Last spring NBC gave the ax to the one-time cultural phenomenon, Heroes, despite the fact that the channel was desperate for any random TV show due to Jay Leno failing to get the ratings that local affiliates needed for their evening news. During this time of serious upheaval at the corporate level, NBC decided that they needed another superhero show to fill the void of their DVR juggernaut. This nexus of unfortunate circumstances has led to the production of The Cape, an original show that pulls from the tropes of our beloved graphic medium in order to entertain us in a serialized, weekly format. But how successful is The Cape in standing on its own, outside of the shadow of past events?
Vince Faraday is a proud, second-generation police officer in the breezy metropolis of Palm City. Unfortunately, the area is in a state of decline with crime rising rapidly and Ark Industries, a government contractor, looking to fill in the municipal power vacuum. Spurring the popularity of an Ark Industries takeover is the dismay and terror evoked by Chess, a terrorist using unmatched technology to rid himself of all obstacles in his way. As Faraday uncovers the identity of Chess, he is framed for all of the villains wrong-doings and subsequently presumed to be dead. With the help of master escapologist Max Mellini and the circus he owns, Vince becomes The Cape, a superhero who aims to fight for both the city he grew up in and the son he can no longer openly see.
The best thing about this show is the craftsmanship in the costumes for The Cape and Chess. They straddle the line between realism and fantasy in a way that I don’t think is explored enough. Of course there is leather everywhere to give the characters a general “bad-ass” look, but with the way the costumes are shot, what is most apparent is the delicious detail. The overall look of The Cape immediately hearkens to a black version of Altair’s outfit in Assassin’s Creed. The crusader has a wonderfully ribbed cloak and fabulously etched breastplate that give a great sense of texture and variety to the blacks that often consume scenes of the show. For Chess, his bold, red jacket stands in defiance of all the other color choices going on in the show. Such a striking red does a great job of telling the viewer what Chess is about before he opens his mouth to utter a single word.
And boy do the words get in the way. As previously mentioned, The Cape tries its best to prove that it’s a show for comic book nerds by pulling every single overused trope and stereotype of the medium that plagues fanwankery. We have the dark, lone-wolf, detective a la Batman; the tenacious female lawyer who doesn’t take no for an answer; the mentally unstable arch-nemisis; the monomaniacal tycoon; the ‘Yoda’; the mysterious femme fatale; the tech support female know-it-all…the list goes on and on. Unfortunately, rather than feeling like a story that has these cogs as a necessity of good story-telling, The Cape doesn’t seem to actually employ them. They’re simply on display to let the viewer know what the show is supposed to be about…in case the title and costumes weren’t enough.
A lot of these character traits exist, somewhat contradictorily, in the same character with no sense of overall direction in what his or her arc will be. So, rather than tell a story within an episode, The Cape chooses to plaster one cliche on top of another, hoping the viewer gleans entertainment from recalling the banal threads play out in other shows, films, and books. So, of course the performances from the actors are bad. The characters are never well-established, constantly pulled around for the sake of plot, and therefore are in a constant state of flux. All they can do is play each moment for the trivial mess of hokiness that it calls for.
So, The Cape turns out to be an abysmal addition to NBC’s floundering line up. With bad CGI, film-school cinematography, unfocused writing, hack acting, and a director incapable of balancing the corny, family-friendly pandering and the edgy violence, the show feels like it’s grasping at straws to appeal to anyone who’d take a look at it for a second. Though it may grab a viewer’s attention as they click past the channels, after five minutes, it’s plain to see that the emperor has no clothes.
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Tags: Altair, Assassin's Creed, Batman, carnival, costume, evil circus, Evil Tony Stark, Heroes, James Frain, little people, magician, NBC, Nerd Premiere, No Ordinary Family, Oracle, Summer Glau, superheroes, The Cape