best MCU properties to date.
It’s easy to write-off Cloak & Dagger now given just how little we know about the series, but the fact of the matter is that it’ll play a big part regarding Marvel Television going forward. If the show succeeds, it could very well lead to more shows like it on both ABC and Freeform, allowing Marvel TV the chance to branch out just like its film counterpart, Marvel Studios.