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The Cape' Review: Episodes 1 & 2, 'Pilot' & 'Tarot'

Posted 3 hrs ago by Rick MarshallThe Cape

Written By:Tom Wheeler

Story: Palm City policeman Vince Faraday (David Lyons) is framed by masked crime boss Chess. Left for dead, he's taken in by a group of bank-robbing former carnival performers led by Max Malini (Keith David) and becomes the vigilante known as "The Cape" in order to protect his wife and son. The Cape quickly becomes a thorn in the side of Peter Fleming (James Frain), the head of the corrupt ARK corporation and the alter ego of Chess, who decides to get some help from the vicious, reptilian-looking Scales (Vinnie Jones). Meanwhile, Faraday is assisted by the mysterious blogger Orwell (Summer Glau).

In the second episode, Chess recruits dangerous chemist and knife-wielder Cain, and The Cape's first encounter with the new villain is nearly his last. Forced to temporarily abandon his signature cape, Faraday learns more about the challenge he'll face in bringing down Chess — and earns the attention of the criminal organization known as Tarot.

Welcome To Palm City: It's been almost a full year since The Cape" was first announced and both the pilot and second episode premiered Sunday (January 9) evening in a two-hour special. Chock full of familiar faces, "The Cape" features a colorful cast of characters — a few of them heroes, most of them villains — and a host of comic book tropes.

The pilot episode manages to get through the standard origin story pretty quickly, and it doesn't take long to get our first look at Faraday in action as the hooded vigilante with a prehensile, bulletproof cape. The villain is revealed as the local billionaire businessman early on, though viewers will likely wonder why Chess' secret identity is such a secret from Palm City's finest, given the recognizable voice and the very little of his face that the mask conceals.

The adventure moves along quickly, with Faraday earning the trust of his saviors, the underground-dwelling "Carnival of Crime," and training up his fighting skills with and without the spider-silk cape bestowed to him by the troupe's leader, Max. Pretty soon, he's taking out Chess' henchmen with ease and working his way up to the big leagues with battles against lizard-skinned bruiser Scales in the pilot episode, and the knife-wielding, poison-brewing assassin Cain in the second episode.

"ER" actor David Lyons manages to pull off the costumed crime-fighter role without making the whole idea seem silly, though I'm not sure what to make of the fact that "True Blood" actor James Frain seems far more believable as a mentally unstable vampire than a mortal criminal kingpin. Cast in the hero's mentor role, Keith David proves he's the right man for the job, and though Summer Glau doesn't quite make the role her own, fans will certainly give her a few more episodes to get comfortable.

Final Word: The Cape is, essentially, Batman minus the rich playboy alter ego, snatching criminals from the darkness and slinging his cape like an infinitely manipulable appendage, then vanishing in a puff of smoke. Glau's character, Orwell, is the hero's tech-savvy, know-everything version of the Batman universe's Oracle, and the cast of villains even feel like variations on the Dark Knight's rogues gallery. Scales comes off as a primetime-television version of Killer Croc, for example.

Tonally, "The Cape" is equally distant from Christopher Nolan's gritty Batman movie-verse and the intentional camp of Adam West's 1960s series, and exists somewhere between "Smallville" and "Heroes" in the TV superhero scene. It's earnest and willing to embrace the signature costumes and other elements of the comics world, but stops short of the extremes in both color palette and comics cliche (though it gets perilously close to both on a few occasions).

While "The Cape" doesn't break any new ground in the world of live-action, costumed heroes' adventures, the first two episodes do offer up a fun little adventure. Hardcore comic fans will likely find it lacking the punch of today's better comic books and comic book adaptations, but mainstream audiences might get a kick out of the events transpiring around Palm City. It remains to be seen whether "The Cape" can succeed without the new-series hype and fan-friendly cameos that fueled the two-hour special, but we'll be tuning in next week to find out.

"The Cape" begins its regular, weekly airings with Episode 3, "Kozmo," on Monday, January 17, at 9 PM Eastern on NBC.



'The Cape' Series Premiere

By Cynthia Fuchs 9 January 2011

PopMatters Film and TV Editor

I Specialize in Impossible

The cape in The Cape doesn’t belong to the guy who calls himself the Cape. It’s the property of a magician-turned-crook, Max (Keith David). It is also extraordinary in every way, as Max describes it: “Made entirely of spider silk, stronger than Kevlar, thinner than filament.” When he first offers use of the cape to Vince Faraday (David Lyons), an erstwhile cop looking for a new way to fight crime, Max explains his generosity, sort of: “I’ve broken 92 bones in pursuit of the perfect illusion. I’ve trained a generation of escapists, acrobats, and magicians. I specialize in impossible.”

So okay, every comic book superhero needs a mentor, right? Someone who shows him ropes and inspires him, someone who helps him hide his secrets and adjusts his moral compass. Usually, that mentor is low-key, the sort who’d rather the mentee attract attention and appreciates said mentee’s appeal. In The Cape, though, not only does Max have the cape, but he’s also got the smarts, the backstory, charisma. Poor Vince doesn’t have a chance.

This imbalance is built into almost every aspect of the show, from plot to casting. Vince is saddled with the typical sappy family plot (he’s framed for murder and believed dead, and so leaves his young son and lovely wife sad and sadly accompanied by a drippy piano score) and a banal desire for vengeance against the man who takes all this from him. This would be the series’ villain, the rich, conniving, utterly arrogant Peter Fleming (James Frain), CEO of Ark Corporation, a Blackwaterish contractor that’s recently privatized the Palm City police force and is poised to run the prisons as well. Predictably, Fleming frames his greed as patriotism: his company’s “paid millions of dollars to train police officers in Afghanistan while American cities are left to crumble in neglect,” he spins it to Vince. “I want to change all that. First, we have to rebuild the trust.”

What Vince misses, being the grandson of a sheriff, is that trust here equals gullibility: citizens in Fleming’s eyes are mere vehicles to increased profits, a box to check en route to a contract. “The people,” he says, “will be so afraid, the fear will never leave them. Ark can pursue its goals while they cheer for us.” Both Fleming and Max traffic in illusions. Both are willing to use Vince (and other minions) to achieve their ends, and neither much believes in civic duty the intrinsic value of human life. Fleming makes threats (“I’ll find out who you love, I will make them scream”), but Max has panache: “I’ll make you the greatest circus act that ever lived,” he promises Vince.

Faced with a choice between bad and worse, Vince opts for Max’s Carnival of Crime, where he’s aligned with a little person MMA fighter (Martin Klebba), a blond in sequins (Izabella Miko), and Orwell, a surveillance expert played by Summer Glau (the go-to girl for ooky-but-sweet science-fiction, as in: Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Dollhouse, Serenity). Like Eyes Only in Dark Angel, Orwell exposes the bad guys using the internet, but throwing in with the Cape seems a more direct route to justice: she provides locations and building blueprints, he provides muscle (he spends his off hours on a heavy bag) and moralizing: while the cape’s illusion allows him to appear and disappear in puffs of smoke, his indignation drives him to make accusations and exact violent payback.

As Vince learns from Max “just how much the human body can withstand, and the mind,” he fine-tunes his own righteous self-image. Yes, he sighs to Orwell, he wears “long underwear and a cape,” and yes, learns mind control from an exotic sideshow mentalist named Ruvi (Anil Kumar), who tells him, “The point is not to let the sucker know he’s being hypnotized.” Max and his crew are fond of pointing out their differences from civilians (suckers or not), and it makes a certain sense to affiliate superheroes with circus performers, to note their similar flair and excess, their affection for tricks and deceits.

To see the superhero as something of a con-man, no matter his super-self-righteousness, clarifies the capacity for delusion he needs in order to do his work and believe in his secret identity. It’s a helpful conception, and it makes the Cape less tedious than he would be otherwise. His wife who thinks she’s a widow, Dana (Jennifer Ferrin), engages in another sort of circus act, as she restarts her career as a lawyer to support her son, and also has to take on the tabloidification of her own life (married to a murderer). As the show cuts between their shared flashbacks (moving in together, cooing to their newborn baby), Dana and Vince seem to share a sensibility as well as a past. It’s an awkward device, mostly designed to motivate Vince, even as you’re hoping it’s going to give Dana more of a story.

As much as they have at stake, neither Vince nor Dana is as much fun to watch as Max. Master of the arched eyebrow and the sly grin, Max is better than a circus act.


Daemon's TV

THE CAPE Season 1: The Lowdown

Premiering this Sunday, January 9, 2011 at 9:00 p.m. is NBC’s new show, The Cape. Out of the ruins of a cop framed for murder and presume dead arises a superhero which is really no surprise as Vince was a hero before he went undercover.

I had the opportunity to watch the first two episodes of THE CAPE, both of which will be shown on Sunday. The Cape has definitely added a twist to the routine everyday man becomes superhero avenger. Although there are numerous similarities to other superhero shows, most notably Batman (from the costume, to the trainer, to the car that the sidekick drives), I think they are merely superficial. The fun begins when Vince Faraday a/k/a The Cape starts his training with a circus ringleader. While it seems like happenstance since the circus folk, who also are secret bank robbers, are the ones that find Vince and provide him with the tools he needs to become The Cape, it is way more entertaining than the usual martial arts. Think of all of the possible ways that a magician’s tricks could aid a superhero, especially one that does not have any real powers of his own. Now you have The Cape.

The show does not take itself too seriously and I am not sure if that is a good or bad thing. I did enjoy the chuckles that came from the show, especially when someone would question Vince’s superhero name – “You’re a superhero! What do they call you?” “The Cape.” “The Cape? Well, you will work on it.” However, I enjoyed the darker side even more. The villains were delicious and mysterious. Personally, I cannot get enough of James Frain (sorely missed in True Blood) and loved every moment he was on the screen. Of course, the problem with having intriguing villains is that you need a balance with equally interesting and riveting heroes. Aside from Vince, so far, we have an anonymous woman blogger “Orwell.” I am not sure the two of them are enough. The real scene stealers are the circus folk, though one could hardly call them heroes.

Overall I think this show has a lot of heart and it will be interesting to see what lengths Vince will go to save his name and be reunited with his family. By the second episode it is apparent that Vince does not want to just see his family again, he wants everything to go back to what it was before he was framed. An impossible goal indeed and with each decision Vince makes to attain that goal, the lines between right and wrong blur possibly throwing Vince into a moral conflict with himself. I will enjoy the ride with Vince, Orwell and Max Mancini. The Cape has potential. Hopefully, the writers will rise to the challenge.


Zap 2 it

'The Cape' review: Not for the cynical of heart

By Jethro Nededog
January 9, 2011 3:29 AM ET


NBC is getting back into the hero franchise with "The Cape." And for those of us who aren't necessarily avid comic book readers, the series makes constant winks but stays within a pretty realistic world. 

Whether you like it or not depends on your ability to leap with the show. We won't lie, though. While the pilot is well-executed, once we get into hour two of NBC's planned two hour premiere, we got the feeling that this may be too much of a good thing in one sitting.

Vince Faraday (played by David Lyons) is a cop - one of the good ones - in a fictional California metropolis called Palm City. His department is getting increasingly corrupt and some are defecting to Ark, a private law enforcement corporation that's trying to take over the police force. After the police chief is killed on his watch, Vince decides to join Ark, as well. Before he knows it, he's drawn into an international crime ring, which frames him for the chief's murder and attempts to publicly kill him. He's not dead, but he pretends he is in order to protect his family. In order to clear his name and get revenge on Chess AKA Peter Fleming (James Frain), Faraday takes the identity of his son's favorite comic book hero, The Cape.

The comic book influences are clear. The series takes place in a moderately futuristic society and the characters are over the top. It's more like a "Batman," though, than "Superman" in its chemistry. What that means is there's nothing magical or alien about the heroes and their gifts. It's slightness of hand, technology, training and dedication that makes them super.

Faraday is likeable in that he's not perfect. The fact that a mask isn't a natural part of his costume at first gives us the feeling that his transformation into "The Cape" is an evolution that goes beyond the two-hour premiere. He suffers from a need to talk to his kid (even though it may confuse him even more). He rushes into situations. He has a hard time asking for help. He doesn't always land his punches or dodge knives all that well. All those qualities make him believable.

the-cape-summer-glau-nbc.jpg Vince is surrounded by people who see the big picture and can remind him what that is. There's the very theatrical Max Malini (Keith David), whose thirst for money is only matched by his desire to be the best ring master there is. And every scene with Summer Glau's Orwell is thrilling. Her character is continually full of surprises. We're undecided on James Frain's criminal mastermind, Peter Fleming. After seeing what heights he can achieve as "True Blood's" Franklin Mott, he appears severely underutilized in this role.

The trick to liking this show is that it depends on how cynical you are. If you're predisposed to thinking that a guy waving a cape around can't be anything but silly, then you won't be drawn into Faraday's dedication to clearing his name and the fight for what's right. You'll wonder why he doesn't just take his family and run when he has the chance. You'll basically over-think it. 

On the other hand, if you're one who gets sucked into stories of valor, can have a sense of humor about the characters and their abilities, and you can buy the idea that one man can make a difference, you'll enjoy "The Cape."


Boston Herald

NBC’s ‘Cape’ crusader in a losing battle against crime

By Mark A. Perigard / Review
Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Cape: C+

NBC’s “The Cape” aspires to be “The Dark Knight” but unfurls more like the campy 1960s “Batman” TV series.

In the two-hour pilot, which is just two separate episodes aired back-to-back, evil billionaire Peter Fleming (James Frain, “True Blood”) frames Palm City police officer Vince Faraday (David Lyons, “ER”) for murder.

Presumed dead after a freak explosion and trained by an underground carnival of crime, Vince decides to fight Fleming and his minions.

“One man can still make a difference,” he vows. He models himself after his 8-year-old son Trip’s (Ryan Wynott) favorite comic book character - The Cape.

Apparently, nobody here learned from “The Incredibles” that capes don’t work in the field.

Vince’s new garb is described as something stronger than Kevlar but thinner than filament and operates as a cross between a prehensile tail and a shield, thanks to some competent CGI effects. From circus ringleader Max Malini (Keith David), Vince picks up hypnosis and some illusion tricks.

By the time he hits the streets, The Cape is a cheesy cross between The Shadow and Batman. DC Comics should keep its lawyers on standby. The similarities go beyond the silhouette of the figure overlooking the city or the music that sounds suspiciously like a Muzak riff on Hans Zimmer’s superb “Dark Knight” score. In the comics, Batman is logged into cyber expert Oracle (Barbara Gordon, the former Batgirl); The Cape relies on the mysterious master hacker/blogger named Orwell (Summer Glau, “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles”). The show isn’t even trying.

The Cape battles not only Fleming’s sadistic alter ego, Chess, but his henchman Scales (Vinnie Jones) and a poisoner who represents a league of assassins known as Tarot. There’s certainly enough action to sate viewers, and Lyons is an adequate stand-in for “Knight” star Christian Bale, but the story is nonsensical and the dialogue jarringly arch. Each new act is introduced with a title card, such as “Hunting Portman” and “Faradays are Fighters.”

Vince seems more mopey about being separated from his son than his beautiful wife, Dana (Jennifer Ferrin), who, believing her hubby dead, is forced to live with the stigma of being the “widow” of an alleged crooked cop.

Every 8-year-old boy in America is at risk of falling in love with the series. That demographic might be enough to make this show a hit if it were on sister station Syfy, but this is a showcase for alleged major network NBC, which should have learned a lesson from the debacle that was “Heroes.”


San Francisco Chronicle

'The Cape' review: Superhero show could be fun

Saturday, January 8, 2011

 The Cape: Action adventure. Starring David Lyons and James Frain. Premieres 9 p.m. Sun. on NBC. Moves to 9 p.m. Mon. starting Jan. 17.

For everyone who rolled up a towel after junior high school gym class and used it to thwack another student on the backside, your hero has arrived.

"The Cape" is a promising television program that would have been a lot better if the producers were aware of its ridiculousness. This is a show where the main character whips a magic bathrobe around, using the fabric to throw knives and disarm gunmen. The tone needs to be less like "Heroes" and more like "The Greatest American Hero."

The midseason series, which premieres Sunday night on NBC (with a regular slot on Mondays starting Jan. 17), gets the comedy-drama balance wrong, loading the first episodes with emotion, personal conflict and an overpowering musical score.

But there are signs that once the origin stories and introductions are done, "The Cape" will become increasingly fun.

Enjoyment of "The Cape" will depend on how seriously you take your escapism. Older kids and adults with short attention spans will enjoy the premiere, which crams a season's worth of exposition into two hours.

Viewers looking for layered storytelling and subtle acting should renew their subscriptions to Showtime and HBO - or at least hope for a few "Breaking Bad" reruns on AMC.

Criminal mastermind

David Lyons plays Vince Faraday, introduced as the one good cop in a town filled with corruption - which is about to get worse once billionaire and criminal mastermind Peter Fleming, also known as Chess, takes over. (This is the first of many logical stretches in "The Cape." If a diabolical masked super-villain were to start killing off politicians, the first person conspiracy theorists would look at is the richest guy in the city. Sorry, Larry Ellison.)

Within minutes of the opening credits, Vince is framed for the mayor's death. Only some bank-robbing circus performers and our hero's son - pining for his father with his eyes on the stars and his butt on a fire escape - believe Vince to be innocent.

As the ex-cop becomes the Cape and learns mystical superpowers from his freak-show friends, villains come and go as if they were only paid to work one day. This is especially sad for Vinnie Jones, who must have spent 20 times as much time in the makeup chair as he did on the set as the gang leader Scales.

Executive producers Gail Berman and Lloyd Braun are known for reality-bending crowd-pleasers such as "Desperate Housewives" and "24," so the incredible liberties taken with "The Cape" shouldn't be a surprise.

Coincidences are piled on impossibilities and sprinkled with cliches. Nothing is as it seems, but almost everything can still be predicted, thanks in part to an overwhelming musical score that telegraphs each plot development.

When the identity of the mysterious and all-powerful online blogger Oracle is revealed, it makes perfect sense in the context of "The Cape." This is a world where gorgeous women spend their entire days behind a computer screen fighting crime.

Overwrought dialogue

Show creator Tom Wheeler goes a little heavy with the overwrought dialogue (sample line: "It's not all corrupt! One man can still make a difference!"), but he has a sense of humor that emerges more in the second episode.

Lyons is likable and convincing as a tough guy with a soft spot for his family. Keith David also stands out as carnival boss Max Malini, and actor-stuntman Martin Klebba contributes several memorable scenes as 4-foot-tall badass Rollo, whose inevitable popularity will hopefully lead to an expanded role.

Wheeler struggles in his attempt to invent a city from scratch, but the cape visuals are clever and effective. Even if this show never rises to dramatic heights, it's never going to get old watching the Cape swat around bad guys like so many 98-pound weaklings.

Superhero Realism: A Contradiction, or a Necessity?

Full Cast

The Television Alter-Ego

Television developed into an ideal medium for developing the heroes' human side, and using it to inform the superpowered fight scenes. The Incredible Hulk, the prototype for this process, is as much remembered for David Banner's stoic pursuit of his quest to free himself of his monstrous side than for the Hulk's antics. Postmillennial series, like Smallville and Heroes, integrated the superhero deep inside the alter ego, making the hero's abilities a part of his personal journey.

Perhaps the most regular-guy superhero you could get was Gary Hobson, the hero of CBS's Early Edition. Gary had no powers, just a copy of tomorrow's newspaper and an indomitable sense of responsibility. The closest we have to current counterpart might be the secret service agents on Warehouse 13: they have no powers, but they're surrounded by weird artifacts that do.

In The Cape, Vince Faraday is an everyday hero -- an innocent cop. Once he's framed for a crime he didn't commit and left for dead, however, he becomes a superhero by two means: the achievement of training in special physical techniques that give him an advantage in fighting, and the acquisition of a super suit with special capabilities. On the spectrum for superhero "realism" this is to the right of Gary Hobson, but well to the left of Clark Kent or even Hal Jordan with his magic ring: the training and the super suit are both a few tweaks away from what transformed Bruce Wayne into Batman in Batman Begins, the kind of thing that result from a lot of fierce determination (and a fair share of luck).

The Gotham City Effect

The other way to effect realism in superhero drama is to place the hero in a familiar environment. An urban landscape places the hero in the same context as gritty police procedurals, earnest medical dramas, and so on. The movie versions of Peter Parker and Clark Kent live in the same crusty New York, whether it's called that or not, as our cops and doctors.

Some series try especially hard for an urban environment with a dark edge. The Flash, in its short run, constantly underlined its setting, Central City, as riddled with street crime that the police was unable to handle. The Christopher Nolan Batman films stripped away the stylized Gotham City of the preceding installments, erecting a city rotten with crime and beset by a government of breathtaking incapacity.

It's this aspect that The Cape's creators are emphasizing, and not as an overly pessimistic exaggeration.

"There's an assassination of the Chief of Police, which gives an opportunity for James Frain's character... to take over [and] privatize the police force," creator Thomas Wheeler explained to Comic Book Movie. "There were articles last week about chartered, privatized police forces in our country now, so all of these things that feel very science fiction are in fact all around us."

The main difference in this urban setting is the climate. An overwhelming majority of superheroes set up shop in New York (or its analog) -- even Hancock, who starts out in L.A., eventually winds up in the Big Apple. The Cape's Palm City, though just as corrupt as Gotham, is a West Coast hybrid of L.A. and Miami.

The wish fulfillment aspect of superhero drama has to provide a clear line between us and the fantasy, the path along which we'll be dragged (as Vince is, by his mysterious rescuer Max Malini) from the ordinary to the extraordinary. The Cape offers a new opportunity to gauge how fantastic or realistic the public likes their superheroes.

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