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October 13, 2015

'The Cape' Season 1, Episode 9 Recap

by Ryan McGee, posted Mar 1st 2011 1:30AM
['The Cape' – 'Razer']

I come not here to bury 'The Cape,' though by all accounts what we saw tonight was the last episode of the series that will ever air. What started out as an unencumbered show that promised a relatively light and colorful approach to the superhero genre ended with an episode that featured gang violence, torture, and at least two characters with significant mental instability. 'Razer,' like so much of the show, wasn't Must See TV so much as Must Take Aspirin TV.

That's a cheap joke, but it's as instructive to look at where shows go wrong as where they go right. It's fitting that this show featured the least amount of Tripp Faraday to date, since the show's initial reason for being (a father giving hope to a son) was lost in a series of Characters in Search of a Rogue's Gallery. One-name villains like Chess, Scales, Dice and Razer dotted the landscape. But so did a carnival, a carnival with a shady leader who had a plan of his own. There was also an attempt to look at the first police state in America, and a vigilante blogger threatening to expose everything, and ... yea, my head hurts too.

It's easy to call 'The Cape' a 'superhero' show, but the aforementioned paragraph shows just how much the writers tried to create meaning within that genre by piling on new elements, as opposed to honing what worked from the outside. The sheer number of story lines in this show belonged on something like 'The Wire,' not an ostensibly family-friendly drama that ultimately caused more nightmares than fun for parents and their children. Having a complex, dark superhero show isn't a bad goal to have, but the show tried to appeal to all demographics and ended up pleasing none of them.

That the show initially was about a dad trying to do right by his family was something I really liked about the pilot. It's a semi-corny idea, but it's one that is instantly identifiable for fathers who want to be heroes to their families, sons that desperately want their dads to be those heroes, and the mothers that often get initially left out of the mix but possess incredible reservoirs of power that ultimately hold the family together. Taking the dynamics of familial life and applying it to the superhero genre isn't new ('The Incredibles,' 'No Ordinary Family'), but that doesn't make it unworthy of further exploration, especially in the initially more realistic world of 'The Cape.' But that either wasn't enough for the writers of the show, or they didn't know how to make that into 13 episodes without adding extra bells and whistles to the proceedings.

That 'Razer' ended the series on a cliffhanger isn't the show's fault. Numbers for the show have been so bad that NBC is rushing 'The Event' back onto the small screen next week, meaning that Max's long con, Orwell's insanity, and Chess' new plan will never see the light of day. But had NBC followed the FX model and aired the ordered series to fruition, which of those plot lines would have actually been worth keeping up with? Keith David has done the best with what he can as Max, but the carnival itself has been largely an afterthought since the pilot. So too has Fleming/Chess, so potent in the first few hours, but then relegated to the sidelines as more and more villains popped up in Palm City.

That leaves Orwell, and for the show to actually continue her logical emotional thread after her encounter with The Lich this week demonstrates that, on occasion, this show could be fairly good. It's the type of plot that would have given Summer Glau something to play, could have lasted a few episodes, and would have crippled Vince's ability to effectively do his job without her virtual eyes on him at all times. Would the show have stuck the landing? Who knows? But seeing actual human emotion on the show, as opposed to people shouting platitudes posing as dialogue, was like coming across a fresh water pond in the hot desert.

Between this and 'Heroes,' thoughts turn now to the next superhero franchise for NBC: 'Wonder Woman.' Plenty of my colleagues here at TV Squad have weighed in on this already, but let me just say this: Launching new superhero franchises that fail is one thing. But destroying an icon of the industry? That would be a far greater crime than anything that those other shows ever did.

Will you miss 'The Cape'? Or did it overstay its short welcome? And how does NBC's record with superhero shows make you feel about future franchises on the network? Sound off below!

Watch the final episode of 'The Cape' here:

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I don't understand why not put a show like this on SyFy. It would probably do well, and bad ratings won't kill it.

That said, and as much as I love Summer Glau, please please don't put her on any shows I like for more than one episode, that is the death knell. Firefly, Terminator, Dollhouse and now Cape. You can even argue the 4400 stunk after season 2 and and The Unit maybe got lucky since they got a couple more years out of it.

March 01 2011 at 5:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Well, it figures. I get interested in a show and it gets sacked. I hope he gets his wife and kid back in someone's frenzied, over zealous fan mind. Of course, NBC has a rich history of getting good shows and not knowing what to do with them. That goes back to the 60s and Star Trek. What any channel should do before releasing a new show is to have detailed biographies written for the shows characters. Make them available before first show ever airs. That way writers can jump right into the stories instead of trying to work in personal moments. Do like they did with Babylon 5. Plan out the whole story before creating single episodes. Then the writers would know what they can do with the characters without running off on confusing, uninteresting tangents.

March 01 2011 at 7:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Fleming/Chess WAS potent, This series needed MUCH more James Frain.

Facebook Fans of James Frain!

March 01 2011 at 7:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Oh man. I thought we had one episode left. Drat. I'm going to miss the Cape. It was just so earnestly awful and fun and unintentionally hilarious. I mean, look at tonight. CAKE! With danger music and everything.

I looked forward to the Cape and an alcoholic beverage every monday night. It made up for...well, you know. Monday.

Alas, poor cape. Also, I will be very sad not to be seeing more Max on my TV. Don't really care about the Cape or Orwell (Summer Glau is overrated IMO), but I'll definitely miss Max.

March 01 2011 at 2:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to rachelc258's comment

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