Honestly, did anyone expect NBC’s new superhero series ‘The Cape’ to be good? No, we didn’t. Everything about it looks atrocious. Now it’s aired and, no surprise, it is atrocious!
Ever since ‘Heroes finally bottomed out and had to be dragged off the air, NBC has been desperate to reclaim the nerd audience that made that show a hit in its first season or so. The network’s stab at sci-fi with ‘The Event‘ hasn’t seemed to do the trick, so now we’re right back to comic book territory.
‘The Cape’ isn’t based on a real comic (at least, not that I know of), but is rather a generic mishmash of dozens that you’ve probably read, or are at least passably familiar with. Whereas ‘Heroes’ was sort of a new millennial ‘X-Men’ or ‘The Avengers’-style team comic title, ‘The Cape’ is a very old fashioned (I’m sure the producers would prefer the word “classic”) costumed crimefighter tale reminiscent of early ‘Batman’ or ‘The Shadow’.
The 2-hour premiere is actually two separate episodes (‘Pilot’ and ‘Tarot’) run back-to-back. Although the credits in between were stripped out, the two halves have little continuity. The first part is bog-standard superhero origin story stuff. We’ve got a do-gooder loner named Vince Faraday (David Lyons from ‘ER’) living in a corrupt town (the fictional Palm City) who is egregiously wronged and so decides to put on a costume to fight crime and protect the innocent. Faraday was an upright cop who made the mistake of digging too deeply into the dealings of the shady ARK Corporation and its evil CEO Peter Fleming (James Frain from this past season of ‘True Blood’), who doubles as the city’s nefarious supervillain named Chess.
When Faraday gets too close, Fleming frames him for being Chess and murdering the city’s police chief, then arranges to have him killed. Faraday barely escapes an explosion that leaves everyone else (including his wife and precocious son) believing that he’s dead. But he’s rescued by a kooky circus troupe called the Carnival of Crime, whose ringmaster Max Malini (Keith David, whose hammy performance is by far the most entertaining aspect of the show) decides to play Yoda. Max gives Vince a special cape made out of rare spider silk or some nonsense that’s as strong as steel and as flexible as a rubber band. The troupe also teaches Vince how to fight, how to hypnotize people, and how to pull off a disappearing act – all things that will come in handy when knocking heads with the city’s criminal underworld. Once he puts together a costume including the cape and a hood… Voila, instant superhero!
After establishing his new identity, The Cape makes his presence known by foiling a plot by Fleming’s chief henchman, a burly fella with scaly skin named… Scales. How appropriate. (He’s played by Vinnie Jones, who could do so much better than this if he wanted.) The second episode pits Vince against a French contract killer who’s been hired to poison the Secretary of Prisons (Richard Schiff) so that Fleming can take over the city’s prison system. This leads to the discovery of a secret society of criminals called Tarot, which will no doubt prove to be a thorn in The Cape’s side.
The Cape is assisted in his efforts by a “sexy crime-fighting blogger” (the official description) named Orwell, played by Summer Glau. She’s given next to nothing to do except poke her nose in at inopportune moments and act as the show’s all-purpose computer hacker. In one especially ridiculous scene, Vince calls her in a moment of desperation and asks her to jam all the cell phones in the area. If this series had been written by Joss Whedon, I’d expect her response to be: “Jam cell phones? I write a blog, you jackass!” Alas, there is no evidence of such wit here.
‘Pilot’ was directed by Simon West, the man behind ‘Lara Croft: Tomb Raider‘ and the upcoming remake of ‘The Mechanic’. The episode is loud, flashy and stupid. It’s also hilariously overburdened by flashbacks, often to things that we’ve just seen. In the worst of these, we’re introduced to Fleming, whose secret identity as Chess is painfully obvious from the first frame we see him. In the very next scene, Vince is captured by Chess, who pulls off his mask to reveal that he’s really Peter Fleming. Just to hammer home the point that this is the same guy, the revelation is accompanied by a flashback to two minutes earlier! It’s absurd!
You know how silly it is that Clark Kent puts on a pair of glasses and suddenly no one recognizes him as Superman? Or how The Lone Ranger wears a simple mask over his eyes to protect his identity? What’s The Cape’s disguise? A hoodie! Yes, he pulls up a hoodie and absolutely no one can recognize him, not even his own son!
Oh my god, where did that guy go? I was looking right at him, but now all I see is this completely different person wearing a hoodie. The first guy, no hoodie. This guy, hoodie. Clearly can’t be the same person. It boggles the mind!
This show is dumb as dirt, utterly tedious, and painfully cheesy without any sense of humor about itself. ‘The Cape’ is suitable only for mocking. Mrs. Z and I did a lot of mocking. We won’t be watching again.