'The Cape' Season 1, Episodes 1 and 2 (Series Premiere) Recaps
by Ryan McGee, posted Jan 10th 2011 4:30AM
['The Cape' - 'Pilot']
['The Cape' - 'Tarot']
Early in the pilot episode of 'The Cape,' our titular hero (played by David Lyons) wakes up inside a creepy carnival. He looks around at the three-ring circus and has a look on his face that betrays a thought potentially shared by many watching at home: "Oh no, I got knocked out and woke up inside the fourth season of 'Heroes,' didn't I?"
Comparisons between the two are inevitable, as this is the first superhero franchise launched by NBC since it finally put 'Heroes' (and what fans were left) out of its misery.
Are the comparisons fair? Not especially. It's a useful starting point, to be sure. But a side-by-side comparison shows that little, other than the "superhero" label, truly links these two shows, and even THAT link is tenuous at best. In 'Heroes,' having abilities meant a life of misery, solitude, and being targeted by evil government agents and/or a brain-slicing serial killer. 'The Cape' has the aspirational aspects of 'Heroes,' to be sure, but keeps those on a much smaller scale. And frankly, that scale fits the show.
'Heroes' believed that saving a cheerleader could save the world. Officer Vince Faraday has much smaller, yet equally important, goals in mind: Saving Palm City from becoming the first of what could possibly become privatized cities in the United States. So, 'The Cape' takes the "think globally, act locally" ethos as its starting point. But Faraday doesn't don the mask and forge himself into a superhero out of vague alliances to equally vague terms such as "justice" and "democracy": He does it for a simple yet much more potent reason -- to make the city in which he grew up a place for his family to continue to live.
This is incredibly hokey, to be sure, but feels fresh after decades of comic deconstruction in both print and filmed media. And, indeed, if there's an easy target in these first few hours for mockery, it unfortunately lies in Faraday's family, who aren't called upon to act so much as sit around like weepy cardboard cutouts in the wake of Vince's public disgrace at the hands of the Ark Corporation. Their two-dimensionality undercuts Faraday's noble motivation somewhat, but doesn't undercut it completely. By the end of the second hour aired tonight, Dana (Jennifer Ferrin) had taken active steps to be more than simply a weeping widow, so hopefully things will improve on the Faraday home front.
Outside of Casa Faraday, things are initially strong in Palm City. The circus in which Faraday finds himself is populated with characters that buck convenient stereotype, especially Keith David's ringleader Max Malini. Acting as the Mr. Miyagi to Faraday's Daniel-san, David owns every moment onscreen during this initial two-hour block. 'The Cape' doesn't simply let Max teach Vince everything in one single montage: Rather, the relationship between both Vince/Max and Vince/The Cape ebb and flow in these first two hours. Had Faraday simply mastered the cape's various uses, along with Max's bag of disappearing tricks, nothing that followed would have any stakes. But because Vince gets too big for his britches, things get reset in a fairly satisfying way during the second hour.
At this point, it's worth bringing up the Rogue's Gallery of 'The Cape,' a series of single-name villains that exist in what could pass as the normal world with juuuust a little bit more pushing them into the realm of the fantastical. In that way, they are like the cape itself: Both grounded in reality but then taken past what we could do in this world. Isn't that what we want in our superhero comics? Comics themselves need not always exist in a world unlike ours (calling Harvey Pekar), but 'The Cape' smartly realizes that shying away from the excesses that make superhero comics what they are would yield that aforementioned show that rhymes with 'Zeroes.' Some might find Chess (James Frain) too over-the-top and hammy, but I'm fascinated to see just how in control of his alternate persona that Peter Fleming truly is. Who's to say that Vince's son Trip is the only one in this world that grew up wanting to be larger than life? We may find that Fleming created "Chess" in order to spark Ark's eventual growth, only to lose control of that alter ego along the way.
Rounding out the world of 'The Cape' is Orwell, a blogger giving Ark all sorts of trouble. I'm all for having a super hot blogger be at the center of a superhero show, as you would expect that I would be. Finally, our true purpose and true hotness is on display for the world to see. Thank you, 'The Cape.' (Cough.) Summer Glau is a geek fave, but her roles on 'Firefly' and 'Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles' didn't leave her much room to act like a normal flesh-and-blood character. Early events on 'The Cape' leave her slightly in the wind (especially her horrifyingly bad confrontation with Cain), and her connection to the larger events in Palm City are incredibly telegraphed in the first hour. Still, Glau has the chops to pull Orwell up from a second-rate Watchtower into something more substantial. Hopefully, later episodes will let her shine more than these did.
Ultimately, what makes 'The Cape' work is that Faraday uses that wondrous piece of cloth as a tool, not a crutch. What sold me on the show's potential was the way in which he sought to train himself to overcome Cain without using the cape's abilities: Slowly immunizing himself to various poisons, learning to dodge knives via a rigged pitching machine, and so forth. It was a small thing on one level, but quite a bigger thing in the overall picture. 'The Cape' might not be to everyone's taste, but so far it has bridged the world of the realistic and the fantastic quite nicely. It may not dodge every narrative knife that comes along during its 13-episode run, but at least we can be sure that it will prepare itself as best it can. That's the type of superhero show I can watch.
What about you? Will you be tuning in when the show slides into its regular Monday slot, or are you one-and-done? Is 'The Cape' a fresh take on the superhero, or just a poor man's 'Batman'? Leave your thoughts on the premiere below!
'The Cape' airs Mondays, 9PM ET on NBC.