TV SHOW REVIEW: THE CAPE
by L.L. Soares
Last weekend, when I originally sat down to watch the two-hour premiere of NBC’s new superhero show, THE CAPE, I have to admit, I had very low expectations. This is partly because the network’s last attempt at a superhero TV show, HEROES, started off great in its first season and then turned annoying and over-convoluted when it got to Season 2. Needless to say, the show just got worse after that, losing all momentum and most of its audience, until its inevitable cancellation.
THE CAPE is a lot simpler, and it’s got its fair share of genre clichés. It’s by no means a great show. But it is a lot of fun so far, and if it can keep its momentum, unlike HEROES, it might have a real future ahead of it. Of course, considering the way a lot of TV critics trounced on it before the pilot even aired, I’m well aware that its days may already be numbered.
THE CAPE (created by Tom Wheeler) is the story of Vince Farraday (David Lyons), a good cop in a place called Palm City, who one day finds himself framed for crimes he didn’t commit. Nothing new there, except that the crimes he’s being blamed for were perpetrated by a sinister super villain named Chess (James Frain, who fans of TRUE BLOOD will recognize as sinister Franklin Mott from that show), whose alter ego is Peter Fleming, the millionaire businessman who runs the corporation ARK, and who is trying to buy…I mean, privatize …Palm City’s police force, and getting rid of an honest cop is one step closer to getting the contract.
Faraday is investigating some of ARK’s recent shipments (and finding dangerous chemical weapons) when he is betrayed by his best friend, Marty (another former cop who is now Chess’s right-hand man, played by Dorian Missick), captured by Chess and given a new fashion accessory when the masked villain removes his mask (revealing his identity in the process – but who cares, Farraday will die soon after all) and staples it on to Farradays face. He then lets the cop go, telling him that ARK’s rent-a-cops will soon be on his trail. During this game of cat and mouse, Farraday is believed killed in an explosion and his reputation is ruined, since now everyone believes he was the villainous Chess all along.
Somehow escaping fate (due to a trapdoor beneath a railroad car), Farraday finds himself in the underground lair of the “Carnival of Crime” – who at first believe he’s the real Chess and plan to kill him off, but instead come around to accepting Farraday as one of their own when he provides them with an all-access pass to all the bank vaults in Palm City. Led by the formidable Max Malini (Keith David), the Carnival goes on a stealing spree, along with clowns on stilts and Rollo (Martin Klebba), a scrappy dwarf who loves to fight.
In return for his aid in helping them rob the city blind, Max and his gang gives Farraday a chance to redeem himself. It involves a high-tech cape and learning the secrets that the carnival members can teach him from acrobatics to hypnosis to how to be an escape artist. This is the part of the show I particularly liked, as Farraday learns all of these tools of the trades and puts them to use in being a modern-day superhero. Sure, in a way it’s hokey, but in another way it kind of works.
So Farraday, believed dead, reintroduces himself to society as the super hero THE CAPE (named and patterned after Farraday’s son’s favorite comic book hero). Along with Max’s gang, he also has an ally in a computer hacker called Orwell (who likes to pop up on computer screens like Big Brother to offer information), who is really a bored rich girl played by Summer Glau, previously seen in the show TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES, where she was the best thing in that series, which ran from 2008 to 2009..
The 2-hour premiere was really the first two episodes. The first is the requisite origin story, which included the introductions of two of THE CAPE’s main bad guys, Chess and his thuggish underling Scales (played by Vinnie Jones from 1998 LOCK STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS and 2008’s MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN), who looks like an angry footballer with crocodile skin. The second hour introduced us to another bad guy, known as Cain (Raza Jaffrey). He’s a French serial killer (and chef!) turned assassin, whose main weapons are various lethal types of poison. At one point, a particularly nasty venom almost kills The Cape off, but he recovers to fight another day and knock Cain on his ass.
The show doesn’t score very high on logic. There’s not a lot here that the average viewer couldn’t rip apart if they thought about it for very long. But this is clearly some alternate comic book universe where things like logic don’t really work the same as it does here. And there are some definitely cringe-inducing scenes like when Farraday decides to go visit his son, dressed as The Cape, to tell him that daddy was innocent of the crimes he was accused of, and the boy, Trip (Ryan Wynott), tells his mother “The Cape is real and he came to talk to me” —which is just goofy.
But a lot of the acting, especially the bad guys and Keith David’s Max Malini, is way over the top and the plots are simple but fast-moving, never giving you enough time to really care how silly the whole thing is. In fact, the goofy moments are part of its charm.
This week’s episode (the first new episode in its regular time slot of Mondays at 9pm, Eastern Standard Time), featured the return of the original owner of Faraday’s “magic” cape, Kozmo, and he wanted it back. Guess who won the battle for the cape?
THE CAPE won’t appeal to everyone. And if you like your superheroes dark and deathly serious, you’ll probably hate it. But for some people this show is going to be an enjoyable enough diversion. It’s kind of a throwback to shows like the old Adam West BATMAN series from the 1960s, but not quite as campy.
I’ll keep watching for now. Until it gets prematurely canceled (which is still a real possibility) or until NBC ruins everything good about it in Season 2, like they did with HEROES.
© Copyright 2011 by L.L. Soares