NBC’s The Cape, Season 1 Premiere: Reviewed

Typical. The first episode of The Cape had barely aired before the critics were lining up to take a pop at it. That’s what sci-fi fans and comic book nerds do though – they moan about the lack of good shows in the genre, then pour scorn on every new series that rears its head. If you’re going to dump on a series before it’s even had a chance to establish itself, then you’re doing it a disservice. It pisses me off.

The Cape is Vince Faraday, a cop who uncovered radical new explosives owned by his new boss, Peter Fleming. Fleming is your typical nefarious businessman, but he’s also a murderous psychopath in his spare time who calls himself Chess. Like the musical. Fleming frames Faraday and sets him loose with a Chess mask nailed(?) to his head. The manhunt is televised and Faraday’s wife and child witness him being seemingly blown up.

However, Faraday was retrieved by a charming bunch of freaks known as the Circus Of Crime. They initially think he’s Chess, and plan to use him to their advantage. However, he comes to an arrangement with their leader, Max Malini, and Malini agrees to train him in exchange for helping them rob banks in Palm City.

A third element is thrown into the show – mysterious blogger Orwell, played by Summer Glau. Glau has a host of high-tech gear at her disposal (baffling, because bloggers just don’t make that kind of money – unless I’m doing it wrong). It’s all a bit rapid-fire how Faraday meets Orwell and develops instant trust for her, and it leaves The Cape with three different hidey-holes across the city – one with Orwell, one at the circus and another in a disused building that he’s set up in.

The premiere episode is your basic origin story – Faraday is a rare incorruptible cop on a soon-to-be-privatised force, gets framed, but is mercifully thought to be dead following an explosion. It gives him the opportunity to create the character of The Cape to get revenge, but it also means that he has to let his family think that he’s both disgraced and dead.

The most common complaint is that the pilot moves so fast there’s little room for character development. And it’s true, I suppose. They could have spread the first episode out over two hours and given a deeper insight into the characters. However, I thought that the way in which Faraday was violently yanked out of his life and forced to hide from the world was dramatically done and conveyed the sort of no-time-to-think scenario very well.

Think back to Robocop for a minute. Parallels with leaving a widow and child aside, how quickly in the space of that movie did Murphy go from being a regular cop to a head and torso in a titanium alloy body? And not only was that plausible, the movie is a classic! While Faraday may have become a master trickster a little too quickly, it kept the pace of the pilot episode brisk, exciting and fun. And of course, this was balanced in episode 2 with Faraday discovering how ill-prepared he was for his new vigilante lifestyle.

It’s unfair to write The Cape off on the basis of its first two episodes. Superman wasn’t built in a day. Nor was Batman. I’m not saying The Cape’s up to those standards – and given that this is TV, he may not get a chance to be – but those were two solid, dark episodes. David Lyons may not be wonderfully charismatic as the titular character, but he’s flanked by flamboyant circus leader Max Malini (Keith David) and the psychotic villain of the piece, Peter Fleming aka Chess. Great to see James Frain playing a slightly less crazy bad guy after his off-the-charts performance of Franklin Mott in True Blood in the summer.

Speaking of Summer…Glau, that is. I understand that she ticks some sort of geeky demographic box. I don’t have the same level of weak-kneed devotion to Miss Glau as other interweb types do, and she presents my biggest problem with the series – who is she? What’s her motivation to sneak about the city daily as Gossip Girl’s politically motivated big sister? Where does all the money come from? Aren’t her local branch of Buy More concerned about how much she spends of state of the art computing equipment? We need answers to all this, damnit.

I don’t mind her role as a hyper-technical Alfred The Butler with boobs. Obviously. I just need a plausible reason for her existence.

I’d love to hear from you lot what you thought about The Cape. Is it a “poor man’s Batman” as some have claimed, or does it have the potential to be a pretty good comicbook-type action series? You tell me.

Quotes from The Cape

  1. Max: When you were Chess you were interesting. Now you’re boring me. Dump him in the desert and cut the fingers off.
  2. Max: I’m using my stage voice…
  3. Peter Fleming: Do we think the raccoon acted alone?
  4. Max: You take his damn money, that’s how you take down ARK. You help me rob Peter Fleming, and I’ll help you get your family back.
  5. Scales: The Yellow Brick Road’s that way [gets beaten by dwarf] Dwarf:Say hello to Dorothy for me, bitch.

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