Last night, NBC rolled out two hours of its new superhero show the Cape, about an ex-cop forced to put on a mask and fight a supervillain. In a world of superhero movies, how does it stack up?
The Cape is The Punisher meets the Dark Knight meets Robocop
The Set Up:
The action of the Cape is set in Palm City which seems to be to Miami what Gotham City is to New York and it's just as messed up. The police force, which was completely corrupt to begin with, is unable to take down a masked villain who goes by the alias Chess. When Chess kills the new police commissioner in a scene that wishes it were the parade scene from the Dark Knight, the police force is privatized under the control of the Ark Corporation, which in a total non-surprise, is operated by Chess and Palm City becomes the playground for various other villains.
And fighting against them is the Cape, who used to be good guy cop Vince Faraday. Vince is the typical "one good man in a lost city" who, through a series of plot points that the show dispenses with in about 30 seconds, quits the police force, gets hired by Ark and then gets framed for being Chess himself. Naturally, he is a disgrace to his family, is thought to be dead (there's a little bit of the short-lived CBS Million Dollar Man ripoff Now and Again here) and re-invents himself with the help of a bunch of circus players and a blogger sidekick. In case all of that is too difficult for the audience to follow, the show lays it all out in one neat little monologue;
Cringe Factor (out of 10):
The Cape is full of such eye-rolling seriousness it's kind of hard to believe. It's meant to be this dark, gritty tale of a man forced to do sketchy things for the sake of family and whatnot but it just doesn't come off right. It's got all the pieces, I guess, but there's something a little off.
Part of the problem is the terrible dialogue that gets delivered at breakneck speed, in fact the whole show goes by so quickly it's kind of mind boggling. As I noted, Vince goes from cop to dead guy in no more than a few minutes, his decision to leave the police force is contained in literally one line of dialogue: "Ark's gonna own the force anyway, this way I get benefits." He really is a bastion of hope. When he falls in the circus crowd, he helps them steal from Ark using passcodes from his old life, which doesn't give him one moment's pause. It seems like there isn't a scene in the show that lasts longer than ten lines of dialogue, it's almost as if the whole pilot were conceived to be one long montage.
But then again, there's some fun stuff here too. The circus gang is led by Keith David and he's got some great moments, although that the whole circus of crime thing pulls bits from the Penguin plot of Batman 2 and also a little the Amazing Advnetures of Kavalier and Clay as they create the Cape as a version of that novel's character the Escapist. And there's a joke here and there, like when some street tuffs call Ken Davitian "Borat." Unfortunately, just when you think things are gonna continue to be less oppressive, Vinnie Jones enters the picture playing a villain named Scales who looks to be covered in shiny snake skin.
The Cape is also joined by a blogger named Orwell who acts as kind of ineffectual watchdog of the happenings of Palm City. Ineffectual because, even though all her information is accurate, no one's listening and there doesn't seem to be much of a point to her blog. Either way, she's played by Summer Glau who is absolutely fantastic (in general, not specifically as an actor in this show). It's one of the show's biggest errors that she's been reduced to the plucky sidekick. Maybe the whole show should have been about a blogger turned superhero.
And, of course, there's lots of talk about what makes a hero. This chat between the Cape and his mentor seems like it was written with the use of madlibs.
Over/Under for Cancellation
It's really hard to believe that the Cape is going to have a long, successful run on NBC, they have pretty quick trigger fingers over there and it's doubtful this show is gonna stem that tide. To me, it seems like the Cape will have a similar life cycle to another mid-season, high concept NBC drama from a few years ago, Kings, which had a big launch, didn't do too well and was off in something like 12 episodes. The only difference was that Kings was a pretty good show, but that's neither here nor there.