'The Cape' Season 1, Episode 4 Recap
by Ryan McGee, posted Jan 25th 2011 1:15AM
['The Cape' – 'Scales']
Trains work as well as courtrooms in terms of setting the scene for a drama. In both cases, the people inside have an awfully hard time leaving. Anytime someone can simply walk away from a scene, he or she drains it of all tension. So the idea of an episode of 'The Cape' taking place aboard a Monte Carlo-inspired train should have been a slam dunk for the show. Larger than life characters trapped inside a larger-than-life locomotive? Sounds like a recipe for a fun hour. Too bad a few missing ingredients left a slightly sour taste.
On a macro level, 'Scales' set up two larger conflicts that now complicate the largest conflict all season: The Cape vs. Chess. Each now has a new enemy on what should potentially be the same side of the law: Vince now sees his carnival compatriots for the lawbreakers they truly are (and, as Max acknowledges, have always been), and Chess now has to deal with Scales as more than a man unwittingly paying double to have his dock deals go down smoothly in the Age of Ark. Watching Vinnie Jones and James Frain try to outdo each other in terms of scenery chewing was pretty fun, and Keith David added some menace to Max's ever-twinkling eye.
Vince not only inspired an inter-gang rivalry, but now has his own budding Bieber-esque fan club. Sure, that fan club only has one current member, but when he's as excitable as the Secretary of Prisons for Palm City, that's got to count for something. I long to see an episode of 'The Cape' where Patrick Portman forces all of the city's prisoners to dress up as his favorite hero and do the Soulja Boy "Crank That" dance. While Vince envisioned a quick outing of Fleming to clear his name, it's clear to him by episode's end that he'll have to win the city over person by person, at a much slower pace than perhaps he would like.
How fast would he like it to be? Well, within a year, it seems: at least in time to celebrate Tripp's birthday. Honestly, the kid is just a cardboard cutout with hair at this point, endlessly looking off into the distance as he and Vince have apparently simultaneous flashbacks in which Tripp doesn't look any younger. (So help me God: it didn't help that those flashbacks felt more like dates than father/son encounters.) Despite probably his best wishes, Tripp didn't get the next issue of 'The Cape' comic this week, instead learning all about the concept of presumed innocence from Travis, The Man Who Would Be His Stepdad. Happy Birthday, Tripp!
Speaking of Bad Annals of Parenting, Orwell got to confront her father face-to-face tonight aboard the Monte Carlo Express, albeit through a mask that didn't conceal nearly enough of her face to actually shield her true identity. Given Fleming's supposedly ferocious intelligence, one has to assume that he 1) hasn't seen Orwell since she was extremely young, or 2) isn't aware she even exists. I'm not saying Chess is the superhero equivalent of an NBA superstar or anything, with different kids in different parts of the country, but Option No. 2 could feasibly exist in some fashion, especially in a comic book-infused world such as this. Her outburst in the train seemed a little odd, but it's clear from her episode-ending chat with Vince that she still feels spurned by her father, and couldn't stay on-mission completely without letting herself speak her peace at least once.
While it's always good to have emotional grounding as the background for character action, 'The Cape' tends to excel when favoring heightened dialogue over emotive reasoning, when favoring B-movie theatrics over hand wringing, favoring looking at the absurd and punching it in the face over trying to coax it into something that seems at all "real." All the seeds for a great episode were there, all placed upon a train that ultimately barely went anywhere at all. Oh well. As Fleming tells The Cape, "You're learning how to play." Maybe the next round will be more enjoyable.
What did you think of 'Scales'? A fun ride, or did you want to hurl yourself onto the tracks? Should Vince's family be featured weekly, or is this a case where less is more? Leave your thoughts below!
'The Cape' airs Mondays at 9PM ET on NBC.