Looking for a superhero fix to tide you over until the Thor and Captain America movies? If you can forgive some terrible logic and occasionally cringe-inducing dialogue, NBC’s The Cape might just scratch your itch.
The show has a healthy sense of humor in the spirit of golden age comics, and the titular superhero is a winning mix of Batman and Michael Chabon’s Escapist from the novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.
The show tells the story of Vince Faraday, played by David Lyons, a doting family man and all-around good cop who is framed for the murder of the Palm City Police Chief by the masked super-villain, Chess, played by James Frain. While fleeing authorities, Vince is apparently killed in a televised explosion, only to be taken in by a merry band of bank robbing circus performers led by Max Malini, played by Keith David.
Amongst the carnies, Vince discovers a cape with special properties and decides to adopt the identity of The Cape, his son’s favorite comic book superhero, to fight crime and right wrongs.
On his first outing, Vince runs into the enigmatic computer hacker Orwell, portrayed by Summer Glau, and the two team-up to take on corruption and villainy in Palm City.
It is a fun set-up with a lot of promise, but the show has its fair share of Kryponite to overcome if it is going to go the distance. NBC is clearly courting Heroes’ fan-base here, though The Cape is not nearly as sharp, polished or mature as the first season of that much-loved but ill-fated superhero show.
It seems like the writers can’t decide whether they want to go for tongue-in-cheek campiness or preachy melodrama, and they awkwardly split the difference between the two.
In fact, The Cape is at its strongest when it pokes fun at itself and subverts the familiar clichés associated with masked crime fighting. There is a scene in the pilot where a wounded character gives a moving deathbed speech, only to realize in disappointment that he is not dying.
At the other end of the spectrum, there are moments of horrible logic that heavily tax viewers’ suspension of disbelief, even when judged by the lax standards of superhero comic books. These moments that are supposed to come off as heart-warming are not only pithy but contrived.
The acting will certainly not win any Emmys, but David Lyons makes a solid, if bland, leading man. Chess is the most generic villain television has seen in years, and James Frain’s by-the-numbers performance does little to redeem him.
Keith David makes an engaging and likeable mentor, though he is hampered by some truly awful lines like “Either you wear the cape of the cape wears you!” Summer Glau’s quirky charm is in full force, but her balletic and martial arts talents are wasted as The Cape’s homebody computer hacker side-kick.
Superhero fans should give The Cape a watch at least once, but everyone else can afford to give it a pass at present. Hopefully the show will work itself out as the season develops.