The Cape Preview: A Mixed, Confusing Bag

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Having euthanized Heroes last season, NBC is heading back to the dark world of superheroes with the vigilante series The Cape - and the results are middling at best.

The story centers on Palm City Police Detective Vince Faraday (David Lyons), who, amidst a citywide threat from a masked villain - the ridiculously literal Chess (James Frain) - is framed for a murder he didn't commit.  Vince is thought to have been killed himself, but instead is rescued by a group of circus-themed thieves who train and help him attempt to reclaim his life and take down Chess and his band of not-so-merry henchmen. 

Fearing his son will think the worst of him, Vince adopts the persona of "The Cape," Tripp's favorite comic book character, to send Tripp the message that there is hope as long as there are good people willing to fight for what they believe in.

On the one hand, the concept appeals to my fanboy sensibilities, and I find it refreshing that they don't give Vince super powers, instead making him sort of a Bruce Wayne-without-the-bucks. He has no abilities outside of his police background and thirst for justice. 

This piqued my interest because I can't recall a comic-based series about a powerless superhero since... the 1960s Batman, perhaps.

But that's where the originality, if you can call it that, ends.

The pilot episode covers no new ground, and moves so quickly in attempting to set up the premise that the characters all feel as one-dimensional as the comic book images from which the series gets its title. 

You aren't given time to really feel the connection between Vince and his family before he's yanked away from them, although there are some flashbacks in the second episode which attempt to fill in some of that emptiness.

The writing is so painfully trite that the performances don't make much of a difference; even Meryl Streep couldn't give these words life. There are so many references to "taking back the city" and "one man can make a difference," that the dialogue comes off too general, lacking any real depth. 

I don't think I can stomach another cliche-ridden attempt by Vince's illusionist mentor, Max Mallini (Keith David), to deliver an inspirational speech.

Even the effects and action scenes are laughable.  I know it's television, and the budgets are limited, but Vince looks like he's tossing out black ink instead of a cape.  Maybe it would have served the CGI capabilities better to have called it The Squid.

The Cape Poster

What bothered me the most, though, is the depiction of the villains.  For one thing, there are just too many of them, at least four introduced in the first two hours alone.  Plus, masked marauders only work in two cases:

  1. When the camp factor is upfront and intentional.
  2. When firmly grounded in reality and the use of such grandiose theatrics is explained in a thoroughly believable way.

The Cape tries hard to set a dark, serious tone and establish a camp-free world in which these characters reside, but the lead villain, Chess, is so literal an interpretation he can't help but come off campy.  He even has contact lenses which make his pupils look like a pawn and knight, respectively. 

There appears to be no rational reason for his appearance, and his over-the-top laughs and villain speeches approach caricature levels of pretentiousness.  Additional villains Scales (Vinnie Jones) and Chef (Raza Jeffrey) are also equally superficial in their representations.

The second episode, "Tarot," which airs as the second part of the two-hour premiere, does fare slightly better than the rushed pilot, but only by a hair.  The writing still leaves a lot to be desired, as does the establishing of the characters.  I feel no real impetus to care or invest myself in any one of them at this point.

The strongest tool in The Cape's arsenal is Summer Glau as Orwell, a blogger and covert investigator who provides tactical support to Vince, but even she can't help the show rise above its relative mediocrity.

I can't help but feel shortchanged and disappointed.  I really want to like The Cape, but so far it lacks any measure of substance and it aspires to be far greater than it has the ability to muster.

Jeffrey Kirkpatrick is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter.

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Yesss. The show does show promise. More action, less family like it. No Sci Fi just a guy kicking ass. Pure enterainment not trying to be anything else.

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get over yourself blogger. Have you ever read a comic?

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The kids name is "Tripp", really? That is enough for me to not watch the rest of the show. Heroes was killed off because the writing became atrocious. This show hopefully has a different writing staff to prevent that. The "Chess" character was pathetic...

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So excited to see Izabella Miko in Cape. She's Amazing!!! I Love her!!!! I'd Kill to have her beauty.
How big is her part in this series?
What does her charactor do?
IS she good or bad?
Any info please?

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Why not just have Summer Glau in the title role, I’d rather see her kicking ass as the main.

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It’s got Summer Glau in it….so I’ll be watching. The cape gimmick might work if the writers can spin a tale around it without
making the hero all dopey & one dimensional. Don’t make the whole show about revenge–getting back at those who set him up & ruined his good name. That’s the oldest plot there is He needs to fight evil despite the odds & clear his name by doing good deeds like The Lone Ranger did. Leave a clue to his real identity. It's a course that will win fans & create a legend.

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The more I find out about this series the more excited I become. I have not been impressed with recent “superhero� shows, such as
the borefest known as No Ordinary Family. So I hope that this lives up to the hype.

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I really don’t see the Cape as being “burned off� when they are giving it a “special� Sunday night premiere and showing it during sweeps. The scheduling makes me believe they feel strongly about it and want it to succeeed. The problem is it’s hard to have a show succeed when you don’t have any ratings hits to pair it with.
I do feel though that this is a mistake as it would only be able to show 8 episodes during a 7 week period. What about the
remaining 4? Why not bring The Event back in January and have it air straight through fulfilling 22 episodes and then let The Cape take over the time slot till May? The longer a serialized show is off the air the harder it is for it to regain any type of ratings it had. When they are as low as The Event you want to eliminate as much time in between episodes as possible. This does not accomplish that task.

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Looking better then I expected. Looking forward to it. I like the Circus angle, as it's where he learns his skills.Think of the heroes who have been involved with the circus or were trained there.Robin, Hawkeye and Nightcrawler.
Well they said that's part of the realism.The circus guys don't have any special powers.They use tricks to pull off their show,
which he will learn to become a hero.I don't think it lessens the realism of the show.

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looking forward to The Cape as well. I’m hoping it does not wander into the “hero full of angst� realm, and that we don’t have to
suffer the indignity of a mystical or magical component. Plus yes, it’ll be good to watch Summer stretch her acting bounds. I guess there are positives and negatives with being typecast, so I’m interested in seeing her in something other than Ican-kill-
anything roles.

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